Take the time to enjoy a home-grown summer

By MPP Toby Barrett

With the kids out of school, let the travel season begin.

For many, summer means packing up the family and heading out – map or GPS in hand – to find those quaint, interesting locations, often far from home.

But look around and you will discover we are blessed with treasures in our own backyard – treasures others come here to enjoy. From the west end of Norfolk to the east end of Haldimand County, this riding abounds with adventure. I encourage you to research local attractions before travelling afar.

Southwest Norfolk showcases one of Canada’s 15 biosphere reserves – the famed Long Point. An area comprising 26,250 hectares, it provides an example of Great Lakes coastal ecosystem with a unique blend of habitat – long beaches, sand dunes, grassy ridges, wet meadows, woodlands, marshes and ponds, coldwater streams and the shallow inner bay. It is a world-renowned refuge and stopover for migrating birds in fall and spring – as well as a first-rate habitat for spawning fish, turtles and frogs.

Long Point Country is part of the Carolinian forest and offers opportunities for canoeing, birding, hiking, fishing and hunting. Visit Canada’s First Forestry Station to learn of the 100-year history of shipping out a billion trees.

For the more daring, there is zip-lining at Turkey Point marsh, eco-safari tours, and Ontario’s largest privately-owned telescope to scan the night skies. Bring your motorbike or ATV to Gopher Dunes, south of Courtland, one of the largest outdoor tracks, or just experience a race

Lake Erie herself, is also a prime destination for sight-seeing, swimming, fishing, scuba diving, and other water sports. Haldimand and Norfolk’s shoreline villages offer restaurants, shopping and day-tripping opportunities from the Sandhills to Lowbanks.

In addition to the wonder of Lake Erie, we also play host to one of Southern Ontario’s largest river systems. As it makes its way through Haldimand County, the Grand River’s winding path makes for a wonderful chance to cruise lazily down the shores by canoe, kayak or riverboat tour. Enjoy its charm and unique vegetation that stem from being part of our Carolinian forest. The Grand River’s varied resources, rich history, cultural value and uniqueness as a river system are recognized nationally and internationally with its designation as a Canadian Heritage River.

Our two counties offer choices galore for good food from farm-gate fresh fruit, honey, peanuts, vegetables, meat, maple syrup and fish – to farmer’s markets, to our numerous restaurants, there is something to tempt every palate. For a different farm experience, take in a lavender festival or a food tour by visiting either Norfolk County or Haldimand County’s website for their Agri-tour maps.

Our temperate climates and unique soil types have helped spur the growth of area wineries and distilleries. Take a tour of one of our fine wineries to learn more about viniculture and taste the award-winning vintages. Shop the vineyards for that special home-grown gift.

From north to south, east to west, we are surrounded by many treasures. Again, I would strongly encourage everyone to be a tourist and get lost in our own backyard. Discover what our friends and neighbours have to offer. Take the time to cruise our back roads. I guarantee you will find a new hidden gem along the way.

Enjoy a home-grown summer in Haldimand and Norfolk.