An easy drive from large parts of
- New York
- Ohio and
is Haldimand, a lovely county in Ontario that few of you have ever heard of.
Located just north of Lake Erie it is, by my calculation, a nearby destination for about 25 million people – among them many readers of Solo Traveler.
I've written about this destination once already in my post about fly fishing. I spent most of my first day in Haldimand on the Grand River learning this magical fishing technique. Midafternoon however, I moved on. This post gives you what I did the rest of day one and on the second day this this two-day getaway. But note, I would recommend three or four days for a relaxing trip in Haldimand as there is plenty to do.
Travel Tips for Haldimand County
Richardson's Farm and Market
I stopped into Richardson's Farm and Market after my fly fishing lesson on the Grand River. Haldimand County has a rich agricultural heritage which feeds tourism as well as wonderful restaurants. Located at 131 River Road near Dunnville the Richardson's run farm activities for the public nearly all year. I was there for strawberry season and did a strawberry tasting! In the fall they have a corn maze that seems to be very popular as it was mentioned to me by a number of locals. And in the very early spring when the sap is running, they have sugar bush tours and a pancake house.
Rock Point Provincial Park
Rock Point Provincial Park is for overnight camping or for day use. They have a sandy beach about 1 km long and a much longer craggy shoreline that's fascinating to walk. The park and its shore is known for the exposed fossils of a coral reef dating back over 350 million years. The fossils are embedded in a limestone shelf along the beach but some can be picked up quite easily. The park is also on the fall Monarch butterfly migration route – imagine how beautiful that would be to see.
Cycling Haldimand County
I only had a few hours to cycle so I went about 18 km along the Haldimand County section of the Waterfront Trail. I rode east from the town of Selkirk where I'd had lunch at the Sunflower Cafe (see below). Haldimand is a popular destination for cycling. A map that shows five routes ranging from 47 to 70 km can be downloaded free here.
With Lake Erie to the south and the Grand River running through it it's not surprising that water sports are popular in the county. Grand Paddle Sports delivers rentals of stand up paddleboards, canoes, kayaks, and skimboards throughout Haldimand. They also offer self-guided tours and shuttle service in various place along the Grand River, Welland River and Lake Erie.
History, Art & Birding
It wasn't open when I was there but I certainly heard about Ruthven Park National Historic Site. The park covers 1,500 acres and includes an 1840’s Greek revival mansion that is filled with original family furnishings and many stories which chronicle each of the five generations of the Thompson family. The site hosts many activities through the year but is best known for bird banding. Its bird banding lab operates during the spring and fall migration seasons and the public is welcome. Read about their banding program and how to participate here. If you cannot visit you can follow the Ruthven Park Nature Blog.
Where to Stay in Haldimand County.
I stayed at Lalor Estate Inn (241 Broad Street West, Dunnville) where I was welcomed by Glen and Judy Brough who are a wealth of information on the area. Truly, name your interest and they'll point you in the right direction. The house also has historical significance which Glen will happily share with you. Judy is an amazing cook (having had a catering business in the past) so you can expect a wonderful breakfast. Yes, you're well taken care of here.
Where to Eat in Haldimand County
Go to the Twisted Lemon (3 Norton Street West, Cayuga) for fine dining with local flare. They offer seasonal and locally-inspired cuisine including exciting monthly features, house-baked breads and pastries. It's been recommended in Where to Eat in Canada five years in a row. It's also great for solo travelers as they have two tables with kitchen view that can be reserved. While it's an upscale restaurant you can see from the photo above that they don't take themselves seriously. But the food, that they take seriously.
The Sunflower Café in Selkirk is known for big breakfasts and homemade desserts, especially their carrot cake. A National Post article said “simply the best, most moist, cream-cheese-iced carrot cake in the world.” The portions are large so you may want to ask for half a slice. This is something I've started to do at restaurants. I pay full price of course but with half a slice I can enjoy dessert without going overboard.
Hewitt’s Dairy Bar
On route 6 near Hagersville is Hewitt's Dairy Bar – an absolute must-visit in the county for locals and visitors. “Meet your friends at Hewitt’s Dairy Bar” has been their motto since opening in the spring of 1962. As a Toronto girl I know Hewitt's for their organic milk products. Now I know their fun side. Check out #hewittsdairybar on Instagram to see all the people loving their ice-cream treats.