Lakeshore to Lucknow
Exploring inland from Lake Huron to Lucknow through Amish country
If you’re interested in absorbing some of the flavour of Huron County, exploring inland gives an opportunity to see a whole different side of the area than the sand and sunsets of the lakeshore. The north-central part of the county, for instance, is home to an expanding Old Order Amish community with their 19th century ways.
This exploration goes from the lakeshore, at Port Albert, to the heart of Old Order community and back, with some interesting stops along the way.
Port Albert is a small lakeside hamlet that is often bypassed by visitors speeding by on Highway 21. Though it has an expanding year-round population due to new residential development, the historic roots of the hamlet are mostly gone. Today the Port Albert General Store and Port Albert Inn share a quiet main street in the beautiful valley that once had a harbour with a fishing fleet and saw mills and grist mills on the Nine Mile River.
There’s still a sandy beach to attract summer visitors and many visit in spring and fall to watch the fish leaping up the fish-ladder on their way up the river from Lake Huron.
From Port Albert, travel north on Highway 21 (left as you come out of the village). On your right was once the Port Albert air force base during World War II. Where once planes landed and took off and thousands of navigators from around the world lived while training for bombing missions over Europe, the land has reverted to farmland and bush with the last evidence of the base now gone.
Just north of the village turn right on Dungannon Road. Here you’ll travel through the heart of the Kingsbridge windfarm. Glistening white turbines, as tall as a 25-storey building, turn slowly in the on-shore winds off Lake Huron, each providing enough power for more than 500 homes. The windfarm is in the midst of more than doubling its size and you might be lucky enough to see new wind turbines being erected.
Drive inland through some of Ontario’s best farmland to Dungannon, a village that celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2005. The village is an example of the changing realities of modern life. Once a prosperous retail business centre for the surrounding farming community, the main street still features fine examples of Victorian architecture but most buildings are empty or turned into residences. There are other service businesses now, but not the shops that once drew local shoppers, who now drive further for bigger selection or bargain prices. There are still bargains to be found during the summer months at the Saturday morning farmers’ market held at the fairgrounds from 9 a.m. to 12 noon.
At the corner of Lucknow Line you can make a choice. If you’d like to take an interesting side trip to the Dungannon Zoo, turn right and head south to Hawkins Rd. where you’ll turn right again to the beautiful park-like setting of this menagerie collected by a local farmer. There’s no admission but donations are welcomed to help support the animals.
To return to the journey, return to Lucknow Line and turn left, travelling north again through Dungannon. North of the village turn right (east) on Glen’s Hill Road. This will take you to St. Augustine, the boyhood home of author Harry J. Boyle whose columns and books in the 1950s and 1960s, celebrated life in the community during the 1920s and 1930s.
If you’d like to pick up some fresh vegetables and visit a real Amish farm, just off St. Glen’s Hill Road to the right on Prosperity Line is a Amish market garden operated by the Stutzman family. (Please remember no photos and serious buyers only).
In the village of St. Augustine Bill and Susanne Robinson, the largest maple syrup producers in southern Ontario, operate a retail outlet in their home.
Go through St. Augustine to Donnybrook Line and turn left (north) and go one block north to Belgrave Road and turn left again. You’ll see a number of Amish farms as you travel west. Travel along Belgrave Road until you reach St. Helens Line and turn right.
St. Helens is the heart of the Old Order Amish community. Even though they live a simple lifestyle, these families still need some cash income so you’ll see signs offering maple syrup for sale or quilts or baking.
There are a number of Amish sawmills in the area, including one at the west side of St. Helens on Belfast Road.
During the summer St. Helens is home to a large market on some Saturdays.
From St. Helens, keep going north on St. Helens Road until you reach Amberley Road (County Road 86). Turn left and proceed into Lucknow.
Lucknow is the village that many of the Amish come to shop in so you’ll often see a family in their horse and buggy driving along the shoulders of the road. Please give them as much room as possible.
In 2008, Lucknow celebrated the 150th anniversary of the first lots being sold in what would become the village. It became a mill town with the Nine Mile River powering two mills in those days when water power was the main mode of power.
The name comes from Lucknow, India and is, strangely enough, part of the town’s proud Scottish heritage. At the time the village was being settled, Scottish troops had taken part in the “relief of Lucknow” following the “Sepoy rebellion” in India. Many of the streets bear the names of commanders of that force.
Lucknow is perhaps best known as the home of the hero who scored the winning goal in the 1972 Canada-Russia summit series in hockey. At the corner of Campbell Street (main street) and Ross Street (Amberley Road and Lucknow Line) there’s a historic mural dominated by a two-storey image of Paul Henderson’s joyous celebration of scoring that goal.
From Lucknow, continue west on Amberley Road and you’ll reach Highway 21 at Amberley. You can turn left and head south to Port Albert where you started your trip.