Amherstburg is a town of about 24,000 people (2021) near the mouth of the Detroit River in Essex County. The small town is rich in history, with several important heritage sites linked to the War of 1812 and the Underground Railroad.
Amherstburg is a city of trade and services to support regional agriculture. It has also become known for several wineries in the area.
Local industry includes Diageo, a whiskey distillery that produces the Crown Royal Canadian whiskey, Windsor Mold's Precision Plastics, one of Ontario's largest full-service suppliers of industrial plastics and thermoplastic, and Honeywell Performance Materials and Technology. Marathon Oil has a coke storage site near the river.
Across the Detroit River from what developed as the state of Michigan in the United States, the town was permanently established in 1796 as a British military fort overlooking the river's mouth at Lake Erie. Fort Malden was occupied as a garrison. The town was developed by Loyalists who were granted land by the Crown in Upper Canada in compensation for losses in the Thirteen Colonies, or as payment for service in the military, after the British lost the American Revolutionary War. This enabled the Crown to increase population in Upper Canada and develop it. The new settlers built many of their houses in the French style of a century before, giving the new town a historic character. French-speaking colonists also settled here, some who were descendants of the Petite Côte settlement along the river to the north. St. Jean was their Catholic church.
During the days of the Underground Railroad before the American Civil War, fugitive African-American slaves often crossed the river to escape to freedom in Canada, after the Crown abolished slavery. Detroit abolitionists William Lambert and especially George DeBaptiste were key to helping the slaves escape. DeBaptiste owned a lake steamboat which was used to offload fugitives in town while docked ostensibly to load lumber. They used Fort Malden as an entry point to Canada.
When the fort was no longer needed for military purposes, the government adapted it for use as a "lunatic asylum". Its main building was later used as a Port of Entry Money Order office and Post Office savings bank. The town is named after Jeffery Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst, commander of the British forces and first British Governor General of the Province of Quebec (1760).
Between Amherstburg and Windsor (the nearest local metropolis), there is no regularly scheduled bus line.
Amherstburg Taxi and South Shore Taxi occasionally operate a "shared ride service" from Amherstburg to the Devonshire Mall in Windsor.
Small boats are welcome to call at any one of three local marinas that serve Lake Erie and the Detroit River.
- Amherstburg Ferry Company operates private ferry service to Bob-Lo Island community.
- Amherstburg Taxi, +1 519-736-1761
- 1 Fort Malden National Historic Site, 100 Laird Ave S, ☏ . Mid-May 19 to June and early Sep to early Oct: W-Su; July to early Sep: daily. 10AM-5PM (last admission at 4:15PM). The location of an historic meeting between Major General Sir Isaac Brock and Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, the British stronghold on the Detroit frontier during the War of 1812 and the Rebellions of 1837-38, and the site of the longest American occupation on Canadian soil. Adult $3.90, senior $3.40, under 18 free.
- 2 Fort Malden Military Museum, ☏ . A citadel on the former site of Fort Amherstburg (1795), a British border fortification.
- 3 Amherstburg Freedom Museum (formerly the North American Black Historical Museum), 277 King Street, ☏ , toll-free: . Tu-F noon-5PM, Sa Su 1PM-5PM (closed M). Visits must be booked in advance by calling the museum. This explores the history of African-American refugees in western Ontario, who sought freedom from slavery and made their homes here. Adults $7.50, students and seniors $6.50.
- 4 Park House Museum, 214 Dalhousie St (in old Amherstburg). Jul-Aug: daily 11AM-4PM; rest of the year: M-F 10AM-3PM. The story of Amherstburg and its people. Adult $4, senior $3, child (5 to 16) $2.50, child (1 to 4) free, family $12.
- 5 , Dalhousie Street. Beautiful gardens, manicured lawns and sculpture depicting the War of 1812.
- 6 Gibson Gallery, 140 Richmond St, ☏ . Mar to May and Sep to mid Dec: Th-Su 11AM-5PM; June: Tu-Su 11AM-5PM, Jul-Aug: daily 11AM-5PM. An art gallery in a former Michigan Central Railroad Station (c. 1896), which has been fully restored. The gallery operates year-round, featuring exhibits by local artists, the permanent collection of the Art Gallery of Windsor, travelling exhibits from Ontario museums and galleries, and student art/photography exhibits.
- 7 Gordon House, 268 Dalhousie St. Built in 1798 as a residence overlooking the Detroit River. Since being restored, it houses a marine exhibit.
- 8 Bois Blanc Island. Abandoned amusement park rides. Once a popular day trip from Detroit, hosts amazing views.
- 1 Holiday Beach Conservation Area, 6952 County Rd 50, ☏ . One of the best fall birding sites in North America for viewing migratory birds. The 2.2 km² (546-acre) nature reserve contains over 610 m (2,000 feet) of beaches, picnic areas, a 2-km (1.2-mi) trail along the edge of Big Creek Marsh. Holiday Beach is considered a premiere spot to view the fall migration of raptors (birds of prey). A 'Festival of Hawks' event takes place in September. Entry cost is $10/car collected by a credit card-operated automated gate.
- Amherstburg Uncommon. First weekend in August: F-Su. Wizards and Victorian Steampunks come to play in Amherstburg.
- Art by the River (on the grounds of the Fort Malden National Historic Site). Last weekend in Aug. 160 artists and artisans from across Ontario. $5, children 12 and under free.
- Amherstburg Ice Cream Festival, Toddy Jones Park. 9AM-10PM. Free
- 1 Amherstburg Farmers' Market, 8728 Howard Ave (at GL Heritage Brewery), email@example.com. Mid-May to early Oct: Sa 9AM-1PM. Produce and products sold are from within a 50-km radius.
- 1 Riccardo's Italian Restaurant, 238 Dalhousie St (Navy Yard Park), ☏ . Tu-F 11:30AM-9PM, Sa 4-9:30PM, Su noon-8PM.
- 2 Artisan Grill, 269 Dalhousie St, ☏ . 11AM-11PM Daily. Extensive wine menu, a variety of premium beers on tap, and live music (on Friday and Saturday evenings). Lunch $12-17, mains $18-42.
- 1 Sanson Estate Winery, 9238 Walker Rd, McGregor, ☏ . Su-F 11AM-5PM, Sa 10AM-5PM. Chardonnay, Autumn Harvest Vidal, and Baco Noir.
- 2 Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery, 7258 County Road 50, ☏ , toll-free: . 11AM-5PM daily. The retail centre is a Tuscany-style “old world” building with extensive balconies that overlook views of the vineyard and Lake Erie. The winery is surrounded by 35 acres of vines. Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Vidal, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Gamay.
- 3 Vivace Estate Winery, 5141 Concession 5 N, ☏ . Su-F 11AM-5PM, Sa 11AM-6PM. A wide range of red, rosé and white wines, a port-style and dessert wines.
- 1 Bondy House Bed & Breakfast, 199 Dalhousie St, ☏ . Guests can choose from theme bedrooms and an executive suite with private balcony overlooking the parks and Detroit River. Each of the guest bedrooms has its own theme reflecting the history of Amherstburg. From $186.
- Detroit — with a revitalizing downtown, historic neighbourhoods, and architectural gems a short distance across the river from Windsor.
- Essex — at the center of one of Ontario's emerging wine regions.
- Leamington and Kingsville — on the Lake Erie shore, with summer ferry services to Pelee Island.
- Windsor — Canada's 'Automotive Capital' and a multi-cultural city on the Detroit River.