Port Dover's big draw is its beach. During the warm months, palm trees thrive on Erie Beach.
Port Dover's earliest known inhabitants, from around the year 1000 until approximately 300–350 years later, were the Algonquin nation. They were noted flint-workers and evidence of their skill in crafting arrowheads is still to be found in open worked field areas surrounding the village. The next wave of inhabitants were the Attawandaron nation, the Neutrals, who occupied the region from about 1350 until their absorption by the Iroquois in 1651. The last significant Aboriginal nation to occupy the area was the Mississaugas.
In 1670, French missionaries François Dollier de Casson and René Bréhant de Galinée became the first Europeans to winter at what is now Port Dover. Earthen remains and a plaque mark the spot near the fork of the Lynn River (Patterson's Creek to many older Port Doverites) and Black Creek where they and seven Frenchmen (the first Europeans known to have ascended the Great Lakes to Sault Ste. Marie) built a hut and chapel. The "Cliff Site" is designated as a National Historic Site of Canada. Just outside the community, a cross with the arms of France was erected on 23 March 1670, claiming the area for King Louis XIV over the Lake Erie region.
By 1794 the first European settlers, a group of United Empire Loyalists, had established a hamlet known as Dover Mills (named for the English port of Dover).
This community was attacked during the War of 1812, in May 1814. After making their landing on the shore, 750 American soldiers launched a surprise attack on the village's civilians. Scattered elements of nearby militia and regular units tried to defend the village without any success. The survivors of the war rebuilt the town of Port Dover further downstream on Patterson's Creek.
By 1842, the village's harbour, lighthouse and bridge across the river had been completed as had the road to Hamilton; there was a grammar school, a grist mill, a saw mill and a Presbyterian church in the course of construction. The Hamilton & Northwestern Railway completed the final section to Port Dover and to Jarvis in the mid-1870s. The South Norfolk Railway began operating in 1889.
By the 1920s tourism was an important contributor to the economy, with many summer visitors attracted by the beach. There was some light industry in the town but Port Dover was best known as a major fishing centre, with fish shipped by rail and by ship in Canada and to the U.S.
The nearest intercity bus and train stations are 43 km away in Brantford.
Port Dover is 143 km from Toronto. Take the Gardiner Expressway/Queen Elizabeth Way/Highway 403 to provincial Highway 6, and follow it south to Port Dover.
Ride Norfolk provides service to Port Dover from Simcoe on Thursday and Friday:
- Thursday – Simcoe, Delhi, Bill’s Corner, Port Dover
- Friday – Simcoe, Port Dover, Port Ryerse, Turkey Point, Vittoria
The fare is $6 for an adult, $4 for a senior (55+) or student (6-18 with school ID). A day pass provides unlimited trips within the county. Children ages 5 and under ride free. Fares as of June 2020. Exact cash fare is required. Bus drivers do not carry change. Tickets can be purchased for cash only at any Norfolk County Public Library, including the one at 713 St. George St.
- Guido's Taxi, ☏
- Dover Cab & Delivery, ☏
The pier down by the beach offers a great view of Lake Erie during nice weather. It is generally a draw for tourists in the area.
- 1 Lighthouse Festival Theatre, 247 Main St, toll-free: . Theatre and concerts.
- 2 Port Dover Lighthouse (at the end of the west pier (break-wall), at the entrance to Port Dover Harbour). M-F 10AM-5PM, Sa 10AM-8PM. A good example of a building associated with the establishment of navigational aids on the Great Lakes. The construction of the Port Dover lighthouse was part of the Canadian response to improve the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence route, to compete with the American-built Erie Canal system that linked New York with Buffalo on Lake Erie. The wharf and light have been, and continue to be, the centre of Port Dover's economy, which is focused on commercial fishing and an active summer resort trade. Yhis lighthouse is one of a number of square wooden towers built on the Great Lakes in the 19th century and is one of the oldest examples in Ontario of the small wooden lighthouses built in pre-Confederation years.
- 3 Port Dover Harbour Museum, 44 Harbour St, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Sep-Jun: Tu-F 10AM-4:30PM, Sa noon-4PM, July-Aug: daily 10AM-4:30PM; closed Dec 23-31. Partially housed in an original fisherman's net shanty, it is dedicated to the history of Port Dover's commercial fishing industry. Permanent galleries present exhibits on the days of commercial sail, Lake Erie shipwrecks, ship building, Long Point, rum running, and other aspects of lakeside life. Outdoor attractions include the 1932 fishtug Almidart, a 1912 lake-freighter wheelhouse, and access to the river along a picturesque wooden dock. There is also a major collection of artefacts from the 1852 wreck of the Steamer Atlantic near Long Point.
Port Dover is a popular destination for anglers and generally maintains a "fishing community" feel. Although not a large enough town to enjoy much of a night life, many of the locals and people from surrounding communities tend to enjoy spending time at the pier and along the beaches. 'Dover is also a good place for sailing and most people with pleasure craft in the area tend to use the town as a port.
There are scenic waterfalls nearby and tourists generally go to nearby Port Ryerse as a side trip. Local roads that originate from here often lead to the hamlets of Fishers Glen, Normandale and Turkey Point (which is another seasonal beach destination). Apple wine, produced by the local farmers themselves, can be purchased by anyone due to their lack of alcohol content. This product is available in the Port Dover area.
On clear summer nights, the Port Dover lighthouse can be seen glimmering brightly with the moon.
- 1 Lynn Valley Trail. A trail on the former rail line that was established along the pioneer river trail in 1873 as the Lake Huron and Port Dover Railway. It is a multipurpose corridor that includes hiking and cycling. The 10-km trail connects the business districts of Simcoe and Port Dover. The trail passes through a number of different habitats including; mixed woods, wetlands, open grassland and agricultural land, all along the scenic Lynn River. Examples of Carolinian flora and fauna may be found along the trail: cardinals, bluebirds, red-tailed hawks, chipmunks, deer, raccoons, turtles and frogs. Plant life includes multi-flora rose, skunk cabbage and trilliums in the spring, lobelias, white snakeroot and Grass of Parnassus in the summer and asters, grasses and goldenrod in the fall. Benches, picnic tables, a portable washroom, fencing and signage.
Friday the 13th
Port Dover is perhaps best known by the events held every Friday the 13th (the movie Friday the 13th was filmed in Port Dover). Each time a Friday the 13th arrives on the calendar, bikers descend Port Dover from as far away as Ottawa and parts of the United States (New York State and Pennsylvania being the closest).
Thousands of bikers (either die-hard members of biker groups or those who own a motorcycle for fun) get together and spend a day or two partying, drinking, BBQing and displaying their bikes for others to see. It can be a fun occasion for all involved, especially if you own a bike. People from all walks of life enjoy each other's company and celebrate their mutual interests.
Despite the negative image generally given to biker culture, the risk of crime at one of these events is low. Aside from occasional drunken brawls, you can expect next to no crime. The bikers will generally look out for each other's rides and won't tolerate any nonsense from anyone else.
Port Dover has a fair number of tourist shops selling the usual fare of trinkets and odds & ends. You can find a number of shops dedicated to angling and sailing, and the town is a good place to go if you're in the market for a new boat or rod.
- 1 Frisky Beaver, 455 Radical Road, ☏ . Jun-Sep: M-W 10AM-6PM, Th-Sa 10AM-8PM, Su 11AM-6PM; Oct-Dec: M-Sa 10AM-6PM, Su 11AM-5PM; Jan-May: M-Sa 10AM-5:30PM, Su noon-5PM. Sample their 6 wines for $5 (free if you buy a bottle). Bottles are in the range of $14.
The fish and chips available at most restaurants in Port Dover are absolutely excellent. Try the lake perch - sometimes hard to find but definitely worth it.
Port Dover is also a good place to go for a hot dog. There are usually several well-known stands set up near the beach famous locally for offering huge and even unusual selections of condiments.
The Erie Beach Hotel is a popular restaurant serving locally-grown cuisine.
- 1 The Beach House, Walker Street, ☏ . Su-Th 11AM-9PM, F Sa 11AM-10PM. Seafood restaurant overlooking the beach.
- 2 The Urban Parisian, 401 Main Street, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Tu-Sa 7AM-5PM, Su 9AM-5PM. Fresh baked croissants, baguettes, flatbread, and specialty breads. French breakfast specialties, quiches and exquisite pastries. Lunch menu consists of artisanal baguette, wrap & flatbread sandwiches or daily salads served over fresh greens. Soup is prepared every morning and is served with fresh bread.
- 3 Davids Restaurant, 168 New Lakeshore Rd (at Dover Coast Golf Club), ☏ . Lunch daily 11AM-3PM; dinner Tu-Th Su 5PM-9PM, F Sa 5PM-10PM. Lunch $17-28, dinner mains $31-49.
- 4 The Crepe House, 2012 Park St, ☏ . Su-Th 8AM-8PM, F Sa 8AM-11PM. Serving Norfolk county produce, meat, eggs and dairy. Sweet crepes $11-14, savoury crepes $14-16.
- Burning Kiln Winery, 1709 Front Road, St Williams (27 km W of Port Dover), ☏ . Su-Th noon-5PM, F noon-dusk, Sa 11AM-dusk. A winery created on former tobacco-growing land using re-purposed building and equipment. Offering tours and tastings.
- 1 Sprucelodge Cottage, 2015 Water Street, ☏ . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. One- and two-bedroom self-sufficient accommodations on a quiet lane close to beach and downtown. From $500/week.
- 2 Dover House Bed and Breakfast, 17 Morgan St, ☏ . On a leafy ravine lot at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac. Dover House retains the architectural details of the period – coved ceilings, cabinetry built-ins, bay windows and the original hardwood floors. Outside, the spacious yard and gardens compliment a large deck built under the trees overlooking the ravine which offers a breeze in a shady, cool area on summer days. One room with en suite bathroom, the other two rooms share a bathroom. $140-$160.
- 3 Clonmel Castle Boutique B&B, 150 Prospect St, ☏ . Clonmel Castle sits on Prospect Hill, surrounded by three acres of English gardens, wrapped in a hand-crafted stonewall. Clonmel is an authentic Georgian revival Heritage Mansion. From $150.
- 4 Erie Beach Hotel, 19 Walker Street, ☏ . Two separate dining areas, the Cove Room and the Terrace Room, and 18 quaint and renovated motel-style rooms. All rooms are non-smoking and pet-free. Free Wi-Fi, flat screen TVs, parking, queen/king/double/single sized rooms. Oct-Apr $110, May-Sep $130.
- Long Point Provincial Park boasts one of the finest beaches on Ontario's South Shore.
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