The Better Way to Do Overnight Stays

Franklin Beecham
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Harvest Hosts – Better Than Wallydocking!

After taking possession of our 2019 Leisure Travel Van Wonder RTB, we loosely planned a trip to the east coast of Canada. We wanted to visit New Brunswick (the only eastern province we had never been to) and visit old friends along the way.

Part of our initial research experience prior to buying our LTV was viewing the many videos and blogs made by RV travellers about their camping experiences. Overnight stays in truck stops, Walmart parking lots, and shopping mall parking lots are convenient when you’re on-the-go and in need of a safe place to park. However, some fun places to visit are Harvest Hosts – these are private businesses that offer free overnight stays. Some are totally off the beaten track, but definitely worth the detour.

Harvest Hosts is a subscription-based membership that, for a decent fee, allows access to a huge and continually growing database of overnight stops. Hosts include museums, farms, distilleries, breweries, vineyards, and golf courses; logging into the website or app provides you with a multitude of destinations across North America that you can add to your travel plans. You just call ahead to book your spot, and proceed with your trip. Depending on the destination, you are encouraged to patronize the business where you are staying. After all, they are allowing you to stay for free and they receive nothing from Harvest Hosts.

Hosts allow for hard-topped camping vehicles, and sometimes even offer hookups (this is a rarity). The people, products, and experiences we had during our 2019 season were exceptional.

Our east coast trip provided a few Harvest Hosts destinations. There are not many hosts in eastern Canada, which is too bad because there are many businesses that could encourage travellers to stop and shop. We actually visited a distillery in Souris, Prince Edward Island, and suggested to the owner to join up with Harvest Hosts. They had adequate property for parking and, being the only facility of its kind for miles, could attract many RVers. We also mentioned to the manager of Cowbell Brewing in Ontario that they should do the same.

Where We Stayed

We were driving through New Brunswick after a stopover in a busy Walmart parking lot. Before leaving home, I had planned out a few Harvest Hosts destinations: a brewery, an alpaca farm, and a blueberry farm. As per instructions, I contacted each ahead of time using email, text messages, or phone calls.

Big Axe Brewery

The first was Big Axe Brewery in the town of Nacawic, New Brunswick. Interestingly, to get there, we crossed the local river via a covered bridge, something I’ve not seen before. Nacawic’s claim to fame is that they are home to the Big Axe. The brewery, located on the Saint John River, encourages visitors to come by car, boat, snowmobile, or horseback. The parking lot is located across the road and can manage up to Class A vehicles.

When we arrived there were several RVs in the parking lot. A summer downpour greeted us as we parked our Wonder. The brewery building is an elaborate log cabin-styled construction, with brewing vats and warehousing on one side and a seated bar on the other, complete with a raised deck overlooking the river. Once the rain subsided, we made our way to the bar and sampled a flight of beers, set in front of us on a miniature picnic table. One of the best stouts I’ve had is brewed here. There’s no restaurant, though light snacks like potato chips were available. The beers were very good and we purchased several for our trip. For a photo op and a laugh, you can sit on saddled barrels.

During the evening I heard from the manager of the alpaca farm that they were no longer accepting overnight stays due to disruptions caused to the animals. This was a disappointment, as my wife is a fibre artist and wanted to visit, plus the alpacas would’ve been fun to be around as we experienced these gentle creatures whilst travelling in Peru. But, our plans changed, and we continued south to Saint George.

Granite Town Farms

Our next Harvest Host was Granite Town Farms, who offer tastings, wine, jams, syrups, and more. They had a massive parking lot. The building shares space with the local tourism office, and all staff were extremely helpful and courteous. We were the only RV staying overnight, so it was very quiet. There is a nice walking trail around the farm, but unfortunately we didn’t wander far because of the mosquitoes. The jams and syrups were delicious, as was the blueberry crumble pie. Unfortunately they didn’t have any wine left on the premises, but it was available at the local grocery store. Note for vegans: the blueberry farm even sold Beyond Meat sausages! Very tasty for breakfast!

Casa-Dea Estates Winery

Upon returning to Ontario after a five-week trip, we ventured to beautiful Prince Edward County, home to many vineyards with endless fields of vines bearing many world-renowned grape varieties. There are currently three Harvest Hosts winery destinations here.

We visited Casa-Dea Estates Winery. We were directed to park in a large lot, used by staff and bus groups. A Class B van was parked in the lot with us that night. Casa-Dea has a good-sized tasting bar and a huge, well-stocked display shop selling wine paraphernalia and their many wines – red, white, and sparkling. There is also an Italian restaurant onsite serving lunches. Buy a couple of bottles for free tastings; I really liked their Malbec. Sunset over the vineyards was stunning!

MacLean’s Ales

In southwest Ontario is the town of Hanover, home of an exceptional brewery called MacLean’s Ales. Definitely book ahead, as there aren’t many bar stools. There is a large parking lot behind the main building that is quiet – so quiet that a small deer foraged a few feet from our Wonder. We were met at the bar by the very amicable Quinn, who was already prepared for our visit – so prepared that our first sample glass of beer was placed in front of us before we had even managed to sit. We were led through the family of beers from light to dark, intermingled with humorous stories and anecdotes, while nibbling on salsa and tortilla chips (with apologies that they usually have an assortment of sandwiches). You must taste their cherry porter!

We had a great time here, and after buying some beers for later, were soon enjoying a peaceful sleep. The next morning, we checked out the huge hop plants strung up high between two large poles, still laden with unpicked hops. Behind this was a small group of very active bee hives, no doubt there to pollinate the hops.

Rural Rootz Nature Reserve

Heading north to the town of Wiarton, we visited our favourite Harvest Hosts destination, Rural Rootz Nature Reserve. Owners Tom and Dee are caretakers of this special place, with several hiking trails around their hundred-acre property. The trails include spirit paths, a sound garden, labyrinths, and beautiful floral and vegetable gardens. There’s also a boutique offering art by Dee, holistic stones, and much more. They even have a treehouse apartment for rent, perfect for short stays. When I called to book our spot in the parking lot, Dee informed me that we were lucky because they had a concrete pad and a 30-amp post. Perfect!

After introductions and setting up, Tom took us for a hike along a path that merges onto the Bruce Trail. I photographed over thirty different mushroom varieties on that one trail. Tom was very patient with us and extremely knowledgeable about the formation, geology, and history of the expanse before us. On our return to the parking lot, we met a friendly couple from the US who were adventuring in their renovated Airstream trailer. Of course, we each gave tours of our rigs, and in the evening we, along with their treehouse guests, were invited inside Tom and Dee’s home for an impromptu drink, dessert, and fun get-together. What a great evening! We had such a fantastic visit that we asked to stay a second night.

The next day, we drove into town for some supplies and to visit the waterfront. Across from the waterfront parking lot is the local campground. Looking across the campground, I noticed a Leisure Travel Van. We just had to introduce ourselves and say hi. In the driver’s seat was Ann Dudler, a name I was familiar with through the Leisure Travel Vans Enthusiasts Facebook Group. She and her husband were there as part of the Ontario Sunrisers LTV Chapter rally. Ann encouraged us to meet the other rally participants, which we did. The chapter leader, Joel, handed me his business card, and later invited us to join the group.

All in all, it was a great visit to Wiarton and, most of all, an excellent time with Harvest Hosts. We highly recommend these overnight stays. You meet great people who are passionate about their products and services, and who are willing to share their space with you and your RV. If you are interested in a Harvest Hosts membership discount, visit this link!

Franklin Beecham

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