If you’ve never been, Port Dover is a beachside town located in Southwestern Ontario, along the top of Lake Erie.
In addition to being a cute little vacation spot most of the time, Port Dover is also home to “the biggest single-day motorcycle event in the world”, called Friday the 13th.
When this event takes place, the town transforms. In the summer, approximately 100 000 bikers converge on this place, and it transforms into the biggest bike rally you’re ever likely to see.
This isn’t what brings me to Port Dover, however.
I go because I’ve been going since I was very young, and it’s like a home away from home to me.
One of the things I enjoy about Port Dover when it’s not overrun with bikers, is the relatively small size of the town, population 6000 or so (as of 2017).
It’s so tiny that all of the best things to do are within about a ten minute walk of each other!
I’ve compiled a list of my favourite 8 things to do in one day in Port Dover – get ready, here we go!
1. Go to the beach in the morning!
The beach is the best place to go to in Port Dover, but let’s face it – the longer you stay, the more you resemble a tomato.
At least that is the case for me, as I always forget to pack sunscreen, and because I can’t bring myself to spend $8 on a 25ml bottle (okay maybe I’m exaggerating), I will just go without, and take my chances with skin cancer. My dermatologist would hate me, if he only knew…
Here’s a nice little video showing the town up close and personal. As you can see, lots of beach to explore. When the warm weather hits, who wouldn’t want to be here for a dip in the lake?
SOOOO (a disembodied voice screams at me from across the parking lot) – what else is there to do in Port Dover? (Did you know there are some haunted spots in Port Dover – they say it’s true!)
No need to ask me twice, below is a list of my favourite things to do in Port Dover…. So what if three of them are eating food? (The sun drains your energy, so you need to keep well fed and hydrated – that’s my reasoning).
2. Try a Yoga Class at The Twisted Fish!
Going to a yoga class is one of my favourite things to do, and if you haven’t tried it, maybe it’s time to give it a go.
Earlier in the day, before I stuff my face with all of the delicious food Port Dover has to offer, I love doing yoga. At only $20 per class (drop in rate), The Twisted Fish is a great place to visit.
If you are a senior or student, that price drops to $15 per class – not a bad deal at all! What’s even better is, if you can make friends who are members there, they can bring you to class for FREE for the first week of every month.
What a great way to start the day…. But doesn’t all that exercise make you hungry?
One of my favourite places to have lunch in Port Dover is right there on the beach.
When I don’t feel like spending a ton of cash, I love to grab a loaf of french bread, with some avocado, tomato and brie cheese at Knechtels, cozy up on my favourite beach blanket with a good book, and have a picnic!
I like to go where there aren’t many people…
If that isn’t your cup of tea, have some lunch (or enjoy their all day breakfast and a cup of tea) at The Coffee Shop of Port Dover. I usually get up early, so breakfast is my number one mission.
If you really feel like going all out for your lunch / dinner, you have quite a few options. Schofields Bistro is a popular upscale restaurant that everyone should try at least once.
The chefs there are true artisans when it comes to preparing a meal.
Another place you can visit is David’s Restaurant. This is another famous local establishment with mouth-watering options that you don’t want to miss.
Guess who makes the food? Yep – David himself.
I personally recommend visiting several restaurants if you going to be there for a week long vacation. Why not?
4. Feel like doing some shopping?!
Need to bring back gifts for friends and family, or just want to do some shopping for yourself? Check out the Cottage North Soapworts. While they don’t just sell soaps, they are what make it my favourite place 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.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention another favorite spot of mine – The Surf Shop. If you love to browse around, look at clothes, as well as other types of accessories, this store is great for that.
I’m not really a surfer, but that’s ok. Port Dover really isn’t a surfing town anyway. Skim boarding is something people do, but serious surfing? Nahhh. This is Ontario, after all, not California!
Anyway, the Surf Shop is right next to Knechtels, where I get my avacados. Suffice it to say, I usually walk out of the Surf Shop with something…usually clothes. I love getting gifts for people (and for myself).
There’s no shortage of stores in Port Dover, but one more I’ll mention before moving on is Shadfly Folk Art Gallery & Antiques. I’m a bit of a nut when it comes to antiques, so this place is a must-visit whenever I’m in town.
Oh, and of course there’s a Len’s Mill in Port Dover too. This is where I get all my fabrics/wool in case I feel like doing some knitting while I’m on the beach.
If you’re not from Ontario, you may not recognize the name, but if you’re crafty in any way at all, Len’s Mill is a place you must stop by, as they have all the supplies one needs to make clothes, bedding, and things of that sort.
5. Time for another snack?
You’re still hungry? Me too! Let’s get more food! A great place to have lunch in Port Dover – aside from the previous places I’ve already mentioned – is at the Arbor Restaurant AKA The Arbor.
But if you took my advice, and already had a big meal earlier, you’re just going to need a snack.
SO – french fries it is! And then ice cream. Cookie dough ice cream mixed with chocolate fudge – and you get to enjoy it all right on the beach!
The Arbor is one of those places you can hit up during the middle of the day if you need some fries, or if you’re taking a romantic walk at sunset, and need a twirled cone, you go here.
No beach side town should be without a place like this. If I don’t visit the Arbor at least once a day, something must be wrong!
6. Visit the Port Dover Harbour Museum!
I have been going to Port Dover regularly for the past ten years, and only this year did I discover the Port Dover Harbour Museum! And it’s awesome!
The top floor is actually the front of a boat – so cool! This place is truly educational – it is filled with stories and lore about Canada that you probably aren’t going to find anywhere else.
Also, if you love old photographs, and other old items you will surely love it. I see something new every time I go back to visit.
Here’s a quote I found on the museum’s own website, which I think should give you good reason to check it out:
“if there were an award for the best small-town museum in Canada, this would surely be a candidate. It’s crammed with artifacts from Great Lakes shipping, and has insightful commentary, plus plenty of hands on displays” – Leslie Papp – Toronto Star
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Oh, and you don’t just have to be a fan of history to go there either. You can also catch some rock ‘n’ roll if you’re lucky.
Music is a big thing in Port Dover. You never know when a band is going to pop up and play. Heck, even I usually bring my guitar for some beach side busking, so keep an eye out for me as well.
7. Have dinner at sunset on the beach!
Yes, I’m thinking about food AGAIN. That said, I suggest you have dinner at The Beach House, AKA Callahan’s, and watch the sunset sometime! If you are after a nice view, while dining, I recommend this restaurant by the water.
It is beautiful, and if you’re worried about stressing out your wallet by spending too much scarfing down food, fear not, for everything at The Beach House is very reasonably priced!
One thing I love about this restaurant is that if you feel like going for another swim, you are literally on the beach, and can totally do that right after eating.
Port Dover is on Lake Erie, and as far as I know, there are no sharks anywhere, because this is a freshwater lake and sharks do not dig it.
Come to think of it, did you know that the Great Lakes make up 21% of the world’s fresh water? Go Great Lakes!
8. Go dancing!
A great way to end a perfect day – go dancing! 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…
And if that isn’t your scene, you can always head down to Angelo’s and play some pool, or dance to some music there!
*BONUS IDEA* If you’re not hammered, have a nice camp fire on the beach with your new friends – I’m pretty sure it’s illegal though, so don’t say I told you to.
Enjoy your trip to Port Dover!