Things To See & Do In Port Dover, Ontario!


port dover welcome

In this article, we’re going to talk about all the things there are for visitors to see and do in Port Dover.

This article was written by me, Rob Fox, longtime resident of this area, former teacher for the Waterloo Regional School Board, and travel buff.  Hope you enjoy this article!

Use this table of contents to navigate the article below:
Let’s dive in!

Welcome To Port Dover!

Port Dover is in Norfolk County in southwestern Ontario Canada on Lake Erie (one of the Great Lakes).  This is a beach town.  Most of the time, the population in Port Dover is about 6000.

port dover pic

In the summer months of June, July, and August, the population doubles.  It is a great place to go fishing, or purchase some fresh perch, smelt, or pickerel.

The beach is perfect for the whole family, especially kids, because the water is warm and shallow.

Port Dover is also the home of one of the world’s biggest motorcycle festivals, which happens every Friday the 13th.

Here’s a map of the area, in case you are trying to get there sometime soon!

You must visit Port Dover if you’re ever close to London, Hamilton, or Toronto Canada. You won’t regret it!


A Brief History

*Some of this info we gathered from the Norfolk County Tourism Page for Port Dover

The Algonquin indigenous people of Canada were the first known inhabitants of this area over 1000 years ago.  In the 1600’s, French missionaries lived in this part of Canada as well.

In the 1800’s, Daniel McQueen created a small village near Lake Erie, Ontario, Canada.  

daniel mcqueen port dover

McQueen called it “Dover Mills”, taking the name from Dover in England. 

During the War of 1812, the village was burned by the Americans. 

dover mills burning

Read more about this event here

It was rebuilt, and Port Dover was born.

Fishing on Lake Erie became the main industry for this small village back then, and is still popular today.

As Port Dover’s popularity grew because of its fishing industry, the tourist industry grew as well.

Lake Erie is the shallowest of all the Great Lakes, and thus the water is warm – perfect for swimming. 

Even though the beach strip is relatively small, Port Dover has become a very popular beach resort.

port-dover-beach

Major cities such as London, Hamilton, and Toronto are close by, so people began to visit Port Dover on weekends during the summer months.

Port Dover belongs to the “humid continental climate zone” which means the temperatures are above average compared to other parts of Canada.

For the last 20 years, due to some changes in climate, the weather at Port Dover has been getting warmer, which is great for their tourist industry.


Modern Day

Whether you come to Port Dover for the day or longer, there are lots of fun and interesting things to see and do.  (They even have palm trees)

original_Port_Dover_Beach_0

The beach, fresh fish, the fishing industry displays, or maybe the famous Friday the 13th motorcycle festival is what you’re looking for.  Enjoy the beach and the fresh fish and fries. Tour the museum.  Buy a bathing suit and towel.  Fish off the pier. 

You might even arrive by boat, because they have a great harbour and marina. 

Learn more about the Port Dover Marina here

Maybe you will want to stay longer, so rent a cottage for a week or two, or even a few months. There are lots of options.  

Some good options for renting cottages would be via VRBO, or AirBnB.

Port Dover might even be a place where you will purchase a house or cottage, and settle permanently. Mitula or Royal LePage are good options to search for this.

Every Friday the 13th, a very elaborate motorcycle festival, is held in Port Dover. You don’t need a motorcycle to attend, but be ready for hundreds of thousands of people all in one day.  We will be talking more about that later in this article.

If that is too busy for you, just outside of town a mile or two, is a “pick your own” blueberry farm owned and operated by the Powell family.

Port Dover has something for everyone and the people are super friendly.

Take a tour of the town with this cool video below, courtesy of Dave Isenor.  Well done sir!

Let’s find out more of the juicy details surrounding this southwestern Ontario beach haven.


The Beach

Yes, it’s true. The beach is the main reason visitors come to Port Dover.

Highway 24 or highway 6 will lead you right to Port Dover, and it isn’t far from London, Hamilton, Cambridge, or Toronto.

Overall, it’s very accessible to most southern Ontario communities and tourists. (see the map at the top of the page to easily locate Port Dover)

Here’s an up close look at the beach, from the point of view of a family visiting the beach (courtesy of travel vlogger Mike Karschti)


As you can see from the above video, the water does look inviting, with its lapping waves that kids and adult can romp in all summer long.

This is partly due to the fact that Port Dover is on the shallowest of all the Great Lakes in Canada, so the water is warmer, wavier and great for kids to swim in.

**We should still caution you to watch out for undertows and riptides, as they have been known to appear along this coastline from time to time.  Please use your own discretion, and stay safe!

All in all, the whole family will love this beach, even though it isn’t that big compared to some other beaches in the province of Ontario.  It can get crowded, but it is worth it!  Not to mention that there are other even smaller beaches in the general area, so you can always go exploring to find one of those beaches which are found all along the coastline.

In Port Dover, there are lots of shops close by selling all your beach needs. Most of the restaurants serve some sort of local fish like pickerel or lake perch, which are simply delicious!  Your own homemade picnic is also a great idea.

Port Dover is very clean too.  The locals are very proud of their paradise.

Read our feature article, All About Port Stanley, Ontario Canada


Fishing

Port Dover has been famous for fishing for over a century.  If you’re an amateur fisherman, and you want to fish from the Port Dover pier, that is possible.

port dover fishing

Depending on the time of year, you might catch a tasty Pickerel, Yellow Perch, Smelt or Northern Pike.

Port Dover and Norfolk County have always had a vibrant commercial fishing industry.

Port Dover has a great marina and if you have time, stop in at the Harbour Museum for lots more information about fishing in the Port Dover community.

Harbour Museum Port Dover

Visit the Harbour Museum website here

Next, we have a video that shows some of the commercial fishing industry in Port Dover.  Have a look!

Your might want to get out onto Lake Erie with a Fishing Charter company.

Maybe you’re interested in fishing the hotspots nearby like Turkey Point, Long Point, Young Creek, or Normandale.

The following chart will tell you where and what fish you can get, and what fish are present, abundant, and stocked.

fishing in norfolk county

Speaking of fish, let’s look at some restaurants in Port Dover, which often serve up some of the most delicious fish dishes in the land.


Restaurants

Erie Beach Hotel

One of the favourite places to have lunch or dinner in Port Dover is the Erie Beach Hotel, just steps from the water and famous for their perch!

This beautifully landscaped property is a longtime family-run hotel and restaurant very close to Lake Erie and a short walk to Port Dover harbour.

The Erie Beach restaurant not only serves up great in-season fish, they provide overnight accommodations to tired visitors too.

The comfortable, casual rooms come with flat-screen TVs and free Wi-Fi. Relax on the porches with garden furniture, and maybe a cool drink, and enjoy the warm lake breezes and beautiful sunsets.

They offer two dining options: a pub-style grill with takeout, and a refined fish restaurant with linen-covered tables for more formal occasions.

If you’re planning an event, and you need more space, they can accommodate various group sizes up to parties of 60.

The parking is free!

Visit the Erie Beach Hotel website here

For all you coffee lovers, he’s a place you shouldn’t miss that I personally love…


The Coffee Shop

For smaller more informal eateries, Port Dover has The Coffee Shop of Port Dover at 309 Main Street.

port dover breakfast

Here are comments from some of its customers …

“Great place for lunch with lots of selections but only open until late afternoon.”

“Good food.  Good price.  Nice staff.  Cheap breakfast and lunch.”

My son loves the coffee, as he is an espresso lover, but I am more interested in the milkshakes.

Visit The Coffee Shop’s website here


Schofields Bistro

Schofields Bistro is a popular upscale Italian restaurant that everyone should try at least once. The chefs there are true artisans when it comes to preparing a meal.

The space itself is historic, and they are strongly tied to local growers and farmers, making it a prime location for anyone who wants to get a taste for the culinary delights of the region.

schofields bistro

This is somewhere I always like to drop by when I’m with family and people are hungry after a day of splashing in the surf.

Visit the Schofields Bistro facebook page here


David’s Restaurant

David’s Restaurant serves refined Canadian cuisine with a stunning lake view, upstairs lounge, and live entertainment. You don’t want to miss his mouth-watering options either, and this is somewhere I try to get to whenever I’m in the area.

Guess who makes the food at David’s?  Yes – David himself.  Hat’s off to the chef!

david's restaurant

You can find David’s Restaurant on Facebook here


The Arbor

Finally, The Arbor has been on Main Street for as long as anyone can remember.  It serves the typical fast food, cookie dough chocolate fudge ice cream, and frozen yogurt treats!

The Arbor Port Dover

Just take your fries and cool treats to the sand, sun, and lake only a few steps away.  If you’re lucky, you can park right in front.


Shopping

Cottage North Soapworks

Need to bring back gifts for friends and family, or just want to do some shopping for yourself?  Check out the Cottage North Soapworks.

While they don’t just sell soaps, they (custom soaps) are what make it my favourite place to visit in Port Dover! That and the candles… the whole shop smells amazing!

Do yourself a favour and buy one of the Zen scented soaps or candles.

cottage north soap works

Visit Cottage North Soapworks on Facebook here


The Surf Shop

Don’t miss The Surf Shop, if you’re looking to look cool at the beach.  Even myself, who is somewhat loft in years, still likes to go shopping for a nice hoodie that I can wear while I walk along the beach at sunset.

surf shop port dover

If you love to browse around, look at clothes, as well as other types of accessories, this store is great for that.

Port Dover really isn’t a surfing town in the truest sense of surfing the big waves, but the skim boarding around here is so much fun and this shop might be able to sell you some skim boarding accessories.

Visit The Surf Shop on Facebook here

FYI, the Surf Shop is right next to Knechtels where they sell some nice avacados.  It’s a great place to pick up something healthy after perhaps eating too many fries on the beach.


Shadfly Folk Art Gallery & Antiques

There’s no shortage of stores in Port Dover, but one more to mention before moving on is Shadfly Folk Art Gallery & Antiques.

If you live in the past and enjoy old artifacts, stop by Shadfly.

shadfly

Port Dover has a Len’s Mill too, which is great for the craftier folk who live in the region.

Visit the Len’s Mill website here

If you like to knit on the beach, Len’s has all the supplies you will ever need and most people in southern Ontario who are fans of anything to do with fabric will always pop by.


Nightlife in Port Dover

A great way to end a perfect day – go out and experience some nightlife!

The Norfolk Tavern & Angelo’s

The Norfolk Tavern is a great place to go for drinks, and they have live bands almost every night, which will get your toes tappin’ and your heads nodding!

Here’s a typical scene you might see at the Norfolk Tavern – just a little bit of rock’n’roll, performed by some energetic rockers.

And if that isn’t your scene, you can always head down to Angelo’s of Dover and play some pool, or boogie down to some music there!


Friday the 13th in Port Dover

This celebration began in 1981.  It had a very innocent beginning.  A few motorcycle buddies decided to meet for a few beers at the Commercial Hotel, now Angelo’s, on Nov. 13 Friday, in Port Dover. 

port dover friday the 13th

One of them had the idea to make this a regular event every Friday 13th.  Soon more friends with motorcycles heard about the idea, and the rest is history.

Today a massive crowd of bikers and biker enthusiasts make the journey to Port Dover Ontario on Lake Erie every Friday that falls on the 13th day.  This sometimes happens more than once a year too. 

Bus loads of people attend. Parking is difficult so get there very early in the morning or park way outside of town and take the shuttle bus in and back. 

Not only will the motorcycles dazzle your but so will the people.  Lots of different foods and drinks are available and souvenirs too. 

You can even come the night before and find a camp ground.  The entertainment is international and begins on the Thursday night.

Find out more on the official Friday the 13th Port Dover FB page


Powells Blueberry Patch

It’s time to get out of Port Dover and away from all the crowds and sunshine. Just a few miles south on Gilbert Road at #37. (Port Dover is where the 6 is on the map, so the “pick your own” blueberries are less than 5 minutes out of Dover.

The Powell’s Patch is open July and August from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Powell's pick your own blueberries

One customer in July 2018 said …

“Went for the first time, bought a two quart basket. Had to go back the next day to get another. They were gone by the first night. The best, biggest, sweetest blueberries we have ever tasted, and compared to store prices, what a bargain.

They also have four Nigerian Milking Goats that are the sweetest little animals, just like puppies. They desire your affection. Great for kids and adults alike.


Thanks for reading my lengthy article on Port Dover.  If you think I’ve missed something, or if you have any interesting stories about Port Dover, please comment below.  I’d love to hear from you.