Port Stanley Ontario is about 2.5 hours drive west of Toronto on Lake Erie.
It's still a commercial port supporting a small fishing fleet, though with surprisingly large ships.
One way of getting to Port Stanley is to follow the original settlers along the Talbot Trail from Fort Erie to the east and along the shoreline of Lake Erie to Windsor to the west.
The quickest way to Port Stanley, however, is to follow Hwy 401 west from Toronto and head south on Hwy 4 (Sunset Drive).
The town sports this giant Lake Perch so you know what it's all about. It's also a busy tourist spot with visitors from much of southern Ontario dropping by at some point in the summer for the smoked fish and other fine foods in the local restaurants or, for the lovers of old trains, a ride on the renovated rail connection to St. Thomas and back. Some say Port Stanley is Ontario's best kept secret.
Curiously, for this very flat part of southern Ontario, the Kettle Creek at Port Stanley has cut through high ground producing a harbor surrounded by cliffs with the houses perched on top enjoying fabulous lake views, though with a hint of anxiety, one would think, as the cliffs look like soil not rock.
The main part of town is particularly picturesque as it nestles in the Kettle Creek's sharply cut valley with winding roads into and out of town, giving it a very European feel.
Port Stanley Ontario is the lakeside end of the Port Stanley Terminal Rail (PSTR), a renovated line running renovated engines and carriages from the '40's and '50's from Port Stanley to St. Thomas, on some trips, or Whytes Park on others. The line was originally built in the 1850's and continued in use until the late 1950's when increasing automobile ownership ended branch lines all over the Western world. After the line had been abandoned for some years, local businessmen bought it and converted the Port Stanley to St. Thomas section into a visitor attraction. Tickets for 2009 are $12.5 for adults and $8 for children. Trains run from the end of March to Santa Rides in December. here's the their website -- PSTR.
The town's Festival Theatre is also down at the harbor just at one end of the road bridge spanning the river. For this summer's plays and more information, visit their wbsite here -- Festival Theatre.
Port Stanley Ontario has a small beach just a few minutes walk from downtown and there's also plenty of parking nearby. Like most beaches along Lake Erie's northern shore the sand is fine grained and perfect for playing, whether you're a five year old with bucket and spade or a fifteen year old with a volleyball.
As the fishing and other business of the port has declined, the older buildings have been converted to restaurants and other service industry outlets. And, as you'd expect from a fishing port, fish is the main item on the town's restaurant menus. The local fish, as with Port Dover, is Lake Perch, lightly dusted with flour and fried quickly -- delicious.
If you want to take some home with you, Jackson's fish shop at the harbourside can meet your needs for fresh or smoked fish.
Port Stanley Ontario Restaurants include:
Port Stanley Wharf, which does great food and also has a great view down the harbour and out to the lake. You can watch the next catch being brought in as you're eating the last one, just like in the photo. Call them at: 519.782.7788
Kettle Creek Inn, away from the water but near enough for a view, is on Joseph Street and their phone # is: 519.782.3388
Roxy Diner, next to the road bridge over the river, is a roadhouse with view of the harbour. Contact them at: 519.782.3241
Telegraph House & Pineapple Dining Room is a beautiful heritage house bed & breakfast place near the harbor, well worth a visit -- to stay or just to eat. They can be contacted at: 519.782.3006
Lots of people already know about 'Ontario's Best Kept Secret' and now you do too. Put it on your list of places to visit.
And for a hotel in Ontario or anywhere else:
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