Sharing Childhood Memories & Making New Ones at Port Dover

Sharing Childhood Memories & Making New Ones at Port Dover

Summer Holidays during my childhood were all about playing outside with my siblings and friends. "Screen Time" wasn't a term I had ever heard; we rarely watched movies at home as kids and we didn't even have a computer until I was a teenager (smart phones and tablets didn't even exist)! Childhood summers are different for my kids, but I'm doing my best to limit screen time and expose them to the same kind of outside fun and freedom that I experienced as a kid.

Last week, Ken took a day off from writing his thesis and we all went to the beach! A couple of other families met us there and we had a great day together. This was particularly fun for me because we went to Port Dover where I remember going with my family when I was little. It brought back so many great memories.

I began feeling very nostalgic the moment we arrived in Port Dover. Driving through town and seeing all of the fun shops was exciting and I couldn't wait to show it all to my girls! I remember Willie's and getting ice cream after a long day at the beach!

I remember The Arbor, and their huge retro billboard sign, and I recall a friend of mine raving about "Arbor Dogs" and how amazing their hot dogs were when I was a teenager.

We loved golfing at Arbortown Mini Golf and taking photos of us posing in ridiculous ways in front of the props decorating different holes. And it's still there!

We would travel to Port Dover as a teenager. I had decided that my legs were too white and since I had such an inability to tan, I would just skip the sunscreen. I laid on my stomach for way too long that day and remember having to perch on the end of my chair for days and days afterward because of my sunburn. That's one memory that I share with my kids just to help them rememeber to wear sunscreen.

During our trip this year, we found a paid parking lot very close to the beach (just across from Willie's) as well as free 2-hour parking on the street right next to the beach. There is also unlimited free parking on the street a block away from the beach, so there are lots of options available.

Ken dropped us off right at the beach so we could get started setting up for the day while he parked the car. We found ourselves a place to set up our blankets and chairs and started inflating boats and other water toys.  The girls thought it was pretty cool that there were real palm trees on the beach.

Another source of excitement were the waves at Port Dover. The kids stood on the shore, jumping over them and waded out in the water with a bodyboard to ride them. We took them out for rides in the inflatable boat hunting for the biggest waves, and we all loved it. When we were out in the water with the girls, I could remember doing similar things as a kid with my family. It's so fun to share those experiences with my own kids now!

The experience at the beach as a parent is a little different. We spent time sitting on chairs, chatting with each other and watching our kids play (always ready to leap to action when someone got sad or needed help).

I joined in for a little sand construction and watched as the kids made mermaid tails for themselves out of sand (just like I had taught them, from when I was a kid!).

Something we didn't have when we were little was inflatable boats and bodyboards. We borrowed some from Ken's parents and the kids had a marvelous time with them. In the photo below, you can see Katrina enjoying the same things we did as kids: finding sea shells and collecting seaweed.

When we'd finally had enough time in the sun, we gathered our belongings and packed up our car. We weren't ready to leave just yet, though - we had to get ice cream from good ol' Willie's in order to have the "full experience".

A trip to Port Dover wouldn't be complete without a stroll out to the Lighthouse. By this time, the clouds had begun to roll in and we were starting to feel rain, but it was a beautiful view from the lighthouse. We ran all the way back to the car and bid Port Dover farewell, but we'll definitely be back. There's so much to do in Port Dover, we couldn't get it all in with just one visit. Hopefully next time we can give them the Arbortown Mini Golf experience, too.

Port Dover is just one of many Ontario beach destinations. Check out for other great beach locations, tips, tools, and special offers (for hotels, restaurants and attractions).

Do you have a favourite beach to visit for your summer beach days? 
Any tips for making the best of a family beach day?
I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

If you're planning your trip to the beach and looking for more tips & tricks, click over to my post on How to Make the Best of Your Family Beach Trip!

Best Beach Adventure Contest!

How would you and your family like to have a splashing good time at the beach?

Ontario’s Southwest features some of the best beaches in the world and now they want one family to get their beach on in the “Best Beach Adventure” contest.

You’ll be able to play all day and night on Lake Huron in this three-day getaway for four, filled with fun-in-the-sun, wakeboarding adventures, and delicious meals. It’s a prize valued at $2,000.

Seas the day and enter now. Contest ends September 1st!

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  1. This looks like such a fun day! I just had to google how far Port Dover is from me to see if we should make a beach trip! The waves and palm trees are awesome!

    1. I agree! I had forgotten about the palm trees before we went back!

  2. This trip to Port Dover looked amazing! I'm so happy your have a wonderful trip. Picnics make our days at the beach so much fun. They are a must every time we go!

    1. It was really fun. :) Yes, we love to bring a cooler full of snacks & sandwiches!

  3. We love Port Burwell. There is a free beach but we usually pay to go into Port Burwell provincial park. Great beach and it is shallow out so far too - great for the kids. We pack a cooler so we can picnic at lunchtime and we finish our day with a visit to Simply Scoops in town for ice cream before heading home.

    1. Sounds like fun :) I hadn't heard of Port Burwell- I'll have to look it up!

  4. Oh the boys have been asking to go to the beach, but we haven't picked where we are going yet. This looks like a great option. Port Dover is within day trip range of Toronto for sure.

  5. Beautiful photos, what a fun trip! Looks like you all had a wonderful time.

  6. I have never been to Port Dover but it looks like a fun place to visit! Have pinned it to my "Ontario" page so we can check it out on our next trip there.

  7. So much fun!! There are so many great beaches around SW Ontario. I have never even been to Port Dover. You have convinced me we need to go. I have been to a lot of the other beaches around us. Now you are reminding me that I need to take a day soon to take the kids to the beach again. Summer is far too short.

  8. I don't think I've ever been to Port Dover!!! Time to change that! :)

  9. Wow! It looks fabulous. I've never been to Port Dover but adding it to my list. What a family friendly beach!

  10. What a lovely vacation retreat with the waves and the scenery.


Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment- I love reading them! :)
~Heather Lynne

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