Bayfield, a small historic village on the shore
of Lake Huron, combines the old fashioned charm of a quaint country
town with modern day
amenities. MacLean's Magazine described Bayfield as "Paradise Found",
while Harrowsmith Country Life magazine votes Bayfield "one of the 10
prettiest towns in Canada".
For well over a century, Bayfield has been a favourite destination for
travelers and holidayers. Arriving by water or land, visitors continue
to be attracted by the beautiful scenery, fine sandy beaches, four
seasons of outdoor sports, excellent shopping, dining and accommodations.
Having briefly visited Bayfield a couple of years previous, we decided to
revisit the area for a longer stay and try a new experience at the same
time - staying in our first bed and breakfast. We planned our trip around
the Labour Day weekend, arriving early Sunday afternoon. First stop, Pioneer
Park overlooking the beaches of Lake Huron. Neither the park nor the
beaches were overly busy.
Plush Golden Sandy Beach
From Pioneer Park we descend the five flights of wooden stairs to the nearly
empty beach below. The sand is golden, plush and very clean. A couple
hundred feet offshore, there appears to be a large rock jutting out of the
water. On closer look, it's actually the bow of an old sunken ship. I imagine
this must be a popular destination for scuba divers. This IS a lovely beach.
Off in the distance, a few families are enjoying the warm waves lapping over
the edge of the beach. Small kids run in and out of the water. A few people
are sunbathing. There are virtually miles of beach shoreline and it amazes
me that there are so few people here. Though the water is a huge attraction
in Bayfield, it seems few come here to actually swim in the water. In fact,
we forgot to pack our own bathing suits. Nonetheless, Carole, my wife, takes
off her shoes and strolls along the water's edge as we make our way to the
Best Kept Secret
Here, at the marina, we get an inkling of why Bayfield is so popular.
Lights Marina, located on the north side of Bayfield river, is known locally
as the best kept secret on Lake Huron with it's beautiful sunsets, sandy
beaches and private, grassy docking areas. There are actually two marinas
here, the private Habour Lights Marina on the north side of Bayfield River,
and the larger, public Bayfield Marina on the south side of the river. Bayfield
Marina is the largest pleasure craft harbour on the Canadian side of Lake Huron.
This is the main access point for the many Americans that visit each year.
The harbour is busy. Boats of every size and description continually come and
go. Sea-doos race around the beach. And sailors socialize with each other,
particularly in the more private sections of Habour Lights. At the end of
the dock, the older locals relax with a fishing rod while some kids dive
into the water on the beach side.
At the end of the dock we stop awhile and watch the activity. Looks like
everyone is having great fun. Makes me kind of wish I didn't care about
how old I was so I could join them. But common sense prevails and we just
wander down to the docks to check out the luxury yachts like we could
actually afford one ourselves.
Once back in the Jeep, we head for the center of town, Clan Gregor Square and
Main Street. Bayfield has the rare distinction for being one of the few
Ontario towns actually built according to a formal plan. Guelph and Goderich
are the only other two. The village is built around Clan Gregor Square, now
a beautiful shaded park, from which the streets radiate like the spokes of
Under a Canopy of Mature Shade Trees
One of these spokes is Heritage Main Street, a broad boulevard connecting
the square with the harbour. The street is lined with historic buildings,
like The Albion Hotel and The Little Inn, restored to their Victorian elegance.
Under a canopy of mature shade trees, holidayers stroll the boulevard, shop
or browse the many trendy stores, dine in fine restaurants or sip a drink on
the patio of a historic pub. Not surprisingly, Main Street is always busy.
Bayfield's history began in the 1830s when Baron de Tuyll, on the advise of a
young Royal Navy lieutenant named Henry Wolsey Bayfield, purchased 3,000 acres
along the Huron Tract. The area seemed like a natural centre for future
commerce, but the harbour wasn't a commercial success and the railway never
came. Bayfield was incorporated as a village in 1876, but lost its village
status in 1927, reverting to a police village in Stanley Township. Not until
1965 did it again regain its village status. Since then it has grown to
become a favourite holiday spot for people looking to get away from the hustle
and bustle of city life. Not just from southwestern Ontario or Michigan, but
from all over the globe.
A complete history of Bayfield can be found in the Village Archives building
attached to the local library right on Main Street.
Fine Restaurants… Pricey Menus
Like most visitors to historic Main Street, we parked the Jeep and strolled up
and down the boulevard, darting into and out of shops, reading the pricey menus
posted out front of the many fine restaurants, planning our agenda as we went
The Albion Hotel
and Tavern, originally built in the 1840s, is the first
building at the top of Main Street. Next door is another history building,
the Admiral Bayfield, which is now a tavern and restaurant. Today, the Admiral
is hosting a corn-on-the-cob eating contest at 4:00 pm. Sounds like a fun event.
Later in the evening, a young, talented blues guitarist named Chris Chown will
be performing here as well. We plan to come back for both events.
Further down the street we pop into Marten Arts Gallery of contemporary
Canadian fine art. As the saying goes, "I may not know art", but I know
expensive. All the art pieces are genuinely beautiful, though outside my
price range. This doesn't seem to be a problem for many of the patrons.
Of all the shops, Marten Arts Gallery perhaps generates the most interest.
The other end of the street is anchored by the Bayfield General Store and
The Little Inn, both lovely historic buildings. On July 14th, 1853, the General
Store was purchased from Baron de Tuyll and completed in 1855 by Donald
Fraser, Bayfield's first postmaster. The original façade of this Georgian
brick structure still remains. Over the years, the build has served as a
millinery, apothecary, doctor's office, ice cream parlor, grocery store
and post office. As with most heritage buildings in the village, this type
of historic info is found on a plaque attached to an outside wall.
The Little Inn
has been in continuous operation since it was built in 1862.
Originally, it was called "The Commercial", then "The Lakeview" before
becoming "The Little Inn". The decorative verandah was added in 1903, torn
down in 1950, but since restored to its original glory.
Renown Red Pump Restaurant
The Red Pump Restaurant has been serving fine cuisine on Main Street for the
last twenty-five years. Originally a residence, and flour and feed store
owned by John Whiddon in 1881. By 1902 evolved into a grocery store and
from 1922-1943 it was a barber and beauty shop. Now, the Red Pump Restaurant
offers gourmet dining and fine wines in an antique filled dining room or on
the patio under the stars. The business has grown to include exquisite gifts
and three bed and breakfast suites. Of course, everything here is expensive.
The Red Pump B&B; Suites
start at $325.00 a night. If you're looking for convenience, The
Red Pump is the place. More economical and just as fine accommodations are
available just five minutes away in Varna. More on that later.
In Archie's clothing shop I did the tourist thing and purchased a Bayfield tee
shirt. There's actually a good selection of sweats and tees not found elsewhere.
And just down the street, Carole purchased a pair of earrings at one of the
Boardwalk stores. A couple of little mementos to remember our adventure.
We finished off our tour of the boulevard by grabbing an ice cream at one of
the parlors along the street, visiting a lawn ornament store called Shared Time,
a chocolate shop called Sugar and Spice, and the Turner Art Gallery. There are
so many shopping choices here that everyone is sure to find a unique treasure
of their own.
Haven of Peace and Tranquility Found
At about 4:30 in the afternoon, we decide to check out our accommodations just
a few minutes drive east of Bayfield in Varna. We had never stayed in a bed
and breakfast, so for this adventure we decided to give it a try. Magnolia
Manor is a historic Georgian manor built in 1870 on a 100-acre farm. Remodeled
in 1923, the estate became a focal point for the war effort and church
fundraisers. Up until the 1960's, hundreds of guests enjoyed the various
garden parties, socials and open-air concerts held on the property.
In 1992, Magnolia Manor, a haven of peace and tranquility nestled in a 3-acre
southern plantation style setting, opened as a bed and breakfast. Guests are
encouraged to discover the secret garden, swim in the outdoor secluded pool
or simply relax under the shady weeping willow or magnificent Magnolia tree.
Our reservations are for the "Rose Garden" room, tastefully furnished with
antiques and white wicker. The room features a queen size bed and a 3-piece
ensuite bath and shower. There are three other quests rooms, a bright
sunroom at the front of the manor where guests can enjoy a complimentary
beverage, and a great 'sitting' room with a 12-foot ceiling, original
chandeliers and a massive fieldstone fireplace.
Charming and Helpful Host
As expected, our host, Carol, is both charming and helpful. She met us at the
door when we arrived, gave us a brief history of the manor, showed us around
the house and led us to our charming room. My wife, Carole, immediately
loved the manor, our room and the landscape. Knowing her love of gardens,
there was a bit of planning on my part to ensure our first visit to a B&B;
was an enjoyable one.
We retired to our room to rest for about an hour before heading back to
Bayfield for dinner. Our host, Carol, told us about the Harbour Fest
celebration going on at the Marina all afternoon and evening. We decide
to check it out on the way back to town. Arriving at the marina, we see
the crowd gathered on the small island in the middle of the marina. Jerry
Renolds is performing classic rock and country tunes. The music is okay
but not great. The band appears to be made up of local musicians, and I
guess they are all patrons of the marina. Everyone seems to know each
other and all appear to be having a good time. We stick around for a
half hour or so and them head back to Main Street for dinner.
Earlier, we planned on dinner at the Albion Hotel. We should have made
reservations, but manage to get in without them. There are a number of
great specials. I settle on a tomato basil soup, chicken and ribs
(not too original). Carole predictably has shrimp pasta with wine.
The food is very good and affordable. The Albion is a restored 1840s
hotel, which maintains much of its original charm. All the furnishings are
antique and don't match, but that's part of the charm.
Cold Beer and Hot Blues
Following dinner we go next door for cold beer. Chris Chown is the
entertainment for the night and we stick around for the first set. We first
saw Chris Chown about 6 years ago when he was about 18 years old. At that
time he was a hot, upcoming blues guitarist in the vain of Stevie Ray
Vaughan. It's good to see he has moved away from trying to be another
Stevie Ray Vaughan, but in the process seems to have gotten a little
complacent in his playing. Still a great player, just doesn't seem to
be on fire as he once was. And he had some problems with the equipment.
Still, we had an enjoyable time. Blues is a style that lends itself to
In the morning, Carol served an incredible breakfast. We started with a
delicious blueberry parfait with peaches. The main course featured English
muffins with poached eggs covered in a sweet mushroom sauce. Topped off
with juice, and coffee or tea. A great gourmet breakfast, and from the
comments in the guestbook, every morning is a different delight. After
breakfast, we head back to Bayfield for another quick tour around town
before heading off home.
Looking for a romantic getaway and something a little different, I'd certainly
recommend Bayfield and a stay at the magnificent Magnolia Manor.
Locate Bayfield with MapQuest.