Discovering Crystal Beach!
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
On a cold, spring Sunday back in March, we decided to pack the kids up in the SUV, grab a Starbucks to go, and take a drive down to Ontario's south coast. We didn't know where we were going, but we headed out towards Haldimand County - a rural area located on the north shore of Lake Erie in the Niagara Peninsula region. I had come across a tiny and cute cottage in the area, and decided that I wanted to explore the region to see what it had to offer.
When I was younger, I dreamed about owning a bed & breakfast in Niagara-on-the-Lake; and each time I visited Prince Edward County with my book club, I couldn't stop thinking about how lovely it would be to find a place for our family to enjoy and to share the space and love of the area with others. I kept my eye on PEC, Blue Mountains, Wasaga Beach, Tiny Township and Haliburton, but while scoping out provincial parks to camp at in January, I turned my attention to the south coast region of our province - a region waiting to be discovered!
Wineries and craft breweries are speckled across the region, with sandy beaches that stretch for kilometres, and towns and villages are coming alive, like Port Dover and Port Colborne, with their scenic piers that line the shores of Lake Erie. We stumbled across Crystal Beach when we decided to take a long round-about detour home and follow Lake Erie towards Fort Erie, then up towards Niagara, and back to the QEW towards Oakville. What we discovered was a cute and kitschy town that's undergoing exciting change, revitalization, and gentrification.
The town is brimming with energy as community members and local businesses breathe life back into the area: young entrepreneurs have taken over Derby Rd., numerous restaurants line Erie Rd. with their outdoor patios, and there's a small town nostalgic vibe in the air that is reminiscent of the old Crystal Beach Amusement Park - the iconic landmark that held a presence in the area from 1888 until its doors closed in 1989. Among the kitschy throwbacks to Loganberry Juice and Hotdog Alley, you'll come across a mix of eclectic and darling finds: gourmet hotdogs and grilled cheeses, artisan cheeses, natural foods, an upscale floral shop, unique crafts and housewares, sustainable and ethically made clothing and more. Adding to this, Bay Beach (formerly Crystal Beach) recently underwent extensive renovations, providing accessible and modern beach facilities for everyone to enjoy.
As we drove down Erie Rd. on that Sunday, we didn't step out of the car to see the beach waterfront or walk around town. It was a cold, overcast day with snow and ice still covering the ground, and I stared out the window at the restaurants and retail storefronts, whose doors were still shuttered because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I asked Ian to turn down a street to drive along the tiny neighbourhood roads to look at cottages in the area - some four season homes with local folx walking their dogs on icy roads; and others whose windows were boarded up, waiting for their owners to be able to travel to the region and open them up for the upcoming cottage season.
In that moment of driving through Crystal Beach - we had uncovered a hidden gem and that dream about Belle Beach House manifested into reality.
We welcome you to take a nostalgic beach trip, and join us as we explore the region and share our discoveries!
Ian + Steph