The beautiful Port Dover in Norfolk County.  Photo credit: Ryan Wright

Have you ever been to Norfolk County? If this charming part of Southern Ontario isn’t on your radar, it will be soon! With a strong focus on local food and wine, agri-tourism, and environmental protection, Norfolk County is the perfect destination for a relaxing – and delicious! – summer vacation. And best of all? It’s affordable and offers great value for money!

Where to Stay?

Beautiful B&Bs and historic inns abound in Norfolk County. Many former farming homesteads and other historic buildings have been converted into charming and budget-friendly accommodations. I stayed at the Normandale Century Inn. Built in 1875, it was a general store until 1996 when it took up a new lease on life and now offers all the best of quiet country comforts. The hosts are incredibly friendly and you can prowl about the gardens to your heart’s content. Or relax in your private room like I did, happily writing away and snacking on a few local treats!

Where to Eat?

In a word – everywhere!! Norfolk County is Ontario’s leading producer in just about everything, from asparagus and peanuts, to ginseng and lavender or hops and free range organic beef, to red peppers and potatoes.  Make a point of stopping at the roadside farmers’ stands to stock up on snacks and your own supper ingredients!

If you want someone else to do the cooking, The Combine restaurant leads the way when it comes to turning local ingredients into gourmet fare. The cocktails include herbs from their gardens; the fish is brought in the same day from the lake; and they have partnered with local favorite the Good Bread Company to stock the bread baskets.

Photo Credit: Ryan Wright
Photo Credit: Ryan Wright

What to Do?

Culinary tourism and agri-tourism draws thousands of visitors each year who are intrigued by the sustainable, innovative approach of the Norfolk County farming community. The declining tobacco industry has paved the way for new and unusual crops and many farms take part in the ALUS program. The Alternative Land Use System compensates farmers for dedicating a part of their land to grow native plants and grasses. These pretty, natural fields provide a home for birds, small animals, and insects, improving crop pollination and encouraging the protection of endangered species. Dozens of farms throw open their doors to welcome visitors, share their heritage, and show off their beautiful properties.

Photo Credit: Ryan Wright

If you want to connect with nature in a way that gets more adrenalin pumping than farming, visit Long Point Eco-Adventures. Long Point offers zip-lining and even glamping in custom designed tent structures for those who have so much fun they want to stay overnight! Across the road is Burning Kiln Winery in case you feel the need to reward your bravery–or indulge in a wee bit of liquid courage, as the case might be!

By night, take in a performance at the legendary Lighthouse Theatre in Port Dover.  The Lighthouse is a huge supporter of Canadian playwrights and the tickets start at just $35.

Photo Credit: Ryan Wright
Photo Credit: Ryan Wright

What Are You Waiting For?

Norfolk County has been my favourite travel discovery of the past year. Every time I go, I always discover something new – and yet, it somehow always feels a bit like home. I’m heading back soon for a lakeside camping trip and I can’t wait to report on my summertime adventures!