A touch of the Caribbean in Norfolk County
201 years ago, Port Dover (or Dover Mills, as it was then known) was at the heart of the action in the war of 1812. Fortunately, modern visitors receive a much warmer welcome than the American troops experienced all those years ago! Today, Port Dover is an affordable, diverse, beautiful place to spend a weekend or even a whole week. The town has a fun, funky, young, vibrant edge to it and, between the sandy beaches, the public art, and the neat shops, it's possible to enjoy a value packed visit without ever feeling a budgetary pinch.
My favourite thing about Port Dover is the beautiful beach and lakefront. I'm a water girl, through and through! It comes close to reminding me of the Canadian Maritimes, with the sandy beaches, the lighthouse, and gentle waves as far as the eye can see.... until you come to the palm trees! They're definitely not a Maritime staple! Suddenly, the town takes on a bit of Caribbean vibe!
For some, working on the temperamental Great Lakes meant paying the ultimate price. This monument by the wharf (above) commemorates the lives lost on Lake Erie. There are many displays of public art and sculpture in downtown Port Dover. Throughout spring, summer, and fall, there are lovely flower gardens in the public parks, as well are flower baskets and planters blanketing the main streets. Value minded travelers will love packing a picnic to bring to one of the parks!
Port Dover has a thriving arts scene. Below is an example of local stained glass artwork decorating the Lighthouse Festival Theatre. The first play produced in this location dates back to 1905 and the building has experienced many reincarnations (and survived a few decades as a municipal storeroom) before slowly being resurrected in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Today, they have an all-Canadian mandate and have presented over 2 dozen world premiers of Canadian work. Tickets generally range from $15-$50 (with an average cost of about $30), making this a very reasonable option for a night out.
I rarely take the time to shop while I travel (you know me and my light packing obsession!) but I did pop into a few shops in Port Dover for a bit of early holiday shopping. Let's hear it for organization! There are lots of nifty shops supporting local artists and if browsing is your thing, you'll enjoy a stroll through town.
If you have the chance to eat in Port Dover, I heartily recommend Schofield's Bistro on Main Street. They have a great selection of local wines and their menu can easily accommodate those with gluten free or vegetarian requests. All lunch items are $14 or less and dinner main dishes start at $17 for pasta dishes and $25 for steak dishes, making it a value priced choice.
If you just want a cup of coffee (and even if you don't!) be sure to check out the nearby Robot Cafe, which can only be described as 'geek-tastic'.
Port Dover is always busy on any Friday the 13th - all of Norfolk County gears up to host motorcyclists who descend from around North America every time this auspicious date hits the calendar. Every other day of the year, you'll likely find Port Dover relatively uncongested, even in summer. It won't be long before the secret gets out and I'm already eagerly anticipating my next visit.
As always, I welcome and encourage your comments: Have you recently discovered a new town on your travels that you loved?
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My visit to Port Dover was part of a visit facilitated by Norfolk County Tourism. This did not affect my reviews and all opinions remain my own.