Canada

Drinking My Way Through Huron County with Tour The Shore

Tour The Shore was started by Brad Oke, owner of Smackwater Jacks, a lakeside restaurant in Grand Bend, Ontario. As part of Smackwater Jacks, Brad was already operating a shuttle service that promoted no drinking and driving and transported customers dining at Smackwater Jacks to and from their cottage or hotel. The best part of this original shuttle service is that it was actually in a re-purposed ambulance that Brad had got a good deal on. Overtime, the popularity of his shuttle grew and he quickly saw a demand among his customers for a tour service that brought locals and tourists around Lambton and Huron County to discover local destinations and support local businesses. (Don’t worry, you’re now transported in beautiful and spacious vans!)

Tour The Shore offers scheduled and custom tours throughout the year. They also offer shuttle services in the area for events, sport teams, corporate events, etc. They offer a variety of tours in Lambton and Huron County, both half and full day, Perth and London, Ontario. In the full day tour you have the option to choose five breweries, wineries, and other local destinations. In the half day tour, you can choose three stops.

When we visited, our tour was a bit custom but we stopped at stops that are offered on their regular tours. First off, before I dig into the details of our stops, I need to give a shout-out to our delicious pre-tour lunch at Midori Sushi located in Grand Bend… nom nom nom! Highly recommended and they have a great patio for the summer. Anyway, here’s where we went after our bellies were full from sushi…

Dark Horse Estate Winery

Dark Horse did not disappoint. This winery sits on absolutely stunning grounds in Huron County and boasts incredible architecture. Their space reminds me of an old barn that has been modernized and has a fantastic patio that looks out onto the vineyard. The patio also is complete with a fire place, and spare blankets you can grab to curl up outside when the weather starts to get chilly. Plus, on select days in high season they make their own, wood-fired pizza. Join Dark Horse for a wine tasting daily from 11am to close. You can also join an official tour and tasting daily at 11am and 2pm.

Bad Apple Brewing

A small brewery located on an apple orchard, Bad Apple Brewing carries a variety of locally brewed beers and ciders (both alcoholic and not) that are available for sale right onsite. Owners, Jason and Sarah Ingram started this brewery after they bought a small orchard in the area. Suddenly the pair found themselves with a lot of apples and not much to do with them so they started experimenting. Jason and his father started to make hard cider, which led to them experimenting with making their own beer. Now Bad Apple Brewing creates small batch craft beer and cider beer blends!

Maelstrom Winery

Maelstrom is a quaint winery located on the shore of Lake Huron. Owned by the Landsborough family who first established their roots in the area in 1834, Maelstrom Winery has a fantastic wine menu and a great space. I actually really liked this winery because it was a bit low key in comparison to Dark Horse and was a super relaxing, gorgeous environment to sip wines in and have a local cheese plate. You can book a tour online or drop by at any time for a wine tasting.

Cowbell Brewing

Cowbell Brewing was a next level brewery unlike any that I’ve ever been to before, and not one I’d expect to find in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. This brewery located in Blyth, Ontario was built after a local family sold their propane company and it looks like they took all that money to build one bad-ass, state of the art brewery.

Cowbell is the world’s first closed-loop brewery. Meaning they don’t use the small towns limited water supply to craft their beers but instead have their own wastewater plant. They are also North America’s first carbon neutral brewery, dedicated to offsetting more carbon than it emits for all its operations. If that isn’t already enough, the brewery also gives back in the community and a portion of sales go towards Sick Kids, and it seems that just about everything they do has the mission to “do good”. Visit for a sampling and food, you’ll be seriously impressed.

Stone House Brewery

A smaller local brewery but one that doesn’t get lost in being a “corporation” but a welcoming brewery that stays true to brewing great beer. Stone House Brewery is petite but boasts small town charm. Stop in to taste and buy their pilsner, or call ahead to arrange a tour.

Smackwater Jacks

To end the tour, we had dinner at Smackwater Jacks. This giant restaurant on the lake opened in 2012 and serves great pub style food. I highly recommend the lobster mac and cheese!

Some of the other stops available to choose from are:

  • Windmill Lake Wake & Eco Park
  • Square Brew
  • Ice Sculpture Tour (winter)
  • Twin Pines Cider House (photographed below)
  • Alton Farm Winery
  • Rock Glen
  • Forest Glen Herb Farm
  • Pinery Tour

What I found really unique about this experience is that it was moderately priced, you could tailor the tour to your wants and needs and it was a great way to explore an area that you may not necessarily get out to explore. If you live in Ontario, you’ve likely heard of Grand Bend, but you don’t ever think of the area surrounding this busy summer tourist destination. Plus, I had no idea that this area was filled with so many wineries and breweries. Although I love tasting local wines and beers, some of the spots most famously known for this in Ontario can be super over run and busy, so it was nice to explore somewhere a bit “off-the-beaten-path”!

Thanks Tour The Shore & Ontario’s Southwest for a great day 🙂

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary tour from Tour The Shore and Ontario’s Southwest to conduct a review. I only recommend experiences that I enjoyed, and think other travelers would benefit from. All opinions in this piece are my own and 110% honest. 

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