I hope that you all enjoyed exploring Small Towns Ontario with me. Are ready to join me while I explore Tourist Towns Ontario? Grab yourself a glass of wine and let’s explore some more!
- Bayfield, Ontario
- Population: 1,112
- Distance from Toronto: 221.5 km (137.63 miles)
Bayfield is a small heritage village located on the eastern shores of Lake Huron. This village was founded in 1832, and continues to hold its original name to this day. The quaint little shops and the beautiful sandy beaches have tourists flocking from all over Ontario to spend a day wandering the beautiful streets and exploring all that Bayfield has to offer.
Besides the amazing shopping, it is the lake and the sandy beaches which can’t keep visitors away. Boaters will be surprised to find a full service marina accommodating up to 250 boats, which includes spots for transients. In addition, the marina offers a swimming pool, tennis courts and laundry facilities all on site.
If you are feeling adventurous and have the urge to give stand-up paddle boarding a try, rentals and lessons are available at Windmill Lake Echo Park, just short drive away. Check out the amazing packages they offer, or visit the Village of Bayfield Marina to rent a canoe or kayak, and paddle along the scenic shores of Lake Huron.
Leave some time to hike the Bayfield Trails or visit Falls Reserve Conservation Area, located in nearby Benmiller. Bring your bathing suit for a quick dip in the lake after a vigorous hike.
Whatever activity you wish to explore, a picnic in the park is a must to take in the tranquil views from above Lake Huron.
The shops of Bayfield are what makes this town such a popular spot for tourists. A visit to historic Main Street is an absolute must! It is filled with the cutest and most eclectic shops ranging from fashion to fine art.
This is a great place to find that unique piece of jewelry or art. For the true shopper, it will take more than a day to explore all of the nooks and crannies hidden on Main Street.
Bayfield is loaded with restaurants, as well as pubs to sit back and relax with a beer and do some people watching. Whether you are looking for a fine dining experience or a beer to cool off, Bayfield offers it all. Believe me when I say that you will have a difficult time deciding where to go!
In keeping with its historic charm, Bayfield offers historic Inn’s and B&B’s to lay your weary head. To experience the history of Bayfield, I recommend staying at:
During the summer months, Bayfield is flooded with visitors. If you plan on spending the night, reservations are required well in advance.
For more information on where to stay and eat, and what to do, visit the Village of Bayfield.
- Blue Mountain, Ontario
- Population: 7,025
- Distance from Toronto 158.3 km (98.36 miles)
Blue Mountain was established in 2001, making it a very recent establishment. It is situated at the southern point of Georgian Bay, at the point where the Beaver River flows into the Nottawasaga Bay. It is strictly a tourist destination during both the winter and the summer months, with a very small year-round population.
Blue Mountain offers endless activities during all months of the year. In contrast to many other tourist destinations, you will find Blue Mountain busiest during the winter months. This is the location you will discover Ontario’s best downhill skiing, as well as cross-country skiing, tubing and skating.
During the summer months, you will find packed golf courses, hiking, biking, caving, a suspension bridge, zip-lining and swimming. Visit Scenic Caves to find a tour that will provide you with the adventure that you are looking for.
After a long day of endless activities, leave time to visit the Scandinavia Spa to soak your sore muscles and relax in the great outdoors.
Unlike most tourist towns, the shops in Blue Mountain offer mainly seasonal merchandise and attire (golf and skiing). All of the shops are located in the small village and are completely accessible. You will enjoy sitting outdoors with a cold beverage in the summer, or around a fire in the winter, and watching the endless amount of people who frequent this village.
In the Village, you will find many casual restaurants, all of which offer a fun and vibrant atmosphere. Ski racks are located outside of each restaurant and it is not at all unusual for people to dine in their ski clothes. In fact most do. There is no reason to dress up when visiting these restaurants:
- Fire Hall Pizza Co.
- Magnone’s Italian Kitchen
- Northwinds Brewpub & Craft Beer Store
- Ravenna Country Market
- Copper Blues Bar & Grill
- Rusty’s Bar & Grill
- MJ Byrne’s
If you are feeling the need to escape the hustle and bustle of the village, head 16 minutes south and try out one of the many restaurants in Thornbury, or head north 8 minutes to explore the offerings available in Collingwood:
The Village of Blue Mountain is made up of accommodations, restaurants and small shops, so you won’t have too far to travel for your food, shopping, or nightly entertainment…..that’s if you make your reservation early.
Notwithstanding the massive amount of accommodations in the village, they book up fast. If you have waited too long to make a reservation, there are always plenty of B&B’s, rentals and hotels in Collingwood. To find available rental accommodations visit Blue Mountain Cottage Rentals
In order to explore everything that this year-round playground has to offer, visit www.thebluemountains.ca
- Elora, Ontario
- Population: 7,756
- Distance from Toronto: 115.3 km (71.64 miles)
The first settlers arrived in Elora in 1817, which in 1858 was incorporated into the Village of Elora. Elora is known for its 19th century limestone architecture and is most popular for the popular for the Elora Gorge and the Elora Quarry.
Adventure lovers and nature enthusiasts flock to this beautiful village primarily for the Elora Gorge and Quarry, in order to hike and climb the 80 foot cliffs that descend into the Grand River and Irvine River. For the real adventurous soul, kayak and canoe rentals are available for a fun day of water sports.
For extreme sports, adventures, or team building, contact One Axe Pursuits to explore rock climbing, zip-lining, tubing or caving.
EXPLORE SHOPPING AND ARCHITECTURE
It is almost impossible to make a trip to Elora without exploring the century old shops that line the downtown core. The 19th century buildings that line the main street are home to a variety of unique shops, gift shops and galleries which will occupy a shopaholic for hours.
Elora is home to many quaint little cafes and restaurants. Some are tucked away off the street, so be sure to explore the town searching for all of the amazing restaurants and cafes.
- Elora Mill
- The Cellar Pub and Grill
- Café Creperie
- V-Edge Smoothie Cafe
- Elora Brewing Company
Elora does not have an abundance of overnight accommodations, so be sure to make your reservations early!
If you are unable to locate accommodations in Elora, Guelph is a 25 minute drive and has many hotels.
To explore more of Elora, visit the Village of Elora
- Population: 17,511
- Distance from Toronto 128.5 km (79.85 miles)
Niagara-on-the-Lake is a small town situated in Southern Ontario along the banks of Lake Ontario, at the mouth of the Niagara River. The town was established in 1792 at which time it was chosen to be the capital of what was then known as Upper Canada, now known as the Province of Ontario. Parliament remained in Niagara-on-the-Lake until 1796, at which time it was moved to Toronto, the current capital of Ontario. Niagara-on-the-Lake is a short 25 minute drive along the Niagara River to the world renowned Niagara Falls, and is known for its many vineyards, as well as the annual Shaw Festival.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is a wine lover’s paradise. With over 80 vineyards to explore, you will be sure to find many new favorite wines. In order to make the most of your visit, visit Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake to plan ahead. Due to the cooler winter temperatures in this area of Canada, the Niagara Region is also the largest producer of ice wine in Canada.
If you plan on doing some taste testing at many vineyards, arrange a tour with Tour Niagara Wineries or Niagara Getaways who both offer full and half day tours. Niagara Getaways also offers bicycle tours, if you prefer to work off some of those extra calories from the wine. Many of the wineries offer tours of their facilities which can either be booked online or at the winery.
For the artsy tourist, Niagara-on-the-Lake offers world class live theatre from April to December. Visit Shaw Festival to reserve your tickets for a performance during the 2019 season.
The youngsters will love exploring the 19th century fort built by the British in 1812 in order to defend themselves against the invasion of Americans. If you are feeling brave, be sure to take a Ghost Tour and explore the fort in the evening.
The outdoor activist will be happy to hear that bike rentals are available, if you wish to take full advantage of the Waterfront Trail. This is a fully accessible paved trail which runs along the Niagara River and will eventually take you into Niagara Falls.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is filled with boutique and specialty shops, most of which occupy one of the many historic buildings. Believe me when I say that you will be like a kid in a candy shop. I do have one caveat though. I recommend arriving early in order to find parking, as parking is difficult to come by in the downtown area.
While you are in the downtown core, be sure to take a horse and carriage ride through the town. You will be provided the opportunity to learn more of the history, as well as view more of the majestic homes that Niagara-on-the-Lake is made up of. Visit Sentineal Carriages in order to pre-book your tour.
Niagara-on-the-Lake offers an over-abundance of restaurants. Far too many to list. The majority of the Inns each offer at least one restaurant as well as many of the wineries. My favorite places to eat when I visit are:
Vintages Wine Bar & Lounge: is located in the Pillar & Post Inn. This lounge is a comfortable spot to sit back and relax and enjoy a cocktail or a light lunch.
Cannery Restaurant: is also located in the Pillar & Post Inn, but offers a more upscale atmosphere.
Il Gelato di Carlotta: is the perfect place to grab a coffee and a sweet in order to rev up your energy level.
Visit here for more restaurants in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is definitely a place where you will want to spend more than one day. Lucky for you, it is filled with 5 star inns, many of which offer a pool, spa, lounge and restaurant on site.
In addition to the historic Inns, there are also an abundance of B&B’s scattered throughout the town. Note that it does get extremely busy during the summer months and reservations are required well in advance.
No matter what your age or which season you visit, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a destination that should be on everyone’s bucketlist! For more information on activities, restaurants and accommodations, visit Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Related: Explore Small Towns Ontario
- St. Jacobs, Ontario
- Population: 1,988
- Distance from Toronto 123.8 km (75.31 miles)
The Town of St. Jacobs was established in the 1830’s and is located in Southwestern Ontario along the Conestogo River. St. Jacobs has a strong Mennonite heritage, which currently boasts the largest Mennonite population of Old Order Mennonites in all of Canada. It is not unusual to see horse and buggy when visiting town. Many of the Mennonites still use this method to farm their lands to this day.
The quaint shops, the history and the live theatre are what draws millions of tourists to St. Jacobs year round. St. Jacobs is home to two live theatre venues. The St. Jacobs Playhouse the largest of the two features post and beam construction which is associated with the traditional Mennonite architecture. The St. Jacobs Schoolhouse is a much smaller smaller venue, and is located in an old renovated schoolhouse.
The St. Jacobs Market is a market that can’t be missed. It is the largest all year round market in all of Canada, which features locally grown produce and flowers, as well as meat and homemade goodies. Believe me when I tell you that the Mennonites sure know how to bake!
If you prefer a quiet adventure or want to escape the crowds, take a leisurely hike along the Millrace Footpath which is adjacent to the Conestogo River, or arrange a horse and buggy ride through the historic downtown with St. Jacobs Horse Drawn Tours.
As are most tourist towns, St. Jacobs has a small walkable downtown area. You will stroll past historic buildings which have been converted into shops and/or restaurants. Take the time to explore the Country Mill, the Village Silos, the Mill Shed and the Old Factory.
The majority of the restaurants in St. Jacobs provide a casual, laid-back atmosphere, with incredible home cooked food!
Stone Crock Restaurant: is the most well known restaurant in St. Jacobs, being in operation since 1975. The Stone Crock offers relatively inexpensive home cooked comfort food.
Stone Crock Bakery: be sure to stop by this bakery to fuel up on coffee and something sweet before you continue on your adventures.
Jacob’s Grill: this restaurant serves regular pub food, which of course must be accompanied by a “cold one”
There are very few accommodations in St. Jacobs, but the hotels that are there are fairly new.
If you are unable to find appropriate accommodations in St. Jacobs, Waterloo is just a 13 minute drive away.
Visit St. Jacobs to explore more of St. Jacobs heritage and activities.
I hope you have enjoyed exploring Tourist Towns Ontario. I know it’s one of my favorite past-times. I would love to know which town is your favorite. Mine is Niagara-on-the-Lake……I love my wine lol.
SAFE & HAPPY EXPLORING!