If birding, beaches and boardwalks have appeal – though perhaps not in that order – then perhaps you’d enjoy a spring trip to Point Pelee National Park in southwestern Ontario.
I checked out the place in some detail over the May long weekend. Point Pelee National Park is one of Canada’s smallest parks coming in at just over 20 square kilometres of land. It’s roughly a four hour drive from Toronto and accessed via the town of Leamington – Canada’s tomato capital – for your trivia of the day – and home to a Heinz factory.
Why you’ll want to visit Point Pelee National Park in spring
If you’re a keen birder you already know about what a fabulous place Point Pelee is during the spring bird migration. The total number of species recorded is 372 – 340 of which were observed over the spring migration. According to the Parks Canada website there have been some BIG DAYS where huge waves of birds have stopped for a breather. Here are a few examples of the numbers seen during a wave.
- In 1952 1,000 black-and-white warblers and 20,000 white-throated sparrows showed up over a three day period.
- On May 15, 1978 80 yellow-billed cuckoos, 250 scarlet tanagers and 70 eastern wood peewees were sighted.
- In other years 2,500 tundra swans 100,000 red-breasted mergansers have stopped by in a short time period.
If you’ve ever seen the movie The Big Year, you will appreciate – even if you’re not a birder – the thrill of seeing so many species of birds at one time.
You don’t have to be a birder to enjoy Point Pelee National Park.
The park is situated on a narrow spit of land that ends at a point – the southernmost tip of mainland Canada. There are fabulous beaches on either side of the spit. Bring a picnic, go for a swim or just relax with your family. And don’t miss a visit to the very tip. Just don’t even consider a swim there unless you want to become another drowning statistic. The water at the tip is known for its dangerous currents and undertows.
I spent many hours hiking a myriad of trails that run through the park. Most are short. All are flat and easy. My favourite hike was the one kilometer long Marsh Boardwalk. It’s popular one for the whole family – as you get up close to cattails, lily pads, turtles, birds and frogs. I had also hoped to paddle around the ponds as there are boats available to rent but for whatever reason they weren’t open on the Monday of the May long weekend. That would be a fabulous way to explore the park.
Hiking in the woods in Point Pelee National Park
The wooded walks I did were pleasant too – especially as the woods were just full of birdsong – 99% of which I couldn’t identify. I hiked a number of loops and enjoyed the peace of the woods, trying to find (and identify) the elusive bird singing in the tree and the spring flowers. Though hardly exotic I loved coming across wild turkeys on a couple of occasions.
As mentioned in an earlier blog – Five Things I Hope to Avoid on My Upcoming Solo Adventure – one of those things was snakes. And there are a lot of snakes in Point Pelee National Park. I am pleased to report that I saw only one of them – a garter snake that was less than a foot long. Thank heavens I didn’t see a six foot long Fox Snake.
Point Pelee is well worth a trip – if not in the spring then in the fall to catch the monarch butterfly migration. According to my B&B host in Leamington that’s usually sometime during the last week in September.
It’s $7.80 per adult to visit the park or $19.60 per family. It would be easy to spend an entire weekend exploring all aspects of the park. You can’t camp in the park (unless with a group) but there are lots of options nearby.
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