Sometimes, my dog and I need to get away from it all – maybe a little exotic jaunt to a Canadian island.
You might be wondering about the logistics of traveling with your pup and what kind of time you can have on Ontario’s Pelee Island. Settled in 1866 by three Kentuckians looking to start a vineyard, it’s the southernmost island in Canada, often referred to as “Canada’s Keys.”
In keeping with the Keys theme, it’s very laid back. There aren’t a bunch of rules and restrictions for enjoying the beach, attire is completely casual, and low population density makes for lots of privacy. When you do run into people, it’s very friendly. Pelee Islanders have a tradition of waving to people they pass on the road, even when driving.
And you can extend your vacation with your dog very easily with a stay in historic Sandusky, Ohio, where the ferry to Canada is located.
To travel to Canada, your dog must have a certificate showing that it’s been vaccinated against rabies within the last three years. The certificate must be dated and signed by a veterinarian, and it must identify the animal by breed, age, sex, coloring and any distinguishing marks. Animal tags are not acceptable in place of certificates.
If you don’t have a boat to cross Lake Erie, you’ll be sailing the MV Jiimaan. It travels to Pelee Island once a day and you can take your car. Your dog is welcome on a leash. Reservations are required – if you’re smart, you’ll book your passage for summertime just as soon as they start taking reservations in early April. Weekends especially book up fast. Griffing Flying Service also offers daily year-round air service from Sandusky.
On Pelee Island, you’ll find camping, B & B’s, cabin rental options and the laid-back Anchor Wheel Inn, offering its own camping, rooms with giant jacuzzis and B & B rooms. The Anchor Wheel Inn is rustic, but in a comfy way. It also has a tiki bar and restaurant serving fresh local specialties.
You can take a motor – or if your dog’s up for it – bike tour with Explore Pelee. You’ll learn the “secret” places and history of the island. There are several beaches and trails to enjoy.
If you fall in love with Pelee Island and want to return regularly, consider joining the private Pelee Club, with accommodations, fishing, pheasant hunting and a clubhouse. Many of the great industrialists of the last century – Barney Kroger, Marshall Field, etc. – were among its founders.
Conorlee Bakery makes fresh breakfasts, lunches, and on weekends, dinner. And they have outside tables, which comes in handy with the dog.
The Pelee Island Winery makes for an interesting dinner option. For $5, you and your dog can go on a tour while you do the wine tasting. There’s a garden with picnic tables and several grills. Buy their food to grill, or for $5, you can grill your own. Purchase wine in their gift shop. You don’t need reservations, but they do close at 8 p.m.
If you're staying in Sandusky before or after your Pelee Island visit, there’s a charming bed and breakfast right near the ferry that allows dogs: Wagner’s 1844 Inn. It’s Victorian in décor, but very spacious and comfortable. Breakfasts are homemade and garden-fresh.
Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky is a world-class park with state-of-the-art roller coasters and waterpark. They have a “Pet Chek” resembling Snoopy’s doghouse that accepts a variety of pets for $15/day. Owners can visit their pets throughout the day.
As for eating in Sandusky with your dog, your best options are carry-out – bringing food to one of several parks on Lake Erie. The New Sandusky Fish Company has local fried seafood platters including perch, whiting and frogs’ legs. Danny Boys makes sandwiches and other specialty items like fall-off-the-bone tender ribs and pierogi pizza. Toft’s has outdoor seating and some of the best, richest ice cream out there. The scoops are huge and if your dog’s the ice cream lovin’ sort, there will be plenty to share.