Falling for Port Colburne in 15 minutes #aroundErie

How do you fall in love with a town after only being there for 15 minutes? You drive to the edge of downtown Port Colburne with the sun shining and windows down. You park your car on Clarence Street (rolling up the windows beforehand of course), and you get out and explore.
As mentioned in this blog post, and that blog post, my husband I recently took a trip around Lake Erie and made stops wherever we wanted along the way. As our first night was booked with friends Dani and Nigel just outside Fort Erie, Ontario, we decided to take our time along the northern coast of the lake we both love.
A craving for ice cream on Grand Island in Dunnville set in after leaving Port Dover. Years ago, I found myself there at least once a summer for some a delicious frozen treat and to watch birds flying in and around the marshes along the Grand River as it meanders through town. Unfortunately, when we arrived, all the fun at Grand Island had been closed down and the buildings were all for sale. It was overgrown and had obviously been neglected over recent years. We realized we were several years too late, and the end of that era had passed.

A little bummed but feeling the need for adventure, we decided to throw caution to the wind and ignore the GPS. The sun had finally came out so we wanted to find a beach. We headed south and found ourselves driving through cottage communities all along Lake Erie. Each community had parcels of land looking out over the vast blue water and I took great delight every time I could see the other side. Every little community made me want to get out and put my feet in the sand, but my heart was calling out for ice cream.

And then we entered Port Colbourne.

My husband James Harris in front of the Port Colbourne lift Bridge
My husband James Harris in front of the Port Colbourne lift Bridge

I don’t know how it happened, but ahead of us was a bridge with a downtown between us. Seeing a bank we stopped the car and got out and it was as if we were in another world. We had stepped back in time 30 years to when a downtown core was good. Where shops were bustling with shoppers and people stopped to say hello.

We entered the bank and were met with smiles and greetings. They offered ice cream suggestions and asked about where we were heading with our American cash. There was a warmth there. Everyone seemed to know everyone and rather than sticking out like a sore thumb, we were welcomed into the fold.

We agreed that we wanted pictures of the bridge. It became tantamount to our trip to capture this little town on film and to explore. Stepping on the sidewalk, it became a need more than a want to wander around. We found all sorts of neat shops and restaurants. It was clearly the heart of the town, but a small town that completely lacked the hustle and bustle of people rushing here or there. We felt comfortable meandering and taking our time and as we got closer and closer to the bridge the more excited I became.

The bridge was spectacular. Tall and shining in the sun, it rises over the river to let boats and ships pass underneath on their way up the Welland Canal. It was interesting to read plaques in the small park beside the canal. Each described the history of the region and we were pleasantly surprised to see that some of the old swing bridge foundation could still be seen in the waterway.  It was gorgeous. A definite must see along the north shore of Lake Erie.

After walking towards the bridge, be sure to turn down West Street and go into the little shops and boutiques along the way. Each store offers unique gifts including kitchen gadgets, home decor and clothing. Most importantly, you need to stop off for some candy or ice cream from Candy Safari.

James happily playing with a Light Sabre in Candy Safari
James happily playing with a Light Sabre in Candy Safari

Candy Safari was an unexpected gem. Reminiscent of a by-gone era with antique looking freezers, well worn in counters and large areas for candy and toys, we spent quite a bit of time looking around the shop before finally settling on some razzles and some ice cream. We had a lot of fun checking out all the quirky games, masks and toys.

Port Colbourne left so much of an impression on me, that I might have searched www.realtor.ca to see about property prices in the town. What I found was that house prices were really reasonable and with the town being close to Welland and Niagara Falls there are plenty of career opportunities. It seems Port Colborne on Lake Erie has wiggled it’s way into my mind as being a potential option if I ever did just throw it all in and start over again. And to think, we didn’t even see beach!

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