Pelee Island is the southernmost populated point in Canada. Located in the western basin of Lake Erie between the state of Ohio and the province of Ontario, Pelee Island is the largest of the Lake Erie islands with an approximate size of 12.5km (7.7mi) by 6km (3.7mi) covering 10,000 acres. The island is home to a year round population of approximately 300 residents increasing to around 1500 during the summer months.
Human inhabitation of the island can be dated back approximately 10,000 years through archeological evidence of indigenous artifacts discovered on the island. European populations began settling on the island in 1788 when Ojibwa and Odawa tribes granted a lease of the land to Thomas McKee.
In 1823 the island was purchased by William McCormick and in the 1830’s permanent settlements by European settlers began to be established.
In 1838 Pelee Island was the site of The Battle of Pelee, part of the Patriot War, with the goal to liberate what was then known as Upper Canada from the British. In late February of 1838 approximately 300 men captured the island but less than a week later were driven back by the British forcing them to either flee the island or be captured.
In the 1860’s Pelee Island began producing wine but stopped in 1915 with the Pelee Island Winery not bringing grape growing and winemaking operations back to the island until the 1980’s.
In 1868 the island was officially incorporated as a township and by 1900 the population had grown to nearly 800 residents with 4 schools, 4 churches, and 3 general stores located on the Island.
Today the year round population has dwindled to around 300 residents, increasing to around 1500 during the summer months. In addition to a handful of seasonal businesses there is one general store (the Pelee Island Co-operative Association), and one school located on the north end of the island that teaches approximately 20 students from kindergarten through grade 12, some students choose to move off island and attend high school on the mainland. Until recently there were no high school teachers on the island so students either had to move off island or complete their classes online.
The island is well known for its wines from the Pelee Island Winery which grows over 700 acres of grapes on the island and transports them back to their production facility in Kingsville, Ontario for wine production.
In addition to grapes the island is well known for its other crops such as soybeans, canola, and wheat. The island is also home to limestone quarries operated by Erie Sand & Gravel Ltd. out of Leamington, Ontario. Stone from these quarries can be seen around much of the island’s perimeter as armour stone.
Pelee Island is well known for being a place of relaxation, but there is still lots to do and see across the island. Pelee Island is home to a nearly 200 year old lighthouse, an inukshuk like statue officially named the Stoneman by the students of the islands school, two provincial nature reserves, marshes, trails, vast beaches, and more. Popular activities on the island include birdwatching, hunting, biking, hiking, and fishing.Learn More
Pelee Island’s unique ecosystem is home to many rare and endangered species of plants and animals. The island is home to multiple species of plants and animals that are extremely difficult or impossible to find elsewhere in Canada such as the blue racer, gray fox, hoptree, eastern prickly pear cactus, and the Kentucky coffee-tree.
The island is also an important stop on the migratory path of hundreds of species of songbirds and is the home to many larger birds and predatory birds such as bald eagles, multiple species of owls, blue herons, egrets, swans, turkeys, and pelicans.
There are a number of areas throughout the island that are protected by non-profit and government organisations including Ontario Parks, Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA), as well as some private landowners.
Due to the remote location of Pelee Island most businesses operate on a seasonal basis. The only two year round retail businesses on the island are the Pelee Island Co-Operative Association which carries a small selection of basic groceries, hardware supplies, gas, etc. and the LCBO. Most other businesses on the island operate from sometime in May until sometime in the fall with most businesses closing for the season by Canadian thanksgiving weekend. Seasonal retail operations primarily include businesses focused on Pelee Island themed gifts and souvenirs.Learn More
Much like the retail operations most restaurants and accommodations are strictly seasonal. The island has three sit down restaurants as well as a taco shack, and two hot dog and ice cream stands. There is one motel, and two campgrounds, one of which also has a small motel-like guest house. And of course there are a number of private cottages available for rent all around the island.Learn More
Being an island, there are only two ways to get here, by water or by air. Pelee Island is serviced by ferries running from early April until early December from both the Ontario mainland and the Ohio mainland with the Ohio mainland having a shortened season. Through the winter airplane services operate between Windsor, Ontario and Pelee Island. There are also year round plane services offered from Ohio to Pelee Island. Through the spring, fall, and summer personal watercraft is also a very popular way to travel to and from the island.Learn More
Due to the remoteness of Pelee Island, being prepared and knowing what services are offered on the island is important! Pelee Island has one general store (the Pelee Island Co-Operative Association) which serves as the grocery store, gas station, hardware store, and post office, their hours are somewhat limited their product offerings are limited and they are never open on Sundays so it is best to make sure you double and triple check to make sure you have everything you need and a full tank of fuel if you’re bringing a vehicle to the island.
There is also a transfer station for all of your garbage and recycling needs, a water bottle filling station, publicly accessible compressors to fill the air in your bike or vehicle tires, and more.Learn More