Fruit and fossils are two major reasons to visit Arkona, one of Ontario’s smallest communities.
FOSSIL RICH, FAMOUS & FABULOUS
This scenic little gem is known world-wide as a treasure trove of 400 million-year-old Devonian fossils. About 600 million years ago wind and rain washed sediments from rocky areas into the home of sea creatures, a shallow sea; this occurred at least three times over 200 million years, each time producing layers of fossil-rich sedimentary rock.
Over a million years ago the Wisconsin Glacier created this unique location. As it advanced about 16,000 years ago, it deposited layers of gravel, sand and clay. A powerful earthquake about 10,000 years ago caused a section of the bedrock to drop 80 metres, creating a gorge where the Ausable River then coursed, heading towards Lake Huron. Rich fossil beds were revealed on the walls of the gorge. Scientists and curious visitors alike can find crinoids, brachiopods and tribolites – fossilized sea creatures and coral in the gorge and at the bottom falls in Rock Glen. Collecting is allowed in some areas (check before you collect).
Stairs, boardwalks and bridges entice folks to safely explore the glen and 10.8 metre high waterfall.
The Arkona Lions Museum & Information Centre with its collection of fossils and native artifacts is a must-visit to understand the wealth of natural history and early inhabitants of this region.
For good reason Arkona has been dubbed “The Little Apple”. Apples, domesticated from wild fruit that date from prehistoric times, grow abundantly here. Traditional varieties like Northern Spy, McIntosh – an Ontario variety dating from the 1800s, Russet, Red Delicious and Golden Delicious are grown. Silken, Golden Supreme, Pink Lady and other more recent varietals are superb eating apples. Orchards test new varieties in plots on their acreage.
Thousands of fruit trees create a dreamy landscape and create gorgeous photo ops at May blossom time and starting in July the various kinds of fruits ripen. Sweet cherries, sour red cherries, apricots, plums, peaches, pears and apples provide eye-candy and palette treats.
Whether you choose to pick your own fruit or opt for already-in-the-basket, outings to the orchard region are family- fun and healthy.
Take a walk or a hike in Rock Glen CA Trails, a 67-acre gorge site with a 1.5 km trail with steep stairways. This is also the location of a wheelchair accessible overlook. Other trails explore the Carolinian forest and take you to the waterfall. Enjoy a picnic lunch at one of the picnic tables!
Arkona Fairways Golf Club is an 18-hole course to test your driving and putting skills; its Mulligan Bar & Grill offers breakfast through dinner.
STAY & RELAX
If a charm scale existed, with points from 1 through 10, the delightful heritage village of Bayfield would register off-the-scale.
A Dutch baron bought a large section of the Huron Tract in 1832, designating almost 400 acres for a settlement. Within twenty years Bayfield, named after British nautical surveyor Admiral Henry Wolsey Bayfield who joined the Royal Navy at the age of 11, was a thriving community of over 100 residents. It had a brickyard, tanneries, a distillery, an ashery (that produced hardwood lye-based ingredients to ship to Britain for glass and ceramic-makers), wagon and ploughmaking works and two blacksmiths shops.
The Albion Hotel, built in the late 1800s, boasts an eerie visitor, the 20-something son of the original innkeepers who lived at the Hotel then. He died of gunshot wounds during a quarrel with his drunken brother; some think his spirit still wanders the hotel, turning on bar taps and barroom lights.
STROLL & SAVOUR
Today the Victorian village of Bayfield boasts unparalleled charm amid its pristine scenic setting. Visitors are locals and people from a great distance away, strolling the streets, enjoying dining and drinking in one of several establishments offering diverse menus. Unique shops are the order of the day here; galleries showcase art and crafts, clothing and accessories boutiques satisfy the most discerning customers’ tastes and patios entice to savour a latte or glass of wine.
From spring to late fall, Main Street is bedecked with colourful planters of flowers and foliage, a photographers’ delight. Winter creates its own magic when nature’s snowfall imitates the art of a Trish Romance painting.
Enjoy the Blue Flag beach, the pier where you might see optimistic fisher-folk, and visit Pioneer Park for beautiful Lake Huron views and world-renowned sunsets over the water.
Windmill Lake Wake & Eco Park, five minutes from Bayfield, offers fun for the whole family. Water Park, Wakeboarding & Wakeskating, SUP and SUP Yoga Classes, Canoe and Kayak experiences on the 40-acre lake bring outdoor enthusiasts here.
Bayfield Trails include the 2km Sawmill Trail; the path to the river is on the original pioneer corduroy road from Bayfield to Goderich. The 2.5 km Heritage Trail starts at the heart of the village, Clan Gregor Square and wends its way along Main Street past century-old business locations to Pioneer Park where, if your timing is right, you could see flocks of seagulls chasing the fishing fleet as it comes into the harbor with the day’s catch.
FUN, FIN, FINE & FOAMY
There are enough options in Bayfield that it would take you more than a week to try every one.
A great selection of fresh local lake and east coast ocean fish and seafood as well as frozen items are available at Out of the Blue Fish Seafood Market. If you are dining in or taking out, sample the Seafood Chowder or fish & chips prepared with your choice of fish.
A view of the Bayfield River is a side order along with the special “Funked up Fries” at The Docks Restaurant & Bar. Bayfield Berry Farm is a great choice for brunch; in addition to meals, you can pick your own berries here or buy them ready-picked.
Stone-baked pizza is just one of the otherings at Renegades Diner.
Stay and fine dine at The Little Inn where locally-sourced produce and proteins are ingredients of a creative, varying menu.
Another fine place to stay and dine is The Ashwood Inn, a boutique motel with newly-opened Zaz Bistro Bar & Grill.
River Road Brewing & Hops is Huron County’s first farm-based brewery; ingredients going into the beer are grown right on the farm. The Brewery’s herd of highland cattle enjoy spent grain from the brewing process.
Shopbike Coffee Roasters focuses on high-quality, fair-trade coffee beans, roasting them in small batches – from shipped bean to cup takes under 48 hours. Taste test the freshness for yourself.
Bayfield has an eclectic and multi-season roster of events. From The Bayfield Concert Series in the Town Hall to the Bayfield Volkfest in September featuring the classic and vintage VW buses, bugs, vans, campers and more this village knows how to celebrate!
A thriving community in the heart of Ontario’s magnificent agricultural area in Huron County, Exeter is known as The Home of the White Squirrel.
Loved by residents and visitors alike, these cheeky, energetic, industrious little creatures are not albinos, but rather are believed to be a centuries-old genetic mutation of the common Eastern Grey Squirrel. In Exeter when you see someone driving slowly around residential streets, looking intently through rolled-down windows, they are most likely looking for an area celebrity – the White Squirrel!
Exeter boasts a proud history, including being the original home of the Verity Plow Co. In the mid-1800s the Verity family established its foundry in what was then Francistown. Known far afield (pun intended), the firm outgrew its location where the Shell station in Exeter today and moved to where the LCBO is now located. At its peak, it employed 60 workers in its heyday. The firm later became part of Massey-Harris, the well-known farm equipment company.
The first settlers in Exeter were Irish immigrants Jane and James Willis. A year later William McConnell arrived, opening the first roadside inn/tavern where the Presbyterian Church is located today. This industrious settler built a grist and sawmill and a dam. The first schoolhouse was built in 1838 in Francistown, now the north end of Exeter. By 1860 the Gidley Furniture Manufacturing firm was producing furniture and the Gidleys’ sideline was undertaking.
Where LUVU Naturally is today on Main Street, The Commercial Hotel was established; local lore says that one of the barmaids provided more than the basic hospitality services to travelers. The Exeter Times was first published in 1872, merging inn 1924 with rival newspaper The Exeter Advocate.
The colloquially-named Butter & Egg Express Railway Line opened in 1876, a boon for travelers as well as moving agricultural products. Another milestone was the establishment of the Exeter Canning And Preserving Company in 1906, near the railway stations. It ran for more than 100 years but closed in 2008 by then-owner Kraft Foods.
In 1931 Leavitt’s New Talking Picture Theatre began selling tickets to Hollywood dreams; the cinema was across from the Town Hall.
History buffs will enjoy a Heritage Home Tour that includes homes from the mid-1800s, still private residences today. The Heritage Walking Tour of Main Street is an opportunity to learn about the historic family businesses built by early settlers. Many of the original buildings are easily recognizable today. Check experienceexeter.ca for info.
MacNaughton Park is the beginning of the MacNaughton-Morrison Trail, accessed at the end of Hill Street. The South Huron Trail, an 8 km, all season trail winding through the Ausable River Valley links the MacNaughton-Morrison Trail and the Morrison Dam Conservation Area. Take a 2km, 4km or 8 km loop; in spring admire wildflowers, including red and white trilliums, dogtooth violets, blue, white and yellow violets and marsh marigolds/buttercups. Fall is delightful too with colourful leaves framing parts of the trail. Check out abca.ca/recreation/southhurontrail/ for info and maps.
From a variety of fast food restaurants to fine dining and international cuisine, you can indulge your taste buds in many different ways in Exeter.
Exeter has a variety of restaurants including ones offering Chinese food, Exeter Thai Cuisine, fine dining at Eddington’s of Exeter in the historic 1880s’ Thomas Carling home, fish & chips, pizza, Crabby Joe’s for a sports bar atmosphere, Huron Restaurant for home-styled meals and other eateries. Gregarious Cravings entices with decadent squares, butter tarts and other goodies to enjoy with coffee or tea; be sure to say hi to Lola – she’s a local celebrity with quite a large wardrobe and following!
Thursday afternoons there is a local market at MacNaughton Park by the river, with its manicured gardens boasting a variety of flowers and shrubs.
Exeter boasts many unique shops, including a quilt store, fabric shop, children’s, women’s and men’s clothing stores, jewellery stores, gift stores, a chocolate shop, two dollar stores, a Restore (Habitat for Humanity), thrift stores, a MacLean’s Home Hardware, Canadian Tire, drug stores, grocery stores and convenience stores. Several gas stations offer fueling-up options. Car dealerships, farm equipment, an equipment rental business, and a building centre are at hand.
Personal services abound – from hairdressers to nail salons, spas and RMT massage establishments, craniosacral therapy etc. as well as chiropractor and rehab clinics.
Events like the May Huron Waves Music Festival (formerly the Bach Festival) with its eclectic range of genres from both known and upcoming artists bring music lovers. The Exeter Ram Rodeo, marking 24 years in August 2020, makes a fun weekend for children and adults alike.
OVERNIGHT OR LONGER
The Ranch House Inn on Main Street is a 16-unit modern motel complex, a convenient location for excursions in Exeter and further afield. The Gregory Bed & Breakfast, located on a quiet residential street, offers a restful night and home-made breakfast goodies.
Exeter has several churches, all welcoming locals and visitors alike to their services and special events. South Huron Hospital has a 24-hour Emergency Department. The South Huron Walk-In Clinic is staffed by hospital doctors and nurses. An active library offers programs and also has several computer work stations.
Exeter Public Pool is open in the summer offering lessons and public swims.
For skating enthusiasts, public skating hours are scheduled for the general public, seniors and parents & tots at the South Huron Rec Centre, home of the Exeter Hawks. Walking programs, pickleball and special events are staples of the centre too.
Two golf courses are minutes away.
The Exeter Lawn Bowling Club was established in 1902 near where it sits today, in the heart of Exeter.
A broad range of accommodations are available – from affordable housing to upscale, luxury new builds. The town’s retirement communities offer easy-maintenance lifestyles in a range of price points. Houses throughout the town vary from heritage homes through war-time housing to brand-new custom dwellings. Rental accommodation is also at hand, including buildings designated 55+ non-smoking.
The Exeter Villa Retirement Living and Long Term Care Home provides residential care for private, semi-private and basic rooms, 24-hour nursing and personal care, and short stay options.
GOING STRONG FOR MORE THAN A CENTURY!
The Kineto Theatre is one of the oldest continuously operating movie theatres in the world, in operation for more than a century!
Forest Festivals bills itself as a unique experience in a small town, and those words certainly describe the playbill of the Kiwanis Kineto Theatre. Entirely organized by volunteers, the festivals include the Forest Film Festival, The Travel the World Series, Special Events and the Lambton Film & Food Festival (LaFFF). Each has its own distinctive flavour.
The Forest Film Festival presents films that are thought-provoking and insightful. Check out the schedule at forestfestivals.ca/forest-film-festival/
The Travel the World Series takes viewers on film adventures to places around the world. In October 2019 through March 2020 visit Vietnam, Puerto Rico, Armenia, travel on an Atlantic journey and see Utah.
The Lambton Film and Food Festival (LaFF) is presented by the Forest Kiwanis and Optimist Clubs. Details found at forestfestivals.ca/lambton-film-and-food-festival.
Take the trail. The formal 2.8 km (one way) asphalt Forest Walkway leads south from Forest to the Esli Dodge Conservation Area. The informal trail is along the old railway track and around the lagoons west of Forest with a 4.5 return trip over flat lands.
The new Shores Recreation Centre provides activities like hockey, ringette, figure skating, basketball, volleyball, badminton, fitness activities and entertainment events. Keeping active and engaged in community is arguably essential to our overall-wellbeing and enhancement of our communities. The YMCA Shores Wellness Centre offers group fitness, coaching, and personal trainers.
The Forest Lambton Museum is located in the old Forest Home Bakery on Main Street where displays include the history of the Forest Excelsior Band, the longest running civilian band in Canada. The Forest Museum 2020 Calendar includes historic photos from the town.
Forest Glen Herb Farm is a unique destination. Stepping into the barn, beautifully fragrant with the aroma of herbs and spices, will make you think you are in an out-of-the-way centuries-old place in England. Choose from a vast assortment of hand-crafted teas by owner Cynthia Cook. The gardens are awash with colours of varieties of flowers and blooming herbs. Take a class or a tour.
The Forest Fair is a three-day September event that provides family fun for all. Forest citizens are no strangers to organizing a fair – the first record of a Forest fair was in 1870. By 1912 a special attraction was Miss Flo K. Thomkins, the greatest female aerial navigator in North America; she parachuted from a hot-air balloon to the amazement of the crowd.
Williamson Farms Country Store in the heart of downtown has a large selection of gift items, toys, games and kitchenware. Ontario meats, maple syrup, fresh fudge and other area specialties make this a must-stop-shop for folks, a country store with a modern twist.
Since the 1870s, the town of Grand Bend has hosted vacation-makers seeking sand, sun, surf and fun. Detroit’s Ford Motor Company even held their annual company picnic here in the 1920s. Today couples and families continue to flock to the largest beach in the area located a stone’s throw from restaurants and shops along Main Street West. Despite it’s small population (about 2,500 people), the town boasts two major grocery chain stores (Sobeys, No Frills), two bank branches (TD Canada Trust, Bank of Montreal) and enough restaurants and food kiosks to satisfy a variety of taste-buds.
Most of the area’s accommodation is centred in and around Grand Bend. Here you’ll find the largest accommodation provider in Huron County – Oakwood Resort, as well as quaint rural inns and motor lodges.
There’s lots to do in and near the town. Pinery Provincial Park is just 8km south and Huron Country Playhouse is just 3.3km east and the closest golf course 750 metres north of the main intersection. For those living in the town, it’s a very walkable way of life.
Grand Bend is also the fastest growing lakeside community with two new home developments underway. According to a report released by Re/Max, compared to 2018, the median price of recreational properties, including waterfront, non-waterfront, water access and ski-in properties, increased seven per cent across the board (prices calculated July 2017 to June 2018 and July 2018 to June 2019).
The shallow waters of Ipperwash Beach have drawn people to this area for centuries. This beach on Lake Huron’s shores is one of the longest freshwater beaches in the province is less busy than other beaches in the area. On an ideal summer’s day you can listen to the waves gently lapping the soft sand and admire the vistas of the lake, beach and trees along the shoreline stretching to the horizon.
On an ideal evening, you can marvel at one the country’s most magnificent sunsets as the sun drops below sight, trailing colours across the sky that reflect in the water; bring your camera!
KETTLES & FLINT HISTORY
Nearby Kettle Point is the location of the famed “kettles”, scientifically called concretions. These spherical boulders can measure more than a metre across. Only two other places in the world are known to have these geological formations which are found imbedded in the shale. Over time sadly many of the kettles have either been taken away by visitors, halved for use as lawn ornaments or shattered in hopes of finding something even more special in the interior…a failed enterprise!
Stony Point got its name from flint beds that were an important trading commodity in the 16th and 17th centuries when the Europeans made first contact there. Flint from these beds has been identified great distances away, including the west and east coasts of North America, into the southern United States. The flint – chert, was used by the Ojibwe and other tribes for weapons including spear tips and tools essential for daily life and for making fire.
POWWOW – WOW!!
The Kettle & Stony Point Powwow takes place the second weekend in July each year. This is an opportunity to share in something truly outstanding – a celebration of native cultural heritage. The Annual Competition Pow Wow will take place July 10 -11, 2021 at 9226 Lake Road (kettlepoint.org/powwow/). The Chippewas of Kettle & Stony Point First Nation invite everyone to enjoy their rich heritage at this wonderful event.
The Powwow is a social event as well as a spiritual and sacred occasion for all tribes and ages who celebrate heritage and culture and pride in one’s roots. More than 2,500 people attend each year, enjoying dancers from Canada and the U.S., drummers and booths that sell original art, jewellery, clothing, crafts, beadwork and more. Sample fresh Lake Huron fish, native flatbread strawberry shortcake and other delicacies.
Observe Powwow etiquette, including referring to dancers’ attire as regalia, not costumes. Follow announcements about when to stand, when to be silent, when to remove your hat etc.
SHOP, DINE, ENJOY
The historic Ipperwash Hotel, built in 1920, has been completely transformed by new owners with deep roots in the community and is now enjoyed as the Ipperwash Beach Club. Visitors and locals alike enjoy dining, drinks and ice cream indoors or on outdoor patios, within a stone’s throw of Lake Huron.
Arbor Acres Plaza is a one-stop-shop for cottagers, locals and visitors with Beer Store and LCBO agency outlets, laundromat, variety store, fresh produce and meats, beach wear, and chip stand take out. Don’t miss the selection of 24 flavours of soft serve ice cream.
Thunderbird Crafts is a unique store where you can buy native themed arts and crafts and check out the many items dancers use to create their regalia, imbued with spiritual significance.
Points Preference Supermarket and Kettle & Stony Point Gas & Convenience and Al’s Gas & Variety are other popular shop and fill-up destinations.
Viewed from the air, Port Franks tree canopy is so dense it hides all trace of human habitation. Characterized by twisting, rolling, treed rural roads shaped by its many river branches, creeks and inlets, Port Franks offers an abundance of quiet, picturesque charm that residents treasure and seasonal visitors crave. A great place to kayak and canoe and spot birds.
Part of the Carolinian Life Zone, Port Franks coastal dune system is home to plants and animals found collectively nowhere else in Canada. The Acadian Flycatcher, Dwarf Hackberry trees, various species of Blazing Stars, Eastern Flying Squirrel, Eastern Hognosed Snake and Giant Swallowtail Butterfly can all be found inhabiting this rare Oak Savanna ecosystem.
The Lambton County Heritage Forest, purchased in 1940, is owned and managed by the County of Lambton. Abutting to the west, L-Lake Management Area has been owned and managed by the Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority since 1987. The Karner Blue Sanctuary was purchased in 1988 by Lambton Wildlife Incorporated. The Port Franks Forested Dunes Nature Reserve, obtained by the Nature Conservancy of Canada in 1994, is managed by Lambton Wildlife Incorporated.
Before settlement, the Port Franks area was used by the Attawandaron nation for flint chipping used in weapons made for the Huron and Iroquois tribes. In 1948, Dr. Wilfred Jury located and excavated the flint workshops in what is now known as the Lambton County Heritage Forest.
Between 1653 and the 1830s, knowledge of human activity in the Port Franks area is unknown or sketchy. Many surveyors travelled into the area in the early 1800s, including Mahlon Burwell and Samuel Smith for which the inland lakes of Burwell and Smith were named. Port Franks officially became a village in Lambton County in 1877 (information courtesy CarolinianCanada.ca).
Salt was discovered in Port Franks in 1881 and a salt plant existed and operated for 12 years. By this time, the area was becoming known as a tourist community. After World War II, the economic boom that followed saw Port Franks growing rapidly into the community and tourist attraction it is today.
Port Franks marina is the largest in Lambton Shores and like Grand Bend’s marina, boasts Blue Flag status. It has 70 seasonal slips, diesel gas dock, public boat launch, public washrooms and showers, pump out, electrical, internet, ice, park with picnic area, pavilion and volleyball court.
Near MacPherson’s Restaurant (located on highway 21) and Port Franks Road, you’ll find the famous giant sand hill which delights kids of all ages who enjoy the challenge of climbing up and walking down.
Port Franks Community Centre is not only the location of lots of green space, but also boasts two courts with tennis and pickle ball lines (pick-up the keys from the municipal office at 9575 Port Franks Road and Northville Road), skateboard park, playground equipment, soccer field, shaded sitting areas and trail heads for Lambton County Heritage Trail System. You’ll also find Port Franks library located here.
Apart from many private cottages, there are two bed and breakfasts in Port Franks – Bee & Bee Bed and Breakfast and Gillespie Gardens Bed and Breakfast. Two good sized restaurants are located on highway 21 between Port Franks and Northville roads – MacPherson’s Restaurant and Grog’s Pub & Grill. Oh! Pizza is located at 9985 Erie Street near the marina. Khaos Artisan Kitchen at 7607 Ransford Street is a beloved local bakery offering fresh baked breads, scones, biscuits and specialty cakes and other baked treats.
MacPherson’s is also the location to find movie rentals, gas, snacks, lottery tickets, baked goods (famous for their pies!) and other cottage vacation essentials.
Port Franks is also the location of Art By 3, which provides workshops of all types including metal art, paintings, fused glass and more.
Port Franks beach is owned and maintained by local property owners and as such is not open to the public. You need to be staying at one of its accommodation providers to access the beach and parking near the beach is very limited.
A mere ten minutes from Lake Huron’s shores, the village of Zurich is an active community welcoming visitors and locals alike.
Zurich is located in the heart of the white bean agricultural area of Huron County, where thousands of tons of these small dry beans are grown, processed, packaged and shipped worldwide.
ZURICH’S BEAN FESTIVAL
Perhaps it was only natural that a group of community-minded folks launched Zurich’s Famed Bean Festival in 1965. The event is held in August on the fourth Friday evening and all day Saturday. It attracts thousands, many of whom have been coming for decades.
Festivities begin Friday evening with Cruise Nite featuring several hundred classic cars travelling routes through neighbouring communities before ending back in Zurich, music, and midway rides, followed by fireworks at dusk. People in the villages and towns on the car parade route make it an annual “must-see”, viewing the procession from their lawn chairs set up roadside.
Saturday’s schedule is chock-a-block from the 7 a.m. breakfast in the arena, custom rod & antique car show with hundreds of entries, through the famous home-cooked bean & pork chops dinners and live entertainment throughout the day to the dance at 8 p.m. The Main Street Market sells clothing, jewellery, crafts, home décor, baked goods and more. Children enjoy wandering entertainers, face painting and balloon twisting as well as midway rides.
Goods and Goodies
Saturdays in summer through Thanksgiving you can enjoy live music and a BBQ lunch from 11 am to 2 pm at Jerry Rader’s Homestyle. This popular shop offers a selection of gifts and accessories along with prepared-on-the-premises salads, meats and baked goods from traditional recipes.
Blessings Community Store is a 35-year-old thrift store offering used clothing, linens, sports equipment, decorating items including retro and antique finds.
ADRENALINE & FUN
Kids of all ages enjoy Town & Country Bowling Lanes for 5-pin bowling. Bowlers come for league play or open bowling. One of the favourites offered by this family-run business is Glow in the Dark, also a great outing for birthday celebrations and parties.
All-In Store & Skatepark boasts being South Western’s biggest indoor skatepark. Training ramps are available to learn tricks in addition to foam pits for training. It offers an overnight summer camp with pros; the 2019 camp featured Ryan Williams of Nitro Circus.
Zurich has a new library, Bluewater Family Health Team, South Huron Veterinary Clinic, churches, a school and much more that offer services to residents and visitors alike.