Ontario provincial parks have always been a haven from the city for me and the dog, and in 2021, that’s especially true. While the world recovers from a blindsiding surprise, the serene woods and lake coastline remain a sanctuary unscathed by human contaminants.
And that’s why I’ll spend many summer days this year road tripping with the dog to Ontario, Canada’s provincial parks and conservation areas. In fact, we’ve already started. Check out our pet-friendly adventures at Bronte Creek Provincial Park in Oakville and Ken Reid Conservation Area in Lindsey.
Selkirk Provincial Park in Haldimand County (40 minutes west of Hamilton) is my favourite dog daytrip escape for two reasons: it’s an easy country drive from my home, and there’s a dog-friendly exercise area and beach in this otherwise compact of the provincial parks.
Dog-friendly beaches are a welcome reprieve in the early summer heat.
Dog Beach Selkirk Provincial Park
I’ve been to Selkirk Provincial Park (151 Wheeler’s Sideroad, R.R. # 1, Selkirk) before with my previous dog Victor, during a time when he was strolling slowly enough that an afternoon in the grassy field near the playground was as much as he could handle.
Today is my new dog’s first visit – and she easily covers swaths of the picnic grounds in a few strides. Lack of energy is not her issue.
For a ‘water dog,’ however, she’s still afraid of the wake waves, jumping back from the edge of the water and refusing to wad in. A dead fish frightens her, but I guess decomposing skulls are the stuff of nightmares.
Dog-friendly Selkirk Provincial Park is 72.64 Hectres in size, so you won’t be hiking here for days (unlike Kawartha Highlands see here). In fact, not only is it popular with dog lovers but cyclists too, some who drop in while cycling along Rainham Road or others bring bikes to the park.
Of course, it’s the dog beach signs we follow to the far corner of Selkirk Provincial Park because that’s where dogs can run along the shoreline of Lake Erie in a designated ‘dog exercise’ area. You will likely meet other dog families here, some hunkering down for the day. So, dogs friendly toward both people and other canines will do best here – beach space is tight.
Wheeler’s Walk Trail and Boardwalk
Then leash up your pup and walk the trails. The most popular is near the park entrance: Wheeler’s Walk Trail, 1.5 km easy hike through flat paths and along a boardwalk over the marsh wetlands. You’ll pass remnants of a White Pine plantation from the early 1970s – the park opened in 1967 – and some forest that predates the park.
Park rangers say Wheelers Walk Trail is about a 40-minutes leisurely walk, but that doesn’t take into consideration frequent sniff breaks at almost every tree and a couple of squirrel distractions.
Camping at Selkirk Provincial Park
Grass campsites make up most of the park, although there is large day-use picnic area long the lake. Most sites can accommodate large trailers, are pull-through and have electrical hook-ups. However, only Area 2 has a comfort station with flush toilets, showers, and laundry. Other areas have vault toilets. Because this isn’t one of the bigger or better-known parks, securing campsites this summer might be easier here.
Daytrip with the dog to Selkirk Provincial Park (and maybe Port Dover)
Primarily, Selkirk Provincial Park is a great day trip (depending how far away you start) or a pit stop on your way to Port Dover.
First, though, I recommend as you’re leaving the park turn right on Rainham Road and head toward ‘downtown’ Selkirk (two cross streets) to stop at Wyatt’s Produce Stand (3706 Rainham Road), a popular road-side farm stand run by teenage Wyatt Wilson. Pick a bag or two of seasonal vegetables or fruit and a bag of homemade Beer Bites (@beerbitesdogtreats) dog treats made from spent beer grains by a 13-year-old entrepreneur.
Port Dover is the other direction – turn left on Rainham Road, follow the signs for about 20-minutes to end up at the popular summer beach town of Port Dover, Ontario. Known for Friday the 13th biker days, Port Dover is a strip of beach along the vast angry Lake Erie slapping against the pier.
Dog-friendly Port Dover, Ontario
Port Dover has some places to take the dog, but has no off-leash park or specific dog beach area.
However, one of my favourite places to walk the dog is along the pier to the West Pier heritage 1850 lighthouse – This time, it was my puppy’s first experience watching boats zoom by, and she jumped back for the edge each time the wake water splashed over the pier edge. Every time.
Port Dover is the classic summer beach town for everyone with a car, bike and beach towel. Parking is sparse, but walk-up food windows abound – Knechtel’s on the Beach is popular, and so close to the beach that sand covers the sidewalk where you wait to hear your number called.
Picnic tables facing the beach umbrellas tilted toward the lake are steps away, which means one thing: lunch on the beach with the dog. I wasn’t the only one. Starring at the chihuahua under the table next to us kept my pup busy long enough for me to indulged in deep fried clam strips because a midway atmosphere is no place for healthy food.
After she finished her hot dog, my dog agreed.
TRAVEL GUIDE: About a 45-minute drive from Hamilton, or more than an hour from Toronto, Selkirk Provincial Park is at 151 Wheeler’s Sideroad, R.R. # 1, Selkirk, Ontario. Bring your own lunch, and dog snacks.
Pick up those dog snacks on the way along at Wyatt’s Produce Stand, 3706 Rainham Road, Selkirk, Ontario, open 10 am to 6 pm. Port Dover, Ontario is a 15- to 20-minute drive west (follow signs from Rainham Road).