Pelee Island

Last weekend, Jhoan and I went to Pelee Island with friends. It was the first time we’d ever gone. What is Pelee Island? Well, it is the southernmost point in Canada, an extremely nature-related place, with less than 300 people living there the entire year. Business is based solely on tourism, and kids have to be flown to the mainland daily for school (high school) in the winter. It holds the crumbling ruins of the first ever winery in Ontario. It’s behind a big iron gate, and off limits. Pelee Island is such a unique place, I don’t even know how to explain.

You see, when I travel, I notice the “feel” of a place. I have no choice. It’s like a vibration is being shuddered out ethereally, and I am at the mercy of that sensation. The feeling of New Orleans is nothing compared to the feeling of Boston, say, but Pelee Island was so natural, felt so remote, that it was more akin to my trip to El Salvador. The rural towns of Las Vueltas and Agua Caliente were so rural, with what seemed like no rules, I was reminded of that feeling on Pelee Island. Why? Well, being on the beachfront of the cottage, you see nothing but Lake Erie and the beach extending in both directions until the curvature of the island tapers it off. That limitlessness, the ability to jump in the warm lake and listen to the quiet at nine in the morning felt like some of my time in Central America. Freeing. A far cry from the yokel-nutty-partying idea I had of Pelee Island originally.

Having said that, the ferry ride took off from Leamington Dock at 9am, and we were in the liquor store of the island at 10:45am.

We got there in an hour, went to the cottage we were renting on the other side of the island, and after dropping off our gear, decided to load up on libations. Having a drinky-poo is a nice way to settle down, especially for urban dweller like us. Our friends, who I fear I annoyed endlessly during the trip (with my ability to be where the least amount of work/cooking was being done and being a ball of distracting energy) are from Toronto. All of us are not capable of “just relaxing”. When spending my summers up north in Algonquin-country as a teen, it was common knowledge to the permanent residents that all visitors take at LEAST 3 days to decompress, and turn their vocal volume down. On Pelee, with 3 days and two night at our disposal, a nice beverage was a way of taking days off of that decompression.

The driving and biking we did was always in a sober-yet-altered state of mind. I seemed to be expecting this little island to be barren for some reason. I looked around at the trees (Carolinian Forest) and farming (soy and grapes, etc.) and the tree-laden front lawns of the few homes inhabited year-’round and thought, “How did this all get here? How did this island become such a place?”

I mean, the streets (what few there are) looked like what I imagine the streets in the rural southern United States, such as Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, etc. Insects buzzed loudly in the heavily treed-lots (some tourists buy land and clear-cut for big resort-like cottages in some areas though) and the lawns are large and shady, inviting you to play under the trees and discover the Pelee Island fairies hiding in the tall grasses at the edges of the property.

Going to Pelee Island is one of the best experiences of travel I’ve ever had. Simple. Being so close to Windsor (geographically, not mentally) was shocking to me. This paradise is so unknown largely to the city-folk, and it’s likely the better for it. A week-long excursion would be a better length of time to spend there, and Jhoan and I would ultimately find ourselves so unwound, we might actually reach Nirvana while reading on the hot August sand of the last bit of southern-Canadian soil.

You can visit the Pelee Island Winery (where they don’t technically make the wine) and buy any assortment of wine and raw meat, which is then cooked and consumed in the park/picnic area in the back of the winery headquarters where the barbecues and tables are strewn about. You can visit the local bakery (unreal!). Circumnavigate the island on your bike (rent or bring with). Jhoan and I did, and it was magnificent. You can (we didn’t) eat at the local restaurant(s) or bar (only one). Really, you can do whatever you want, keeping in mind that you most likely have to bring anything needing props or devices will need to be brought by you.

When she reads this, she might be surprised, but I could easily see her and I living there, all year, at some point. With the internet, there are many options to connect, but I don’t think it would be a smart move until we’re both closer to retirement age. What a stunning place. Really. If I could find no other reason to be drawn there other than the night sky, that’s plenty. The light pollution is nil, which causes the sky to resemble a northern Ontario sky…where Orion and The Big Dipper and Hercules can easily be lost in the galaxy of other visible stars. I love it so much I can barely relate the feeling of a sky that free of urban haze.

Thank you Jhoan for making the trip blissful, and thank you Dan, Jenna, Tristan, and Hilary for allowing us on the trip with you (as veterans, we wouldn’t have even bothered had you not invited us and championed the possibilty of this trip) and for putting up with me. Honestly…whew…


10 responses to “Pelee Island

  1. Pingback: Hawaii » Blog Archive » Pelee Island

  2. Really, Tom – you should be writing for a travel magazine(s)… Todd tells me there is an incredible amount of people looking for ‘content’ – your writing style speaks volumes about your openness to observe and really take in what you experience, and you share it in a way that makes me feel it too. Thanks!

  3. You guys were amazing companions on this trip. And your knowledge of astronomy is fantastic (Jupiter sightings aside).

    I hope you will come over with us again next Summer and for many Summers to come!

  4. Nice one, Tom!

    Pelee Island is incredible. Each corner has something unique.

    I’ve been there a few times. Once at the campsite, we heard a hive of bees off in the forest so loud and so close but they never bothered us.

    The NE corner is so good for birds. Believe it or not, a wood stork actually showed up there once! And the beach is littered with coal from a shipwreck years ago.

    The NW corner is one of the most memorable places i’ve ever been. The old hunt club ruins are set back from the water, and the trees are scattered throughout the grass that extends all the way to the lake. I sat there only for a few hours but the image of that setting has never left my mind.

    The SW corner is like a miniature point pelee – fish point. the tip is not destroyed like at pelee, and can get extremely long.

    the SE corner is the Alvar. an INSANE place. i was over for a christmas bird count one winter (flew over from E of leamington on a little 3 seater). I found myself alone walking down this road with this bizarre habitat all around me. Rocks, grasses, trees with no leaves (winter), and much like you experienced, a feeling like I was as far from anywhere or anyone as I could be.

    I Love it.


  5. I’ll take off my feathers, and you can eat me too.

  6. Hey Tom,

    Yesterday, I posted some photos and commentary from my recent trip to Pelee Island. I thought you’d get a kick out of them:

  7. Corinne Grizzell

    Hey Tom,

    If you are thinking about coming back to Pelee this summer, we’d love to rent out our “cottage” to you…summer rental season begins June 6th for our lovely 3 bedroom contemporary home on the east shore of the island… Rents for $1250 a week, but we’re having a pre-season sale till the 30th of December at $1000 a week, $1750 for two weeks. Email me and I’ll send you pictures. Happy New Year!

  8. Brenda Tabuenca


    My husband and I would love for you to email all the info for your rental cottage on pelee. We also had our first visit last summer and absolutely fell in love. We are looking forward to visiting again this summer.


  9. We have been captivated by the magic of Pelee Island and bought a farmhouse near Scudder Bay. Visit our website because for the summer 2009 it is availabe for rent.

  10. hohohoho. I was looking for something on shipwrecks near Pelee Island for my next book…See The Blue Cotton Gown: A Midwife’s Memoir on Amazon…for the first, there are three chapters set on Pelee Island…and I came across your blog and couldn’t stop reading. You are a marvelous writer and capture the island the way I see it. We have a cottage there too…that you and your friends can rent…That’s why I said HOHOHO. All the shameless commercials. Harmony House on South Bay. Sleeps 10….Anyway, you are great and we are glad you appreciate the island. Peace patricia harman

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