Wineries, fine dining, Victorian charm vault Kingsville to top of visitors' list of must-see Lake Erie waterfront communities
THE NEW TOWN OF Kingsville was born on Jan. 1, 1999 from the
amalgamation of the former townships of Gosfield North, Gosfield South and the
original town of Kingsville. The town includes the village of Cottam and the
hamlet of Ruthven.
KINGSVILLE SHARES FERRY service with neighbouring Leamington,
with departures from Kingsville in late summer and fall. Destinations include Pelee Island on the Canadian side of
Lake Erie and Sandusky on the U.S. side. The Ohio resort community is popular
for its amusement park.
THERE ARE FOUR award-winning wineries in Kingsville,
including the fruit-based Black Bear Farms. The others are Pelee Island Winery,
Mastronardi Estate Winery and Aleksander Estate Winery.
PELEE ISLAND WINERY WAS named to the Best of the Road list announced for the 2011 version of Rand McNally
’s famous road atlas. The winery is included in a suggested Around Lake Erie tour that takes motorists from Akron, Ohio, to the Windsor region. Each year, the atlas makers research five trips that take motorists off the beaten path to explore lesser known, but unique, regions of the continent that display special character.
Kingsville, located on the north shore of Lake Erie, is one
of the prettiest towns in Essex County and loves to boast that it is home to
the “southernmost downtown” in Canada.
Point Pelee National Park, located in neighbouring
Leamington to Kingsville’s west, is actually the most southern point in
mainland Canada. But since there is no downtown in the park, and Leamington has
an uptown, away from the lake, Kingsville can stand behind its claim.
While Kingsville shares with Leamington the sunny, warm
climate that has earned them the title “Greenhouse Capital of Canada,” the
similarities between the two end there.
First, unlike Leamington, which is flat as a Saskatchewan
prairie, there are a few hills and ravines in Kingsville, especially near the lakeshore. By
boat, you can check out the waterfront homes on the ridge high above the
shoreline, protected from the winds by a forest of trees. And the semi-private
Kingsville Golf & Country Club boasts a “rolling landscape” that “defies
the flatlands of Essex County.”
Primarily an agricultural community, Kingsville is popular
with both young families and retirees, attracted by the small-town friendly
atmosphere, quiet leafy streets and elegant Victorian homes.
With a population of about 21,000, Kingsville is where
county residents go when out for a Sunday drive: there are several wineries to
visit — Pelee Island Winery is located on Main Street just outside the core —
fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers to pick up at the many roadside stands and
beautiful parks and beaches to relax in.
Known for its sophistication, Kingsville is carving a name
for itself as the dining capital of Essex County. You’ll find everything from steak to sushi to gourmet
burgers and fresh fish, with a Mediterranean flavour served up in the former
train station, designed in 1888, and one of many designated heritage buildings
in Kingsville. You’ll also find two popular tea houses nestled amid the
Victorian-themed shops downtown, including one in a building dating from 1883.
Town to develop new waterfront park
While Kingsville’s downtown plays an important role in the
town’s tourism strategy — council plans to spend $1.9 million on improvements
there and hopes to woo a major hotel — attracting people to the waterfront is
also at the top of the agenda.
The town’s finest waterfront park is Lakeside Park, located
on the shore of Lake Erie at the end of Queen Street. The park’s main feature
is a turn-of-the-century pavilion located on a hill above the lake. The
pavilion, surrounded by walking trails, flower gardens and bridges over
streams, is a popular spot for weddings and family picnics.
Kingsville will soon have another lakefront park, with 700
feet of views over Lake Erie, under a plan to expropriate a property on nearby
Park Street. The 3.8-acre property would provide access to another beach and
link more residents to the waterfront. As one councillor put it: “We’re looking
for it for biking and walking trails with a good vista.”
This area is already blessed with views galore, from tomato
fields to apple orchards to wetlands. If you have the time, you can enjoy
spectacular views of wetlands, forests and wildlife while canoeing along Cedar
Creek from the Cedar Creek Conservation Area. A leisurely one-hour canoe ride
will take you to Cedar Beach, the popular sandy swimming spot on Lake Erie at
the mouth of the creek.
Home of famous conservationist, Jack Miner
The Cedar Creek basin is described as the most extensive,
and most beautiful, natural area in the region. Contributing to the beauty of
this area are the Carolinian woodlands, rolling landscapes, creeks, tributaries
and abundant wildlife. It’s also great for bird-watching, which is serious
business around here.
One of the major bird-related events in Kingsville is the
annual Migration Festival celebrating waterfowl migration, heritage and
conservation. The festival honours Jack Miner, whose conservation work with the
Canada goose and other birds is internationally acclaimed. The Jack Miner Bird
Sanctuary, the first of its kind in North America, can be visited in Kingsville
The American-born Miner, who moved to Canada with his family
in 1878 in what was then Gosfield South Township, is credited with helping to
get Point Pelee designated as a national park in 1918. Today, birders from
around the world come to Point Pelee National Park for the annual spring bird
No tour out in the county is complete without a trip to
Kingsville’s hamlet of Ruthven, where the Apple Festival is held each year. The
village is also home to Colasanti’s Tropical Garden, which rivals Point Pelee
National Park as the most visited place in Essex County — about 450,000 people
drop by each year.
Heritage downtown worth a stroll
Famous for its local and exotic plants, Colasanti’s is a
family destination, with petting farm, mini golf, arcade, kiddie rides, gift
shop and candy store onsite. But by far the most popular attraction here is the
buffet hall, where home-style meals are served to hungry crowds from morning to
If you’re worried about your waistline, the Chrysler Canada Greenway, a
50-kilometre bicycle trail on a former railway corridor travels through
Kingsville to Colasanti’s.
The Kingsville portion of the trail between Lansdowne Road
and Main Street downtown has been designated Veterans Memorial Trail in honour
of Canadian Veterans. The trail at this location passes the Royal Canadian
Legion and the Kingsville Historical Park, just west of the old train station.
The museum is the place to go for a history lesson on Kingsville’s United
Empire Loyalist ties, as well as for information on the contributions of its
soldiers, from the Fenian Raids to the war in Afghanistan.
For a different kind of history, the Canadian Transportation
Museum & Heritage Village on the Arner Townline, the border between
Kingsville and the Town of Essex, is worth the visit. There’s everything from
vintage and hot rod cars and trucks to horse- drawn wagons and motorcycles.
Outside, the Heritage Village features more than a dozen buildings of local
significance, including one-room schoolhouse and a general store.
Greenhouse-related industries fuel economy
If you’re still in the mood for history, drop by the John R.
Park Homestead between Kingsville and Colchester. Buildings in the conservation
area will take you as far back as the 1850s. Take a scenic walk along the lakeshore boardwalk before
checking out the gardens, which are planted with heirloom crops, flowers and
Today, much of Kingsville’s agricultural production is under
glass or plastic. Of the more than 1,100 acres of greenhouses in Essex County, most of
them are in Kingsville and Leamington. It’s this lucrative, high-tech
agricultural industry that is helping
to keep Kingsville’s young people from leaving town for jobs elsewhere.
Kingsville-based Mastronardi Produce, whose Sunset label produces gourmet
tomatoes under brands such as Campari and Splendido, was recently named to the
prestigious list of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies.
Kingsville, as part of its economic development strategy,
has set out to attract industry related to greenhouse production, such as
Agriculture Technology Incorporated, a greenhouse waste
recycler, that just spent $700,000 upgrading its Kingsville operation, is
exactly the type of industry the town is looking for. Established in 1998, the
company recycles vines, plastic and growing materials from area greenhouses,
turning the waste into reusable products such as compost. It has plans to spend
another $14 million on another expansion at its 40-acre site.
Developments built with nature in mind
The recycling operation is a perfect ambassador for
Kingsville, which is fashioning itself as an eco-friendly place to live and
work, all within a 30-minute drive of the Windsor-Detroit border.
Developers are playing up Kingsville’s
natural environment in their designs, with creeks, forests, greenspace and the
lake playing starring roles.
On the resale market, recent listings for
waterfront property in Kingsville included an older four-bedroom cottage on Lake
Erie priced at $173,500, and a three-bedroom lakefront home on the same street
for $299,000. On the upper end of the budget, a newer four-bedroom executive
home, complete with 180 feet of lakefront and a private boat ramp, was listed
at $1.1 million.