What most people in Windsor and Essex County have experienced through extended lockdowns is the general state of affairs on Pelee Island. No big box stores, gyms or nail salons are closed because none have ever been opened. There are no little leagues or soccer pitches to shut down.
Obtaining supplies is always a challenge on a remote island, often requiring planning weeks in advance. The minor inconveniences with ordering online and scheduling pick-up times that many mainlanders are frustrated with is what most islanders are used to.
The pandemic has forced just about everyone unto their own private islands and Pelee Islanders are fairly well equipped for it.
To commit to full-time living on the Island means committing to a slightly minimalist lifestyle on purpose. The most recent extension of the stay-at-home order has pushed the boundaries of simple living on Pelee Island even further.
Owen Sound Transportation Company is currently running the smaller Pelee Islander (1) which under COVID-19 restrictions has capacity of just nine vehicles and significantly reduced walk-on traveller allowance. This vessel is generally designated for the limited essential transportation of property owners during the stay-at-home order, though that guideline is self-policing.
People who need to cross the lake for essential purposes are competing for precious few spaces with non-essential travelers. The MS Chi-Cheemaun to Manitoulin Island, also operated by Owen Sound Transportation Company, has cancelled all sailings until further notice.
The larger Pelee Islander II runs mid-week and is meant to move essential commercial vehicles for essential purposes. The larger ferry is better able to accommodate visitors and part-time residents and it is set to sail under continued capacity restrictions June 7 after the provincewide stay-at-home order is lifted.
Pelee Island drew a relatively strong volume of visitors into October during a shortened 2020 tourism season despite reduced ferry capacity. As the province turns its attention toward homegrown tourism, the 2021 season looks the same; with vehicle reservations on some long-weekend sailings to Pelee Island already full.
“As the province’s framework for re-opening underscores, we are focusing on hyper-local tourism, according to provincial guidelines, that are centered around outdoor adventure. As this will be summer of the staycation we ask that you become hometown tourists and when it is safe to do so, support local,”says Gordon Orr, CEO of Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island.
If you consider short-term travel to Pelee Island this summer, consider carpooling or leave the car at home and opt for active transportation. Plan well in advance and do your research before you head to the ferry terminal.
What’s Open on Pelee?
– Select short-term stay accommodations (Airbnb, cottages) continue to remain available.
– Scudder Marina remains closed with select essential travel exceptions and municipal approval until June 3.
– East Park Campground remains closed until June 3.
– Pelee Art Works will reopen with restrictions June 14.
– Pelee Island Co-op is open with capacity restrictions and limited hours.
– Down the Lane Boutique is open for curbside pick up.
All details are based on information available at time of writing, and subject to change. Visit What’s Open for more information.
To help plan your STAYcation:
A Pelee Staycation
Cathy + Kevin Miller
The Wandering Dog Inn
1060 East West Rd. Pelee Island
Photos by Cathy Miller