One-Tank Trip for Aug. 23/14
(c) By Jim Fox
A visit to Port Dover can be summed up as beaches and boardwalks, sunshine and sandals, foot-long hot dogs and fresh perch dinners, yachts and fishing tugs, theatre and summer concerts – and Friday the 13th.
|For many visitors, Port Dover is a day at the beach. (Barbara Fox photo)|
The eclectic beach town with its pier and historic lighthouse on the northern shore of Lake Erie has been attracting tourists since the mid-1800s.
In recent years, helping to put it on the map has been the Friday the 13th motorcycle rallies that draw thousands of bikers and spectators.
It started with a couple of buddies gathering in 1981 and has exploded since then to an estimated 100,000 or more people on a typical summer day.
But you’ll have to wait until next year as the only Friday the 13th this year was in June and won’t happen again until next February, March and November.
Even so, our visit on a Friday the 15th saw quite a number of bikes cruising around town.
|Motorcycles cruise the streets of Port Dover even when it isn’t Friday the 13th. (Jim Fox photo)|
There’s much to offer day-trippers and weekenders in this community of only 6,387 year-round residents.
Life’s a beach
“Port Dover is a truly cool, little town with natural beauty and laid-back lifestyle that’s well worth the visit,” said Ted Willey of Norfolk County Tourism.
The beach has always been the big summer attraction along with fishing off the pier and fun on the water.
The wide public stretch of sand fills up quickly on hot, sunny days while on Wednesday nights there are sailboat races.
“It’s an awesome beach town with great restaurants, shopping and a really cool marine heritage museum as well as the terrific Lighthouse Festival Theatre,” Willey said.
|A bronze statue on the Port Dover pier honours the fishermen who lost their lives at sea. (Jim Fox photo)|
Visitors stroll along Harbour Street to the pier and lighthouse to watch the sunset and sailboats and enjoy the lake breezes along with seeing the commercial fishing fleet return with the catch of the day.
Get out on the water with two options from Nomada Charters – a one-hour sightseeing cruise on the River Rider pontoon boat or a 90-minute lake cruise on the Kayloe.
Our sightseeing cruise along the Lynn River and into the Black Creek Conservation Area passed million-dollar homes with expensive yachts moored out front.
|Port Dover’s abundance of pleasure craft can be seen on a Nomada Charters’ cruise on the River Rider pontoon boat. (Jim Fox photo)|
Fishing boat charters can be hired as well as renting personal water craft and stand-up paddle boards.
Over at the Harbour Museum, visitors learn about the town’s marine heritage and see artifacts from the steamer Atlantic that sank in 1852 off Long Point.
Along with shipwrecks, the museum tells the story of the commercial fishery, tall ships and rumrunners, has a century-old freighter wheelhouse and an exhibit remembering the now-departed Summer Garden dance hall.
|The Erie Beach Hotel has been serving its perch and pickerel dinners since 1946. (Barbara Fox photo)|
Required dining includes a fish feast at the Erie Beach Hotel that put the town on the culinary map since 1946 with its famous perch and pickerel dinners, celery bread, a salad cart brought to the diners’ table and pies.
|Alexis Copeman with the Erie Beach perch. (Jim Fox photo)|
Andrew Schneider and wife Pam are the third generation of the family to run the business with its Cove Room for fine dining and Terrance Room pub.
“We still use our traditional recipes and the fish being served tonight were fresh caught this morning,” Andrew said.
Another landmark is the Arbor, home of foot-long Ritz Red Hots, hamburgers, fries, Golden Glow fruit drinks and ice cream.
Popular also is the Beach House (formerly Callahan’s) that has the best view of the lake, palm trees on the beach and a very hip, coast-inspired menu.
Ontario's South Coast has been called many things including the Ontario Riviera, Bluewater Country and the Lake Erie Coast.
“The drive along the coast from Port Dover past Port Rowan and Long Point has many picturesque sights for cyclists, motorcycle riders and day-trippers,” said Norfolk County Mayor Dennis Travale.
The “Cruise the Coast” communities have a motorcycle map showing rider-approved routes and biker-friendly stops along the lake. cruisethecoast.ca
As well as the Saturday farmer’s market at Silver Lake Park in Port Dover, agri-tourism is another growing attraction with wineries, microbreweries and farm-related events.
Jim Fox can be reached at email@example.com
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