This has been a time of exploration and I’m not one to say no to a potential adventure, even if one takes you to a small Ontario town. One of such opportunities took me on a weekend trip to Sarnia and with minimal expectations, we made the most of this adventure.
Located on the banks of Lake Huron Sarnia is the largest City in Lambton County and sits close to the USA/Canada border. Here Lake Huron meets St. Clair River, showcasing sky-blue water and open waterfronts. The city, home to roughly 72,000 residents, promises 4-seasons of outdoor activities and a close-knit community. The area was originally settled in 1830 and today the city is a major petrochemical center and a prominent deep-water port.
Whether Sarnia is a stopover on your way to another place or a weekend destination there are plenty of things to do and see to fill your adventure, so let’s dive in!
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Attractions: From nature walks to art appreciation
On a sunny day, visit one or two of Sarnia’s many parks. Canatara and Mike Weir parks are both waterfront beach destinations with a view of the clear blue lake. Bayshore Park park is great for an evening stroll with a view of the Blue Water Bridge which crosses the St. Clair River and connects to Port Huron in Michigan, USA. Germain Park, located just on the outskirts of the city, spans nearly 60 acres of land dotted with flowers and encompasses the award-winning, some would say secret, Germain Gardens.
Slightly beyond the border of this small city is the Wawanosh Wetlands Conservation Area where one could go on a 2.5km nature trail along the marshes observing its rich natural habitat. A bit further down along the shore is Camp at the A.W. Campbell Conservation Area, a 300-acre parkland set up for daytime trail walks and overnight stays (there is a total of 140 sites).
In the heart of downtown is Judith & Norman Alix Art Gallery, a free public gallery exhibiting historical and contemporary installations year-round. Aside from installations, this space offers a wide range of activities for both children and adults from youth and family-friendly art classes to photography workshops.
A collection of natural, historic artifacts can also be seen at the Stones ‘N Bones Museum. Operated by a local couple, this small museum is host to a set of dinosaur bones, minerals, butterflies, mounted wildlife, and many other natural wonders. For the history buffs, there is the Sarnia Historical Society, home to a collection of paintings, old photographs, and other historical artifacts.
Dining: From casual eats to notable breweries
Bad Dog Sarnia is a bar and grill on the corner of Christina and George streets, just about where the main strip begins. Owned and operated by a husband and wife since 2004 Bad Dog is a staple in the community and might even be booked up so try to plan ahead. The menu offers a healthy selection of bar snacks, sandwiches, salads, and various seafood options, there is definitely something for everyone here. There are also daily specials, pub cocktails, and cold beers being poured all day long.
Appetizers start at $8.99
Alternatively, for lunch or breakfast, there is a highly recommended cafe called Blackwater Coffee Co. It is Sarnia’s first and only micro-roaster that serves up a selection of signature roasts and a secret blend daily. Blackwater is a cozy spot with cute decor where you could sit down for a cooked meal or grab a fresh-baked snack for the road. Beans are responsibly slouched from Africa and South America.
Further down Christina Street, you will come across The Tin Fiddler brewpub, just a few minutes in on the right. Split into two rooms the space has an industrial mixed with vintage decor, an old piano used as the back bar, and a long menu with a wealth of options for beers, cocktails, and food. The pub has been only open since 2019 but has quickly become a local favourite. Here people come to dine, celebrate, and listen to live music – yes, on a weekend there just might be a live band. The Tin Fiddler is open for brunch.
Appetizers start at $8, cocktails at $11
For a nightcap or really any other time, there is also the Refined Fool Brewing Company. A hip, and dingy in the best way possible space (as one would expect from a small brewery) RFBC is a fun spot for an extended hangout or a drop by alike. The brewery has grown over the last few years and has multiple locations but the one in Downtown Sarnia is called the “Little Fool,” it is their original production space, turned pub, and bottle shop. The taproom also hosts special events like trivia nights, burger bingo, and other special events.
Bar snacks starting at $4
Where to stay: The Insignia Hotel
Close to the city center, just a short walk from the main strip is The Insignia Hotel*, a historic luxury boutique hotel from Marriot’s Tribute Portfolio. The hotel* was built in the 60’ and has been recently rejuvenated, floor to ceiling, door to door. The 84 rooms are all outfitted with clean modern decor, old city maps as wall art, and subtle pops of colour in chairs and pillow cushions. The lighting is soft, the bedding is comfortable, and the black Bodum tea kettle is a nice nod to minimalist Dutch design.
Rooms start at $185 / night for Queen
There are also quite a few AirBnB options in the city center or on the waterfront. For those with a party or family crowd, EL DORADO Beachfront Villa on Lake Huron (a short drive from the city), is a stunning 3-bedroom home (4 baths) steps away from the beach, that sleeps eleven people ($699/night). Closer to the city center there is a Large 3-bedroom house with a fully equipped kitchen ($173/night) or a smaller Stylish Two-Bedroom Unit in a revived century home ($100/night).
Living in Ontario we are all charmed by the likes of Prince Edward County or Sauble beach but there is much more in this province worth exploring. I’ve learned over the course of the pandemic that good company and an inspired attitude can make any place, however remote, a fun place to see, so let’s reach beyond the borders of defined popular destinations, spread the wealth, and meet more people.
In the gear bag: Fujifilm X-T100 with an XF50mmF2 R WR lens and Fuji XF 23MM F2 R WR lens