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A Spring Trip To Point Pelee National Park

A Spring Trip to Point Pelee National Park

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.

"Aerial view of the marshlands from the observation tower"

Aerial view of the marshlands from the observation tower

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.

"One of the beaches in Point Pelee NP"

One of the beaches in Point Pelee NP

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.

"Beach and gulls"

Quiet stretch of beach

"Looking north from the most southerly point in mainland Canada"

Looking north from the most southerly point in mainland Canada

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.

"The boardwalk in Point Pelee National Park"

The boardwalk in Point Pelee National Park

"Lily pads"

Lily pads coming to life in the warm weather

"Red winged blackbirds are everywhere"

Red winged blackbirds are everywhere

"Swallows nest under the observation tower"

Swallows nest under the observation tower

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.

"Photo of a photo - of the forest beautifully lit up"

Photo of a photo – of the forest beautifully lit up

"Quiet path through the woods"

Quiet path through the woods

"Twisted vines"

Lots of twisted vines around

"I saw wild turkeys on several occasions"

I saw wild turkeys on several occasions

"Birding map showing recent sightings"

Birding map showing recent sightings

"Scarlet tanager"

A scarlet tanager – the most exotic bird I saw

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.

"Brilliant Lake Erie sunset"

Brilliant Lake Erie sunset

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.

Click on the photo below to pin.

A Spring Trip to Point Pelee National Park

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 21 Comments
  1. Leigh, I almost feel like I am on a hunt with you during your posts, carefully and patiently waiting for the perfect “shot.” I am not a hunter, so I appreciate your marksman technique!

  2. Sigh – what a beautiful place, and such lovely photos. Look at those leading lines and curves; you have a wonderful photographer’s eye.

  3. Great shot of a beautiful scarlet tanager.

    Also, nice to read about a park on Lake Erie. I spent much of my life in Ohio and much of that near the shores of the lake.

    1. @Bob I think Lake Erie is a lot cleaner too than it was a few decades ago. There is a little island in Lake Erie that you get to by ferry that then takes you on to Point Pelee Island (Sandusky, Ohio I think) so you were very close to Point Pelee. Wonder how the bird life is in Ohio.

  4. I am happy to see one tanager, it would be incredible to see 1,000. I keep getting attacked by red-winged blackbirds when I go running in Chicago. That picture kind of scared me.

    1. @Ted Can you imagine the colour in the skies with 1000 tanagers. Costa Rica has been the best place we’ve visited for abundant and colourful bird life. Those red winged blackbirds are beautiful – but what a racket and you’ll have to wear a hat so you don’t get pooped on if there are that many around.

  5. I bet that butterfly migration must be just spectacular!
    Point Pelee sounds like a great spot, Leigh, and at less than $10 pp, definitely gentle on the pocketbook too.
    Glad you didn’t see the Fox snake.

  6. Looks beautiful and much larger than it is. Never would have guessed that 6 foot snakes were popular there though, doesn’t look like a place where you would see them.

  7. Yet, another park I need to add to my Parks Canada list. It is so great to see such a diverse landscape despite it being small. I’m not a birder but would enjoy seeing all the colorful birds especially that turkey. Love that spectacular sunset photo.

  8. Thanks for sharing your experience with the public! My next planning for a family hiking trip is so much easier

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