The Haldimand portion of the Waterfront Trail takes you along the waters edge from Lowbanks (coming from Niagara) to Nanticoke (linking into Port Dover in Norfolk County).
Enjoy the view winding along quiet country roads lined by quaint waterfront cottages till you reach Rock Point Provincial Park, known for its exposed fossils of a coral reef, dating back to over 350 million years, embedded in limestone shelf along the beach. Rock Point has a scenic viewing platform, sand dunes, beach, hiking trail, camping/RV sites, and great birding.
Just a few kilometres past the park arrive at Port Maitland East, where the Grand River meets Lake Erie. You will find a small waterfront park here containing a historic Cairn celebrating the Commercial Fishing Industry, Feeder Canal & Lock, and the Grand River Naval Depot. A little further past the park and you can see the remains of the old Feeder Canal. There are no bridges here, so to continue your trip head into Dunnville, one of the larger Lake Erie Waterfront Trail communities. Dunnville has many accommodation options as well as places to eat. While in Dunnville get a picture with Muddy, the world’s largest mudcat before heading back down to Port Maitland West (the other side of the Grand River, where the river meets Lake Erie).
Just across the bridge from Dunnville, Byng Conservation Area on the Grand River, offers camping and loads of recreational activities including swimming in one of the largest pools in Ontario, kayaking, and canoeing amongst the large reeds (rentals available). It is the perfect spot to stir up a large mudcat or carp sitting on the muddy bottom.
Port Maitland Pier and Esplanade are a beautiful backdrop to any trip. Once a thriving fishing village, fishing roots run deep in this part of the world. The long picturesque pier reaches out into the lake and makes for a great spot to drop a line and see what you can catch, as well as great photo opportunities.
Both Haldimand Conservation Area and Selkirk Provincial Park offer camping. Selkirk is a quaint little village and has options for refueling and dining.
The Trail east of Selkirk follows a beautiful country road with frequent views of Lake Erie before you cross over into Norfolk and head on to Port Dover.
Not far from Hamilton and Highway 403, start your journey in Caledonia along the scenic Grand River, one of our few Canadian Heritage Rivers. Prepare yourself for breathtaking views of a waterway that is part of one of the few remaining pockets of Carolinian Forests and contains over 50% of all fish species found in Canada. Heading south on Highway 54 takes you past Ruthven Park National Historic Site, worth a stop for a photo op in front of the Greek Revival mansion built in 1845.
A little further south you will come into Cayuga, home of the Cayuga Grand Vista, a rail trail over the river with spectacular views. Park in the Courthouse parking lot for the trailhead. Treat yourself to local flavours as there are several dining options in Cayuga or continue the trip by turning left onto Highway 3 (Talbot Street).
The next village you will pass through is Canfield, which has a Black Settlement Marker commemorating Canfield’s history as a refuge for blacks fleeing slavery.
Just as you reach the hamlet of Canborough turn right continuing on Highway 3 (Dunnville Road) taking you into Dunnville, a popular tourist town. At the entrance to town you will be greeted by Muddy, the worlds largest Mudcat. There are a lot of great options for eating and unique shopping here.
As you continue to head out of town on Highway 3 (Broad Street East) turn right on Highway 65 (Hutchinson Road) and head south till the road ends, after a quick jaunt left and right again you come to the Lowbanks and shores of beautiful Lake Erie. There is a wonderful seasonal food truck right on the water that offers local fresh perch, which shouldn’t be missed if you are here. To start the loop back to Caledonia, head west on North Shore Drive. The road veers to the right to continue north through Stromness and back into Dunnville.
Cross the Dunnville Bridge over to Byng, and take a right on Highway 20 which is home to Byng Island Conservation Area, a great camping spot that also rent kayaks and canoes to enjoy an afternoon on the water exploring the river and lush marshes, it also boasts one of the largest outdoor swimming pools in Ontario.
Continue on Highway 20 (there is a slight jaunt right and left at Hald-Dunn Townline but you remain on Highway 20 to Yaremy Road then head north (right) for a short distance before it turns into River Road which has lovely views of beautiful river scenery. Once back at Highway 3 you turn right and head back over the bridge into Cayuga and retrace your steps to Caledonia to complete your loop.
Summer fades in the rear-view mirror but it’s never too late for beaches and winding ribbons of shoreline blacktop. And all the better if it feels like a voyage of discovery.
If Hamilton’s beachfront on Lake Ontario remains something of a secret, even for local residents, its southern coast on Lake Erie is buried treasure, yet just a leisurely 45-minute country drive away….