Detour To Experience The Unexpected In Chatham-Kent
Published: Saturday, September 1, 2018
Whether you are looking for a day at the beach, a unique kite-surfing opportunity, a leisurely boat ride, or to experience reeling in a “big one”, a detour off of the 401 in Chatham-Kent will have you booking your next visit the moment you arrive.
Chatham-Kent is Canada’s ‘sunny south’ destination for numerous clean, sandy beaches along the shallow shorelines of Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie, and two protected bays. Miles of beach access in several Chatham-Kent communities give beachcombers their choice of destinations during summer months. Make a splash in our fresh water, enjoy amenities like playground equipment, splash pads, and picnicking areas, or just relax and enjoy some of the most breathtaking sunsets around.
Boasting 88 kilometres (54 mi) of shoreline along Lake Erie and 24 kilometres (15 mi) along Lake St. Clair, the region is a haven for water enthusiasts.
The Lower Thames River runs through Chatham–Kent to Lake St. Clair in the west, while the Sydenham River flows through Wallaceburg and Dresden.
Rondeau Provincial Park boasts the region’s longest beach with 14 kilometres (8+ mi) of smooth sand stretching along Lake Erie. The park’s protected shelter of Rondeau Bay offers excellent swimming while Wheatley Provincial Park also provides good beach access to visitors.
Beachcombers can relax on the white, sandy beaches of Erieau or enjoy a walk along the narrow pier toward the lighthouse that is surrounded by Lake Erie. The beach area features a park and playground, sand volleyball, and barbeque grills. Adventure seekers can rent boats and equipment for water sports. Accommodations and restaurants are also available.
The warm and shallow waters of Mitchell’s Bay make it a popular beach community. People can choose to swim in the bay or cool off at the nearby splash pad. Visitors can extend their time in Mitchell’s Bay with an overnight stay at a cabin, campground, cottage, or motel. Mitchell’s Bay restaurants serve the local catch.
Visit Clearville Park and enjoy a day of great fishing opportunities for walleye, perch, smallmouth bass, salmon, and rainbow trout. You'll be enthralled by the beautiful sunrises over the lake. Let the cool breeze off Lake Erie soothe your mind and senses. This park serves as a natural habitat for many bird species and wildlife. Visit the park throughout the camping season from May through October and experience the beauty that is Clearville Park.
Situated between one of the last muskie lakes in existence — Lake St. Clair — and the world's most productive freshwater lake, Chatham-Kent offers anglers world-class sport and game fishing. Chatham-Kent is a world-renowned destination for sport and game fishing. Trophy-sized muskie are plentiful in Lake St. Clair, where charter companies fish for walleye, perch, muskie, and smallmouth bass. In winter, ice fishing for perch, bluegill, and crappie is excellent off Mitchell’s Bay.
Great fishing to be had all year round, the Thames River is an option for walleye. In fact, the best time to fish for walleye is during January and February. The rocky river floor makes for some great hiding spots for a number of species including bass, crappie, pike, and many others. Often narrow enough to walk across in the winter, and wade in the summer, this is a perfect place to do some fly-fishing. Access can be tricky at times, but there are launches located in Tilbury, at Lighthouse Cove, and the Thames Grove Conservation Area. Whether you prefer open or hard water, the Thames River makes for some great fishing! Each area of the river is different from the last, meaning every trip will feel new.
Lake St. Clair
Famous for housing monster-sized muskie, Lake St. Clair is not for the faint of heart. Get ready to have your adrenaline pumping as you put up a fight against these trophy fish! Also known for its healthy populations of bass, walleye, and perch, this lake is not to be skipped. Lake St. Clair can accommodate just about any angler’s experience level, with the muskie being relatively easy to catch during the spring, and the walleye known to give anglers some trouble. There are a number of access points into the lake; Mitchell’s Bay and Lighthouse Cove are popular spots to launch a boat. With many fishing guides in the area, whether you’re a beginner or a master angler, Lake St. Clair will make for an exciting and memorable trip!
The term “Great Lake” does not do it any justice. Lake Erie is an experience beyond words, and needs to be on every angler’s bucket list. The water and structure create the perfect habitat for so many species, from rainbow trout, to small and largemouth bass, with so many in between. There are a number of access points including public boat launches in Wheatley and Rondeau Bay Provincial Parks as well as a number of marinas and fishing camps where anglers may launch for a fee. Known for open and hard water fishing, Lake Erie is the place to be all year round.
Some of North America’s best automotive-themed festivals are found in Chatham-Kent. Each year, thousands of people are drawn in to celebrate the nostalgia within Canada’s Classic Car Capital. Events include: Chatham — RetroFest, May; Blenheim – Blenheim Classics Auto Show, June; Mitchell’s Bay — Antique Car, Truck, Tractor and Bike Show, July; Bothwell — Optifest Weekend and Car Show, August; and Wallaceburg — WAMBO (Wallaceburg Antique Motor and Boat Outing), August.
What is now known as Chatham-Kent, was, at the time, considered a premier destination for freedom seekers. Considered the destination for freedom seekers, this region was home to some of the most successful black settlements in Canadian history. Follow the North Star to experience and relive some of the most heroic stories ever told at three unique sites: Chatham-Kent Historical Society and Black Mecca Museum, Buxton National Historic Site and Museum, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Historic Site.
Chatham-Kent is a short drive from five U.S. border crossings, accessible by car from Windsor and Detroit via the ON-401 E, Toronto via ON-401 W and ON-403 W, and from Port Huron via ON-40 S.
Annual Summer Fishing Tournaments Include:
This article first appeared in the Fall Issue (Sept/Oct) 2018 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.