July 15, 2014

Ontario’s South Coast - Experiencing Norfolk County

I have moved A LOT in my life. I've lived in Las Vegas, Vancouver, and all over Toronto. Seriously, I've moved more than 30 times. It's kind of ridiculous. But all my life, there has been one staple. One place I could always count on. One place I knew that no matter where I was or where I went, it would be there when I got back. But as of a couple weeks ago - that place is gone. That place, this home, was in a town called Simcoe, in Norfolk County Ontario.

I have so many great memories from Simcoe, Ontario. My great grandparents had a house there my entire life. I remember going out there every summer as a kid. I never went to camp, but I always went to visit my great grandparents with my grandmother. We would take the GO bus, and a Greyhound Canada bus and head out there for a week or so. There was a chip truck in downtown Simcoe (and I'm using the term downtown very loosely!), there is a fair in the fall - the Norfolk County Fair. My grandmothers brother used to deliver milk to houses, yes - that still existed there - and we would sit in the back of the truck on milk crates and head down to the fair. The backyard of the house was so big, we would play out there for hours! As an adult, when my grandparents moved there to help with my great grandmother - I made sure to visit as often as possible. Now though, my grandmother has moved back to the GTA and the house has been sold. So, when I was given the opportunity to visit Norfolk County, I knew I had to make a stop in Simcoe and visit the house. 


Sunset upon arrival at Long Point Eco Adventures
Sunset upon arrival at Long Point Eco Adventures

Why Visit Norfolk County?


The beaches at Port Dover and Turkey Point and Long Point Provincial Parks are beautiful! Lake Erie is a beautiful, clean lake to swim in and Port Dover is a beach town, through and through! You can grab the infamous foot-long hot dogs on the shore from The Arbor and fresh hand-cut fries from chip trucks using locally produced potatoes. Every Friday the 13th, tens of thousands of motorcycle enthusiastically flock to Port Dover in celebration. 


Port Dover Ontario after a Rain Storm
Port Dover Ontario after a Rain Storm
Photo Credit: @clickflickcahttps://twitter.com/clickflickca

Port Dover Ontario
On the beach at Port Dover after a rain storm!


Long Point Beach. Photo Credit: Norfolk Tourism
Long Point Beach. Photo Credit: Norfolk Tourism

Did you know that Norfolk County is the largest producer of agriculture in North AmericaThe unique blend of climategeography and soils found here allow farmers to grow a wide variety of top quality fruits and vegetables. Apple farms, ginger farms, strawberries, potatoes, mushrooms - so much is grown in Norfolk County!

The great thing about the small towns in Norfolk County is that so many of the local restaurants focus on using locally grown products in their menus. Having their menus fluctuate depending on the season to highlighting that seasons specialties. One night during our stay in Norfolk County, we went into Port Dover for a lovely dinner at Schofields Bistro. My Angel Hair Pesto Primavera, which I added chicken to, was served with locally grown, just brought in that morning, vegetables and it was delicious! You could really taste the freshness.


Angel Hair Pesto Primavera from Schofields Bistro in Port Dover
Angel Hair Pesto Primavera from Schofields Bistro in Port Dover

What Else Is There To Do In Norfolk County?


There is so much more to see and do in Norfolk County. Do you like wine? Well, there are quite a few top-quality wineries in Norfolk County. Such as Burning Kiln Winery (which I had the pleasure of visiting, and you will read more about soon!) and Bonnieheath Estate Winery. Are craft beers more up your alley? Not a problem! There are multiple craft breweries in Norfolk County as well! There is Blue Elephant in Simcoe (The Blue, as the locals would say) and Ramblin Road in La Salette. The Blue Elephant is a great local brewery as well as pub, in Simcoe. They have a lot of great patio space, both in the front and back, and serve some delicious food - much more than you would expect from a local pub! We, of course, had to try the wings! They were massive, locally produced, and perfectly sauced. I was in heaven...but after zip-lining all day (you'll read more about that too!) - I was STARVING...so I also had the Grilled Beef Tenderloin, which was also produced locally. The tenderloin was grilled to perfection and wrapped in bacon, topped with a mushroom demi-glaze. *drools*


Blue Elephant Chicken Wings
Blue Elephant Chicken Wings


Blue Elephant Grilled Tenderloin
Blue Elephant Grilled Tenderloin

Feeling more athletic and adventurous? Why not check out some of the bike and walking trails available throughout Norfolk County? Thinking of bringing the kids down and having a family vacation? There are so many family-friendly activities available year round. Such as horse riding at multiple stables, hay and sleigh rides, aerial tours and even, as I mentioned - zip-lining! Norfolk County also has many spas to choose from if you are looking for a little pampering on your vacation


Zip-Lining at Long Point Eco Adventures
Zip-Lining at Long Point Eco Adventures


How To Get Here


Let me ask you something...how many times have you headed up the 400 highway to "cottage country" and gotten stuck in some insane traffic? Well, that's the good thing about Norfolk County! You avoid the 400 and just head south-east on the Gardner and 403. In about an hour and a half, from Toronto, you can be on the beach enjoying Lake Erie in Port Dover, Turkey Point or Long Point. Norfolk County is also known as Ontario’s South Coast. 

Toronto to Norfolk County
Toronto to Norfolk County

Another added benefit of visiting Norfolk County is you can take a more scenic route, through the back roads. These single-lane highways are lined with farms and small shops. You can buy local produce and support the local economy. There are peanut farms, fruit and vegetable stands, you can even buy fresh ginger from the many ginger farms! Some farms produce meat that can be bought, and some farmers will even walk you through and give you a tour! You will also drive through many small towns, such as Simcoe and/or Jarvis where there are a lot of antique shops and local eateries you can check out. 


Kernal Peanuts Ltd in Norfolk County
Kernal Peanuts Ltd. in Norfolk County


Uncle Tom's Farm Inc. Cider Keg in Norfolk County
Uncle Tom's Farm Inc. Cider Keg in Norfolk County

I believe that Norfolk County is seriously a hidden gem of Southern Ontario. Filled with beaches, beautiful towns, wineries and breweries, lush farm land and year-round activities - Norfolk County is a great destination for your next mini-road trip when you want to get out of the city. Being as close as it is to the GTA, it makes for an easy getaway. In less than 2 hours - this summer, you could be out of the hustle and bustle of the big city, and laying on a beach on the shores of Lake Erie.  The more relaxed pace of Norfolk County makes for a great escape from the "cottage-country" crowds and the friendly people of Norfolk County are sure to take good care of you! 


Learn More


You can learn more about Norfolk County on the below websites:

Disclosure: Dinner was complimentary, however - as per usual, my views are entirely my own.