Cute and quaint places have always been something that I love. So when my girlfriends and I were looking for a place to go on our first girls trip together, Haldimand County was at the top of our list. Filled with hidden gems as well as popular places we had heard of before, we knew right away that we wanted to stay here. Having many of their popular communities located on the Grand River and being so close to Lake Erie, Haldimand County is a great place to plan your summer get away. With many of my favourite summer activities being popular attractions in the County’s communities, I couldn’t wait to escape the hustle and bustle of my everyday life with my friends.
The first stop of our girls trip was to our accommodations, My Lighthouse Cottages in Port Maitland, which is located right where the Grand River meets Lake Erie. Our cottage rental was newly renovated and perfect for our stay. It even included a community space behind the cottage that had multiple firepits, barbeques, lounge chairs and picnic tables that made this place unique. Our cottage had an amazing view that really made us feel like we had escaped the city, and its amenities made it even better.
After unpacking, we decided to head into Dunnville which was only 10 minutes away. There were many cute little shops that we popped into that we loved. Mary’s Mystic Room offers an array of all things mystical, like crystals, tarot cards, essential oils, home décor and more. Griffin Vintage Market is a unique items store collecting items from brand new, to vintage, to antiques. Time Capsule has a commodity of things from the past, including trading cards, movie posters, novels, toys, and their spectacular collection of records. Sweet Retro-Spect is a specialty store, that has all of your favourite candy from when you were kid, as well as other old retro gift shop items, and their famous selection of popcorn. Lastly, we went into The Minga, a non-for-profit café, that also sells items from small businesses in the area. My friends and I could not get enough of the downtown; we probably could have spent our entire trip walking into every shop and learning about what they had to offer.
But, the more time we spent walking around, the hungrier we got. We decided to go to the Mohawk Marina & Hippo’s for dinner, which is located in Lowbanks, about 15 minutes from Dunnville. The Marina’s patio is right on Lake Erie, which gave us the perfect summer scenery. After a few drinks and an impromptu photo op, our food arrived and it was delicious. I got the perch tacos and they did not disappoint.
On our way back to the cottage, we saw the Grand River Marina & Café and decided to pull in. They serve ice cream from Hewitt’s Dairy Bar, a local ice cream shop in Hagersville. Once my friends and I all got our ice cream, (I got strawberry cheesecake which was delicious by the way) we walked to the edge of the property where the grass meets the Grand River, and sat on a picnic table to enjoy our ice cream.
We noticed that they had Canoe and Kayak rentals, and decided that we had to go out on the water. We rented two canoes, grabbed some life jackets and paddles, and set out on our Grand River adventure. We headed up the Grand, towards Byng Island Conservation Area, which is a very popular camp ground in Haldimand. We saw lots of beautiful wildlife and it was nice to breathe in the fresh air and enjoy nature after being in the city for so long. Once we returned to the Marina and returned our canoes, we headed back to our cottage.
We ended the night by having a campfire in the community space and it was one of my favourite parts of the day. It was so quiet, with the only sounds being our laughs and the waves from the lake. The stars filled the night sky, which was something I haven’t seen in a while. We made smores with cholate from My Sweet Sweet World; an artisan chocolate shop in Hagersville. I had two, and then gave up on the marshmallows. The chocolate was too good to not just eat out of the box. This made me so excited to adventure Haldimand the next day and see what other hidden gems I could find.
In the morning, we travelled to Cayuga for Brunch. We ate at the Carolinian Café, a locally sourced café that has a sunny and bright aesthetic. With local artists’ work displayed inside, as well as products from small businesses for sale, you can tell the owners encourage shopping local. They had lots of vegan, vegetarian and gluten friendly options, making sure there is something for everyone to enjoy.
After our tasty brunch, we decided to peruse downtown Cayuga to see what hidden gems we could find. Glow Studio & Co. is a beauty salon that does nails, facials, eyelashes, and sells organic and chemical free Canadian products. The Thrifty Dresser (formerly Closet on the Grand) had a wide variety or clothing, accessories, and bags, making it hard to not leave with the entire store. Lastly, we went to Cravings by Brittany, a local bake shop. There was rows of mouthwatering baked goods, but we decided we had to get Brittany’s famous Heidi cookies.
After we finished shopping in Cayuga, we headed to LaFortune Park in Caledonia to play a round of disk golf. The park is 106 acres with 18 baskets, and has a great mix of wooded and open holes. There was a few longer holes that really tested my throwing abilities, but we managed to get through them all. We had also heard that there was a disc golf course in Jarvis, which we knew we would have to check out at some point. When we finished, we went down to lower LaFortune park and enjoyed the summer scenery before heading out for dinner.
Victor’s Cornerstone has been said to be a staple amongst the community since 1995, when the father and son duo first opened the restaurant. With such a variety on their menu, there is something for everyone – even my gluten free friends – considering they have an entire gluten free menu. I got the Seafood Linguine and I’ve been thinking about it ever since; it was fantastic.
We were so full after our dinner, so we thought we should cruise back to our cottage so our stomachs had time to settle before we got there. We decided to follow half of the Grand River Route which we found on Tourismhaldimand.ca. The grand river route is a touring route, perfect for sightseeing right from your window. We followed the Grand from Caledonia to Cayuga, where we crossed over the river on highway 3. From there, we drove along the opposite side of the river, through the beautiful country side, and back into Byng, where we strayed from the route and travelled back to our cottage.
For our last night we decided to have another fire, and reminisce on our fun weekend. We went to a lot of different communities and did many different things in each, but we only explored the east side of the County. Haldimand has a lot more to offer like breweries, race tracks, museums and chocolate shops that we didn’t get the chance to stop at. Our adventure may be over, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be back to explore! We are already planning our next visit.