Earlier in the year we received an invite to visit Haldimand County in Southwestern Ontario and are so happy we accepted. You may be unfamiliar with its regional name however if you’ve ever visited Caledonia, Cayuga, Dunnville, Hagersville, Jarvis & Selkirk then you’ve been to Haldimand County.
One Saturday morning, we got in our car and headed west for the day to explore the area.
Here’s the video from our fun day trip for our Let’s Discover ON YouTube Channel.
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Our first stop of the day was in Dunnville to snap a pic with Muddy. We looked and acted like such tourists while laughing and snapping selfies with the world’s largest mudcat statue. Watch the video to find out what a ‘mudcat’ is. The town of Dunnville actually has an annual festival dedicated to these large fish every June and they do this because the local river, the Grand River is home to many of these whiskered fish.
Next we headed down the road and around the corner to Minga for a late morning caffeine boost and snack. We learned that Minga serves only fair-trade coffee along with locally sourced organic meals and desserts. It also supports a local community program called D.R.E.A.M. The neat thing about this cafe is that it is a non-for-profit, any revenue they get is put back in to community initiatives.
Stop # 3 was at Byng Island Conservation Area where we canoed along the canal that led into the Grand River. It was such a peaceful and relaxing paddle and a great way to enjoy nature. There are also kayaks and pedal boats available for rent. There’s plenty of great spots for fishing too however if you’d much rather be in the water then there is a MASSIVE swimming pool as well.
We worked up an appetite after our canoeing and driving tour around Byng Island so we headed over to Nanticoke to visit Angela Brown at The Hen House. Thankfully we followed Jane, our local tour guide for the day, because we would have driven right past it. We assumed we were going to a restaurant but it is actually a trailer on Angela’s farm.
Once you arrive you place your order and then take a seat under the gazebo if you want some shade or one of the many picnic tables. You can also walk around and say hello to the horses and chickens or pop into the gift shop while you wait for your order. The food was delicious and totally hit the spot. The portions were generous and the prices were reasonable. The best part about the meal was that all the ingredients were locally sourced so its a true farm-to-table meal!
Next we continued driving from Nanticoke to Cayuga to check out Ruthven Park which is also a National Historic Site. Ruthven was originally home to several generations of the Thompson family whereas today it is an education centre, event venue and a park with a butterfly meadow and walking trails.
Paid tours are available of the old Thompson family home several times a day, but touring the grounds and butterfly meadow is free.
It’s a lovely drive through several country roads to get to Haldimand County.
We heard great things and read the reviews on Twisted Lemon so we just had to taste and experience it for ourselves before we headed home. We started with 2 of their daily special cocktails and they were just what we wanted and needed after a busy day of touring. Laurie Lilliman is the creator of the cocktails at the restaurant, and she is extremely creative with her use of juices, garnishes and even flowers.
The presentation was fantastic so we just had to show you close up shots of our meals. There is something very special about the food philosophy which impacts the ingredients and meals served at Twisted Lemon. Listed to Chef Dan explain this in our video. During the growing season, they actually make good use of their garden behind the restaurant. Yes, this restaurant has it own garden. As Laurie explained, it’s exactly 37 steps from the kitchen to where the produce is being grown. She picks items in the morning and that afternoon/evening, the kitchen staff start cooking with it. It does not get any fresher than that.
Keep In Mind
- The County is spread out so be prepared to do a lot of driving but it’s also mainly flat which makes for great cycling.
- The Hen House is very popular with the campers and cyclists so call ahead to place your order. Don’t forget that there’s a new special every Friday night.
- It’s free to walk around the property at Ruthven Park however there is a fee to tour the Mansion which is rumoured to be haunted. Don’t forget to ask your Tour Guide if he or she has had any encounters with a ghost.
- Reservations are highly recommended for dinner at Twisted Lemon.
Must Do or Try
- #1 of your list must be to snap a pic with Muddy the Mudcat! How can you not? He is after all the world’s tallest mudcat statue.
- Support a worthy cause by buying a cup of coffee and treat at Minga. It’s a socially conscious cafe in Dunnville.
- Bring your appetite when you go to The Hen’s House and you’ll leave beyond full. We highly recommend the burger and pulled pork sandwich. Say hi to the chickens that usually roam around, and the big brown horse whose name is ‘Penny’. Angela asks that guests not feed the animals, they need proper nutrition, not cheesy fries.
- Spend the day at Byng Island Conservation Area. There is so much to see & outdoor activities to do.
- Stay overnight (we wish we did) at the Knight’s Beach Resort.
If you’re planning a weekend getaway, family reunion or a new place to visit on a day trip then we highly recommend Haldimand County. It has everything you need from great scenery to great food, a Great Lake (Lake Erie) and the Grand River. You’ll end up wishing you had more time to spend exploring this area just like us.
Have any photos or videos of your visit that you would like to share with us? Send them over to @LetsDiscoverON.