The waterfronts of Ontario’s Southwest are best known for summer fun at world-class beaches, but visit in the fall and you’ll discover plenty of other great recreational activities near our coasts and waterways. Fall also means fewer crowds and bursts of autumn colour, making this the perfect time to experience nature and get outside.
Get Out to Fall Birding Events
Ontario’s Southwest is home to some of the best hawk watching in North America, and it’s worth the trip to join the fun at one of the many birding festivals and events in September and October. Highlights include the Wild Ontario Birds of Prey Demonstration (Point Pelee, Leamington), Festival of Hawks (Holiday Beach), and Ruthven for the Birds.
Get Out and Try Bird Banding
At this time of year, visitors can interact with experts at a bird banding station, an experience that offers a fascinating window into how birds are tracked during their winter travels. While banding is being done, visitors have the opportunity to see birds at a much closer range than is normally possible. Publicly accessible banding stations include Pelee Island Bird Observatory, Bird Studies Canada National Headquarters, Long Point Bird Observatory, and Ruthven Park.
Get Out on Your Bike
A multi-day cycling route to experience the best of southwestern Ontario is the perfect fall getaway. There are a number of routes to choose from including looping through Lambton, taking a 4-day cycle along the Lake Erie shoreline, doing the Lake Erie River Run, or enjoying a 3-day journey through the heart of Canada’s southernmost wine region. Oxford County alone boasts 14 routes ranging in length from 10 to over 150 kms. To experience a brand new scenic ride, try the Whistlestop Trail from St. Thomas to Port Stanley.
Get out to the Forest for a Mushroom Foray
Long Point, a designated UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve that contains a large area of wetlands and woodlands, is just two hours away from Toronto -- making it the perfect choice for a quick fall getaway. Long Point Eco Adventures offers a quintessential fall experience combining walking forest trails, a mushroom hunt with mushroom lunch, and a winery visit at Burning Kiln. After hitting the trails of the Carolinian forest with a naturalist in search of edible mushrooms, you’ll learn tips on making raspberry tea and spotting animals. Make it a vacation by upgrading to a two-night stay at the on-site accommodations.
Grab your Paddles
Paddling river systems is one of the best ways to experience the great outdoors in any region; you're surrounded by nature on all sides. In the fall, that experience gets even better with changing colours of the forests you'll paddle through in Ontario's Southwest. As the leaves start to turn, you'll want to grab your paddles and head to the lush Carolinian forests of Big Creek in Norfolk and the serenity of the Grand River in Haldimand. For a multi-day paddling adventure, there's the nearly 400 km of the Thames River through the heart of Ontario's Southwest. If you want to know what you're in for if you paddle the entire length of the Thames, check out these videos from the Happy Camper.
Get Out to Wine Country
Fall is harvest time, and the wine enthusiasts’ season of choice to visit wine country. In Ontario’s Southwest, there are two wine regions to cycle through – Lake Erie North Shore, also known as, Essex Pelee Island Coast Wine Country in Windsor-Essex, or the Toast the Coast Wine Trail through Elgin and Norfolk. Multi-day cycling tours incorporating winery visits include the Windsor Kingsville Essex Tour and the St. Thomas and Four Ports Tour, and various touring options are offered by Farm Dog Cycles, Wine Trail Rides, and Red Apple Rides. If you want to discover wine country on vehicle tours, including the newest wine region, Huron Shores, try Tour the Shore, Ride the Bine, or Grape Vine Tours.
Get Out to the Island
On Pelee Island, all you will miss in fall are the summer crowds on the ferry ride. You'll also get to ride on the brand new ferry for the 90 minute travel time. Journey to the southernmost inhabited point of Canada to visit the island’s winery, Point Pelee National Park, or the boardwalk winding through Carolinian forest and endless marshlands (with about 2,000 acres of protected spaces, this is the perfect place to enjoy fall colour). The waning of the summer crowds and cooler weather means some of the best days for viewing wildlife, along with hundreds of species of birds and Monarch butterflies that are migrating for the winter. Although there are fewer people on the island, all of the businesses are still open.
Looking for more fall fresh air ideas? Browse all of the ways to play in Ontario’s Southwest.
Looking for a fall vacation that’s as thrifty as it is fun? Browse our collection of offers and plan your trip around your favourite savings.