Lake Erie Day Trip In Ontario During COVID-19 Pandemic

Lake Erie Day Trip In Ontario During COVID-19 Pandemic.jpg

Interesting Experience On A Lake Erie Day Trip In Ontario During COVID-19 Pandemic

It was an interesting Lake Erie day trip in Ontario during the COVID-19 pandemic. As our home province of Ontario in Canada started to open up, we decided to venture a little further from home.

It was great to be out in the sunshine. Signs for Paris, London, Copenhagen and Vienna caused longings to return to international travel. And while we saw no iconic international sights, it was great to enjoy the outdoor experience.

We prepared well for our day trip. And along the way, we saw signs that COVID-19 changed processes in every place we stopped. But our day trip did little to ease many of our anxieties about travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Current During COVID-19 Pandemic Status In Ontario, Canada

Ontario had the second highest COVID-19 infection rates in Canada. Although the Canadian rates remain far below those in many other countries. And much like other countries, our infection rates were not uniform across the province. To reflect this, Ontario opened up regions at different rates based on the local infection rates.

At home in Toronto, we were not really surprised when we found that the rate of re-opening would be slowest. Toronto is the largest city in Ontario and it stayed at Stage 1 when other regions moved to Stage 2. And we expected the rest of the province to open up much faster than we would.

We are part of the population that are at higher risk. Even as the rules were relaxed, we were more anxious about the increased risks we faced in everyday activities out of the house. But we also didn’t want to be condemned to essentially home detention for an indefinite period of time. We needed to test our own boundaries within the COVID-19 constraints in place.

While Ontario still largely said “Stay Home”, there was also a need to support local small businesses. Especially those that relied on increased summer traffic. So our personal test was to take our car out for a Lake Erie day trip in Ontario as businesses re-opened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Early Experiences Getting Out Of The House In Toronto

When the COVID-19 crisis bloomed into a full pandemic, we were stuck on a cruise ship off Peru. We eventually made it home safely. And we remained healthy after our 14 day quarantine. But we learned much about travelling during the COVID-19 crisis.

We tentatively started to go out after the quarantine period. First it was to pick up groceries curb-side. Then it was for weekly grocery shopping. We lived right on Lake Ontario and there was a great waterfront path in both directions. So we started to walk on the path.

When we first started to go out, people showed proper caution. Physical distancing and masks were respected. But as time wore on and then as the province opened up, these earlier behaviours largely fell away.

Each trip to the grocery store brought more anxiety as even the staff gave up masks. Walks on the path became something we only did very early in the morning. By mid-day, swarms of people often moved with little concern. And constant streams of bikes added multiple safety concerns.

I made masks for David and me. Colourful ones were crafted from a shirt donated from David’s Caribbean collection. We never left the house without a full supply of hand cleaner, rubber gloves and our masks. And we were the ones who moved aside or stopped if people got too close.

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Every day it seemed harder to venture outside where we lived in Toronto. We wondered if it was time for a Lake Erie day trip in Ontario even with COVID-19 restrictions in place.

Preparing For A Lake Erie Day Trip

We looked at many different options to get outside if we took a short drive inside of Toronto. From talking with friends, we knew that not all the outdoor space in Toronto was packed like the waterfront path. But as the rest of Ontario started to open up, we wanted to venture out of the city.

We packed our day pack with an ample supply of hand cleaner, paper towel and tissues. Two masks each and some paper ones ensured we always had our faces covered if social distancing was an issue. We took our own folding chairs to avoid public benches. And this allowed us to sit away from others.

We planned to leave after the morning rush hour. And return after the afternoon rush hour. Our cooler contained water and protein bars. We figured that at worst case, we would get take-out fast food somewhere along the way to eat.

Bathroom breaks were a big concern. Typically when we travelled, we stopped for a coffee and bathroom break. But we knew that most fast food restaurants had no bathroom facilities opened. And we really had no idea what local restaurants would be open. Or what the state of bathroom access was.

It took us awhile to create our packing list and to get ready. We imagined how much longer this process would be if we left home for a longer period. But we believed we were ready for a Lake Erie day trip in Ontario during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More Than A Twinge Of Nostalgia For International Travel

Traffic around Ontario was still lighter than normal as we headed west along Lake Ontario. We planned a route that got us to Port Stanley on Lake Erie as fast as possible.

When we arrived in Port Stanley, it was strange to recall that we started our year on a cruise around South America. And our stop in Port Stanley in the Faukland Islands was spent with colonies of penguins. We saw no penguins on Lake Erie!

Our route from Port Stanley took us through Port Bruce, Port Burwell, Long Point, Port Rowan, Turkey Point and Port Ryerse. We stopped briefly in Port Dover before we headed for home. It reminded us not at all of the White Cliffs of Dover we visited in England.

Much of the way we travelled along the Coast Trail close to the water. The route was twisted but our offline map app helped us with the turns.

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As we travelled through Southern Ontario, we saw signs of Canada’s immigrant history. Towns were named for some of our favourite international destinations. We passed Paris and followed the signs to London. When we left the major highway, we drove through Copenhagen. And later in the day we drove through Vienna.

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Vienna Sign.jpg

Each sign with an international city name brought real waves of nostalgia. We remembered international road trips in Italy, Portugal and Central Europe. And those memories brought back the excitement of exploration. But along our route, we saw no international iconic sights. And we wondered when we might see those destinations again.

Our Experiences On A Day Trip In Ontario During COVID-19 Pandemic

1) Bathroom Stops

We were relieved to find that the rest stops on the major highway were open. And the bathrooms were also available for use. There were physical distancing signs everywhere. Even if we only saw one person with a mask.

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As we explored the green spaces, we were delighted to find that many of the park bathroom facilities were open. And there were even a number of clean portable bathrooms. With some caution, they provided bathroom break options as we travelled.

2) Many Outdoor Public Spaces Were Closed

We found most of the beach areas closed and empty in most places. One beach area prepared to open with lifeguard training on the beach. Even if beaches were marked as “Closed”, that often did not stop people from walking right past the “Closed” signs.

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Some of the pier areas were opened. And some were still roped off. On one open pier, we saw the long pier busy as people fished. But the groups were well separated.

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Port Bruce Pier - Lake Erie Day Trip In Ontario During COVID-19 Pandemic.jpg

Port Bruce Pier - Lake Erie Day Trip In Ontario During COVID-19 Pandemic.jpg

3) We Had No Problem Finding Food

We stopped twice at small shops for treats. Grandma’s Oven in Alymer offered great baked goods. And Simply Scoops in Port Burwell had the best menu of ice cream we saw in a while. Both small businesses offered safe physical distancing experiences. Staff were happy to be working. And we were even able to pay with cash.

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We took a deep breath and stopped in Port Stanley at GT’s On The Beach for lunch. The patio was open and the tables were well spaced out. The paper menu provided an overview of the COVID-19 practices. And we were required to provide our personal information to support contact tracing if an issue was later discovered.

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Port Stanley GTs on the Beach - Lake Erie Day Trip In Ontario During COVID-19 Pandemic.jpg

Port Stanley GTs on the Beach.jpg

We even found a local produce market open. There was a good selection of vegetables. And we were delighted to grab a whole carton of fresh picked strawberries.

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It was great to see that processes were put in place to support a cautious re-opening of this part of Ontario. It made the decision to do a day trip in Ontario during COVID-19 pandemic feel a little less risky.

Was It Worth Taking A Day Trip?

We planned our day trip along the Lake Erie shore because we have considered a short vacation rental in that area. We wanted to see first hand what the area offered for outdoor experiences. And we wanted to see how the re-opening in Ontario looked.

It was great to visit this part of Ontario. We loved the blue water views we got as we travelled along the shore line.

Port Bruce Beach - Lake Erie Day Trip In Ontario.jpg

Port Bruce Beach - Lake Erie Day Trip In Ontario.jpg

Port Ryerse Beach.jpg

The small port towns were charming. We found the colourful images we expected in Ontario beach communities. Lighthouses were found in many of the towns. There was lots of green space. And we found many idyllic nature scenes.

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Port Burwell Lighthouse - Lake Erie Day Trip In Ontario.jpg

Port Burwell Portus Refugium Memorial - Lake Erie Day Trip In Ontario.jpg

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Port Dover Pier Commercial Fishermen Memorial - Lake Erie Day Trip In Ontario.jpg

Port Dover Pier - Lake Erie Day Trip In Ontario.jpg

Port Ryerse River View - Lake Erie Day Trip In Ontario.jpg

Turkey Point Water View - Lake Erie Day Trip In Ontario.jpg

In Port Burwell, retired Naval Officer David was also fascinated to find the ex-HMCS OJIBWA a decommissioned Canadian Navy O-class submarine. She was high and dry away from the river. Doing a tour was a great idea for a future day trip from Toronto.

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It was wonderful as we walked along open stretches without feeling crowded. And we found spots with no people around. A Lake Erie day trip in Ontario cheered our spirits. And certainly made us happy we left the house and Toronto behind.

What Our Day Trip Reinforced About Travelling During COVID-19 Pandemic

We were glad we ventured out on our day trip. Many experiences calmed some anxiety about resuming activities while the COVID-19 pandemic still raged. But we remained at high alert. And we don’t expect that feeling to get better.

1) Vacation Crowds Will Make Things Worse

We intentionally travelled mid-week and soon after many services had just re-opened. Most of the towns we visited were big summer tourist spots. And we wanted to start our discovery with what might be the best case scenario.

In most places we stopped, the crowds were not large. Although we did see a few larger groups of people as they congregated on walkways. Or prepared to party on the closed beach.

But we imagined the rush to the beaches and parks when they opened. And we knew that any return to this area might only come when the crowds were small. If we do a vacation rental, we would likely only do a short mid-week trip.

2) COVID-19 Process Are In Place But Often Not Enforced

All of the places we stopped put good processes in place to address physical distancing. The small businesses we visited seemed to take the processes seriously. But with less customers, it was easier to control.

There seemed to be little patrols to stop people from accessing closed public facilities like beaches. And away from the larger areas, we saw evidence that people indeed just parked and headed to the water. Without enforcement, we worried that the policies were a bit of pandemic theatre.

3) Mask Use Was The Exception Rather Than The Rule

Other than for staff at the patio restaurant, we probably saw less than half a dozen masks worn on our day trip. We were the only ones that wore a mask for several bathroom visits. And in most cases, the bathroom spaces made physical distancing a challenge.

In these regions in Ontario that opened earliest, it seemed that physical distancing protocols were enough. And people just did not seem anxious about protecting anyone else with a mask.

4) We Need To Protect Ourselves

Our Lake Erie day trip in Ontario during COVID-19 re-opening reinforced that only we can protect ourselves. Protocols were not enough. People made their own risk-based decisions. And most weren’t compelled to protect others from asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic transmission.

If we plan to leave our condo, we need to accept our increased risk of exposure. We will wear our home-made masks to protect others. And to provide some barrier to reduce our risk. When we can find higher filtration masks, we will buy them. Because we know that the risk will only increase.

We won’t frequent places that don’t enforce distancing protocols. And we wonder what voluntary withdrawal from re-opening of businesses will do to real economic recovery. Much of the at-risk population still control a major portion of the disposable income of most countries.

And we will continue to be a bit OCD about hand washing, changing clothes and washing shoes every time we leave the house. Nothing has changed with the COVID-19 pandemic risk.

We are generally not anxious people worried about risk all the time. We travelled to over 100 countries and were away from home about 6 months a year. David was in the Canadian Armed Forces. I jumped out of perfectly good plans over 150 times. And then learned how to fly planes! We are both SCUBA divers.

We are not risk takers. But each activity was done with careful consideration of risk and risk avoidance. That is how we must approach travel now.

A Lake Erie Day Trip In Ontario During COVID-19 Pandemic Was Insightful

Our experience on a Lake Erie day trip in Ontario during COVID-19 pandemic was a good test. We loved the chance to get out of the house and enjoyed a beautiful part of Ontario. It was good to support the local economies. And it felt a little like life may return to normal.

But it also was a stark reminder that there was still a lot of risk in resuming life as normal while the COVID-19 pandemic existed. It might feel like the virus was dormant. But we felt we needed to protect ourselves and not be part of the numbers on the next wave!

Have you tried a day trip yet during the During COVID-19 Pandemic? Did you have a different experience as you ventured out as your area re-opened?

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  1. You’re lucky you were able to have a day trip. Things are beginning to open up in Italy, but things are far from the norm. Lake Erie looks so pretty, and lucky you to get some ice cream too! I love those European signs, it’s unique to see them here.

    • Lisa, We were happy to get out. However, we are not optimistic that things will get better as more opening is allowed. Hopefully mid-week trips remain ok. Linda

  2. Thanks for sharing your post quarantine experience. I have recently started venturing out for local, outdoor trips and have had many of the same experiences as you. Most people were taking appropriate precautions, social distancing and wearing masks. Much to my disappointment I found that many of the outdoor places that I wanted to visit were still closed due to the pandemic (I live in upstate NY). However, I was able to find some other places not originally planned but just as great to explore. The thruway rest stops are also full of social distancing signs here. While it seems like a lot of people in this area are following guidelines, as you stated it is important for us to protect ourselves. If we are smart we can still travel-at least locally for now.

    • Melissa, I am eagerly reading about people’s experiences as they start to venture out. I am glad you are able to find some new outdoor spots to visit. It is indeed unfortunate that we have to go to extremes to protect ourselves. Linda

  3. Sounds like you managed to have a good day out. It’s still not that easy in the UK – we wouldn’t be able to buy food and definitely wouldn’t be able to pay with cash. That seems a bit irresponsible given how readily available contactless payment methods are, especially given that it’s the second highest affection region. But I guess all countries respond differently.

    • Paul, We were glad to be able to get out of the city to get a little space. I too was surprised that cash was allowed. But I guess it is hard for some small businesses. And some people just don’t have anything but cash by the beach. There are just so many vectors these days. For us, everything we touch gets wiped with a wipe first. Not assuming anything is safe. Linda

  4. I would enjoy exploring all the lighthouses around Lake Erie. I have wondered about venturing out for day trips or even driving across state line to visit a friend in Arizona but have opted to wait due to bathroom concerns. Its good to see they rest areas are open and I lie that every other sink is X’d out.

    • Sherianne, We have waited to. But actually wanted to get out before too much opens back up. The crowds were ok mid-week. But as holidays arrive, that won’t be the case. Luckily the drive was great so much of the time we never saw other people. Linda

  5. Sadly, unless things have changed, the border remains closed between the US and Canada through at least July 21. The closure has been extended before, and I have doubts it will be rescinded for “non-essential” traffic before November. Had hoped to go out to the western provinces…not going to happen this summer. Let’s hope things get better soon. I’m getting restless!

    • I understand about being restless. We normally travel 6 months of the year and have no idea when we will head back out internationally. So it was at least great to get away for the day. We also had hoped to head east or west in Canada. Just not sure that will happen now! Linda

  6. I have always been curious on the status of other places during the the pandemic and reading your post was just exactly what I wanted to find out. I agree with you that there is a need to support local small businesses thus, going out is still something we can consider as long as we follow health protocols.

    Happy to know that you did not have any problems with food.

    • Clarice. We were glad we went out. Most of our experience were ok. And much of the time we did not have to interact with the growing group of people with no masks. We were well protected. And the fresh air and lower crowds were great. Small steps! Linda

  7. Interesting to see how its going in Canada, doesn’t make the news in the UK much. Having been in isolation for 12 weeks now due to health i cant wait to get out and see the world!

    • Chris, We were happy to dip our toes in and venture out a bit further from the restrictions in Toronto. It was great to enjoy many wide open places with no people. The places with people were a bit less fun. Even with restrictions in place. Hope you get to venture out a little soon. Linda

  8. We must be neighbors! I am on the opposite side (the Buffalo side) of Lake Erie! We have had a slow go reopening here also. But anyways I wish Lake Erie had penguins haa!! What I did find interesting is that when you went to get lunch you had to provide information incase something were to be reported. I wish we did something like that here in the States. It makes complete sense to want to be aware of who is coming and going with Covid going on, not just being carefree. I really enjoyed seeing your tips listed in your posting. I think it’s better to be overly careful then to ignore what is going on around us. Thank you for sharing your trip!

    • Kaitlin, It was good to test the waters and see what re-opening looked like. It gave us a view of what it might look like as Toronto opens up. We will continue to be careful since the risk to us is higher. Hope you get to enjoy spots for day trips too. Linda

  9. Loved your post as you have traveled during this Covid 19 pandemic and have shared your natural experience. It is good to check some backyard tourism spots at present instead of going too far. I know there are some restrictions on public utilities. Supporting nearby local business is great idea and we all should support them as they have met a huge loss during this pandemic. By the way I loved your colorful mask – a new addition to our wardrobe from now onward.

    • Yukti, We were glad to get out for a change of scenery. And happy to support the small businesses. I just worry that lack of concern by too many people will cause another rebound. We will keep wearing our masks! I was glad David “volunteered” his Caribbean shirt for my mask making efforts. Linda

  10. I love seeing that there seems to be a sense of normalcy from the pictures you posted. I actually haven’t traveled since all the lockdown happened, and to be honest kind of scared to do so! But from your post, it seems like everyone is maintaining social distancing, and people are wearing masks. Perhaps we can make a day trip here, too! Thank you for sharing!

  11. It’s so strange to see tourist spots so eerily deserted. It feels like something out of a dystopian novel! Nice that you were able to get out briefly for a day trip. Here, where I live, quarantine is getting even more severe. We are headed for another lockdown till the end of July. I dream of being able to get out to the grocery store, or library. Sigh!

    • Nish, It has been nice to get out for short trips. But I must admit that the lack of social distancing and masks is a bit upsetting. It is keeping us from fully engaging outside. I wish Canada was forcing masks. Linda

  12. wow sounds like you had quiet a start to quarantine! Im so glad you have been able to get out and about! Its nice to see people going about there lives normally ( well as possible) again! Its so scary that the rules are there but not enforced.. you would think that places would be really on it so they could remain open. makes me sad as its just worrying what might happen in the future! Looks like you had a great day out though the photos look beautiful and I bet to was nice to get shots without people in them haha! stay safe

  13. We love international travel, so I can totally relate to your nostalgia at seeing the signs for other world capitals. As it is, we’re trying to stay close to home… like you do driving holidays. We had the idea to go on a Great Lakes cruise and were ready to do it, but the cruise line told us they had to cancel all of 2020, due to health and safety regulations on the Canadian side. We are trying to gauge how likely it will be that they sail in 2021. Any insight you can provide from that side of the border would be welcome.

    • Mark, We too have thought of doing a Great Lakes cruise. We have seen some parts around the Great Lakes by road. But I am sure a cruise would give us another perspective. But that will be for another year. Right now we have cancelled all of our travels. We really don’t know when we will feel safe to travel internationally again. I am also concerned about how many travel vendors might have financial challenges if this stretches into 2021 as I expect. I really don’t want anyone else holding my money right now. We had challenges getting our money back for things we already cancelled. Not putting any more at risk! Linda

  14. Traveling in a pandemic is not easy. All restrictions related to traveling with safety influence the changing of our behavior and habits. But it’s great that you can slowly go back to traveling! You had an enjoyable Lake Erie day trip in Ontario. This lake looks great, offers beautiful views. It’s a pity that many outdoor public spaces were closed. But it’s great you had no problem finding food 🙂
    I haven’t been to Ontario, because COVID interrupted our journey, but I would love to visit this province one day.

    • Agnes, Our first full day road trip was a good test. But as more places have opened up and summer crowds descend, I am sure things have changed. Hope you do get to make it to Ontario when things open up. So many spots to visit. Linda

    • Rick, We are at higher risk. But we are being very careful when we go out. If things look risky, we don’t go somewhere. We are trying to do a few day trips a month while the weather is ok. We fear it will be a long cold winter with no travel. We were definitely glad we got to Lake Erie before the province opened up. We probably will not head back until the kids are back in school and summer crowds are gone. Linda

  15. I always curious with what’s happening in other countries during this pandemic. I live in Texas but I don’t think I’ve ever heard about things over there. Some people are the same wherever they are in the world. Don’t really care about others, or probably think they are virus proof. We went for a road trip to Colorado back in July and people were wearing masks, both locals and visitors. I told my husband, if you rely on tourism, you want this to be over soon, so you will practice safety protocols strictly. Also, people there like to do outdoor sports, so I’m sure they don’t like to stuck inside. That way, they follow the safety protocols. Just like around Lake Erie, small businesses are trying hard to stay alive. Some were closed, but I hope it’s not for good.

    • Umiko, We have been slow to head out. As you say, there is so much variety in mask adoption. Although it is getting much better here at home. Many local governments have made masks mandatory. Such a small thing to help get people back out again. As we have travelled, we found the small businesses were great. Hope so many of them keep open. Linda

  16. It has been a different experience travelling locally during Covid. What I appreciate is less crowds, and it forces you to limit your indoor activities like museums and shopping. But in return, I am seeing and appreciating the simplicity of wandering and taking long walks outside. Especially in this area of Ontario. Great tips and overview of the situation in small town Ontario.

    • Renee, We were reticent about heading out for local trips but have been pleasantly surprised at how well all parts of the province have done in putting precautions in place – even with lower infection rates out of the cities. But I guess that has kept our rural numbers lower! We too have loved just wandering and discovering new places in our backyard. Linda

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