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Port Dover:
Beach Fun and Friday the 13th

Port Dover, Ontario, is on the north shore of Lake Erie and about an hour from Toronto. 



It's still a fishing port but today is more famous for vacationers, daytrippers and, in particular, the regular 'Friday the 13th' motorcycle gathering.

Every Friday 13 throughout the warmer months, motorbikers from across Ontario descend on this small town in huge numbers.

Before this puts you off visiting, you should know these are regular folks who like motorcycles, not biker gangs, though they may look a little suspect in all that biker gear.

Port Dover - Fishing Fleet

Port Dover, fishing harbour

The town began as a small fishing harbour in the 1790's but only really started to grow in the mid-1800's.

It grew steadily through the last century when it shipped products and passengers back and forth across the lake.

Today, it's still an important fishing port and you can sample the catch in the town's many restaurants or take it home a smoked fish, either Perch or Trout.

However, like Port Stanley, its port is now only for smaller vessels as commercial traffic goes by road, rail or, if it's big enough, by lake freighter.

The days when steamers raced across the lake between Port Dover and Erie in Pennsylvania carrying trippers and rail cars are sadly long gone. 




Beach

Port Dover beach

On a summer day, the beach is filled with families and teens enjoying the sun and sand.

For the more active among us, there's beach volleyball and other sports. Of course, there are water activities too, like sea-doos, for hire. The beach is small but the sand is fine and it faces due south, a wonderful sun-trap sheltered by the trees and higher land behind where the town stands. 

Town and Shopping

Port Dover, Walker St leading to the beach

Walker Street, the main street down to the beach but not 'Main Street', which runs across the town parallel to the lake, is small, no more than a block, but it has everything a hungry beach person could want -- ice cream, cold drinks, fries, hamburgers and hot dogs.

These stores and the beach bar and restaurant called, appropriately, The Beach House are best placed to capture the beach trade. Like Port Stanley, the local dish here is lake perch, though you can get pickerel and other fish.

Off Walker Street, on Harbour Street is a small fish shop selling smoked Lake Trout, Lake Salmon and others, such as Sturgeon. They also serve fresh fish but that's a bit harder to carry home. Also along Harbour and the small streets that connect the two are other bars and restaurants such as Willie's. 

Port Dover, Norfolk Tavern

Also off Walker Street are other bars and restaurants and all, so far as I can tell, particular to Port Dover. There's a refreshing lack of chains in the town's food (and drink) chain. One really old establishment is the Norfolk Tavern, pictured here, which is on Main Street!

Another fine old establishment is the Erie Beach Inn right on Walker Street just north of the fast food block and before you reach Arbortown, an area of yet more fast food and other attractions (like mini-golf) on the south side of the bridge crossing the Lynn River on Hwy 6. 

River and Other Attractions

Port Dover, view upriver

The Lynn River and Black Creek, that provide the harbour, and Silver Lake are also visitor attractions.

A pontoon boat, River Rider, carries visitors on either 1 hour or 4 hour trips up the waterways to see the riverside homes and historical sites.

Other attractions and entertainments for visitors are:

  • The Lighthouse Festival Theatre Port Dover Harbour Museum with wonderfully nostalgic photos and artifacts of old Port Dover.
  • Restaurants/bars, such as Captn Billy's and The Arbor
  • Gift shops, like Grand Trunk 
Port Dover, Firefly overhead

Here's the Warplane Heritage Museum's Fairey Firefly over the town with a Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum visitor (and paying passenger) onboard for an aerial view of southern Ontario. There aren't too many places around the world where you can fly in a genuine WW2 plane. And another way to enjoy seeing Port Dover and the coast line between here and Port Stanley is to travel by bicycle, which is easy to do because the land along here is fairly level.

Like Port Stanley, the town is on Lake Erie. For a similar place to visit, but on Lake Ontario this time, come to one of the most carefully preserved small towns -- Port Hope. 


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