There are so many amazing things to do in Port Stanley, Ontario, as well as the nearby village of Sparta. Located on the shores of Lake Erie in Elgin County, Port Stanley is one of the cutest small towns in Ontario and an awesome road trip destination. I’m going to show you how to plan an incredible getaway to both Port Stanley and Sparta that you’ll love.
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This trip is great for couples, groups of friends, a girls’ getaway, and families. This Port Stanley travel guide features a versatile itinerary that can be adapted for just about anyone. You’re going to want to plan your trip to Port Stanley ASAP!
Where to Stay in Port Stanley
I spent two nights at The Windjammer Inn, which is a lovely accommodation and restaurant with a fantastic location. You can easily walk down the street to the beach or to the downtown shops. The owner, Kim, will truly make your stay super memorable as she really goes above and beyond to ensure that you have a comfortable visit.
The Windjammer Inn: Carriage House
There are three rooms in the main house and two carriage house rooms. The carriage houses are two separate cottages next to the inn where you’ll have your own little home in Port Stanley. I stayed in Carriage House #1.
The Carriage House suites are perfect for solo travelers or romantic getaways. Just beyond the garden, you’ll notice two cute cottages with their own cozy seating area out front. There’s also a parking space right out front for your car.
Upon entering the Carriage House, you’ll immediately feel the beach vibes through the turquoise walls, the pastel duvet and pillows, and the charming decor (like the painted wooden stork!). There’s air conditioning for when you’re feeling warm and a fireplace for when you’re feeling chilly.
Other room amenities include a flatscreen TV with cable channels and streaming services, a large Jacuzzi tub, and a small collection of books, DVDs, and board games. There’s a small kitchenette with a sink, fridge, microwave, dishware, cutlery, and more. Kim even provided locally roasted coffee, a French press, and some oat creamer for my coffee (knowing that I’m vegan), which was so thoughtful.
The Windjammer Inn does not have online reservations at the moment. You’ll need to call or reserve in person. Check out their website for more details. You can also read more reviews of the Windjammer Inn if you’d like to learn more about the property.
Breakfast at the Windjammer Inn
Breakfast is included with your stay at the Windjammer Inn, and it’s such a treat. Choose a gourmet meal from the menu, and almost everything can be prepared vegan and gluten-free. I enjoyed waffles with fresh fruit one morning, and a fruit and yogurt bowl the following day.
Kim also provided some extra treats before the meal arrived, like vegan scones (with jam and cream), muffins, and oat bites. It’s so wonderful that the Windjammer Inn accommodates so many dietary choices and restrictions, so it’s a great place to dine if you have allergies. It’s fantastic even if you don’t have any dietary preferences, too. You’ll love it!
More Port Stanley Accommodations
Want to see more hotels and vacation rentals in Port Stanley? Here’s a convenient and handy map where you can view all of them easily in one place.
Best Things to Do in Port Stanley, Ontario
There are so many fun things to do in Port Stanley. It’s a surprising amount for such a small town! After all, it’s one of Ontario’s top beach towns. The beach is known for its amazing water quality and expansive powdery sands. There’s lots of delicious food at local restaurants and tons of shopping at local retail businesses.
With two days in Port Stanley, I spent one day in Port Stanley and one day in the village of Sparta. Sparta is only a 15 minute drive from Port Stanley, and you’ll find even more things to see and do there. I’ll split up this itinerary for Port Stanley into two sections: what to do in Port Stanley, Ontario, and what to do in Sparta.
Browse the Shops in Port Stanley
Get your retail therapy on! Port Stanley has lots of unique local small businesses with clothing, things for the home, things for the kitchen, and more. I couldn’t resist picking up a few items at the shops while I was there.
Only a few doors down from The Windjammer Inn, Drift is a one-of-a-kind boutique with beach-inspired décor for the home and cottage. They have products made by local artisans, like Driftwood towel ladders, Black Walnut Charcuterie boards, framed art, dishes, and more. The displays are so pretty. Even though the shop is small, you could spend a long time looking at all of the beautiful things for sale.
James Street Home Decor has just about everything you could think of for your home…and more! They have things for your living room, kitchen, unique gifts, greeting cards, and even things to celebrate the love you have for your cats and dogs. I was particularly taken by all of the drawer knobs as the small touches like these could really transform your home.
Pepper Tree Spice Co is a dream for those who love to cook. They have walls and walls full of spices and spice blends. There are gourmet food products as well, including a lot of tasty eats, condiments, and authentic imported products.
Rent a Bike With Ride Elgin
Want to ride a bike around Port Stanley? Ride Elgin is a really easy way to rent a bike on the spot anytime you like. First, download the Ride Elgin app by Drop Mobility. Then, head to one of four bike racks in Port Stanley (Little Beach, Main Beach, Port Stanley Arena & Community Centre, Port Stanley Visitors Centre).
Using the app, scan the QR code on the bike to unlock it. Then, you can ride around as much as you like. It’s super affordable. It only costs $1.00 to unlock the bike, and then it’s an additional $1.00 per hour that you have the bike.
There are numerous bike trails in Port Stanley and Elgin County. You can see a map of the trails posted when you pick up the bike. I rode my bike all around town, and it was a great way to get to a quiet section of public beach. If you share any photos from your bike rides on social media, be sure to use the hashtag #RideElgin.
Beach Day at Port Stanley Beach or Little Beach
On our list of the 25 best Ontario beaches, both Port Stanley Beach and Little Beach have made the cut. Just as their names suggest, Port Stanley Beach is the main beach in town, while Little Beach is a smaller beach only a short distance away.
Both beaches are easily accessible and you can walk to both of them from downtown Port Stanley. They both offer a different vibe. The main Port Stanley beach is a much larger beach near some shops and restaurants right off the beach. There’s also a lifeguard on duty during the day, and washrooms/changerooms are close by.
Little Beach still gets busy, but it is a smaller beach that’s a bit quieter. As it’s located in a small cove, the waters are less wavy and more protected. There are some shops and restaurants a short walking distance away.
There’s ample parking next to both beaches, which is really convenient. Both Port Stanley’s Main Beach and Little Beach are certified as Blue Flag Beaches, one of the top designations for clean water and high environmental standards.
Visit the Train Station or Take a Train Ride
Did you know that Port Stanley has a fully operating tourist train? Port Stanley Terminal Rail has a historic train ride that travels on a section of the former London & Port Stanley Railway, established in 1856. These train rides have operated for over 35 years and it’s the longest running attraction in the region.
There are lots of daily train rides and special events. While I didn’t take a train ride this time around, I wandered around the train station to see the sights. There’s also an old jail cell on display from the original Port Stanley Town Jail (circa 1877).
Wander Around Port Stanley
I highly recommend simply wandering around Port Stanley to soak up the beautiful scenery around the marina and harbour. There are so many little details around town that makes Port Stanley a special place. There are works of public art and idyllic little gardens.
You’ll walk across the King George VI Lift Bridge, a vehicle and pedestrian bridge, that crosses over Kettle Creek. It was constructed in 1938 and recently underwent another series of renovations. It is the oldest bridge of its kind in Ontario (a bascule bridge) that can even be raised and lowered manually in the case of an emergency. When the bridge opens, boats can travel between Kettle Creek and Lake Erie.
You can also walk or ride your bike down the lengthy pier to the Port Stanley Breakwater Lighthouse, a heritage lighthouse. The pier only reopened in 2015 after being closed for quite some time. It’s a great place to view the sunrise and the sunset, too.
Things to Do in Sparta, Ontario
When you visit Port Stanley, you have another quaint village right next door to visit: Sparta! I suggest making a base for a couple of nights in Port Stanley and making the trip to Sparta. The village of Sparta is a 15 minute drive from Port Stanley, and you can see all of the sights in an afternoon.
For day two of my trip to Elgin County, I ventured over to Sparta. For such a small place, there’s really a lot of interesting things to see and do.
Steed & Company Lavender Farm
Visiting Steed & Company Lavender Farm is a serene experience for the senses. Wander around this lavender farm to witness bright bursts of purple, delicate flowers. Not only that, but the flower fields smell amazing! Steed and Company is southwestern Ontario’s oldest lavender farm, and they have approximately 10,000 plants.
The lavender farm is part of a 45 acre horse farm, hence the name “Steed & Co”. It’s at the edge of protected Carolinian forest, so the farm is situated in such a beautiful location. I visited in the middle of July, and the blooms were at the end of the season.
I suggest visiting this lavender farm between the middle of June and the middle of July for an optimal experience and the best photos. The end of June is probably the most perfect time to go, but the farm still looked beautiful while I was there.
You can go for a stroll around the lavender farm and snap some photos in the fields. Steed and Company Lavender Farm also creates fabulous lavender products, including bath and body items, culinary items, and things for the home. If you aren’t able to visit in person, you can browse their online shop. They ship across Canada.
Quai du Vin Estate Winery
Quai du Vin Estate Winery features wine made from 100% Ontario grown grapes, and they own 17 acres of grapes. They’re the oldest winery in Elgin County. The vineyards were planted starting in 1970 and the winery opened in 1990. The property is stunning and the wine is delicious.
I enjoyed a little wine tasting at Quai du Vin where I got to sample a vast array of different wines. There’s something for every preference and taste. I thoroughly enjoyed the Rosé “Out of Chaos” (aptly named, from 2020), and I couldn’t resist picking up a bottle of one of their fruit wines (the strawberry blush).
You can visit Quai du Vin Estate Winery for a tasting or you can spend more time at the property. It’s possible to sip wine by the vineyards as there’s a huge patio out back with tons of shaded picnic tables. You can even bring your own snacks or a picnic lunch. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon with your friends or a date idea for couples.
Shop Local in Sparta
Just as in Port Stanley, there are many lovely shops in Sparta that are truly one-of-a-kind. Sparta Country Candles is most famous for their fragrant candles, but this shop has all kinds of things for the home and garden.
There are two floors full of merchandise and even more items out on their front patio. You could easily spend at least an hour here, browsing all of the rooms. The candles smell absolutely amazing, and they come in all sorts of different scents.
I bought a cute little hedgehog planter for a little aloe plant that I have (I thought that plant would look cute in it, as it’s got some spikes!).
I also popped into another shop across the street, Bear Friend Factory and the Whistle Stop Peddlers. This store carries a collection of products made by 35+ local Elgin County crafters and artisans. There are so many wonderful things here that you won’t find anywhere else. I couldn’t resist picking up a turquoise bird house!
The Village Collective is another store in Sparta that I’d love to check out. It was closed when I visited Sparta, but it’s open every weekend. I’ll have to return to browse another shop that features products by local artists and artisans.
Sip Tea at the Sparta House Tearoom
The Sparta House Tearoom is a cute place to enjoy a cup of tea. It was quite warm outside, so I ordered a glass of iced tea that perfectly hit the spot. I sat on the patio beneath a shady umbrella and savored my sweet tea.
You can also book an afternoon tea experience, although please note that they don’t have any vegan food options.
Go for a Hike at Yarmouth Natural Heritage Area
There’s a quiet, lesser known place to go for a walk in Sparta. Yarmouth Natural Heritage Area has a few flat, easy trails to go for a stroll in the great outdoors. I was fortunate to have the whole place to myself on a weekday afternoon.
The Kebbel Wetland Trail is the path that you need to walk at Yarmouth Natural Heritage Area. It encircles a gorgeous wetland with several wooden boardwalk lookout points. The pond is covered in lily pads, making it quite picturesque.
You might spot some birds and wildlife here, too. In fact, 179 species of birds have been spotted at Yarmouth Natural Heritage Area, according to eBird!
Best Restaurants in Port Stanley
I mentioned earlier that there are so many fantastic Port Stanley restaurants with memorable dining experiences. While I had breakfast each morning at the Windjammer Inn, I enjoyed lunch and dinner at the following restaurants. I managed to fit in a coffee break one day, as well as a sweet treat after dinner.
I dined at Two Forks for dinner on my first evening in Port Stanley. I immediately fell in love with their pretty patio that’s a peaceful oasis off the main street in town. The service here is great as my server was attentive and helpful.
I paired a local craft beer with the “Fancy Fried Rice” made vegan by removing the egg. This dish was full of flavor and it had the perfect amount of spice. Some diners at a neighboring table asked what I ordered because the meal looked so pretty on the plate!
The Art and Soul Cafe
The Art & Soul Cafe is a cozy cafe where beautiful artwork covers every space of the walls. I dined out on their little front patio and enjoyed the Asian Noodle Slaw for lunch. It’s a really tasty light meal, perfect on a hot, summer day.
SoLo on Main
SoLo on Main takes pride in using fresh, locally sourced ingredients to create memorable dishes from scratch. There are a few vegan-friendly options on the menu. I ordered the buffalo cauliflower wrap with fries. My server claimed that their French fries are the “absolute best”, and she wasn’t wrong! The wrap was really yummy, too, and I devoured every last bite.
Village Square Coffee House
In need of some caffeine? Stop by the Village Square Coffee House. They have a convenient “walk-up” window to place your order. I ordered an iced coffee with oat milk, and a slice of their vegan banana bread. The banana bread has chocolate chips, too. It was such a large portion that I was able to save half of it for later!
Licks Ice Cream & Milkshake Bar
Licks Ice Cream & Milkshake Bar has a couple of vegan options, including a vegan iced coffee sorbet. It tasted like an ice cream version of an iced cappuccino. Yum. I love seeing more dairy-free and plant-based options pop up in unexpected places!
More Places to Visit in Ontario’s Southwest
Southwest Ontario is an incredible area of our province with so many cities, small towns, and villages to explore. I’ve taken many trips to Ontario’s Southwest and I’m just getting started. Here are some more ideas and itineraries for southwestern Ontario:
- Things to Do in Grand Bend, a Cute Beach Town
- Pinery Provincial Park and Grand Bend in the Winter
- Surprising Gems in Otterville and Tillsonburg (Oxford County)
- Eco-Friendly Things to do in Woodstock, Ontario (Oxford County)
- Best Things to Do in London, Ontario
- Unique Things to Do in Windsor, Ontario
- Long Point Eco Adventures: Zip Line Tour and Luxury Glamping