Looking for the best things to do in Port Dover, Ontario?
Port Dover is a scenic tourist destination in Norfolk County, Ontario. Located perched over Lake Erie, Port Dover is located a short drive from Buffalo, Niagara and Hamilton. It’s the perfect Toronto weekend getaway for families and romantic couples.
Our fun travel guide features all of the best things to do in Port Dover, including top hotels, restaurants, beaches, adventure activities, wineries and breweries.
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Explore Port Dover in Norfolk County, Ontario
I spent my youth growing up in the suburbs of Toronto (Oakville and Markham in case you’re curious) and am amazed by the number of cozy communities in my own back yard I’ve still yet to discover. If there’s one thing that’s certain, Ontario offers a potpourri of pretty places worth prancing through.
I spent a long weekend exploring Norfolk County for the first time and discovered a friendly farm community located a short 2 hour drive from Toronto. The region sits perched over the north shore of Lake Erie between Niagara and Detroit and is one of Ontario’s most scenic lakeside communities.
Historically, Port Dover in Norfolk County has been known as one of Canada’s tobacco farming hubs. When anti-smoking sentiment swept the nation, the government switched up its quota system and the region’s tobacco farmers were forced to quickly decide what to grow next. Today these farm families operate award winning winery’s, harvest aromatic lavender and craft phenomenal berry spiked cider.
The majority of entrepreneurs I met while researching the best things to do in Port Dover launched their businesses within the last five years. In doing so, they are helping rebrand the region with fun and innovative offerings!
Many a conversation included an exasperated local chirping, “I really don’t know why Toronto folks suffer in bumper-to-bumper traffic driving up to Muskoka when there are beautiful beaches and cute cottages just a short stones throw away from the city over here on Lake Erie.”
Norfolk County may be dubbed “Ontario’s Garden” and the “Strawberry Capital of Canada,” but it’s Port Dover’s friendly locals that make the region certifiably fresh for the picking.
Accommodation Near Port Dover
There are a handful of hotels, resorts, glamping operators and bed & breakfasts near Port Dover.
- Clonmel Castle: a grand 1929 mansion has been renovated for a truly luxurious and romantic getaway experience. Featuring 3 acres of gardens, outdoor patios and a waterfall next door. Check Reviews
- Culverdene House: a heritage-designated home on 1.6 acres just south of Simcoe close to Port Dover. Offers two spacious guest rooms each with a private bathroom and shared living-dining room. Check Reviews
- Best Western Little River Inn: this well appointed budget hotel features free parking, air conditioning, flat screen tv and outdoor swimming pool. Check Reviews
- Hide-A-Way Hills: enjoy a luxurious romantic getaway at this intimate glamping site located just steps from Turkey Point.
Port Dover Festivals
If you’re researching the best things to do in Port Dover you might want to plan your visit around a popular festival or event.
- The Norfolk Studio Tour: Art lovers rave about this annual studio tour that takes place each September.
- The Port Dover Summer Festival: The third weekend in August is always a special time thanks to the Port Dover Summer Festival, also known as Art in the Park. The festival has been attracting thousands of visitors on this particular weekend for over 40 years.
- Friday 13th Motorcycle: The drive to Port Dover is popular for motorcycle enthusiasts. It is one of the Cruise the Coast Routes that have been mapped out here. Every Friday 13th Port Dover fills to the brim with motorcycle fans. A sight to be seen!
Fun Things to Do in Port Dover, Ontario
Planning a romantic getaway, family vacation or fun holiday with friends in Ontario?
Check out our detailed travel guide featuring the top things to do in Port Dover, including popular attractions throughout Norfolk County.
Start your Norfolk County adventure by strolling along a scenic pier to the historic Port Dover Lighthouse.
A visit to the bustling pier is one of the best things to do in Port Dover for fishing fans. You’ll find plenty of locals casting their fishing lines into the turquoise water below in hopes of catching the famed local Lake Erie Perch.
The Port Dover Pier Lighthouse is prominently located at the entrance to Port Dover Harbour. The lighthouse consists of an 8.6 metres square tapered wood-frame tower and square lantern. A foghorn protrudes from its south face. The lighthouse was originally used as a range light and later moved from the middle to the end of the pier to serve as a harbour light.
The Port Dover West Pier Lighthouse is an excellent example of Canada’s early expansion of the lighthouse system to improve navigation on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River route in competition with the American Erie Canal. The first lighthouse on the site, built around 1846, was destroyed by fire and the existing lighthouse on the west pier was subsequently built in 1850.
The village of Port Dover began to develop around 1835 at the juncture of the Lynn River and Lake Erie. It quickly became an important port for the north-south trade route as well as the east-west St. Lawrence system. Simultaneously, Port Dover became a centre for shipbuilding as well as the budding fishing industry. Port Dover continues to serve the commercial fishing industry as well as recreational fishers and boaters, and its wharf and associated lighthouse remain an architectural icon for the area.
247 Main St, 519-583-2221
Located in the heart of Port Dover across from Powell Park, Lighthouse Festival Theatre has staged live professional theatre from May to September for over 40 years.
Lighthouse Festival Theatre in Port Dover has over 170 productions under its belt since its inception in 1980. The popular Norfolk County theatre company is located in Port Dover’s historic Town Hall on Main Street.
Construction of the Town Hall finished in 1906 but it wasn’t until the late 1970s that the historic building was transformed into a theatre. Once the new theatre opened the first season line-up was featured The Vaudevillians, Gypsy, The Last of the Red Hot Lovers and Private Lives.
44 Harbour St, 519-583-2660
The Port Dover Harbour Museum promotes and preserves the history of Port Dover, with a focus on the community’s commercial fishing heritage along the north shore of Lake Erie.
Visitors learn about the unique history of commercial fishing, tall ships, rumrunners and Lake Erie shipwrecks. The museum includes hands-on exhibits, a fisherman’s net shanty and a century-old freighter wheelhouse.
In 2009, the Almidart, a 1934 fishing vessel built by George Gamble Shipyard in Port Dover, was permanently dry docked at the Museum. Surrounded by walkways, interpretive panels and platforms to view the tug, it has become a major attraction and record of Port Dover’s historical connection to Lake Erie and the industry that helped build the town.
The Port Dover Harbour Museum also offers interactive curriculum based education programs for students. During the summer they offer 4 weeks of summer day camp programs.
Arbortown Mini Golf
100 Main St, 519-583-3499
After you’ve strolled along Port Dover’s scenic pier and enjoyed window shopping at the string of quirky lakeside gift shop sheds, why not enjoy a round of golf with the kids at Arbortown Mini Golf?
The outdoor 18-hole mini putt course in Port Dover is decorated in a fun nautical theme and open 7 days a week.
Lake Erie Beaches
Norfolk County sits perched over Lake Erie and offers some of Ontario’s most beautiful beaches.
Long Point is the fourth oldest Provincial Park in Ontario (established 1921) featuring over 1.5 km’s of sandy beach on the warm waters of Lake Erie. In the hot heat of summer the playa packs with tan fans looking to soak up the sun with their feet firmly dug into the soft sand.
There’s excellent fishing and boating opportunities in Long Point Bay for those who like to rest and relax on the water. Designated as a World Biosphere Reserve, Long Point is also home to one of the largest bird and waterfowl migration and staging areas in North America.
Turkey Point’s claim to fame is being the only provincial park in Ontario with a golf course! It also features 3 hiking trails, a shallow beach (perfect for kids) and group camping.
401 Main St, 226-206-0066
Port Dover is Norfolk County’s quaint yet bustling hub where you’ll find plenty of spots to sip and nibble.
Early mornings are best enjoyed at Urban Parisian, an authentic European style cafe featuring French pastries, rich bold coffee, exquisite tea and selection of freshly baked bread. Wake up to the world while sipping a frothy latte and nibbling through classic Pecan Butter Tart.
1709 Front Rd, 519-586-9858
One of the region’s most compelling and transformative stories can be found at Burning Kiln Winery. Once home to a tobacco farm, the owners of Burning Kiln Winery have infused their newbie, award winning winery with a hat tip to the lands heritage.
Rising from the ashes of an era when tobacco ruled the local economy, Burning Kiln Winery has repurposed, and architecturally reconfigured an original tobacco pack barn to pay homage to that fact. Situated on a former tobacco tract, the picturesque winery has been built to preserve the historic charm of its original wooden structure while allowing visitors to view much of the operation from behind giant, contemporary glass walls.
Inside, a wonderfully functional, modern working winery shares its secrets of the complete winemaking process while maintaining the warmth of the original wood structure and the drama of the trusses of the original agri-building.
Winery tours offer a chronological step through the winemaking practice beginning with what makes Burning Kiln Winery unique, the kiln drying of grapes using repurposed bulk tobacco kilns and along the steps of pressing, fermentation, barrel ageing and bottling.
At the tasting room be sure to sample the winery’s lauded Kiln Hanger Cabernet Franc and refreshing sparkling offering simply titled Sparks.
2353 Nixon Rd, 519-426-2323
Craft beer drive along a pretty rural road and you’ll find an old elementary school which has been converted into Norfolk’s favourite microbrewery.
The Geven family opened their charming New Limburg Brewery to bring the best Belgian style ales to Norfolk County. The brewery’s tasting room is located in an old classroom featuring chalk scrawled black boards, pretty piano and a collection of old school chairs.
If the sun is shining plop yourself on the patio and sip through refreshing Belgian Blond, Black Sheep milk stout and citrus-forward Wit.
1195 Front Rd, 519-586-2256
Located just down the street from Burning Kiln Winery, Blueberry Hill Estates offers berry fans a blast in a glass. The owners have transformed a converted farmhouse into a rustic winery retail store that runs alongside a seasonal farmers market.
If you time things right you can take a tour of Ontario’s oldest commercial high bush blueberry farm. Or just relax inside sipping sweet blueberry wine and (my personal favourite) trilogy of craft cider, one of which is infused with juice from local blackberry and blueberry bushes.
410 Concession 12 Townsend, 519-443-7125
If you have not yet sipped yourself silly head to Bonnieheath Estate Winery and Lavender Farm for a final twirl of the glass. Located on a picturesque rural road, Bonnieheath balances an authentic agricultural experience with the sophistication and class of an estate winery.
Enjoy a glass of wine or cider as you explore the gorgeous grounds, where vineyards, orchards, prairie grasses, lavender fields, and a natural wetland await. When you’re through, join friends on the patio, or relax in the lavender gazebo.
In addition to a variety of wines and ciders, Bonnieheath also produces an entire line of lavender-based luxuries, right on site. Stop by the boutique to discover a new favourite such as lavender infused loose leaf tea, shortbread or endless array of beauty products.
168 New Lake Shore Rd, 519-583-0706
After drinking away your day it’s best to throw on a plush robe and treat yourself to a bit of rest and relaxation.
Elements Day Spa overlooks Lake Erie and offers jaw dropping views for pampered guests who lounge before their treatment in a lush, Buddha adorned garden.
Norfolk’s boutique sanctuary specializes in massage, waxing and mani/pedi treatments while also offering petite indoor saltwater pool and dry sauna where guests love to loiter in luxury.
267 Huron St, 519-606-0040
If you’re looking to enjoy an unfussy feast grab a seat on the patio at Willies Burger. Port Dover’s iconic eatery opened 25 years ago, quickly becoming famous for its family friendly BBQ.
Sip a sweet strawberry milkshake, twirl your fork around a cheesy poutine and devour the restaurants signature Willie Burger featuring a quarter-pound charbroiled beef burger topped with peameal bacon, cheese and bbq sauce.
Zip Line Canopy Tour
1730 Front Rd, 1-877-743-8687
If you’re keen on kissing Mother Nature while Tarzan’ing through the forest sign up for a 3 hour zip line and canopy tour at Long Point Eco Adventures.
You’ll glide through the Carolinian forest, tackling 8 zip lines, 2 suspension skybridges, 14 platforms and a 40-foot rappel.
Located in one of the darkest points in Southern Ontario, the Long Point Observatory is Canada’s newest public astronomical observatory.
Starry night and constellation fans can peak through a 16” Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope capable of revealing celestial objects 10,000 times fainter than the faintest objects visible to the naked eye! Mars, Saturn and the moon, so nice to see you!
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4665 Hwy 24, 519-446-9992
Before heading back to the city swing by Sam’s Place Farm Market to get a taste for why Norfolk County has been dubbed “Ontario’s Garden.”
Open daily starting in June, Norfolk’s newest farmers market features plenty of home grown fruits, vegetables, preserves, pies and cheeses.
The region is one of Canada’s top berry producers so if you’re visiting in the summer be sure to snack on sweet strawberries as you hit the highway on your drive home.
96 Norfolk St S, 519-428-2886
Blue Elephant Artisan Brewery is a family-friendly restaurant and microbrewery in Simcoe near Port Dover.
Blue Elephant first opened its doors in 1992, quickly becoming a landmark in Norfolk County’s friendly and affordable casual dining scene.
The restaurant is located in a historic mansion on Norfolk Street South and features an intimate front patio and al fresco dining space in the backyard.
Guests can wander through the restaurant’s dining rooms to find a petite microbrewery, which produces European Ales year round and popular seasonal’s such as Sweet ‘P’ Ale (made of local pumpkins and sweet potatoes) and Harmony Hive Honey Ale.
Blue Elephant’s menu offers pub and bar snack classics such as burgers, nachos, wings, poutine, pasta, artisanal sandwiches, fresh salads, grilled cheese and pizza. Fans of Thai food can also enjoy a selection of spring rolls, noodles and coconut curries.
32 Norfolk St S, 226-440-3369
Are you a foodie looking for the best things to do in Port Dover? The Combine, which opened in the Spring of 2013, is consistently ranked as the best romantic fine dining restaurant near Port Dover.
The Combine’s owner Ryan Rivard also operates the finger-licking-good food truck that services the wine-soaked patio at nearby Burning Kiln Winery.
The restaurant’s farm-to-fork concept celebrates the bounty of Norfolk County and its name pays homage to the combine, an essential tool for farmers during the busy harvest season.
Rivard lives in the historic mansion with his family so guests enjoy a unique intimacy during meal time. Skip inside The Combine and you’ll find a wrap around outdoor verandah, cozy dining room and petite cocktail bar.
Libation lovers used to paying over $20 for a mixed drink in the city will fall in love with The Combine’s affordable $9 craft cocktail list.
Wag your finger down the menu and you’ll find quality products from local farms such as Y U Ranch, Grassland Meats, Jensen Cheese, Wolley’s Lamb, and Townsend Butcher.
Norfolk County tourism operators are committed to doing their part to ensure your safety. As the COVID-19 situation in Ontario may change quickly, please plan your travel to the region and activities while you’re here using the most recent guidance found at: Ontario Ministry of Health.
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