Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: May 2021
Presqu’ile Provincial Park is located along the shore of Lake Ontario in Brighton, Prince Edward County. Presqu’ile in French means “almost island” as it is joined to the mainland by an extremely narrow piece of land. It is open year-round and contains one of the largest wetlands along the lake. Presqu’ile also offers a sandy beach and several trails that wind through the different habitats in the park.
Restrictions have been gradually easing in Ontario so we’ve been slowly expanding our social bubble. With nice weather on the forecast for Sunday, I decided to get together with a friend that I haven’t seen in awhile and go for a hike at Presqu’ile Provincial Park, which is an hour and a half drive outside of Toronto. We arrived at the park just before 10a.m in an effort to beat the crowds.
I visited Presqu’ile earlier in the spring back towards the beginning of April, so it was neat to see how much greener everything looked a month and half later. On our drive into the park we stopped at the first beach area to check out the lake. The sun was shining which made the water shimmer and shine. Unfortunately it was still a bit too cold for swimming.
We then drove to the nearby Marsh Trail (1.2km loop, rated easy). The last two times we visited Presqu’ile this trail was closed. Due to high water levels in the Spring of 2019, the boardwalk section of this trail was heavily damaged and was closed off. The boardwalk has since been fixed and recently reopened to the public.
The trail follows along a boardwalk through a marsh for the first 800 metres then leads through the forest that was once an old sandbar. There are two viewing towers along the way that provide sweeping views of the marsh, Presqu’ile Bay and the north shoreline of the Presqu’ile peninsula.
The trail also features 14 interpretive signs that provide more information about the marsh, how it was formed and changed over time, and the types of animals and plants that live here.
After we wrapped up our hike we drove to the trailhead of the Pioneer and Newcastle Trails. These trails form two interconnected loops for a longer hike. We first hiked the Newcastle Trail (4.3km, rated easy, signed with orange markers), which loops through the forest.
In the early 1800s some of the forest in this area was cleared for the development of a proposed town called Newcastle. The plans for the town were never finalized so early settlers built homes and farms on the peninsula, which were later abandoned. Some of the old fields were reforested with conifer plantations while in others succession is occurring.
Midway through the trail leads out to the road. We made a brief detour to walk to the Presqu’ile Point Lighthouse since it was only a few hundred metres away. This lighthouse is the second oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the north shore of Lake Ontario. It is also the only natural harbour between Toronto and Prince Edward County, but the channel is very narrow and nearly impossible to sail upwind into. In the last half of the 1880s, at least eight vessels were claimed by autumn storms within sight of this point.
The Newcastle Trail connects with the Pioneer Trail (3.8km, rated easy, signed with yellow markers), which we hiked along next. The trail is relatively flat and continues to weave through the forest. The trail is relatively flat and features a few boardwalks through the muddy and sensitive areas.
Afterwards we drove to the picnic area and ate our lunch on a picnic table overlooking Lake Ontario. We then continued our drive through the park. We stopped at Calf Pasture Point, which features a viewing platform that overlooks Presqu’ile Bay. The marsh here is the largest protected wetland on the north shore of Lake Ontario and is an important area for many bird species.
We then hiked along the Jobes’ Woods Trail (1km, rated easy, signed with blue markers). This area was once part of a farm settled by Thomas and Ezekiel Jobes in 1835. The Jobes family cleared and farmed some of the land, but also left portions largely untouched.
The trail winds through ancient upland forests, swamp forests and old farm fields, and contains a few sections along a wooden boardwalk. The trail is well signed by blue markers and numbered posts from #1 to #8. There was an interpretive guide at the trailhead that contains more information about some of the unique features of an old growth forest.
On the drive out of the park we stopped to hike along the fifth and final trail in the park, Owen Point Trail (1.6km loop, rated easy). The trail features five lookouts overlooking the beach and are reputed to provide great views of migrating and nesting shorebirds depending on the time of year. Due to the sensitive area, there was a sign to indicate that dogs must be kept on a leash at all times and are not permitted at any of the lookouts.
And with that we had completed all the trails at Presqu’ile. It was time to return back home to Toronto.