This Hidden Gem Was the Perfect Place For Us to Retire

A "forever home" in the Chatham-Kent region brings this couple joy, a sense of history and a new appreciation for the friendliness of Southwestern Ontarians.

View Of Lake EriePhoto: Lorraine and Ken Powell
The Powells’ view of Lake Erie.

“Every Day is a Dream”

As part of our retirement plan, my husband Ken and I decided to move from Innisfil, Ontario, north of Toronto and south of Barrie. We found a two-acre lot overlooking Lake Erie in the Chatham-Kent region. We thought it would be a nice place to retire to.

We retired to Merlin, Ontario, on November 30, 2004, and moved into our newly built home. We have never looked back.

Every day is a dream. At first, the locals would ask us if we had family, relatives or friends in the area. When we answered “No,” their friendly response usually was, “Why did you move down here?” This is one example of the humble character that the people of Southwestern Ontario display.

42nd Parallel at Point PeleePhoto: Lorraine and Ken Powell
Ken and Lorraine on the 42nd parallel at Point Pelee.

The Allure of Chatham-Kent

In fact, Southwestern Ontario offers a multitude of things to do to keep us busy. We are situated on the 42nd parallel, like Rome and Barcelona—but unlike those cities, we do not grow oranges. And compared with our previous home, winters tend to be milder, with very little snow.

Point Pelee National Park, which reaches out further south towards Lake Erie, and Pelee Island together serve as one of the main migration routes for monarch butterflies, which come to Canada from Mexico in the spring and return in the fall. These seasons are also when thousands of birds, insects and bats travel hundreds or even thousands of kilometres to migrate to this location and beyond.

Check out the best bird-watching spots across Canada.

Chatham-Kent - Fresh ProducePhoto: Lorraine and Ken Powell
Fresh-picked local produce.

Driving around the area, we can sample and pick locally grown fruits and vegetables, including all types of berries, apples, peaches, pears, corn, beans and asparagus. Peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes, especially, are available year-round from the many greenhouses in the area.

Wheatley Fishing TugsPhoto: Lorraine and Ken Powell
Wheatley harbour fishing tugs.

We’re a 20-minute drive from Wheatley, which advertises itself as home to the largest freshwater commercial fishing fleet in the world, with nearly 50 tugs.

Chatham-Kent - Rev William King StatuePhoto: Lorraine and Ken Powell
North Buxton museum statues depicting Rev. William King greeting new arrivals.

Slices of History

We found out that North Buxton, which is ten minutes away, was one of the terminals along the Underground Railroad. The settlement was established in 1849 by U.S. Reverend William King for slaves fleeing subjugation. The Buxton National Historic Site and Museum, which includes a schoolhouse and cabin used by settlers, commemorates the area’s historic importance. We now always look forward to Labour Day weekend, as North Buxton has a homecoming celebration for the community and ancestors of settlers.

Every Day is a Gift

In the summer, Chatham and Blenheim have evening concerts in the park. With their genuine small-town feel, they are a can’t-miss for us and many others.

Although we’ve lived in the Chatham-Kent region for 18 years, we are still learning about the area and discovering more surprises about what’s in store. One recent surprise was that there are now cruises of the Great Lakes aboard Viking Cruises!

Every day in our not-so-new hometown is a gift to us. We truly feel we have found our forever home.

Discover more hidden gems in Ontario.

Originally Published in Our Canada