Boreal Baffin sea kayak on pebbled beach, Half Moon BayHere’s an awesome summer paddle and hike on Great Lake Ontario. It’s one of my favourites!

Please note that this paddle route is for paddlers with good boat handling, rescue, and navigation skills, and proper gear for colder water. But, the good news is, you can also get to Half Moon Bay and the Little Bluff Conservation Area by car.

From our base camp at Sandbanks Provincial Park in July, our group of experienced kayakers headed to the small public boat launch next to the Black River Cheese Company off County Road 13, near Milford, in Prince Edward County, Ontario.

From the boat launch, we headed down the Black River to play in the open waters of Lake Ontario’s Prince Edward Bay.

Where the Black River meets Prince Edward Bay you can marvel at the huge shelf of limestone along the shoreline called McMahon’s Bluff. Have your camera ready here. It makes a nice shot! But, as you round its point, get ready to greet the wind!

Kayaking past McMahons Bluff, Prince Edward BayFrom the Black River we took a fairly direct route across Prince Edward Bay, which is about a 5 kilometer open water crossing, to Half Moon Bay. When you look at this crossing on a map, don’t let it fool you. It looks fairly simple.

Watch out for wind or larger boats in the area. Keep track of the wind and weather report if you plan to make this passage. Even though you have some protection in the bay, it is still big water to cross.

The day we crossed in July, we had 10-15 km winds, maybe a gust or two stronger than that, and not much boat traffic. I wouldn’t attempt it with stronger wind speeds. Wind tires you and blows you off course. You may need to change course several times to negotiate the crossing depending on wind direction, so navigation skills and a deck compass on the kayak are necessary.

And remember, this is Great Lake Ontario. Even in July, while swimming from beaches in shallower water warmed by the sun is palatable and invigorating, the deeper waters are still cold enough to require some immersion gear. I wore a long sleeve wet suit under my PFD. The wind on the open water kept me cool and comfortable during a rigorous paddle.

The approach to Half Moon Bay is beautiful from the water, especially when it is full of sea kayaks!

I guess you can tell by the smile on my face that I love it here!

BaffinPaddler, Half Moon BayThe 20 metre high limestone bluff behind me helps shelter Half Moon Bay from the wind. It also means I can finally take my hands off the paddle and take a few pics!

After a leisurely lunch on Half Moon Bay’s cobblestone beach and a refreshing swim in the bay, we followed a trail up to the top of the bluff to get an awesome panoramic view of Prince Edward Bay and beyond.

Views from Little Bluff Conservation AreaOn top of the bluff we could also look down and keep watch over our awesome fleet of sea kayaks parked on Half Moon Bay’s pebbled beach.

View of Half Moon BayThere are 1.5 km of beautiful winding trails on the Little Bluff Conservation Area’s 70 acre site.

Trail, Litle Bluff Conservation AreaI loved the views everywhere I looked.

There were lots of wildflowers.

Purple wildflowersAnd wild red raspberry vines peeked out in spots along the trail.

Wild raspberriesThe Little Bluff Conservation Area is popular with birders and has made it on my list of favourite treks as well. You may spot a variety of birds depending on the time of year you visit: ducks, geese, herons, chickadees, woodpeckers, warblers, goldfinches, and more. Nothing makes a trail more enjoyable than birdsong or a little quacking.

After an awesome day of kayaking on Lake Ontario, hiking the Little Bluff Conservation Area’s trails and fighting a stronger wind on the way back to our takeout on the Black River near the Black River Cheese Factory, our paddle crew didn’t feel like cooking at our basecamp at Sandbanks Provincial Park. So we took off to the nearby village of Picton for a relaxing evening of dinner and drinks.

It was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Happy tripping!
Peggy Varner