Park Quest Site #4: Dog Day at Point Pelee National Park

Southernmost at Point Pelee National Park Canada

May is birdwatching month at Point Pelee National Park in Leamington, Ontario. Birders flock (yes, I said it) to this mostly marshland conservation area.  I’m here with my dog Victor days before the ornithology season starts.

Yet there are binocular-carrying bird-enthusiasts here already.

I’m not interested in spotting rare species, but I do love anywhere I can take my dog – whether the birders like it or not. (Birders often don’t like dogs).

Point Pelee National Park, and its checkered history, is stop number four of our 2017 quest to visit at least one Parks Canada site each month this year – thanks to our free 150 Pass distributed in honour of the country’s sesquicentennial.

Day one is unseasonably mild. Day two is unseasonably cool. Alas, it’s the perfect combination to test my new Fjällräven lightweight jacket and determine its ‘dog hiking’ compatibility.

Fjällräven Canada sent me a burnt umber Women’s Raven jacket in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. All opinions are my own. Affiliate links are in blue.fjallraven jacket

Fjällräven is a Swedish company now in Canada and distributing outdoor active ware and backpacks at quality stores such as Nordstrom. I selected this style because of the durable canvas material and pockets – four front pockets and an inside zippered one offer room for poop bags, a collapsible water dish, water bottle and random treats mandatory during any long hike.

Up next: My complete review of the jacket’s success.

First, Dog-friendly Point Pelee National Park.

Day one (the warmer day) we park at the Visitor’s Centre, the auto endpoint of a paved road leading from the Point Pelee’s entrance along this peninsula’s shoreline. At the Visitor’s Centre, we (yes, the dog too) ride a shuttle 2.5 km to the 42 degree North latitude point. Then a half kilometre walk gets us to the beach – just south of the 43 parallel, a point in line with Northern California and parts of the Mediterranean. It’s mainland Canada’s southernmost tip.

Sounds balmy, right?

Not today. It’s windy (though not penetrating my Fjällräven jacket), waves are rough and the sun isn’t intense enough to warm the sand.

Southernmost at Point Pelee National Park Canada

I’ve stood at the Southernmost point of the U.S. in Key West, Florida and now, I stand at the Southernmost tip of Canada. They’re not the same.

But where Key West has views of Cuba, Point Pelee has views of Ohio … very distant views.

This Point is bird migration central, along with a killer undertow – literally. Don’t go in the water and don’t let the dogs in. People have drowned here.

Otherwise, it’s a beautiful view of Lake Erie. The hard-packed path from the shuttle drop-off point to the actual point is an easy walk. (Of course, there’s a leash rule and pick-up-the-poop policy).

In fact, most of the park’s eight trails – 14 kilometres in total – are hard packed, some gravel and easy to follow. Victor has no problem running along and crossing bridges over marshes, ponds and even former canals near the 1830 DeLaurier Homestead (where my favourite trail starts). The historic house is a restored reminder of pioneer days when most of this land was orchards.

The park does a good job of documenting its somewhat controversial past, long before conservation reclamation in the 1970s. Prior to that, this land was hunted, fished, clear-cut for ship lumber, farmed by homesteaders and, in the 1960s, over-run by cars and vacation properties. Most of those cottages were removed in the 1970s, and nature (in a new form) reestablished itself among the evidence of human interference.

Also, two-thirds of the park is marshland – hence the bird populations. Yet even this can – and must – be experienced.

Start with the view.

Beside the marsh boardwalk is a 12-metre high viewing tower, which Victor happily climbs but is disappointed when he encounters nothing but wind at the top. He also willing follows me along the boardwalk – a weaving path of wood elevated over the marshland. During a 20 to 30 minute walk, we experience what’s it’s like to be fully encompassed in a marsh. Note two thirds of the way along, the railing disappears. Then it’s just high reeds separating us from the water.

Bring a long camera lens.

If your dog likes to swim, you might be ‘fishing’ him out at this point. Fortunately, Victor doesn’t – he also doesn’t like canoes. Those can be rented May to September for a more authentic tour of the wetlands.

Point Pelee is an extremely popular National Park, so the spring and fall shoulder seasons are ideal times to visit and few people object to Victor being his adventure loving self. At times, we had trails to ourselves.

Yes, dogs can go in the educational Visitor’s Centre and on the shuttle to the point. Picnics tables and shelters are throughout the park but there’s no camping. Private campsites exist in the region, along with cottage rentals and B&Bs, though few allow dogs. We ‘pupped out’ of rustic accommodations and end up at the pet-friendly Talbot Trail Inn and Suites motel in town. Very basic accommodations, but not camping.

Good enough place to hang our jackets … ok, more about that next.  

TRAVEL GUIDE: Point Pelee National Park is located in Leamington, Ontario in Essex County about 60 kilometres from Windsor. Almost 400 species of migrating birds stop here annually. There’s 14 kilometres of walking trails, including a marshland boardwalk.

The park is home to mainland Canada’s southern-most point, more at-risk species than any other national park in the country and Canada’s only naturally occurring population of endangered eastern prickly pear cactus, according to National Geographic Guide to the National Parks of Canada (available on Amazon – affiliate link) – a highly recommended guide.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, meaning if you click on a link above and then make a purchase, will receive a small commission with no extra cost to you. Cheers!


  1. […] celebrate Canada’s 150th Anniversary, I visited an Parks Canada National Park or Historic Site in Ontario each month, taking my dog Victor along of […]

  2. […] Check out Dog-friendly Point Pelee National Park. […]

  3. […] dog-friendly Parks Canada sites with our Canada 150 Pass as possible. Previously, we’ve been to Pelee National Park and Fort […]

  4. […] (Note: this is not a National Parks Canada site so the 150 Parks pass won’t apply, Check out this dog-friendly Parks Canada site: Point Pelee). […]

  5. […] Ontario about 20 minutes south of Highway 401. We discovered it on our way back from a weekend in Point Pelee National Park right at the point my dog Victor needed a […]

  6. It looks gorgeous there!

  7. What a great park to visit. Nice it is dog-friendly. My hubby would love it, not sure about Kilo the pampered pug though and looks a bit cool for me at that time. May check it out when warmer.

    1. Get a Parks Canada 150 pass if you haven’t already…gets you into every National Parks sight free

  8. fullyfeline · · Reply

    Looks like a cool place to visit. I like the fact you see things there you can’t find anywhere else, makes it extra special to visit.

    1. Apparently there’s a number of unique species there

  9. Even though it looks cold, it also looks like a great place to hike. It sounds like your jacket was a great choice. I always love items that are functional and stylish.

    1. Thanks. It wasn’t as cold away from the water

  10. I love the comment on your first photo! One thinks being in the South means being warm. Visiting Canada is on my bucket list!

    1. Different parts are very different. But there’s a lot of outdoors.

  11. Dolly the Doxie · · Reply

    What an interesting and scenic park! We love to visit new places and Ottawa look worthwhile to check out someday. Actually I’d prefer birder season as I love to chase birds! Guess the birders wouldn’t appreciate that huh? Love Dolly

    1. True. I had someone tell me birders don’t like dogs.I was tempted to say ‘maybe birds don’t like birders’

  12. I haven’t been to Canada but definitely on my bucket list. Thanks for sharing your adventure to the Southern most point. Victor looks adorable in his red jacket too.

    1. That’s a Kurgo Loft jacket. I love them.

  13. First of all, that’s a pretty awesome dog coat! Second of all – bird watching…. um chasing…! This sounds like the best place on earth!

    1. Fortunately Victor didn’t chase any birds but people thought he might

  14. It looks like you both had a great time! The park looks like a beautiful place to visit. I’ve been to that point in Key West and loved it.

    1. I love Key West too. Very different experience.

  15. I think it’s awesome when parks are dog-friendly. We have one relatively close by (emphasis on relatively) which has a wonderful “pet exercise” area. Always have to laugh at the name of it … never saw anybody walking their turtle … 😉

    1. I always interpret ‘pet exercise’ area as off leash zone – because that’s the only way my Victor really gets exercised.

  16. What a beautiful national park! How did the birders do with having a dog around? Some people can be so weird and yet they say they are animal lovers. Can’t wait to read your jacket review.

    1. Review is posted too. Yes, some birders don’t like dogs. I only had two people tell me ‘I don’t like dogs’ Took me everything to not to be glib. Instead I had no response.

  17. I love the idea of visiting a different national park each month! This one sounds nice, though I think I would prefer it to be a little bit warmer! Enjoy your park hopping, Victor!

    1. Parks and historic sites too otherwise, I don’t think there’s 12 parks close enough to us.

  18. tenaciouslittleterrier · · Reply

    Looks like a fun place to walk. Mr. N would love that bridge. He loves peering down at water and birds.

    1. He would love it there – I dare the non-dog lovers to say that to Mr. N

  19. What a beautiful park. It looks like a great place for hiking.

    1. The advantage is it’s easy – all flat ground

  20. What a beautiful park. Looks like a great place for hiking.

  21. What a great adventure, I love walking along place that are next to water, it is just so soothing.

    1. Best part was the beach – even if it was cold

  22. Hold up! That’s not too far from us!! (In Ottawa!) I think we could totally go visit…. I would do the Yurt thing once available. And maybe when it’s a tad warmer. 🙂

    1. Love visiting here but it’s popular – the warmer it gets, the more crowded it gets (especially this year).

  23. Looks like you both had a great day, even if it was cold. I must tell you, I’m all for a jacket that the wind doesn’t penetrate. That’s a selling point for me. Also, I do enjoy bird watching. With more than 400 species, that sounds like an interesting spot to go. No wonder there are so many birders who show up.

    1. It’s bird central. People drive for miles when they hear of a rare species moving through. The hotel had a sign in front ‘welcome birders.’

  24. Seems like a great place to visit with your dog. Looking forward for more travel adventures with your dog.

    1. Thanks! There’s more to come.

  25. Anonymous · · Reply

    poor victor looks cold. he’s right….this is not Florida. But it looks like a great park to visit. No electricity? Real camping

    1. Well I don’t think you’re allowed to even pitch a tent – although they told me there are plans to add yurts to the park.

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