Road trip around Port Hope's waterfront
WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU? Port Hope's cute beach with a retro feel + a beautiful marsh by the beach.
In a recent column, I wrote about my love for Port Hope and its river. Here is the second part of my infatuation for this pretty municipality, featuring its waterfront.
There's no doubt that the largest, sandiest and most popular beach in the area is Cobourg Beach. But I was surprised to have never heard of East Beach, in Port Hope! Although only one-fifth of the length of Cobourg's main beach, it too has soft sand and a shallow bay for families to enjoy. It is reached by walking along the canal on the east side of Mill South Street.
Impossible to forget that you’re in the heart of the industrial district when you look west, where Cameco Corporation (Canada's only uranium conversion plant) is located. However, all around East Beach, the atmosphere is rather retro with people fishing on the canal, kids in swimsuits lined up in front of the ice cream shop, and the local restaurant with a cottage-like feel overlooking the water. I visited East Beach on a Friday and Sunday and didn't feel the usual excitement of the more touristy beaches.
Crawford's Lakeside Café (125 Mill Street South, open Thursday to Sunday from 8am to 8pm and Monday to Wednesday from 9am to 8pm) serves coffee and a good all-day breakfast menu. The prices are not cheap but the portions are generous and the view from the wrap-around balcony is worth it!
Parking is available nearby, on the quiet streets of Madison and King just off the beach. There is also a parking lot at the foot of King Street, with an old little belvedere from which you can see the bathers who have opted for the more eastern side of the beach.
During our visit, a retired couple, nicely installed in the shade to play backgammon, told me that the current water level allowed us to enjoy this part of the beach, often less accessible when the water is higher. They pointed out an old dilapidated staircase, which we descended carefully, to reach the beach (otherwise very easy to access off King Street).
You can also park a little further up east of King Street, on Caldwell Street, which ends in a traffic circle. It is only now that I realize that I could have walked to the Waterfront Trail from the dead-end! From there, it's a 2km eastbound walk to the mouth of Gage Creek, on a gravel trail lined with long grass and field flowers, with a great view of the lake below.
I discovered three more parking lots on Lake Street (good to know if you can't find a place to park on Caldwell)! To get there, continue on King Street and turn east on Shuter, one street north of Caldwell. Then turn right onto Hope Street. The first parking lot is at the bend where Hope becomes Lake Street. You can also park .9 km down the road in the second municipal lot on the right side of Lake Street, where the road goes north. At the far end of Lake Street, .9 km further on, there is a third parking lot in the dead-end
Marsh Lookout and Gage Creek
I had noticed on Google Map that there was the Alice King Sculthorpe Woodland Marsh (or Marsh Lookout, for those in the know). It seemed like an nice goal to my hike along the Waterfront Trail, but I didn't expect to find myself in such an enchanting setting!
To my left, white swans stood out against the emerald greens of the marsh. To my right, the waves were breaking on the pebbles of the narrow beach, 20 meters away, with the almost turquoise lake in the background. Flowering bushes, cattails and trees lining the pond created perfect chiaroscuro tableaux. Halfway, a small boardwalk leads to a lovely lookout for a better view of the marsh.
The Marsh Lookout is truly accessible, with its well-maintained fine gravel path, less than a 5-minute walk east of the second parking lot and a 20-minute (1.15 km) walk from the parking lot at the foot of Hope Street.
Gage Creek is .5 km east of Marsh Lookout, following the trail through a small forest. If you can park at the far end of Lake Street, it is only a one minute walk to the large creek. The beach here is sandier and wider. A great picnic spot!
While you're there
On the way to Port Hope’s beach, you can't miss Olympus Burger (55 Mill St. South, open Wednesday through Saturday from 11am to 9pm, Sunday and Monday from 11am to 8pm) with its Greek mural and retro sign, almost under the railroad viaduct. It seemed popular on social media, they do indeed serve good combos. And it's good to know that on their website, they have a secret menu of options not listed in the restaurant.
In the spirit of summer indulgences, you then can grab an ice cream cone 200 metres away (take Robertson on the right, south of Olympus). Ice Cream Caravan (10 rue Robertson, open from 11am to 7pm, closed on Mondays) is a food truck disguised as a charming caravan, which also serves fries
If, like me, you love cats but have to go without because you live with someone who is allergic, you'll want to take advantage of this unusual find within a 10-minute walk of Olympus: Toe Beans Cat Café (119 Peter St., open 10am-4pm on weekends and 10am-3pm on weekdays, closed Tuesdays). They charge $5 per person to pet the cats waiting for a new home in their café. We didn't eat there but their menu made us laugh. They serve Espresso Double chat, Catpurrcino, Meowtcha, Breakfast Purrito. Passing through their store on our way out, we couldn't resist the cat's butt cookies (you read well).
By the way, the Happenstance café, whose coffee and croissants I raved about in my first article on Port Hope, has its bakery/roastery just a few steps from Toe Beans, at 135 Peter Street.
Don't have time for a road trip? Nathalie Prézeau is the author of the walking guide: Toronto BEST Urban Strolls, which you can get in bookstore, on amazon.ca and indigo.ca or by contacting the author directly: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can pick up the book at 299 Booth Avenue, the author delivers in Toronto and Canada Post takes care of the other destinations.