Our Tips for Visiting Pelee Island, Canada: Things to Do, Eat, Accommodations & More!
Looking for an amazing place to visit in Ontario that is a little remote, but bursting with natural beauty and laid-back vibes? Pelee Island is the place for you!
Located in the middle of Lake Erie (at basically the bottom of Canada), this small inhabited island is a bit like stepping into a whole other world… or another point in history.
We visited Pelee Island and stayed for several days while attending some friends’ wedding at Pelee Island Winery Pavilion. We had an amazing time exploring all corners of the island – and we wish we had more time!
That said, whether you go for a day trip, a weekend, or longer, a visit to Pelee Island does take some planning.
So, this detailed guide covers everything you need to know if you’re planning a visit to Pelee Island. From the best time to visit Pelee to transportation options, things to do, where to stay, and much more, we’ve got you covered!
Table of Contents
Where is Pelee Island, Canada?
Pelee Island is a 42km² island in the middle of Lake Erie located between Ontario and Ohio. Officially, it is the southernmost inhabited/populated point in all of Canada.
It’s located approximately 30 kilometres from the mainland. Leamington and Kingsville are the closest Canadian centres, and where you catch the ferry to the island.
The island is populated year-round with a population of about 230, but the summer population with visitors and tourism services swells to about 1500 people.
Overall, the island has these charming, laid-back vibes. “Island time” is very much a thing on Pelee.
It’s also a place brimming with natural beauty from rocky shorelines and stunning sunsets to migrating birds and butterflies, snakes, and much more.
Land Acknowledgement: Pelee Island is the ancestral, unceded territory of Caldwell First Nation. We recognize, respect, and honour the continued presence of both Caldwell and Walpole Island First Nation in this region of Ontario.
The rugged, remote vibes lend themselves to the island’s rich history (especially regarding winemaking). When you drive around, everything on the island likes to make it known that it is “Canada’s Southernmost [insert thing]” from the elementary school to the local tavern!
Once you visit, you’ll understand why this area is special and why it absolutely should be visited, respected, and cherished for generations to come.
Fun Fact: Middle Island is located about 4 km south of Pelee Island, and this is technically Canada’s most southern piece of land. The USA border is just beyond this island in the water.
Best Time to Pelee Island
Usually, destinations can be visited at different times of the year – but due to the unique climate and location in the middle of Lake Erie, there actually is a best time to visit Pelee Island.
The best time to visit Pelee Island is in the summer months from the end of May to Labour Day Weekend (early September).
We visited for four days towards the middle-end of August and our experience was quite perfect (minus some bad overnight weather).
Things were open, the ferry was frequent and reliable, and the island seemed to be full of life. Here’s a breakdown of visiting Pelee in each season:
Pelee Island in Summer
Visitors head to Pelee primarily for the warm summer vacation months. It is no surprise that the island’s economy is heavily based on tourism and hospitality.
As a result, many of the businesses (shops, restaurants, accommodations, etc.) are open in the summer months – making Pelee one of the best unique places to visit in Ontario specifically in summer.
Even then, you do need to plan ahead for accommodations and check opening hours for attractions and restaurants because, during the week in the summer, they might still be closed or running on a schedule of reduced days/hours.
The ferry schedule is also most active in the summer months with many more options to get to and from the island. Pelee Island makes for a perfect Ontario weekend getaway if you’re up for a bit of planning.
Spring/Fall on Pelee Island
In the spring and fall, you can still visit the island but do not expect businesses to be open all the time. In the fall, businesses lean more toward being open on weekends only (for the visitors), but even that is not a hard and fast rule.
The spring and fall would have some beautiful colours (both new life and end-of-season leaves), and would also be good for migratory bird and butterfly watching as well as some seasonal fall hunting.
The ferry schedule is definitively reduced and fewer accommodations might be open, so plan ahead accordingly!
Winter on Pelee Island
In winter, the ferry shuts down for a few months (middle of December through April, roughly) and the only way to get to the island is via scheduled flights through Windsor. This is mainly for locals to get to and from the mainland for supplies.
Another factor to keep in mind is that the community on Pelee is small – about 230 year-round.
When it’s off-season (the colder months from around October to May-ish), many of the local businesses and bookable accommodations temporarily close their doors because it just doesn’t make sense financially.
How to Get to Pelee Island
Due to the geography, distance, and the fact that it is an island, Pelee Island is a bit off the beaten track. However, it’s actually very straightforward to get there – you can either take the ferry (with a car or walking on) or fly there.
Taking the ferry is the most common way. You can take the Pelee Island ferry from either Ontario, Canada, or Sandusky, Ohio, USA (but we’ll get to that).
In this section, we’ll break down all the transport options and share a bit about our experience taking the ferry to Pelee from Kingsville!
How to Get to Pelee Island by Ferry
If you’re trying to get to Pelee Island, the best, most practical option is the ferry. We drove onto the ferry from Kingsville, Ontario to Pelee Island and overall the experience was very easy and very positive.
Because the ferry crossing to Pelee Island is so important, we are writing a whole other detailed article on how to get the ferry to Pelee Island. That includes how to book Pelee Island ferry tickets, where to catch the ferries, what to expect, and more.
The ferries are run by Owen Sound Transport Company. There are two ferries: the Pelee Islander (smaller ferry) and Pelee Islander II (we took this bigger one). You purchase your Pelee Island ferry tickets online (at the link above) and ideally well in advance of your travel date.
You can take the ferry to Pelee Island from either Ontario, Canada, or from the USA (Sandusky, Ohio).
Tip: If you plan on taking any ferry, book your ferry as soon as you can because the ferries only have so much space and they do fill up.
On the Canadian side, there are two ferry docks – Leamington (Address here) and Kingsville (3 Dock Rd, Kingsville, ON N9Y 1N6). We left from Kingsville, and your ticket will make it clear which one you are sailing from when you book.
On the American side, the Sandusky Ferry Terminal is located here (227 W Shoreline Dr, Sandusky, OH 44870, United States).
FYI: If you travel from the US to Pelee Island, you need your passport because you’re crossing an International Border and Pelee Island is an official port of entry into Canada.
The ferry from Kingsville to Pelee Island takes about 90 minutes, and the ferry from Sandusky, Ohio to Pelee Island takes about 2 hours.
Whichever ferry you get on, you need to be there to check in 60 minutes in advance of sailing time. Otherwise, they might give away your spot. In the busy summer season, this would not be good!
Once we got to Pelee, both ferries (from Canada and the US) landed at the West Ferry Dock (located on the west side of the Island). It’s across from the Pelee Island Heritage Centre (Address here) – you cannot miss it.
Again, if you want to more about our experience taking the ferry, you can find our guide on the Pelee Island ferry here (coming soon).
How to Get to Pelee Island by Plane
Another option to get to Pelee Island is by plane. The Pelee Island Airport is Canada’s southernmost airport (see, told you) and charter flights and some regular flights (mostly in the winter months) do come and go.
The airport itself is very small – it’s basically a single building, a small parking lot, and an airstrip.
Address for Pelee Island Airport: 772 Centre Dyke Rd, Pelee Island, ON N0R 1M0
As a visitor in the summer, the ferry is definitely the best option since a chartered flight can be quite expensive. However, if you’re searching for flights to Pelee Island, here’s what you need to know:
If you’re travelling from Canada, when the ferry doesn’t run in the winter (mid-December through April), Owen Sound Transportation Company runs scheduled flights to and from Windsor instead.
You can find the Pelee Island Winter Flight schedule here. The company that runs them is Cameron Air Services. You can book online, in person at the West Ferry Dock, or by calling.
If you’re travelling from the States, Griffing Flying Service does actually offer year-round flights from Port Clinton, Ohio to Pelee Island.
Remember: If you fly from the States, you’ll need a passport since you’re entering Canada at an official port of entry.
If you really want to fly to the island, it’s certainly possible – if you’re willing to pay for it. From Canada, the Windsor Flying Club has a page specifically about charter flights to Pelee Island from Windsor.
You can check out the two aircraft and the Pelee Island Charter flight prices on this page. These flights run throughout the year from Windsor Airport.
If you are lucky enough to have your own aircraft, private aircraft can land on Pelee.
Our hosts at the bed and breakfast told us about a couple who recently arrived by plane, stayed a few nights on Pelee Island, and then took off again.
Contact the Pelee Island Airport Manager at (519) 724-2931 if you need more information.
How to Get to Pelee Island by Personal Watercraft (Boat)
If you have your own boat on Lake Erie, you can simply boat across yourself.
The trip takes you to the north end of the island to Scudder Marina, where there are docks and amenities (some serviced docks, bathrooms and showers, gas, essential supplies) for boaters.
Address for Scudder Marina: 325 N Shore Rd, Pelee Island, ON N0R 1M0
You don’t need a reservation for a spot at the docks but it is recommended on summer weekends.
In case you missed the ferry and you don’t have your own boat, you can still make it to Pelee via a private chartered boat.
Pelee Island Charters runs a water taxi shuttle service from Leamington on the mainland, taking you to the island in about 30 minutes. It’s a flat fee of $300 CAD, plus tax, but it is an option if you’re in a pinch or with a larger group.
How to Get to Pelee Island by Bus
One last, very niche option, is that you can get Pelee Island, Ontario on a guided bus tour.
In case you don’t want to drive yourself, a multi-day trip with a company like Short Trips will have you there and back (usually round-trip from the GTA).
There are only so many trips in the warmer months so book ahead if this is something that interests you. Otherwise, there is no public transport option that gets you to Pelee and back.
Where to Stay on Pelee Island
Before we dive into what to do on Pelee Island, let’s talk about accommodations because you will definitely need a place to sleep if you are staying overnight or for a few days.
Fortunately, there are many great Pelee Island accommodation options to choose from.
Island accommodation options are comprised of one Inn, one motel, one bed and breakfast, and then several cottages/homes/cabins for rent.
Not only will you not find any chain hotels, but there are essentially no Pelee Island hotels, period.
Accommodation Tip: Some places may have a minimum night stay so keep that in mind as your filter search results. Also, book early if you are going in summer because accommodations do book up – sometimes a year in advance!
We plan on writing a detailed guide on Pelee Island Accommodations in the near future to help you make sense of the island. For now, here’s a brief summary of the places to stay on Pelee Island and our experience.
During our time on Pelee, we stayed at The Gathering Place Bed and Breakfast located just a short walk north of the West Ferry Dock. Having stayed in several bed and breakfasts in Ontario, The Gathering Place was easily be one of our favourites.
Located in an old, historic house, this cozy B&B became a “home away from home” for us. The house only had three rooms so it’s quite quiet. A highlight was the breakfast that was served on the screened patio each morning.
There’s also a private lakefront seating area across the street… and they have cats which call the place home, too! Overall, we’d recommend a stay if you’re planning on visiting the Island.
Here are many other accommodations to stay that suit different styles:
- The Wandering Dog Inn is located on the East side of the island. The largest, most commercial accommodation option on the island.
- Kiki’s Westview Motel & Cottages is right by the West Ferry Dock terminal. Recently opened/renovated, friends stayed and enjoyed it.
- There are plenty of Pelee Island cottage rentals/vacation houses/cabins on VRBO and on Airbnb.
There are also some seasonal campgrounds on the Island. The main one is the East Park Campgrounds. Eric drove to visit a friend staying there and it was spacious with plenty of campsites, decent facilities, a playground, and an onsite store/office for check-in.
The Main Station is another campground located up in the northwest with RV parking and an onsite guesthouse.
These towns are lovely (right on the shore of Lake Erie) and you might choose to stay a night or two depending on the ferry schedule or where you are travelling to/from.
We had a friend stay in Leamington at Talbot Trail Inn & Suites for a night to catch another ferry after us and he really liked it!
Getting Around Pelee Island
Once you are on the island, the best way to get around the entire island is by car or bike. Even though the island is quite small, bringing a vehicle or bike onto the island just makes exploring that much easier.
There is no public transportation on the island, nor are there any taxis or Ubers. It’s important to plan ahead so that you are not left semi-stranded once you get to the Island.
Speed limits are pretty slow around the island – and this is partially so that local wildlife doesn’t get hurt/killed by vehicles.
The slower you go, the more time you have to see and react to something on the road (like a snake having a nice sunbath).
That said, there are other options to get around the island, such as:
- Bike rentals. We saw lots of people on bikes who either rented on the island from The Pelee Shop or walked on with them from the mainland. You can loop the main central part of the island in an hour, but a grand tour of the island – with stops and all the “points” considered – would take at least 3-4 hours, if not more depending on your speed.
- Golf Carts and E-Bikes. Yes, you read that right. You can rent a motorized golf cart (or E-bike) to drive around the island. They can be rented from Pelee Island Adventures in front of Stonehouse 1891. You’ll see them parked and waiting for action. Important: Golf Carts are not allowed on island interior roads with marked speed limits of 80 km/hr.
- There is also a Trolley (affectionately known as “Dolly”) run by Pelee Island Adventures, but this is used more as part of their guided tour options than as a mode of transportation. You can book a tour with them and then include the trolley ride (for an additional fee) to get you to and from your chosen tour stop (like Vin Villa or the Butterfly Sanctuary).
The other option is to walk around the island (if you’re able to). The island isn’t overly huge and amenities tend to be clustered.
So, if you are staying close to any of the “centres” – the West Ferry Dock, Scudder on the north shore near the Co-Op Store, etc. – then you would have the option of walking to things like restaurants, shops, etc.
We stayed just up from the West Ferry Dock which hosts arguably the highest concentration of amenities on the Island. (Which makes sense, since it’s where the tourists first land).
Here, you’ll find restaurants, accommodations, the ice cream shop, bike rentals at The Pelee Shop, an art shop, the museum and visitor centre, LCBO, etc.
Things to Do on Pelee Island
If you’re thinking about visiting Pelee Island, you’ll want to know what there is to do since you likely aren’t going to sit around and do nothing (but you totally can if you wish, the island is great for quiet reflection).
From historic sites to nature walks, you’ll find a surprising number of things to do, sights to see, and places to visit to keep you busy on your Pelee Island vacation.
Visit the Pelee Island Heritage Centre
Address: 1073 W Shore Rd, Pelee Island, ON N0R 1M0
If you are new to Pelee, a great thing to do before you begin exploring is to stop by the Pelee Island Heritage Centre (in the historic Town Hall building).
Founded in 1988, you’ll find a small museum inside covering the history of the area (from shipwrecks to rum running in the Prohibition Era), the natural beauty you can find there, and much more. Admission is by donation.
This location doubles as the Tourist Information Centre where you can pick up some information about the island or ask any questions you may have.
From this location “in town” by the West Ferry Dock, you’ll be able to see restaurants, shops, and more places to eat, rent bikes or golf carts, etc.
Tour/Taste at the Pelee Island Winery Pavillion
Address: 20 East West Rd, Pelee Island, ON N0R 1M0
One of the big draws to the area is Pelee Island Winery! With the mainland location in Kingsville, the Pelee Island Winery Pavillion is their location on the island.
If you didn’t already know, Pelee Island shares its climate with some of the top wine regions in the world – including the Bordeaux region of France.
This has made the island a prime growing and winemaking location for centuries.
The island has solidified itself as an important part of the history of Canadian winemaking, so learning about wine and tasting it is definitely a top thing to do on Pelee Island!
We visited the Winery Pavilion with friends and had a glass of wine and lunch. The grounds are beautiful with grape vines growing row upon row.
The main building – the Pavilion – is where you can find the tasting bar, a shop and restrooms, and lots of neat historical artifacts from winemaking over the decades.
The staff were super nice and helped us pick out a wine to try. You can do a sampling and/or hop on a guided tour of the winery but we just opted for a single glass – and the pours were generous!
Eric had the Thaddeus Smith Red which was bold and full-bodied, while Lisa had the Lighthouse Riesling. We liked both – and also liked one of their Rosés at the wedding we attended.
Visiting the winery gives you the opportunity to pick up bottles that aren’t available in the LCBO on the mainland!
Outside, they have a covered area with picnic tables as well as an outer grassy area with lots and lots of outdoor tables and chairs for relaxing in the sun!
Tip: If you want a wine tour of Pelee Island, Pelee Island Adventures does a “Grapes and Grain Experience” tour which takes you to Vin Villa for a wine tasting (explained below) with lunch and trolley transport included!
Overall, we’d definitely recommend making a stop even if you don’t like wine. There’s a large parking lot and we saw lots of visitors coming and going by car and on bikes.
Go Find the Pelee Island Lighthouse
There are fewer iconic Pelee Island shots than the famed Pelee Island Lighthouse. Located at the northwest top of the island, this historic lighthouse was built back in 1833.
It saw lots of action over the years guiding ships and has since been restored.
Fun Fact: The Pelee Passage has over 200 shipwrecks… but don’t blame the lighthouse!
These days, you can visit the lighthouse since it is part of the Lighthouse Point Provincial Nature Reserve. This special nature spot is run/maintained by Ontario Parks.
The park itself also includes the marshy area in/around Lake Henry. Here, you can find a wide variety of plants and animals – including the Blue Racer snake which calls Pelee (and only Pelee Island!) home. We were lucky enough to see one.
To get to the lighthouse, you can park a car at this location (57 E Shore Road), a short walk down from the trailhead where all the information signs are. You can also bring a bike because there is a bike rack right by the trailhead signage.
From the signs, you’ll walk a wooden boardwalk path through the marshy area and pop out at the sandy beach on the east side of the island.
From here, it’s a straight walk down the beautiful beach to the old lighthouse – which makes for a beautiful, iconic photo.
Ontario Parks indicated that you could swim in the beach area – but not off the end of the lighthouse point since the currents are dangerous in that area.
On top of that, be sure to follow the signage at the trailhead. When we visited, there was a warning for potential blue-green algae (dangerous for dogs and humans) so we didn’t go in the water here.
Also, make sure to wear bug spray when you visit. Even though you often get a nice breeze coming off the lake, the biting insects can be pretty relentless!
Wander to Fish Point Provincial Nature Reserve
Location: Fish Point Provincial Nature Reserve
To explore the other tip of the island (opposite the Lighthouse Point), head for Fish Point Provincial Nature Reserve.
This reserve – also officially run by Ontario Parks, is the southernmost tip of the island (and one of the lowest possible spots in all of Canada).
We headed down there with friends to check out the point and go for a nice long walk. It was definitely worth it.
In fact, the one side of McCormick Road that led to the small car park at the trailhead was flooded due to the heavy rains. Luckily, the other side of McCormick (from the east) was accessible.
Once at the signage in the forest by the small car park (parking location here), you can choose to walk south two ways: along the open beach to the tip or through the forest and then a sandy trail to the tip.
The point forms a giant “V” so we walked down there on one side using the beach trail and returned on the other side through the forest trail by Fox Lagoon.
We’d suggest that route – just know that the one beach trail had many logs to hop over or crouch under!
Once we got down to the tip, we followed the sand to the very bottom. It was absolutely beautiful to look across the other islands and the open lake.
You can see Middle Island, Canada’s southernmost piece of land from this spot. The American border is just on the other side of that island.
The currents here are very strong so swimming is not recommended. You can see how fast the water is moving just from shore. Fishing, according to the official site, is allowed, though.
Overall, we’d definitely say make the trek down there if you’re on Pelee. It’s a hotspot for birdwatching on the island and the signs at the trailhead had information about local wildlife.
So, keep your eyes peeled while there!
Just remember to stick to the trail or beach to limit your impact on nature.
We also looked for – and found – lots of beach glass (sometimes called sea glass) as we walked along. You’ll learn more about beach glass in the “art section” down below!
Discover the Vin Villa Ruins
Address: 56 Sheridan Point Rd, Pelee Island, ON N0R 1M0
Back to talking about winemaking on Pelee, you should visit Vin Villa if this topic interests you!
Located at the northeast corner of the island, Vin Villa today has some beautiful ruins that you can tour and enjoy as part of a guided experience.
Credited as Canada’s first commercial winery, the site was founded back in 1866 and has huge historical significance.
The early wines produced here gained a worldwide reputation and won international awards – putting Canadian wine on the map!
When you visit today, you can stand in the old still-standing exterior limestone walls above ground. Below ground, you can enjoy a tasting in the restored wine cellar.
When we visited Pelee, a massive rain storm had just gone through so we couldn’t visit – but we will absolutely do that next time!
Experiences – like wine tastings, guided tours, dinner in the cellar, etc. – can be booked through Pelee Island Adventures.
In case you’re wondering, Pelee Island Adventures is headquartered at Stone House 1891 close to the West Ferry Dock and also has a second location up at the Scudder Beach Breakfast Bar in Scudder (north end of the island).
Explore Pelee via Bike
Address for The Pelee Shop: Located Here Behind Westview Tavern
As we mentioned up top, bikes are a great way to get around the island. You can loop the island in about an hour but a grand route of all the points of interest along the outside would take 3-4+ hours.
The island is a mix of paved roads, loose gravel roads, and purely dirt roads. Some smaller paths might be a mix of loose terrain, loose gravel, or even sand (don’t ride in sand unless you have a specific bike known as a beach cruiser).
Overall, the island is very flat so you don’t have to worry too much about having to go up and down any major hills. Biking is also very popular so most drivers know to leave lots of space. Just make sure you – as the biker – are biking properly.
If you don’t bring a bike from the mainland, you can rent bikes from The Pelee Shop. They are located right behind the Westview Tavern so they are easy to find when you get off the ferry!
They have a selection of different bikes like cruisers, mountain bikes, hybrid-style, and even e-bikes.
The shop also doubles as a souvenir shop should you want to get some sweet Pelee merchandise like hats, sweaters, etc.
We were going to rent bikes but the weather made us use the car more often for our specific stay. Next time, we’d love to bike around the island!
Another good way to get out and explore Pelee Island is on foot. The island is very flat and definitely made for walking.
Walking is good because it’s exercise and you are much quieter – meaning you’ll likely see wildlife instead of scaring it off. This happened to us. We got quite close (still a safe distance) to a blue heron because we were on foot.
While you can walk on any of the roads that perimeter the island, there are a few specific hiking trail areas that are better for those on foot.
Here is a helpful Pelee Island map with trails and where to find them. Many of them are mentioned below.
We’ve already mentioned Lighthouse Point and Fish Point as two top spots to go for a walk/hike, and here are a few other smaller dedicated hiking spots with walking trails around the island:
- The Ivey Property beside the Winery has a small section of trails dedicated to walking. It is technically part of the Nature Conservancy of Canada (shown on the linked map above).
- The Brown’s Road Alvar near Brown’s Road. This unique ecological terrain is also overseen by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (also seen in the map linked above).
- The Stone Road Alvar Nature Preserve (run by Essex Region Conservation) is located at Mill Point and has some walking trails cut through.
- The Great Lakes Waterfront Trail – the same signage you see all along Lake Ontario, Huron, and beyond on the mainland (same as in Kingston) – has a 28 km path that loops around Pelee Island’s perimeter. Just follow the signage!
As with anywhere else in Ontario, be sure to be respectful of nature and other visitors. Practice Leave No Trace principles always!
Relax at the Beaches
If you’re feeling like you need a place to relax and/or cool off, Pelee has plenty of beaches that you can relax at and/or hop in for a swim. Some beaches are sandy, some are pebbly, and some are a mix of both.
The most popular beach on the island is the East Beach, located on the east side of the island. It is close-ish to The Wandering Dog Inn and across the road from the East Park Campgrounds.
Another good beach is the beach in Scudder up by the Marina on the north shore.
Lastly, Sunrise Beach is located on the east side of the island. It’s not really a beach but more a place to take in the amazing sunrises on the island!
Warning: Fish Point and parts of Lighthouse Point Reserve are sandy and look beautiful but it is not safe for swimming due to the currents.
Aside from there, your accommodation might have some beach access. Our bed and breakfast owned the strip of land across the road from the property. So, we had a little private beach that we could use!
Just remember that none of the public beaches have lifeguards so they are “used at own risk”. Also, obey any signage about currents, water conditions/hazards, etc.
Explore Historic Buildings
The history of the island lends itself well to exploring and photographing many old, often restored buildings around Pelee.
Just looking at some of these locations can transport you back in time – so here are just a small handful of the most notable buildings on the island:
- The Fox Log Cabin (from the 1830s – oldest house on the island)
- The Sanctuary Mission Hall Project – a place for quiet reflection built from salvaged parts of the original Mission Hall
- The many old churches like Calvary Anglican Church (made of limestone from the island and dedicated in 1898), St. Mary’s Anglican Church (oldest church on the island – at least 1863), Our Lady, Star of the Sea Church (1887),
- Stone House 1891 – has a long history, including being the island’s liquor store. Now the restaurant and pub/brewery.
The Heritage Centre has lots of information about the island’s historic sites!
Visit the Pelee Island Butterfly Sanctuary
Address: W Pump Rd, Pelee, ON N0R 1M0
Back to the ecological side of the area, Pelee Island (and Point Pelee National Park on the mainland) is right on a main butterfly migration route.
So, the island is a great place to learn about butterflies – including the famous Monarch.
Luckily, Pelee Island is home to the Pelee Island Butterfly Sanctuary which you can visit, tour, and learn all about these magnificent creatures, the threats they face, and the conservation efforts to keep them around!
Founded by a passionate local, we actually drove by the Sanctuary – located in the island’s interior – but it was quite flooded due to heavy rains.
Normally you can visit by booking one of their public education tours or a private tour time.
The sanctuary offers both morning and afternoon tours most days of the week from spring to fall. If you book online, you actually book through Pelee Island Adventures.
When we return to Pelee, this is one of our first stops!
Go Bird Watching
Address for PIBO Research Station: 585 Stone Rd, Pelee Island, ON N0R 1M0
Similar to how the butterflies stop by this area, the migrating birds also make use of Pelee Island! As such, the island is a “Globally Important Bird Area”.
The months between April and October are an exciting time on the island since over 300 species pass through for a visit.
The island is a hotspot for birdwatchers – known as birders – to snap photos or catch a glimpse of the usual suspects and a few rare visitors each year.
The whole island is great for birdwatching but there are a few specific points where you might have a better chance. One spot is the marshland known as Fox Lagoon inside Fish Point Nature Reserve.
The Pelee Island Bird Observatory is responsible for much of the research, education, and initiatives like bird banding on the island. You can follow their site for events, workshops, and tips.
They are open to the public from spring to the fall so definitely stop in if you have questions about birds.
You can even download their Pelee bird checklist to cross off the different species you see when you visit!
Explore the Island from the Water
Whether you want to see some beautiful birds or just take in the rugged shoreline and history of the area, exploring Pelee Island from the water is definitely a good idea.
To be honest, the top deck of the ferry as you arrive from the mainland gives you an amazing glimpse of the waterways and geography of the area. Of course, you can get much closer if you like. Here are a few ways:
- Pelee Island Charters offers a Pelee Island tour with their zodiac to see parts of the island you’d not see from land (leaves from Leamington).
- Pelee Island Adventures mentions stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) on their site, so perhaps that is also an option.
- If you brought your own boat, it would obviously be easy to see the island from this vantage point.
If you do get out on the water, be mindful of the currents and listen to all signage or instructions from the rental companies/tour operators. The locals know the island best.
A huge draw to Lake Erie is the fishing. Similar to the other Great Lakes, there’s no shortage of fish – some great for catching and releasing, others great for eating!
In fact, Erie is said to be the most densely populated Great Lake for fish.
So it’s no surprise that you can see fish on the menus of many of the island’s restaurants (like delicious walleye, yellow perch, smelt, and more).
If you want to fish on Pelee (or anywhere in Ontario, for that matter) you need to have a valid fishing license. Licenses are available at The Co-op if you do not have one.
As for places to fish on Pelee, here are a few sites we’ve seen on the map or recommended by other sources:
- Officially, you can fish at Fish Point Provincial Nature Reserve. Their Ontario Parks website indicates this. Just be careful with other visitors and the currents.
- Scudder Marina also mentions fishing off their docks up on the North Shore. They also have bait available for purchase.
- If your private accommodation has water access, you can likely fish from there.
Just remember you can’t just fish anywhere you like on the island. You might be on someone’s private property so check before you cast.
If you want to fish from out on the water, you’d need your own boat. Otherwise, Pelee Island Charters says you can hire a Zodiac for $250 CAD/hour for sightseeing, birdwatching, etc. Perhaps they will also take you fishing!
Explore the Local Art Scene
Address for Pelee Art Works: 82 East West Rd, Pelee Island, ON N0R 1M0
One thing you’ll notice about Pelee Island is the connection to the land and a thriving creative atmosphere inspired by the natural beauty all around.
So, it should come as no surprise that the island is home to many creative artisan painters, sculptors, weavers, etc. who create beautiful works of art inspired by aspects of the island.
If you – a visitor – want to get involved, you can take home a piece of unique, local art to remember your time on Pelee and support the island community.
You might even look into attending an art workshop at Pelee Art Works when you visit. Here are two places on the island where you can find unique gifts, crafts, and art pieces:
- Pelee Art Works is just down the road from the winery. They have a shop loaded with local art and also offer classes from May to October.
- One of a Kind Pelee Art & Collectibles is an art gift shop near the West Ferry Dock where you can buy locally made, one-of-a-kind art pieces and collectibles.
Our Tip: “Beach Glass” is a popular material to appear in local artwork. You can walk the beaches and look for some yourself – it’s discarded glass that has become smooth in the water over time. It’s very pretty and always unique!
Where to Eat on Pelee Island
One thing to consider when visiting Pelee Island is where you’re going to eat. Luckily, the island does have a few places to eat and grab a drink.
These places are located in different locations: from right near the West Ferry Dock, up by the Pelee Island Marina (Scudder), to seemingly the middle of nowhere!
Here’s a breakdown of basically all the places to eat and drink on Pelee Island from restaurants to food trucks, and more.
Our Tip: For dinner at a restaurant, we’d recommend making a reservation if they take them (especially in summer). Places can get busy and while some welcome walk-ins, it’s not always the case.
The Westview Tavern
Address: 1065 W Shore Rd, Pelee Island, ON N0R 1M0
For the town pub/bar with onsite food and pool tables, try out The Westview Tavern.
Located right across from the West Ferry Dock (you cannot miss it), this no-frills tavern is the place to go for classic pub grub and cold beer.
When we visited with friends, we sat in the front area which overlooks the lake. In the back, there’s more seating, the actual bar, and one pool table which our friends who played said was “well-kept with cues in great condition and with straight and full nubs”. Great intel!
As for food, we had the chicken caesar wrap with fries and the breaded Lake Perch on a bun. Both were good.
Lots of people in the large group got food and given that it’s a tiny pub on a small island everyone was pleased.
They even have a ferry symbol beside a few menu items – this indicates “quick eats” which can be ordered and ready quickly so that you can still catch your ferry!
Pelee Island Winery Pavilion
Address: 20 East West Rd, Pelee Island, ON N0R 1M0
We’ve already mentioned visiting the winery as a “thing to do” but we also ate lunch there and it is worth mentioning.
Onsite they have a small “grill” (called the Deli-Hut) which serves pizzas, charcuterie-type boxes, a few sandwiches (like pulled work on a pretzel bun), and snacks like garlic knots.
We got a pepperoni pizza and garlic knots – both were quite good. The pizza was a little small but considering Pelee’s prices (and being at a winery) the food was actually decently priced.
Our friends had the pulled pork on a pretzel bun and they said it was excellent!
Pelee Island Coneheads Ice Cream Shop
Address: 1043 W Shore Rd, Pelee Island, ON N0R 1M0
If you want to satisfy that sweet tooth, Pelee Island Conheads will do that for you.
Also located basically across from the West Ferry Dock just to the north, this small ice cream shop/food truck is a pretty popular place if you’re looking to cool down.
We stopped in with a group and our friends got ice cream (which they enjoyed). We had a good look at the menu and realized they actually offer more than just sweets.
The place also does breakfast sandwiches, and other eats like hot dogs, sausages, poutine, etc. So it’s basically a greasy food truck but they are most known for ice cream!
You can take your order to go but they also have a few outdoor tables off to the side for sitting and eating.
It’s right beside One of a Kind Pelee so you might pop in to look at art after your treat!
Other Pelee Island Food Options
There are a few other places to eat on Pelee Island. Here are some places we know about or we know others who visited:
- Stone House 1891 for historic, upscale dining options and craft beer close to the West Ferry Dock
- The Dog and Goat for more pub-style grub located on the island’s northwest side (friends liked it)
- The Filling Station (a food truck up by the Scudder Marina)
- The Shack (also located at the Filling Station, apparently known for tacos)
- Scudder Beach Breakfast Bar (also near/beside the Co-Op, great breakfast)
- The Co-op at Scudder Marina has coffee available for purchase
Packing List for Pelee Island
No matter what time of year you visit Pelee Island, there are some essential items on your Pelee Island packing list that you shouldn’t leave the mainland without.
It’s better to be prepared than not be prepared – we are glad we packed the following items (even in the summer):
- Rain Coat (Eric has a North Face Jacket that he always brings)
- Day Pack (We love our Osprey Daylite)
- Running or Hiking Shoes – good for walking, hiking, and biking
- A Sweater/long-sleeved layer
- Hiking pants
- Re-usable water bottles
- Whistle and/or bell (for making noise)
- External Battery/Charger
In addition, here are some things specific to how Pelee Island works that you should consider before coming over:
- Food/groceries for the entirety of your stay.
- Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages – although there is an LCBO on the island.
- Drinking water (if you do not have access to potable water at your accommodation)
- Bug spray
- Bathing suit
- A Cooler
- Music downloaded onto your device and portable speakers
- Walkie Talkies, in case your cell reception is poor (see below).
- Recreational Gear: indoor games outdoor games, fishing gear, etc.
- Binoculars for spotting wildlife
- Flashlight or headlamp (good for power outages)
- Clothing that is light and good for movement
- Bedding (linens, sleeping bags, and/or pillows) if your accommodation requires you to bring.
Things to Know When Visiting Pelee Island
Before you plan a visit to Pelee, there are definitely some things that you should know about that we haven’t already mentioned.
Our friends had us very prepared for the trip but having now been, here are some things we also learned. Better to be over-prepared and have a great time!
Wave at Everyone
Yup, just wave. Be friendly to everyone you meet on the island. We learned this from our bed and breakfast hosts and once we got driving around, we realized how true it was.
The island is a tight-knit but welcoming community and, as a visitor, you should do your best to be as friendly and welcoming as the locals are.
So, the best way to do this – whether driving, walking, or riding a bike – is to smile and wave.
Wave at everyone when you pass them – you’ll find that a very high percentage wave back. It’s just nice to add to the welcoming island atmosphere.
Book The Ferry Early
We already mentioned this but it is worth noting again – especially in the summer season.
You need to book the ferry as soon as you know your travel dates regardless of whether you are driving on, walking, or bringing a bike on.
We saw cars on Pelee in the “standby” line at the West Dock. This meant they showed up for the ferry without a reservation and had to wait to see if any cars didn’t show up because the ferry was booked up.
Those vehicles ended up not getting on our ferry… because it was full. Sure, there was another one that day – but if you have places to be, don’t risk it.
You Should Bring Cash
We (and many of the local businesses) would recommend you bring cash when you visit.
While many places on the island do take cards, cash is more reliable overall. This is because of several reasons like Wi-Fi and cell signal not being the best across the island.
Additionally, if the power goes out – it happens – any card transaction machines are also down. This means island businesses resort to cash only for onsite payment.
There’s an ATM at Stone House 1981, but it’s only available when the restaurant is open so plan accordingly.
Also, some places will accept US currency at a posted exchange rate, but it’s best to have Canadian dollars… because you’re in Canada.
Cell Service Can Be Spotty
Speaking of cell phones, we were told reception was bad so we all brought walkie-talkies to communicate.
In fact, we found that there is some cell service on many parts of the island. We were staying on the west side of Pelee and rarely had issues.
That said, we found that those with Bell or Telus (or providers on those networks like Koodo or Lucky) had better reception compared to those with Rogers.
Speaking of cell phones, Pelee is so close to the US Border that some of our friends’ cell providers sent messages “Welcoming them to the US” even though we were not actually in the US.
So, turn Roaming off on your phone – or switch your phone to Airplane Mode – so that you do not get charged for being in the States without actually being in the States.
If you do get charged, you can usually chat with your carrier and explain you were on Pelee Island, not in the USA.
Wi-Fi Isn’t A Thing
Again about connectivity: The island prides itself as a place to disconnect so there is almost no Wi-Fi available. This will likely change in the coming years, but for now, plan ahead.
We downloaded the Pelee Island area as an “Offline Map” on the Google Maps App and carried a physical map so that we would never get lost.
Also, take the time to embrace “Island Time” and enjoy your time away from distractions. It’s good for you.
Think About Drinking Water
In terms of drinking water, most places on the island do have access to safe drinking water.
However, we found that some accommodations – mostly on the East side of the island – do not. Usually, the tap water is clearly marked “not potable” or “not for drinking”.
In this case, there is a paid bottle fill station on the island (West Side Potable Water Fill Station) just south of the West Dock Ferry Landing. You can also plan ahead and bring a large jug(s) of water from the mainland if you are driving and staying for a few days.
Bring What You Need
As mentioned, the Island does have an LCBO, a small grocery store/hardware store/post office (the Co-op), and a gas station (also at the Co-op). However, they might not be open when you are there, might be on reduced hours, and may not have what you need.
Also, shops on Pelee are generally more expensive than on the mainland. Your best bet is to bring everything you need with you and never assume you can just pick it up on the Island when you arrive.
If you’re travelling to Pelee Island – or exploring any part of Southwestern Ontario – here are some more posts that might interest you:
- Weekend Getaways in Ontario
- Exploring Kingsville, Ontario (Coming soon!)
And there you have it – our guide on visiting Pelee Island. We loved our time in this more rustic part of Ontario. With the right planning, you can have a great time on Pelee, too! Enjoy the island.
As always, Keep Exploring, eh?