Live Small Town Magazine‘s town-by-town, hidden-gem by hidden-gem, Guide to what’s new, hot, and legendary in Haldimand County. ( Summer 2019 Issue)
All the stuff you absolutely must eat, do, buy and indulge in to make the most of your time off the sofa and loving our country!
WRITTEN & PHOTOGRAPHED (Killman Zoo Photos) BY JAY PERRY
I made it back again! Back to the beautiful county where my amazing Small Town Sundays adventures for Live Small Town Magazine started: the magical area known as the Haldimand County. And during my visit, I stumbled upon a somewhat hidden small town that I had not even heard of and I was joined by a giant! Sound fantastical? It really was!
My stay-cation started in the very town I had never heard of. Just Southwest of Cayuga in Fisherville, Ontario is the historic and the legendary Fisherville Hotel and Tavern, or “The Tav” as the locals call it, and I was greeted by owners Janna and John Overend.
The inside was exactly what I expected from a small-town tavern: a pool table, a bar, and room filled with wooden tables. But even before looking at their menu, my first impression was one that made me feel at home. I also was excited to do what I do during all of my Small Town Sundays trips… eat!
I don’t know why, but every time I come to Haldimand County, I seem to order pierogi, so why break tradition? I kindly requested their Mini Pierogi: Divine pastry envelopes filled with potatoes and cheddar cheese topped with sautéed onions, bacon, and a Jensen cheese blend with a side of onion rings.
I wouldn’t say I’m a pierogi expert, but growing up with Ukrainian grandparents, I would say I know my way around the world of these little beauties. This was the first time I had ever heard of “mini pierogi”.
As advertised, my plate arrived with 14 small pierogi, and a side of sour cream. Now, because my Grandmother reads my articles, I can’t say they were better than her homemade ones, but, let’s just say they were quite comparable and she would be very impressed.
The Tav was an incredible way to start my journey. It had the exact small-town feel that I was looking for and there was so much more menu to explore, so I will be back! thetav.ca
“Hey Grandma, lunch is on me. I need you to try these.”
So where do you go next, while moving slowly in Fisherville with a belly full of food? The only answer is to literally roll across the street and be pampered at The Cabin Wellness Clinic!
I work full-time as a commercial photographer. I sit at a computer for hours, and regularly lift a ton of heavy gear. My back is not in the best shape and an experienced RMT was able to provide my aching body with an amazing massage treatment on such short notice. I have had many massages over the years but I felt like this hit spots and tackled some knots that nobody had ever seemed to find.
I realize that many people don’t like being touched. I get it! It is kind of awkward when a stranger tells you to get half-naked and go under a blanket on a table, but the RMT made me feel incredibly comfortable and even explained why she was doing the certain things she was doing when I asked. Although the intention of her practice is on the clinical side, it definitely doesn’t have a clinical feel. It literally reminded me of being in a cabin! Check out thecabinclinic.ca for all the services they offer. You deserve it!
My local adventures always involve a lot of food, great people, and spending the night somewhere spectacular. This time was no different. After such an incredible massage and meal, I decided to head to My Lighthouse Cottages in Port Maitland: a family-run block of attached and newly renovated cottages located on the Grand River at the mouth of Lake Erie.
I was also meeting up with a friend who would be staying with me (the giant I mentioned before). Enter my buddy Kyle Andrew – A 6’7” beast of a handsome man who is not only an internationally successful, big and tall menswear model but also a contestant, looking for love, on season one of The Bachelorette Canada.
I have been friends with Kyle for many years and asked him to join me on this trip but our cottage only had one bedroom and a pull-out futon couch, so naturally, the good friend that I am, I gave him the bed, so that his legs would only hang off a bit…
No time to rest, we headed to Caledonia to hop on the famous Grand River Dinner Cruise. I had heard of this cruise growing up but had never had the chance to experience it. We were directed to the Grand River Queen and steering the vessel was Captain Ivor.
I’m no boat expert but the ship reminded me of a giant pontoon boat. The middle housed a covered dining room surrounded by windows and the outside sported a row of chairs and rail to enjoy the Grand River scenery in between courses.
The meal started with a loaf of bread followed by the main course. Kyle had the beef while I had the chicken dinner, a tender chicken breast with vegetables and mashed potatoes. Dinner was followed by a delicious piece of cake.
Kyle and I enjoyed a beer while sitting outside, enjoying the view as we sailed down the river. Captain Ivor was not only our captain, but was the tour guide talking over the loud speaker. This family-friendly experience was educational, scenic, fun and the food was amazing. The staff were all accommodating and it is clear to me now why we needed to reserve our spots on the cruise in advance.
It was about 9:30 pm when Kyle and I made it back to our cottage and what are two guys to do in the Dunnville area on a Friday night? The same thing I did the last time I was in town. We made our way over to the Queens Merritt Room Pub for a few late night beers.
It was just as I had remembered it — sitting at the bar, throwing back some pints, and chatting with the locals. Somehow they could tell we weren’t from town. Maybe it was our new faces or the fact that they would definitely remember a 6’7” giant strolling down the streets of Dunnville.
But regardless, we had some amazing conversations with the staff and patrons. It was definitely the Friday night hot spot in town.
Morning quickly came and I must say that I had a fantastic sleep. Maybe it was the couple pints but most likely it was the incredibly comfy futon that I slept on paired with the worlds softest pillow. I was so impressed that I took a photo of the pillow tag so I could order my own when I got home. Kyle also commented on how comfortable his bed was.
Our stay at My Lighthouse Cottages was exactly what I was looking for. The place was spotless, it had a full kitchen, massive shower, and a great location to spend the night. I need to go back when it’s a bit warmer out so I can take advantage of the Muskoka chairs that sat outside our door with a great view of the water.
If you have been following along with my article since day one, then you know it all started with me trying to finish a massive burger at Julia’s Bistro in Dunnville. I was so impressed with not only the food, but the kindness and dedication to their business that I witnessed from owners Julia and Paul, that I wanted to come back one day. This was that day. Kyle and I decided that Julia’s Bistro was to be our morning breakfast spot. Shortly after sitting down, Paul approached and said that some ladies recognized Kyle from the Bachelorette and wanted to know if they could take a photo with him. So here we were, 10 am in a breakfast spot, and Kyle had his arms wrapped around three lovely ladies, all smiling from ear to ear, and I found myself using their cell phone to snap the image. So, basically a typical morning for Kyle. I ordered Julia’s Grand Breakfast which comes with one pancake, two eggs, three pieces of bacon, three sausages, home fries, and toast. I would eat breakfast for every meal throughout the day if it tasted like Julia’s.
It was a pleasure to be back at Julia’s and this time for breakfast. I can’t stress this enough… if you are in the Dunnville area, make it a priority to stop in for breakfast or lunch or dinner, and please say hi to Julia for me.
We headed back home for the night and the following day I picked up two little travel buddies. My niece Lauren and nephew Hayden were excited to join me to visit the Killman Zoo in Caledonia. It was like walking through the jungle with massive cats only a couple feet away from you. I have never been this close to lions and tigers and seeing the sheer size of them this close was quite an experience. My niece and nephew were both excited since this was their very first zoo visit. We made sure to go on a Sunday afternoon because at 3 pm they feed the cats.
We saw lions, tigers, cougars, wolves, coyotes, parrots, bald eagles, deer, and so much more. There is also an option to purchase food and feed it to some of the animals yourself. I can’t believe how close I live to this local zoo and massive animals but I’ve never been to see them. Killman Zoo is an experience for everyone and extremely family-oriented. Everybody who worked there was friendly and knowledgeable about the animals. It’s the perfect afternoon trip to take this summer. thekillmanzoo.com
This concluded my weekend trekking through the Haldimand County. There are so many hidden gems that I keep stumbling upon and the small-town vibe continues to draw me back. Who knew that I could find so many new places to explore this close to my front door? Thank you to everyone who made this weekend possible and I hope to see you all again soon.
Thank you for reading. If you have a place that you think I should check out, please feel free to send me a message. Follow me on Instagram at @smalltownsundays to view stories and additional photos that you might not see in the magazine.
Read the full Summer 2019 Live Small Town issue.