It should come as no surprise to you that our travels are mostly based around good food, fab craft beers and fun for all ages. We recently jumped in the Ford Flex and drove two hours from downtown Toronto for a weekend of beaches, beer and family fun with the kids. Before going any further I must advise you to bring bug spray with you on this trip as when the sun sets, the bugs come out and as always, it was I who was bitten!
Norfolk County may be known for their many farms but we also learned that some of Ontario’s best beaches can be reached within two hours from Toronto. Who says we need to go to Florida or L.A for sunny times under palm trees? Here’s some of our favourite beach spots.
Port Dover Beach : The best way to experience this beach is to first start your day on the Callahan’s patio. We totally loved having the sun on our backs while we enjoyed local craft beers and the kids drank their juices in plastic cups with lids, all whilst staring out into the ocean blue waters and palm trees (they bring in the trees every summer!). We honestly felt like we were in Mexico and the water was warm enough to swim in (thought not AS warm as Mexico waters). The patio is right by the beach and so those with older kids can watch them play on the sand while the adults nosh away on the patio. Line ups to get in can be long but they move very quickly! There’s plenty of spots right by the beach so you can definitely spend an entire day here and explore the shopping, food and drinks on the main strip in downtown Port Dover. I totally loved the vibe here.
Turkey Point Beach : If you want to avoid the crowds, this is your beach. It is a lot less crowded and you can nab a spot a good distance away from your neighbours. One thing to note here is that there isn’t much right by the beach and so I’d highly recommend packing a picnic if you would like to laze around all day. Those who like camping will enjoy the fact that there’s a provincial park nearby and over 200 sites to camp at!
Long Point Beach : The best way to experience this beach is to spend a night at the Long Point Beach Club as there’s a private area just for guests of the club! The sand here is the softest I’ve ever felt and during our visit we were told that the private beach area would be more accessible as they were just clearing up the area. The natural landscape here is so unique that it has been recognized as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. You can catch some amazing sunsets from here and one of my all time favourite pictures of Little Monkey was captured right here at the beach! The ice cream shop wasn’t open during our visit unfortunately but we did spot one right on the private beach. The beach goes down a fair bit and you have quite the view of Lake Erie.
It’s hard to find anywhere these days where someone, somewhere nearby is brewing beer, and Norfolk County is no different. With two breweries in operation as well as a brewpub right in Simcoe, we were able to fill our spacious Ford Flex with quite a few sudsy souvenirs.
New Limburg Brewery : Following the recent trend of what I like to call “getting back to the basics brewing”, New Limburg is currently producing six Belgian Style ales, all of which have clearly been meticulously crafted. We tried the Belgian Blond, Petit Blond, Black Sheep Milk Stout, Dubbel, and Wit beers (skipping 9% abv Tripel on our afternoon visit), everything was great, with my personal favorite being the Black Sheep, which I really hope to find at the LCBO soon. Both co-founders were at the small tap room on the day we visited and we could tell that they were very serious about brewing good beer. If you can only visit one brewery on a trip through Norfolk County, make it this one. Not much to eat here but the cheese platter we had with our flight was so good!
Ramblin’ Road Brewery : The first beer I tried here was the Dakota Pearl Ale, a cream ale infused with, of all things, potatoes: a true Irish beer I suppose! It’s a pretty good brew, unique, which is something I always value in a beer, and quite refreshing. Like New Limburg, Ramblin’ Road sticks to the classics, producing a lager, a pilsner, a red ale, a cream ale, and an IPA. The brewery farm where we visited grows fresh hops on site and serves up a pretty tasty hamburger on weekends. We picked up some of the delicious homemade kettle chips as well. Well worth a visit and only a ten minute drive from New Limburg.
The Blue Elephant : A brewpub located right in Simcoe that offers a wide range of food and beer brewed on site. Like many places that value quantity over quality, there are some really good dishes at the Blue Elephant as well as a few bad ones (Hint, get the green curry chicken and the wings, but skip the pizza and the pad thai). They offer three regular beers (a pilsner, an auburn ale, and a brown ale) and a number of seasonal brews. I do enjoy a good brown ale and recommend the Sweet Leaf if you are stopping in. These guys were very kid friendly and even had a change table in the basement! They also offered toys when the kids were heading out.
There’s plenty to do in the Norfolk area, or nothing at all and that’s the beauty. If you’re looking for a lazy beach vacation that can be had and if you’re looking to be a bit more active and explore the area, below are some suggestions.
Farms : You can visit any type of farm you want in the Norfolk County area. From lavender to ginseng and every fruit in-between, you’ll have quite the day with the kids. We swung by Bonnie Heath Estate Winery & Lavender and Apple Hill Lavendar. Not only did I get some amazing pictures here but my friend and the kids loved running around the Apple Hill farm while I took a look at the Raging Bowl Pottery.
Backus Heritage Conservation Area : I wasn’t sure what to expect here but totally wish we had more time to explore here. Even though mine were a bit young, they still enjoyed the interactive centre where a young ranger took them through various exhibits and taught them about the wildlife in the area. They also enjoyed fishing for tadpoles, as you saw in the video! There’s a lot of wide open spaces outdoors, bring your bug spray and you’ll be all set for an entire day of fun. I met a few young ones whose families were camping there for the week! Children roam freely and the younger rangers are like camp Councillors who educate and guide them through various tasks. The Backus Heritage Conservation area is where nature and history meets and I enjoyed seeing the enactments of 19th Century rural Ontario life when we visited the octagonal school house, the Backus family Homestead and the 1798 Backhouse Grist Mill National Historic Site. We were told that the mill is one of the few mills in Norfolk County not destroyed during the War of 1812!
Dining : I learned that those in Norfolk county REALLY love their burgers and fish & chips. Also, nearly every restaurant we visited had a basket of toys for the kids to choose one from after their meal! I’ve noticed this trend in a lot of small towns and it definitely puts a smile on their faces. Every restaurant we visited was extremely kind to the kids and while I didn’t get around to dining at some of my must visit spots, I must suggest exploring the following spots if you’re looking for a foodie experience : The Combine, David’s Restaurant & Lago Trattoria. Also don’t forget to grab an Arbor Dog!
The beauty of Norfolk county is that it’s less than two hours away from downtown Toronto and you arrive to a beach destination easily. The waters may not be as warm as down south but the vibe, the scenery and the people are just as charming!