Things To Know Before Visiting Pelee Island

Pelee Island is a great place to visit in the spring, summer, and fall. But due to the remoteness of the island there are some very important things to know before you decide to visit Pelee Island. Some of these things can make or break your visit so it is very important to know what you're getting into. We're not trying to deter you from visiting Pelee Island, we just want to make sure that you are prepared and have an enjoyable experience when visiting this little slice of heaven in Lake Erie.

The Pelee Islander 2 docked on Pelee Island.

Make Ferry Reservations

If you're planning to come to Pelee Island the easiest way to get here is by ferry. In the past you were able to simple decide last minute that you wanted to come to the island, head to the ferry dock and walk on the ferry, however in the last few years that has changed. You must now make a reservation in advance regardless of if you are walking, riding a bike, or driving onto the ferry. Reservations can be made online. For more information visit: https://www.ontarioferries.com/pelee-island-ferries/

Getting Here

Where is your ferry leaving from?

Every year we hear similar stories of people missing, or almost missing the ferry because they went to the wrong ferry dock. There are two ferry docks on the Canadian mainland and it is important to know which dock you are leaving from. Typically if you put in your GPS that you want to go to Pelee Island it will bring you to the ferry dock in Leamington, but Google has no clue where the ferry is leaving from so don’t trust it! From April - June the ferry typically runs out of Leamington, and then from August - December the ferry typically leaves from Kingsville. This can change depending on a variety of factors, but primarily weather and wind direction. If you have unsure of where your ferry is supposed to be leaving from it is recommended that you check your reservation information, and/or call one of the ferry docks to confirm.

Not Everything is always open

Many people visit Pelee Island in the spring and fall not knowing that little to no businesses are open. Most businesses do not open until mid-late May and stay open with regular hours until Labour Day weekend, and many businesses operate reduced hours from Labour Day weekend until early-mid October.

Visiting Pelee Island outside of peak season means that there is a very high chance that there are no restuarants open, no retail stores open, and no way to get around the island if you do not bring your own vehicle or bike. Additionally not all businesses are open every day of the week during the peak season so if there is a specific place you are hoping to visit make sure to check with them before coming over to make sure that they will be open!

Plan your trip

While the island isn't exactly boasting with your typical tourist activities, there are still lots of things to do! We highly recommend that you plan you thoroughly look through our website, and the websites and social media pages of other businesses on Pelee Island before you come, figure out what you would like to do, and plan it out. If you are just coming for the day this is even more important because you likely won't be able to do everything all in one day and waiting until you get here to figure it all out is going to waste valuable time.

To help you plan we have lots of information about all of the businesses on the island available here on our website. We have also gone ahead and created a custom Google Map of the island with recommended biking routes, and a legend with all of the businesses, landmarks, beaches, etc. This can help you see what is where and plan out in which order you will do all of the things you want.

Interactive Map

The Ferry May not run in bad weather

Ferry cancellations happen! Whether it is related to weather or mechanical issues there is always a chance that the ferry will not run. The company that operates the ferry services knows that people need to get back to the mainland, and do everything possible to ensure that everyone gets back on time, however if the weather is simply too dangerous they will not run the ferry. This is a rare occurrence but it does happen on occasion.

A closeup image of a stable fly.
Photo credit Conall

Plan for bugs

With one of Canada's most unique eco-systems comes bugs, in particular flies (and mosquitoes), and they bite. Depending on the time of the year, the weather, and what part of the island you're at they could be non-existent, or they could be horrible, there really is no way to know until you spend some time outside. Bug spray does wonders so stock up before you come (if you forget we usually have a bunch available for purchase in our store). A little tip for you. If you're on one side of the island and the bugs are really bad, try going to the other side of the island - usually if they're thriving on one side of the island on any particular day, that means they are nowhere to be found on the other side of the island (usually it's due to wind direction). Additionally these biting bugs are usually at their worst during the peak of summer, so coming in the spring or fall is best if you want to increase your chances of avoiding them.

And for those that are not from the area we always have a couple of weeks somewhere in June or July that we get Mayflies (you may also hear them referred to as June Bugs or Fishflies). They are 100% harmless, they do not bite, sting, or anything of the sort, but they come in swarms! If you happen to be on the island during Mayfly season ensure that all indoor and outdoor lights are off at night otherwise you may wake up to piles of them at your door and thousands more sitting on the walls in the morning.

Bring everything you think you'll need and more

There is no true grocery store on Pelee Island. Double check and triple check to make sure that you have everything that you could possibly need for your trip to the island. The co-op carries basic groceries, hardware, and household items but the options are slim and their hours are limited. Other stores on the island including The Pelee Shop may carry a small selection of necessities such as sunscreen, pain medication, feminine hygiene products, etc. but again, the options are slim, and the prices of everything on the island are typically a fair bit higher than what you are probably used to.

Come with a full tank

If you're bringing your vehicle across on the ferry make sure that you fill up your car before you come! The co-op does have unleaded gasoline and diesel, and Scudder Marina has unleaded gasoline as well. There is no mid-grade or premium gasoline, no propane stations for vehicles (there is propane filling services at the co-op for BBQ tanks), and no charging stations for EV's. Additionally fuel on Pelee Island is typically much more expensive than it is on the mainland.

A man and women riding bikes down a tree-lined street.

Transportation is necessary

Pelee Island is bigger than most people think. If you are planning on touring around the island to visit a specific beach, the lighthouse, fish point, or walk some of the trails you're probably not doing that on foot. Bring a vehicle, bikes, or rent bikes from The Pelee Shop. Golf cart rentals are also available from Pelee Island Adventures. There is no taxi service or public transportation of any kind on Pelee Island.

The main loop of the island can be biked by many people in roughly 1 hour with no stops, however if you want to do the complete perimeter of the island, visiting Fish Point on the south end, Lighthouse Point on the north end and other stops along the way you will likely need an absolute minimum of 4 hours to do so by bike, but plan for longer just in case. Pelee Island is not as small as most people expect, so have your transportation figured out before you arrive!

Rent a bike
A pile of miscellaneous Canadian and American money.

Bring Cash

Most, if not all of the businesses on Pelee Island do accept some form of electronic payment whether it be debit, credit, or e-transfers, however technology isn't always the most reliable thing on an island in the middle of a lake so don't rely solely on your cards. There is an ATM located at Stone House 1891 just south of the ferry dock, but it is only accessible when the business is open. If you are coming from the United States, most businesses do accept USD with varying exchange rates, but it is definitely best to exchange your money before coming to the island.

Bring Water

Only a small handful of buildings on the west side of Pelee Island are on town water, the rest of the island is on well water or gets their water directly from the lake. Many places do have water that is potable, but not everywhere. If you are renting a cottage it is best to check with the owner before hand to find out what the water quality is like. There is a paid water bottle filling station a few minutes south of the ferry dock, it is the only place on Pelee Island to get bulk water, and it is an unmanned, coin operated system, it does not accept bills or cards. We at The Pelee Shop are currently looking into solutions for those who prefer to purchase pre-filled large jugs of water.

Book accommodations in advance

Absolutely do not come to Pelee Island planning to stay the night without confirming your accommodations before hand. There are limited accommodations on the island and it is not uncommon for all of them to be full on any given night. Please make sure that you plan ahead so you are not stranded over night with nowhere to stay!

Accommodations
A United States of America passport.

Bring your passport if you're coming from the USA

Pelee Island is an official port of entry so you can travel directly from the USA to Pelee Island and check in with Canadian customs. If you are traveling from the USA to Canada you absolutely must have a passport with you. IF you're coming via the ferry or plane they will likely request your passport information before you leave the USA but if you're coming via private boat or plane you will have to make sure that you bring your passport or you'll be heading right back home. For more information on the reporting requirements when traveling to Canada please fvisit the link below.

Coming To Canada
An eastern fox snake coiled up in the grass.
Photo credit Ryan Wolfe

We've Got Snakes

Some people don't like them, others love them! Pelee Island is home to lots of snakes and most notably is the only place in Canada where you can find a Blue Racer. No need to worry though, there are no venomous snakes on Pelee Island and they typically want nothing to do with humans. They're usually gone before you even know they're there! Watch for the snakes in obvious places like grassy areas, also watch for them sun bathing on roadways, they often look like sticks and end up getting run over so please be very cautious when driving around the island. Also keep an eye out for them in and around the rocks along the shorelines, and on beaches as Pelee Island is home to the Lake Erie watersnake which I am sure based on it's name you know it likes to spend most of its time in and around the water (yes they swim!).

A grey fox standing in front of a forested background.
Photo credit Ryan Wolfe

Other wildlife

In addition to the snakes Pelee Island is home to tons of other wildlife including foxes, coyotes, turkeys, pheasants, squirrels, turtles, butterflies, moths, caterpillars, and much more! Please just be very cautious when driving around the island as vehicles are the number one cause of unnecessary deaths to our wildlife. To learn more about some of Pelee Island's wildlife go to our wildlife page.

Wildlife