Pelee Island – Escape to Canada’s Deep South

Pelee Island is a Canadian destination known to a relative few. It’s the southernmost place in all of Canada, on a level with northern California. “Pelee” looks like a French word that lost its accent, but if it was once French, it’s English now. Locals simply say “Peely” Island.

Pelee Island is out in the middle of Lake Erie, southwest of a long peninsula occupied by Point Pelee National Park. Pelee Island is so small and quiet that you may wonder why on earth you would want to go there. Well, we think there are some great reasons.

Rural peace and quiet

Pelee Island is an easy day’s journey from Toronto, Canada’s largest city, but it could not offer a more different experience. Less than 200 people make their home on Pelee Island. The ferries only run from April to mid-December. If you want to go in the winter, you have to fly. The island is flat, accessed by quiet country roads and an extensive trail system, so walking and cycling are both appealing. There is a place to rent bikes. There is a 500 acre Vineyard offering tours and a wine tasting pavilion. The small Pelee Island Museum provides insight into the island’s history, both natural and human. Pelee Island is also an ideal place to do some star gazing –  the skies are truly dark at night.

Birds and Butterflies

Pelee Island and Point Pelee National Park are on the migratory route of a massive number of birds. According to National Geographic’s website, “In mid-May, when the spring birding season is in full swing … 386 migrating species of warblers, flycatchers, thrushes, and other birds use Point Pelee National Park and Pelee Island as a stopover.”

And it’s not just a stopover for birds. In September, Monarch butterflies gather in the tens of thousands in Point Pelee and Pelee Island before setting off for Mexico for the winter.

Winery and Vineyard

Pelee Island Winery is one of Canada’s oldest wineries and produces some world class wines. The climate is ideal for growing grapes, which were first planted here in the 1860′s. As the winery’s website explains, “Pelee Island is on the same latitude as the prestigious wine regions of the world (Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany and France)… The Pelee Island vineyards comprise the largest private estate in Canada.”

The winery – where they actually make the wines – is located in Kingsville on the “mainland”.  (Kingsville is where you catch the ferry to Pelee Island from August to December.) Plan to enjoy a Winery tour before you catch the ferry to the island itself, where the grapes are grown. The Pelee Island Vineyards conform to the World Wildlife Fund’s strict Sustainable Vineyard Practice. In other words, this is a vineyard that is safe for all the migrating birds and butterflies – and also healthy for human visitors.


ferry service connects Pelee Island to both the Canadian and American shores of Lake Erie. It seems that the citizens of of Leamington and Kingsville both wanted the ferry to dock in their town, to benefit from tourism to Pelee Island. Rather than duke it out, they agreed to share. So from April to July ferries depart from Leamington, and from August to December ferries leave from Kingsville. On the American shore it’s simple:  Ferries leave from Sandusky, Ohio.

Pelee Island offers 13 Bed and Breakfasts, 3 hotels, quite a large number of cottage rentals and 1 campground. There are half a dozen places to eat out as well. Pelee Island is known for great hospitality. So what are you waiting for?


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