As we enter the month of August, some of you might be wondering “Where has the summer gone?” Don’t worry! There is still lots to do and places to see in the GTA. If you are looking to get away from the hustle and bustle, we have compiled a list of the top 12 small town summer destinations in Ontario.
1. Port Hope
With its 19th-century brick houses and wooden cottages, Port Hope is a quiet, tree-lined town that pretty much sums up small-town life at its best. Take a Fresh Food Guide Tour to meet farmers and see their operations. You can sample fresh-picked berries and tomatoes! Follow the Barn Quilt Trail to see the art tile quilts by local artists. Each tells the stories of their historic barns. For the film buffs in the family, don’t miss out on the self-guided IT Walking Tour. You will see locations featured in horror writer Stephen King’s IT movies, which is why this cool spot has made it on our list of summer destinations in Ontario.
Burlington is a beautiful city that sits midway between Toronto and Niagara Falls. Along the edge of Lake Ontario, it makes for a quick getaway destination. There is something for everyone in Burlington. Visit stunning gardens and art galleries, or hike and rock climb at Mount Nemo Conservation Area. If a casual stroll is more your speed, a visit to Spencer Smith Park is for you. The park is home of the Burlington Ribfest and the Burlington Beer Festival. Additionally, it boasts a small beach and a number of pathways along the waterfront for a leisurely post-meal stroll.
Drop anchor in Oakville and experience a place rich in history, natural beauty and adventure. Stay a while and discover what makes this town between Toronto and Niagara a hidden gem. Don’t miss the Oakville Museum Exhibitions and Collections. It has a diverse collection of objects reflecting the history of Oakville. You’ll see costumes and textiles, as well as fine and decorative arts. For those looking to get outside on their getaway, Oakville doesn’t disappoint. It boasts over 1,400 hectares of parkland, 200km of trails and more than 200 parks to explore. Its two beaches will help you to cool down at the end of the day. Why not pitch a tent and have a rest at the Bronte Creek Provincial Park camp grounds? Contact the park to make your reservation.
When it comes to cute, small Ontario towns, it’s really hard to top this gem. Dubbed ‘The Friendly Town’, Almonte is a scenic mill town on the Mississippi River near Ottawa (no relation to the one in the U.S.) It offers visitors boutique shopping, excellent food and drink, museums, and hiking trails. For the athletes in your family, it is the home of Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball.
Visit the museum dedicated to him inside the Mill of Kintail. You can also visit a museum dedicated to its roots as a mill town—in particular, textiles. As well as illuminating the ways to make and use fabrics, the MVTM hosts all sorts of special events, including the massively popular Fibrefest, each fall. Check out galleries, boutiques and antique shops on the main street, as well as cute restaurants and B&Bs along the river. Can you see why Almonte made it on our list of small town summer destinations in Ontario?
Located in Prince Edward County, Picton is a must-visit in the summer. Picton is the largest community in The County – an island in Lake Ontario. This area is a cluster of small hamlets and villages. It is known for its Loyalist heritage; a visit is a step back into a community with deep roots in farming and agriculture. The County itself is known for more than 35 wineries, a big artists’ community, lots of nice restaurants, boutique hotels, festivals, and Sandbanks Provincial Park, which has one of the most spectacular beaches in Canada. This gem may be a new find, but Picton and PEC have been welcoming visitors to its beaches for almost 200 years!
Rich in history, beautiful beaches, shopping and culinary tours, Cobourg is one of our great summer destinations in Ontario for all. If you feel like being active, consider renting a paddle board, canoe or kayak for the day. For something a little out of the ordinary, try paddle board yoga classes. Bike rentals are available on the boardwalk. For the music lovers, there is ZAP Records; a quirky and unique record shop no music geek should miss. Be sure to make a stop at the beautiful and stately Victoria Hall, located in the center of town. Built in the 1850’s and opened by the Prince of Wales, it is considered to be one of Ontario’s greatest treasures. From downtown foodie tours and haunted ghost walks to nature hikes, there’s the perfect getaway plan for everyone. Better yet, it’s only a short car ride from Toronto!
Nestled amongst the Purple Hills and skirting the Niagara Escarpment, Creemore is surrounded by a wealth of natural beauty. Whether you’re looking for the perfect small-town getaway in Ontario or a fun day trip from Toronto, you’ll find lots to do here. This quaint southern Ontario town is dotted with galleries and specialty shops. Perhaps its main claim to fame is being home to Creemore Springs Brewery. It hosts a weekly farmers’ market and many annual events, offering ample opportunity for visitors and residents to come together to celebrate rural Ontario living.
Goderich is a small coastal town that overlooks Lake Huron and is known for its gorgeous turquoise shorelines and historic downtown district. Nicknamed “the prettiest town in Canada,” Goderich has earned the accolade of Canada’s prettiest town from Queen Elizabeth II. Designed in an octagon, it charms visitors with its natural beauty and striking urban design. Set on the eastern shore of Lake Huron, in an area known as Ontario’s West Coast, the town’s location blesses its beaches with wonderful sunset views. While there’s plenty for outdoor enthusiasts to appreciate here, Goderich’s historic downtown makes it one of our equally-engaging summer destinations in Ontario for visitors with an interest in architecture.
Founded by some Pennsylvania Quakers in the 1820s, the pretty hamlet of Sparta retains its historical connection to the past. Visit the Ye Olde Forge and Anvil Museum to see artifacts from the past. For a truly quaint afternoon, head to Sparta House Tea Room. Their vast collection of teapots are sure to delight avid tea drinkers. Additionally, be sure to drop by Anything Used, a family-owned and operated business started in 1992. They make their own brand of candles, fudge and have a huge selection of gifts for the whole family. Because of this, you won’t find better souvenirs and gifts for friends and family.
Unionville is a town filled with historic buildings, boutique shops, restaurants, spas, and salons. Established in the 1790s, its popularity with visitors is due to the way the community pairs culture, modernity, and historic charm. It features plenty to do; from exploring the historic city centres to perfecting your swing on one of its many golf courses. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ve got to check out the Old Firehall Confectionery, which is full of handmade goodies, like truffles and macaroons. And for the TV buff, the pilot episode of Gilmore Girls was actually filmed in quaint Main Street Unionville. Destination Markham recently put together a self-guided tour that allows you to explore the area like a real-life Gilmore girl.
11. Port Stanley
Located on the shores of Lake Erie in Elgin County. Port Stanley is named after Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby, who later became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. His son, Frederick Stanley, served as the Governor General of Canada. An ice hockey enthusiast, he was the donor of the first Stanley Cup in 1893. There are so many amazing things to do in Port Stanley. In the early 1900’s, Port Stanley was the main tourist attraction on the lake and was called “The Coney Island of the Great Lakes”. Today, it is still known for its large beach, but also for its wonderful boutiques, antique shops, railroad, art galleries and theatre. Hence why it’s on our list of small town summer destinations in Ontario!
No travel guide would be complete without Paris…Ontario, that is. Known as the Cobblestone Capital of Canada, Paris is home to a dozen pristine cobblestone buildings. Its name comes from its counterpart in France. When surveying the area in 1829, large deposits of gypsum was discovered – later to be used in the construction of many buildings in Paris, France. As a result, the mineral began to be called ‘the plaster of Paris’. A beautiful small town, Paris has many attractions and activities that make for great a day trip. With gorgeous nature trails, delicious restaurants, and historical buildings aplenty, there are plenty of things to do in Paris, Ontario.
We hope these small town summer destinations in Ontario helps guide you on your next road trip!