Length of stay: 2 days
Visited: March 2022
Point Pelee National Park is located on a peninsula that extends into Lake Erie and is the southernmost point of the mainland in Canada. It is the second smallest national park and the first national park to be established for conservation. It is situated in the Carolinian zone and while much of the park’s interior consists of marshes and swamp forest, it also features a beautiful sandy beach.
Point Pelee offers camping in 24 oTENTiks, which are a mix between an A-frame cabin and canvas tent. They are open all year round and can accommodate up to six guests. They come fully equipped with four twin-sized beds and one double-sized bed, table and chairs, a dish kit, cooking equipment, electric lights, either a gas or wood stove and a BBQ.
We visited Point Pelee a few years ago and had such a wonderful time that we decided to return. This time with my mom and uncle. By the time we arrived at the park it was just before 5p.m on a Friday evening. After checking in, we parked our car outside the park office and lugged in all our food, water and gear for the weekend. The sites are walk-in only, but the park provides wagons, which make it much easier to carry your supplies in and out.
It had snowed earlier in the day and the forest looked magical with all the fresh snow. After taking two trips with the wagons to and from the car, we settled into our oTENTik. We made burgers on the BBQ for dinner and spent the remainder of the evening playing games inside.
Day 1: The Views
The temperature plummeted to below freezing overnight and it was quite windy outside, but at least the sun was shining. After making a morning cup of coffee (and tea for me), we went for a short hike along the Tilden Woods Trail (1km loop), which is located by the Visitor Centre and is within walking distance from the campground.
The trail winds through a mature swamp forest and cedar savannah and consists of a few boardwalk sections. Along the way there are a few interpretive panels that provide more information about how the park was created and the habitat restored, which meant removing many privately-owned cottages and a road that cut through the park.
The trail branches off for a short detour along the Shuster Trail (500m) which leads to the East Barrier Beach. While most of the snow and ice had melted on this part of the beach, there were still signs of some interesting ice formations from the shoreline.
We turned around and walked back the way we came along the Shuster Trail and then hiked the remaining portion of the Tilden Woods Trail. Once we looped back to the Visitor Centre, we returned to our oTENTik to make a hot breakfast.
Afterwards we drove to the park entrance to start at the very beginning of the park. We stopped at the Sanctuary Lookout, which features a wooden viewing platform overlooking the lake.
We then hiked along the Marsh Boardwalk (1km loop), which consists of a floating boardwalk and features an observation tower towards the start of the trail. It was especially windy here as we were out in the open marsh.
We hopped back in the car for a couple of minutes to warm-up before heading to the DeLaurier Homestead and Trail (1.2km loop). The trail winds through an open field that contains a historic house and barn that once belonged to the DeLaurier family in the late 19th and early 20th century. Both of which were closed, but we could peek inside the windows of the old house.
The trail also leads past old fields and irrigation canals and through the marsh, cedar savannah and a swamp forest. There are a few boardwalk sections, including a viewing platform that contains a set of the Parks Canada Red Chairs.
Afterwards we headed back to our campsite to eat a late lunch. We then mustered up the courage to brave the cold again and visit the tip of the peninsula. During the peak season from April to October there’s a shuttle from the Visitor Centre that leads to the Tip’s outdoor exhibit. Since we were visiting in the off-season, we could just drive there instead.
Being on a peninsula meant that there is little protection from the wind. In fact, the name of the park means “bald point” in French because the eastern side of the peninsula is rocky and had no trees. While there are now some trees along the shore, it’s still super blustery. There’s also an observation tower near the tip, which naturally we had to climb. It was even windier up there.
Afterwards we hiked along the Tip Trail (1km) which leads to the southernmost point of mainland Canada. This spot is reputed to be a great place to view spring bird and fall monarch, dragonfly and bird migrations. It became a battle with the wind, but we made it there. I even managed to take a few pictures of the ice formations along the one side of the beach.
At this point we were all sufficiently frozen, so we retreated back to the warmth of our oTENTik. We spent the remainder of the afternoon (and evening) indoors playing games.
Day 2: The Snow
We woke up to another cold and blustery day outside. And we lost an hour due to daylight savings time, which wasn’t ideal. But we were eager to get a start to our day. After making a hot cup of tea, we walked down to the West Beach which is located right across the road from the campground. It was super windy by the shoreline, but it was worth it to see the icy landscape.
We headed back to the campground to make a hot breakfast and pack up. After lugging our gear to the car, we handed over our keys and checked out. It would have been nice to stay another night.
On the drive out of the park it started to snow. We stopped to first hike along the Woodland Nature Trail (2.75km loop), which is located behind the Visitor Centre. The trail meanders through the forest and a few swampy areas and is marked with 20 numbered posts. We were thankful to be deep within the forest to escape from the wind.
We then hiked along part of the Chinquapin Oak Trail which leads through a cedar savannah and swamp forest to get to the Cactus Field Footpath. Near the entrance of the trail we even found one of the Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus for which the trail is named after. In Canada, this type of cactus is found only in southern Ontario where it grows in dry sandy habitats.
By the time we finished it was heavily snowing so we figured we might as well get started on the drive home as it would likely take longer than usual. Despite the weather, we had a lovely time at Point Pelee. The oTENTik was a nice way to camp in the off-season and to experience a quieter (and bug free) side of the park.