I really didn’t know what to expect from my trip to Windsor. On road trips as a kid, I remember always driving through Windsor on our way to the USA, but we never stopped on the way. Windsor is known for its manufacturing and industrial heritage, and it’s called the “Automotive Capital of Canada”. So, would I be able to find unique things to do in Windsor Ontario that fit my interests? Is eco-friendly even possible in the country’s historic car capital?
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Windsor is a city that will truly surprise you. Everyone that I met was really proud to call Windsor home. I could really feel the community vibes through every place I visited. It seemed as though everyone knew one another, even in a city of 200,000. There’s a lively vegan scene that even has its own VegFest (I sadly had just missed it). So, what are some places to visit in Windsor if you love outdoor adventures and eco-friendly activities? Here are my top five choices for a fun and memorable weekend in Windsor.
Spend the Night on a Sailboat (the Boatel)
I got to check an item off my bucket list in Windsor, Ontario: spending the night on my own private sailboat. You can book your stay at the “Boatel” through Airbnb (if you’re new to Airbnb, you can sign up through this link to receive an awesome discount!).
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This 27-foot sailboat is aptly named, “Take-A-Chance”, and it seems rather fitting. I’m always taking chances on new opportunities as I find myself saying “yes” to adventures as much as possible. You’ll certainly have experiences at the Windsor boatel that you won’t have anywhere else. It’s certainly one of the best things to do in Windsor Ontario, and one of the most unique places to stay in the country.
The sailboat is owned by Chris and Danielle, an energetic couple who also own Urban Surf, an outdoor adventure company. Urban Surf is just steps from the boat, so you’ll easily be able to take advantage of the rentals, excursions, and classes at Urban Surf, if you choose. More on that shortly.
What It’s Like to Stay on a Boat
Back to the boat itself, you’ll feel right at home in this docked boat in the marina at East Pike Creek. In fact, I got to chatting with several local homeowners/boat owners, as they wondered what the experience was like staying in a rented boat hotel. If you’re expecting a luxurious, five star hotel, look elsewhere. However, what you’ll find here is an experience like no other.
The interior of the boat is decked out with bright decor and colorful throw pillows. There’s a bohemian, artsy vibe, complete with its own coloring book and crayons should you wish to relax and create some art of your own. I loved the little, thoughtful touches on the boat. There’s an air diffuser with essential oils, and a Fuji Instax Camera with a journal so you can leave a photo behind to memorialize your stay.
Amenities on Board
There’s a boat toilet on board, in case nature calls. However, it’s easiest and best if you walk up the block to Urban Surf to use their restroom facilities. While there aren’t modern amenities like Wi-Fi or air conditioning on the boat, there are several fans and a little port to open above your bed so you can gaze up at the sky. Even on the hottest days (and boy, was it hot when I visited!), it gets quite cool at night between the screen door and the fans. You will need the blankets that they provide!
The boatel has a cedar, outdoor shower, as well as a private deck with a bonfire and a picnic table. There’s ample space on the back of the boat to sit with your partner or your pals. While the boat ideally sleeps one or two people, families of four have stayed on the boat in the past.
An Eco-Friendly Accommodation Experience
It’s a fabulous opportunity to unplug, enjoy nature, and gaze up at the night sky. I saw so much wildlife sitting on the back of the boat. As paddle boarders drifted by, families of geese and swans paddled around the water, too (the baby swans were adorable!). When I was taking photos, I heard a little commotion in the water. I looked down and there he was: a little otter with a fish in his mouth, doing a mad doggy-paddle right past my boat. I didn’t even know that otters lived in our Ontario lakes!
Your stay includes two rentals: stand up paddle boards (SUP), kayaks, or canoes, so you can get out there and enjoy the lake. You’ll also receive a smoothie per person from Maverick’s Cold Bar (at Urban Surf), as well as complimentary bike rentals. It’s only fitting that an eco-friendly accommodation also offers adventures that are equally as kind to the environment.
I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at this sailboat in Tecumseh (Windsor), Ontario. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind accommodation, and I’d take that over a run of the mill hotel when given the opportunity. Spending the night on a sailboat was one of my favorite things to do in Windsor Ontario. I loved very calmly drifting back and forth as I fell asleep at night. It was so quiet and peaceful out there. Book your stay on the boat today, and don’t forget my savings link for new Airbnb members!
Take a Sunset SUP Tour
Right on the edge of Lake St. Clair, it’s easy to enjoy water activities in Windsor. Every day in the summer, Urban Surf offers a Sunset Paddle at 7:30pm from Pike Creek to Lake St. Clair. They’ll get you outfitted with a stand-up paddle board and they’ll also let you borrow a waterproof bag for your phone throughout your journey. It’s certainly a good idea, just in case you fall in the water!
The sunset paddle is great for people of all ages and abilities, even if you’ve never tried SUP before. The creek is extremely calm, and you can paddle at your own pace. Two guides will paddle out to the lake with you, so you can always ask them for tips and advice on the way. It’s fun for families, friends, couples, and even those traveling solo, like myself.
Once you reach the lake, the water gets slightly more choppy. And there really aren’t many waves at all. Our group paddled out to the lake to watch the sunset together. At this point, feel free to sit down on your paddle board and relax. It’s all about soaking up the beautiful surroundings as you watch the sun go down. There’s nothing like taking in the views of an unobstructed, gorgeous sunset.
We paddled back before the sun went completely down, as it was best to have some daylight left as we navigated our way back. The sky was awash in pink, red, and purple. It was a calm and peaceful paddle back to land. After your paddle, why not try a treat at Maverick’s Cold Bar? They’ve got vegan ice cream and other snacks!
Urban Surf also has other special events in addition to their nightly sunset paddles. You can register for “Boards & Brews” to enjoy paddling, beer, and a bonfire at night. There’s also the “Light up the Night” event, which begins with a bonfire and continues with a moonlight paddle (spoiler alert: glow sticks are involved!). No matter what time of day you try it, a SUP trip is one of the best things to do in Windsor Ontario.
Go Cycling on Bike Friendly Paths
A bike ride along Lake St. Clair is one of the perfect Windsor activities in the spring, summer and fall. If you’re looking for what to do in Windsor, add bike riding to your list. Don’t have your own bike with you? You can rent a cruiser bike or even an electric bike at Urban Surf. I was thinking about taking the electric bike out for a spin. But, with thunderstorm clouds looming ahead, I decided it might be a bad idea to ride one of these for the first time through the rain. So, I opted for a cruiser bike instead.
On your bike ride in Tecumseh from Urban Surf, you can catch glimpses of spectacular estate homes, panoramic lake vistas, and hidden lighthouses. Enjoy the green spaces around the region as you bike along the trails, encountering small parks and even a sandy beach. Exploring the city by bike is one of the best things to do in Windsor Ontario.
Tip: If You Get Hungry
From Urban Surf, you can ride your bike along the paths for 15-20 minutes before reaching Healthy Mama. They’ve got smoothie bowls and healthy eats: the perfect fuel for your journey. Continue reading to check out the best vegan eats in Windsor!
With miles of trails and paths to explore, be sure to check out the Cycling Tourism Map on the official TWEPI website. There are six highlighted routes throughout the region, with gorgeous lakeside trails in Tecumseh and the Windsor Riverfront Trail in the city. There’s nothing like taking your bike out for a spin, feeling the wind in your hair without a care in the world. Whether you decide to ride an electric bike or a regular bike, cycling is one of the great things to do in Windsor Ontario.
Indulge in a Little Self Care
Now that you’ve embarked on cycling and SUP adventures, it’s time to relax and take care of yourself. Enter ShopEco. It’s an independent retail store with two locations in Windsor, focusing on clean and sustainable beauty products. I visited their location in Tecumseh and was immediately greeted by their knowledgeable staff.
Alright, I’m going to get real with you for a moment. Time flies and I’m not fresh out of college anymore. I’ve recently entered my late thirties, and I hadn’t given much thought to developing a skincare routine (aside from applying makeup before I go out, and removing it when I got home). I think it’s about time to start taking care of my skin properly.
Shop Local in Windsor
ShopEco specializes in local, Canadian products, which use the best ingredients that are also kind to the environment. The staff at ShopEco helped me develop my own skincare routine that will restore and rejuvenate my skin. Most of their products are also vegan, and they’re all cruelty-free and not tested on animals.
Shopping for beauty and skincare items can sometimes be overwhelming. There’s such a massive variety of products, and you don’t know which ones are actually good for your skin. There’s really so much marketing and you might be throwing your money away on products that don’t work, test on animals, or contain harmful chemicals and carcinogens.
You don’t need to worry about any of that when you visit ShopEco. Their staff will choose products that work perfectly with your skin type, and they only sell eco-friendly, clean beauty brands. The entire experience was relaxing, enjoyable, and one of the best things to do in Windsor. There’s such a peaceful and calming atmosphere in their retail store. So, indulge a little! As their sign says, “Self care isn’t selfish” and there’s nothing wrong with taking care of yourself.
Eat as Much Delicious Vegan Food as You Can
When you travel, do you plan your activities first, or do you plan the activities around your meals? One of my favorite things to do in Windsor Ontario was simply to eat all of the yummy food. I traveled a few hours away from home for the Windsor attractions that I mentioned above, but also for the amazing vegan food scene. Windsor has quite a few plant-based eateries or restaurants with vegan options. I was ready to sample as many of them as possible during my stay. Here are my recommendations for vegan food in Windsor.
Nooch is a vegan restaurant in Windsor offering comfort food that both omnivores and vegans will love. They’ve got all of your favorite meals made from plants. You’ll find items on the menu like Buffalo bites (made from seitan), jackfruit tacos, poutine, caesar kale salad, a Reuben sandwich, and a Philly cheesesteak.
I opted to try the Detroiter hot dog (which really pleased one of my friends who lives just across the border in Michigan). It’s a Field Roast frankfurter topped with the most delicious chili ever. Then, there are mustard and onions on top of the chili. It was served with a mountain of fries. Seriously, I don’t think any more fries could fit on my plate!
They also have tons of desserts (I went away with a slice of their famous carrot cake), so you’ll have to save a little bit of room for something sweet.
Carrots n’ Dates
Carrots n’ Dates specializes in wholesome, gluten-free and plant-based food made with the freshest ingredients. Established in 2012, they now have two restaurants serving the Windsor area. I visited their location in Tecumseh, which also happened to have live music when I visited on a Friday evening. That was a lovely touch!
You’ll find healthy and delicious vegan meals here, like salads, soups, bowls, and burgers. It was really difficult to choose just one menu item for dinner as everything sounded so yummy. I tried the Buddha Bowl: warm brown rice, greens, grilled smoked tofu, red peppers, carrots, cucumber, sesame, and tahini dressing. Paired with a kombucha, it was absolutely delicious. I happily munched on my tasty Buddha Bowl while listening to live music in front of a colorful mural wall. It was blissful!
Healthy Mama is a relaxed, plant-based and gluten-free bistro in Tecumseh, Ontario. They’re also a small retail shop with many frozen meals, grab and go items, and interesting packaged foods that I hadn’t seen before. Everything is vegan and gluten-free, which certainly makes my dining and shopping experience a breeze because I can eat anything on the menu!
This restaurant and shop has such a warm and welcoming vibe from the staff. You’ll certainly feel right at home here, as I could tell that this establishment has many repeat guests. There’s a wonderful patio outdoors, perfect for warm, summer days. I visited Healthy Mama for breakfast, and couldn’t resist trying one of their smoothie bowls. I chose the Pink Pitaya Smoothie Bowl, basically for the fact that it was pink, but it also happened to be satisfying and delicious.
I’d love to return someday for lunch or dinner to try more dishes. Spicy sushi bowl, Crab Cake Po’ Boy, Mexi-Mac N Cheese? Yes, please! I feel like I’ll have many tough decisions ahead of me.
Thyme Kitchen is a chef driven restaurant, inspired by local ingredients, in the heart of Windsor. While they aren’t exclusively vegan or vegetarian, they do have plenty of options for those following vegan or gluten-free diets. It’s the perfect spot for weekend brunch, and I actually had a difficult time choosing which vegan meal to order.
I asked the staff for their recommendations, and they informed me that the Tofu Crunch Wrap was one of their most popular items. I was definitely not disappointed with this choice. The ingredients included: brown rice, tofu, tomato, avocado, peppers, spinach, vegan cheese, and crunchy tostada, wrapped inside a wheat tortilla. It was paired with a delightful chipotle aioli, as well as two sides of your choice (I selected potato hash and the pineapple coleslaw).
If I could eat this everyday for breakfast or lunch, I’d be so happy! The combination of the fillings with the crunchiness of the tostada, dipped in the chipotle aioli was absolutely divine. The side dishes were super yummy, too!
BONUS: Get Your Name Spelled in Donuts
Plant Joy also belongs in the vegan section of this article, but I thought it deserved some special attention. Yes, you can actually get your name (or any word or phrase, really) spelled out in DONUTS!
Plant Joy is the first vegan doughnut shop in Windsor. Its storefront only opened three weeks prior to my visit, though its owner started making donuts in April 2018. Jordynne couldn’t find a vegan doughnut in Windsor, so she decided to make her own. Plant Joy was born, and the city clearly cannot get enough. When I visited Plant Joy, there were an endless stream of customers, looking for their donut fix.
Plant Joy has many flavors of donuts. Some of them are around all the time, and some are seasonal. I was overjoyed that Jordynne spelled my name out of donuts! Not only did it look super adorable, but it also meant that I got to eat six doughnuts. I tried lemon lavender, chocolate, cinnamon sugar, strawberries & cream, raspberry, and vanilla frosted. It was hard to choose a favorite, but I think I’d have to go with the strawberries and cream. Yum!
You’ve simply gotta try these award-winning donuts. They’re light, fluffy, flavorful, and almost the size of my head, I kid you not. Plant Joy uses fair-trade, organic, and locally sourced ingredients wherever possible. When you travel to Windsor, you must stop by Plant Joy for one…two…or however many doughnuts you’d like. Surprise your loved ones by spelling out their name in doughnuts. It really brought so much joy to my life to see my name in donuts!
I had a comfortable and relaxing journey from Toronto to Windsor aboard VIA Rail Canada. Their trains travel from Toronto’s Union Station to Windsor. It’s definitely less stressful and more eco-friendly than driving down to Windsor on your own.
VIA Rail: Business Class
I was fortunate enough to experience Business Class travel on VIA Rail between Toronto and Windsor. As I arrived a little bit early to Union Station, I took advantage of the Business Class Lounge. Help yourself to complimentary coffee and beverages before your trip. Sit back and relax with free Wi-Fi in their spacious lounge area. When it’s time to board the train, someone at the front desk will announce it over the speaker. Then, when you walk down to the boarding area, you’re able to skip the line and board first.
On the train, I enjoyed a luxurious experience in their spacious and comfortable seats. As I wanted to work on my laptop computer, I sat at a large table and spread out all of my work and belongings. There’s free Wi-Fi on board, as well as places to plug in and charge your devices.
Business Class comes with a complimentary meal, which was breakfast in my case. I didn’t request a vegan meal ahead of time, though they can accommodate this request. Thankfully, they were able to cobble together a vegan breakfast without any difficulties: fresh fruit and a bagel with jam. Coffee was continually flowing while I was on board, too. All in all, I had a safe and relaxing trip with VIA Rail Canada, and I highly recommend that you choose the train for your adventures.
When I arrived at the train station in Windsor, a representative from Enterprise Rent-A-Car picked me up. It’s nice that they offer this service. You don’t need to worry about how you’ll get to the rental car office when you arrive in the city. We went to their office to sign a few papers, and then I took off in one of their vehicles for the duration of my trip. Renting a car with Enterprise was so easy, and the car was practically brand new.
I do recommend renting a car, as you might find that your favorite Windsor attractions are across town from one another. It’s also wonderful to have a car, especially in those situations where you accumulate bags and boxes with all of the goodies you found shopping in Windsor.
If you’re looking for a weekend getaway in southern Ontario, Windsor needs to be on your radar. Using the Via Rail, it’s easy to get to Windsor from Toronto or any other city in Ontario. There are so many things to do in Windsor Ontario, especially for those who love outdoor adventures, eco-friendly activities, and delicious vegan eats. I know I only scraped the surface of what Windsor has to offer, and I’d love to explore the city even more in the future.
Thank you so much to Ontario’s Southwest and Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island for hosting my visit. This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.