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The Great Lakes | Hotels, Inns and B&Bs along Canada's Fabled Great Lake Shores

Why not stay at the shore, and explore the water, the wines, the entertainment and attractions of the communities situated right on Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario?

If you look at a map of south-western Ontario, you’ll discover that this most populous part of Canada looks a lot like a triangle, bordered on almost all sides by water – the waters of three of the Great Lakes. (Some more fanciful observers might argue it looks like a duck’s head, with the beak pointing south-west, and they’re probably right, although that’s not pertinent to the discussion.)

The truth is, anywhere in southwestern Ontario, from Windsor in the west to Gananoque in the east to Tobermory at the northern tip, you are probably about an hour’s drive from a highly enjoyable shoreline. That shoreline, by the way, measures at least 1500 kilometres of waterfront. 

There are plenty of significant cities along the shores of these lakes – Sarnia, Windsor, Burlington, Toronto and the rest of the Greater Toronto Area, and Kingston – but we’re going to sample some of the smaller communities, which offer wonderful places to stay and terrific leisure activities while you are there.

Stay in Goderich, the Sunset Capital of Canada

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The town of Goderich sits about halfway up the southern Ontario section of the Lake Huron shoreline. While there are plenty of reasons to visit Goderich – including a rather esoteric attraction that finds you behind bars – most people will tell you they come for the sunsets. A kilometer and a half of beachfront boardwalk provides perhaps the most dramatic views of waterfront sunsets in the country.

The Dreamz Inn, with its funky exterior design, is a highly recommended place to stay, 10 minutes from the water and easy to find on the Bluewater Highway.

For a unique waterfront experience, Samuels Boutique Hotel, dubbed a “hidden treasure” by a recent guest, is located in a countryside setting, not on the lake but on the Maitland River, which flows into Lake Huron.

In a beachfront community, the water is clearly attraction number one. But in Goderich, there is more – including the Huron Historic Gaol (that’s “jail” in old English), built in 1841, in operation until 1972, and now open to visitors. And only 22 minutes away is the Blyth Theatre, one of Canada’s original small-town theatres; theatre season runs from early June until the end of September.

Dreamz Inn

Top rated
9.2 Excellent (627 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.4 / 10
Parking lot
Gym
Indoor swimming pool
Outdoor swimming pool
Hotel CTA

Lake Huron’s Party Central: Grand Bend

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The waterfront communities along Lake Huron have their own unique personalities. Some are laid-back, some family-oriented, and some are “party central”. The heart and main beach of Grand Bend fits the latter category. This is a town that boasts beaches and bars where a good time is had by all.

The Oakwood Resort is a great choice of accommodation, close to the beach and downtown, and a destination in its own right, with its own pub and grill, Lakeside Spa, and an 18-hole golf course.

Not everything around Grand Bend is about beer and bikinis, by the way. This is also home to the Huron Country Playhouse, one of the fine live theatres that are part of the Drayton Festival. The season runs all summer long, and includes eight plays, from musicals to serious drama.

Oakwood Resort

Top rated
9.0 Excellent (396 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 8.8 / 10
WiFi in rooms
Parking lot
Pets allowed
Gym
Hotel CTA

Wings and Wine at a B&B on the Shores of Lake Erie

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From the amazing west-facing vistas of the Lake Huron shoreline, we have now moved south to the shore of Lake Erie. The entire span of Lake Erie’s north shore could be accurately described as “laid back and casual” – a series of small, waterfront communities offering marinas, beach-front activities, casual waterfront eateries, and almost no urban vibe at all.

That’s all true, but there is always more than immediately meets the eye. Take Kingsville, for example, “Canada’s southernmost town”. Yes, there are all the water sports and activities here, but there are also festivals like the Highland Games, and a folk music festival, and a celebration of our feathered friends at the Jack Miner Migratory Bird Sanctuary, named in honour of one of Canada’s premier conservationists.

There are many locales along the Lake Erie shoreline much beloved of birders, because of the hundreds of species that pass through Kingsville, Point Pelee, and Long Point during their migrations. The Mettawas End Bed and Breakfast is a great choice for people coming for the beach, the birds… or the wines at Pelee Island winery, which despite its name is located right here in Kingsville. (Pelee Island itself is almost two hours away by ferry – but worth the trip.)

The Mettawas is an exclusive stop; there are only two rooms in this heritage house once owned by Hiram Walker. The reviews are complimentary, and guests gush about the fantastic breakfasts. By the way, Pelee Island winery was the first local winery, but now there are 17 within easy reach of the B&B, so book an extra night or two!

Mettawas End

9.0 Excellent (125 reviews)
Excellent Service 9.5 / 10
WiFi in rooms
Parking lot
Pets allowed
Air conditioning
Hotel CTA

A Historical Inn in Port Stanley

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There are plenty of “Ports” along the Lake Erie shoreline; the reason to pick Port Stanley comes down to one factor: terrific accommodation. This harbour town has a lot to offer; a beautiful beach, live theatre in the summer, water sports, a great harbour. But it’s the two harbour-front boutique hotels that are perhaps the best reasons to stay.

The historical Kettle Creek Inn (1849) includes 10 guest rooms and five luxury suites. It’s famous for its food; the Inn includes two dining rooms, a lounge, an English pub, and outdoor options on the patio, in the gazebo or on the porch. Fish-lovers’ tip – you must have the fresh Lake Erie perch.

And just across the road are the twinned Inn on the Harbour and the Little Inn, with comfortable rooms, harbour-front patios (where working fishing boats may tie up right beside you), and welcoming lounges.

Kettle Creek Inn

8.5 Excellent (327 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.1 / 10
WiFi in rooms
Parking lot
Restaurant
Hotel bar
Hotel CTA

A Grand Dame for a Hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake

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We’ve now moved east to the town located where the Niagara River flows into Lake Ontario. The Niagara River links Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, and its globally famous highlight is, of course, Niagara Falls. Half an hour north of the Falls, along one of the most beautiful drives in the world, the Niagara Parkway, is this centre of all things excellent, Niagara-on-the-Lake.

There are many great hotels, inns, and bed and breakfasts in Niagara-on-the-Lake; one of the finest is the iconic Prince of Wales Hotel, in the heart of the quaint downtown. The Prince of Wales is one of the Vintage Hotels collection of fine hotels. It exudes luxury, from its common areas to the Noble Restaurant to the Secret Garden Spa and the afternoon tea served in the drawing room.

Another superb option is the Harbour House hotel, which as you might guess, overlooks the harbour, home base to yachts and other pleasure craft. Harbour House has garnered impressive ratings, sparked by unique touches like the afternoon wine and cheese reception and consistently superior service.

These hotels are excellent bases of operations for an extended stay in this community. Niagara-on-the-Lake is a shopper’s dream, and a diner’s delight.

The town is home to one of the most highly rated theatres in the country, the Shaw Festival. It is in the heart of Niagara wine country (there are more than 80 wineries within less than an hour). It is also one of the key historical areas of the country, with several sites, including Fort George, honouring the War of 1812-1814.

Looking for more Niagara-on-the-Lake inspiration?

Niagara-on-the-Lake

Bed and Breakfasts in Niagara-on-the-Lake

Hotel Prince Of Wales

Top rated
Niagara-on-the-Lake, 1.1 km to Fort George
8.7 Excellent (1021 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.6 / 10
WiFi in rooms
Parking lot
Pets allowed
Wellness centre / Spa
Hotel CTA

A Gem in Prince Edward County

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We said we would be leaping right over the giant metropolis on Lake Ontario (Toronto), and all of its attendant communities, and so we have to arrive just west of one of the better-kept secrets of southern Ontario attractions, Prince Edward County.

Cobourg is a lakeside town an hour east of Toronto, and about 40 minutes west of Prince Edward County. It’s included in this feature because of some excellent accommodations in the town, and its beautiful waterfront on Lake Ontario. PEC is also located just a few minutes away from Presqu’ile Provincial Park with 2.5 kilometers of beach, boardwalks, walking trails, terrific birding, boating, fishing, hiking, biking… everything for lovers of the great outdoors.

But back in Cobourg proper, lovers of the great indoors will enjoy the historic Woodlawn Inn, with its spacious rooms, fine dining and an extensive wine list with unique wines from around the world.

Prince Edward County is known for its wines. Visitors will enjoy stops at Karlo Estates, Devils Wishbone Winery, and the quaint Del-Gatto Estates family winery, among the almost three dozens wineries in the county. Enjoy wine tasting at these wineries, but book a dinner reservation at Waupoos, for an exquisite view of Lake Ontario.

Picton is the community in the heart of Prince Edward County. Most of the county is one land bridge away from being an island, with bays (chief among them the Bay of Quinte) and inlets jutting in on all sides. Picton is located at the end of one of the inlets, so this community in the centre of the county is also a waterfront town, and home to the Picton Harbour Inn. The views and the restaurant get great reviews.

The Waring House, also in Picton, may actually give you a kick-start right into the culinary world, because this is home to the Cookery School, offering hands-on classes in recreational cooking. It’s also the location of two restaurants; Amelia’s Garden and the Barley Room Pub.

The county is known for wine, food, extensive shoreline, and some unique attractions like the brilliantly named Dead People’s Stuff Antiques, and the Lake on the Mountain, a mysterious lake set high above the surrounding waters of the Bay of Quinte and Lake Ontario.

Looking for more accommodation in PEC?

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Prince Edward County Bed and Breakfasts

Picton Harbour Inn

8.1 Very good (364 reviews)
Excellent Breakfast 8.8 / 10
Hotel CTA

A Timeless Hotel at the Start of the St. Lawrence River

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Lake Ontario ends at the start of the St. Lawrence River, one of the most important rivers in North America. Giant freighters ply all the great lakes, from Superior east, passing through the Welland Canal (to avoid Niagara Falls) and eventually reaching the St. Lawrence and, 1,197 kilometers later, the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean.

The waterfront is home to the Gananoque Inn and Spa, an inn caring for travellers since 1896. The Inn is the only waterfront accommodation in the community, and it’s about 20 minutes from two important historic attractions – Old Fort Henry, and the Rideau Canal UNESCO World Heritage Site. But if you don’t want to traipse about historic sites – stay put, and enjoy an aromatherapy relaxing massage or a facial.

The Gananoque Inn & Spa

8.1 Very good (497 reviews)
Excellent Location 9 / 10
WiFi in rooms
Parking lot
Wellness centre / Spa
Gym
Hotel CTA

Not a road trip – a bucket list

Let’s be honest, we’ve hit just a few of the highlights of the shorelines of three truly Great Lakes. You can spend a delightful vacation in each of the communities, or along each of the shorelines. There are many more highly rated accommodations along the way – like The Little Inn of Bayfield in the charming Lake Huron village of Bayfield,  or the Dover House B&B in Port Dover, on Lake Erie.

Don’t try to do this all at once. Savour the unique atmosphere of the individual communities along Lake Huron; the quiet harbour villages and towns of Lake Erie; and the arts and culture chic of Lake Ontario shoreline locales. Stay long enough to get your feet wet!