Long Point: With its secluded beaches and colourful history of pirates, shipwrecks and sunken treasure, you’d half expect to find it somewhere in the Caribbean. Instead, this rare ecological gem is a short two-hour drive from Toronto, Ontario on the shores of Lake Erie.
Recognized as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, Long Point carries the same distinction as the Great Barrier Reef, the Sahara Desert and the Brazilian Rain Forest. The 26,000 hectares that make up this area represent the world’s largest freshwater sand-spit, which juts more than 40 kilometres into Lake Erie. The federally protected coastal ecosystem is home to the most endangered species per-capita in Canada, and as such, land access to this pristine landscape is very limited.
That’s where Long Point Tours and their 24-foot zodiac boat come in.
A sightseeing boating adventure
My girlfriend Ashley and I began our 2.5-hour sightseeing adventure in the Turkey Point marina where we met owner/operator, Captain Garrett. He may be young, but Garrett’s sea legs are as steady as they come. After his short but thorough orientation, we headed out, and you could immediately tell he knew every inch of the waterways and coastline.
The zodiac boat itself is impressive. Even at high speeds in choppy water, the sturdy vessel performed beautifully and I never felt unsafe. As Captain Garrett pointed out, there’s a reason the Coast Guard uses them.
And while I always stayed safe, that didn’t mean I stayed dry. Given the day’s windy conditions, I found myself drenched pretty quickly. Rain jackets and pants are available, but come prepared to get wet if the weather’s a bit breezy. I foolishly ignored the website’s advice on attire, opting for jeans, socks and sneakers instead of shorts and sandals.
Still, the spray didn’t stop me from excessively screaming “WOO-HOO!” as we tore through the lake. As my mom would say, I’m not made of sugar.
In between stretches of high-speed woo-hoo’ing, Captain Garrett would stop to point out and discuss historically significant locations. From poachers and pirates to the War of 1812 and the strange club of billionaire duck hunters in the area, there’s no shortage of material to draw from. As a lifelong resident of southern Ontario, I was pleasantly surprised how much I could still learn about my own backyard.
Captain Garrett is well suited for the role of tour guide, his roots in the area going deep. His ancestor was one of the first Europeans to settle in the area back in the 1700s. He’s also related to the legendary “Angel of Long Point” Abigail Becker—famous for raising 17 children alone in a trapper’s cabin, and credited with saving the lives of countless shipwrecked sailors. Meanwhile, Captain Garrett’s great, great, great, great grandfather served as Long Point’s second lighthouse keeper in 1846.
That lighthouse marked the ultimate destination of our boat tour: the tip of Long Point. After making a wet landing (once again, jeans were not a great choice), we arrived on the sandy shores of a gorgeous beach we had all to ourselves. Walking out to the very tip and seeing the splash pool effect created by the two currents meeting was definitely a highlight.
No roads. No people. Just peace, quiet and some awesome views.
The tour flew by, and I was surprised that almost three hours had passed by the time we returned to the marina. Ashley and I rounded out the adventure with a cold beer in the cute town of Turkey Point and toasted to a day well spent.
To learn more about Long Point Tours, including their Trip to the Tip and Birding tours, visit www.longpointtours.com.
Many thanks to Captain Garret and Long Point Tours for hosting us. All opinions, as always, are my own.