Ontario’s 8 Favorite Small Towns
By Shari & Elisa Sunday, November 25, 2018
Expedia.ca polled Canadians to get an idea of Canada’s fave small towns with a maximum population of 20,000 and when they sorted through all the written survey results to find the most frequently mentioned places, Ontario did really well! Below is the list of the towns identified by the survey, but we’re sure you have some other faves too; there are loads more on Summer Fun Guide – Ontario’s complete directory of things to do and places to stay. Post to our FB page and let us know what they are.
Downtown Almonte was voted as one of the best small towns in Ontario and is known for its boutiques and art galleries spread throughout the 19th century-style downtown and for its famous Almonte Celtfest in July. This former mill town is just 45 minutes from downtown Ottawa on the Mississippi River (Canada has one too); close enough to enjoy the classical chamber music concert series that runs annually at Almonte Old Town Hall.
Tobermory is a lovely town on the water, with gorgeous scenery, calm waters, and super dark skies filled with stars. Tobermory has Lake Huron on one side and Georgian Bay on the other and its claim to fame is the scuba diving in these adjacent waters. More than 20 preserved Schooners, Steamers and Barges, some dating back to 1852, are buried there and with the establishment of Fathom Five National Marine Park, the wrecks are protected. There are also the famous flowerpot formations and underwater caves and a submerged waterfall for those interested in underwater geology.
Manitoulin Island is the largest freshwater island in the world and is a 4-season outdoor wonderland. It is also where Native life and European history merge as the town of Manitowaning was the first European settlement, and Wikwemikong is Canada’s only unceded Indian Reserve. Enjoy the endless shoreline, Bridal Veil Falls, Cup & Saucer Trail, with its 70 m cliffs along the route, flowers, birds, art and theatre.
The Port Hope area has both beautiful scenery and attractions. It is best known for its designated heritage conservation downtown district and as the winner of TV Ontario’s competition for the “Best Preserved Main Street in Ontario”. With 300 designated historic buildings, it has the most per capita of anywhere in Canada! Make sure you stop in at the Capitol Theatre, one of the only “atmospheric theatres” left in Canada.
“Ontario’s most beautiful village” was a favorite of A. J. Casson — Group of Seven, who was obsessed with sketching the scenery of town, the spectacular gorge and the Grand & Irvine Rivers. Outdoor adventures abound in Elora, from rock climbing and caving to zip lining. There is also loads of arts & culture, including summer music festivals on the banks of the Grand River. If you’ve never seen the Elora Gorge, now is the time! Hike on one of the gorgeous scenic riverside trails and see the Grand River rushing past 22-metre high cliffs. Or join kayakers and tubers and see the beauty from the water.
Fenelon Falls is part of the city of Kawartha Lakes and is known as the “Jewel of the Kawarthas”. It is home to lock 34 on the Trent-Severn Waterway between Sturgeon Lake and Cameron Lake and is a wonderful cottage town that hums during the summer months. While you can’t see the actual falls as you walk through town, they can be viewed from a path on the north band of the Fenelon River. The town is known for beautiful beaches, waterfalls, & is a main artery to the KATVA trail system, the largest ATV ride area in the province.
St Jacobs is ranked in the top 5 small towns in Canada because it has several things that make it different. From the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market & Flea Market, Canada’s largest year-round market, to St Jacobs Horse Drawn Tours to St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, this town can keep you busy for days! Don’t forget to learn about the Amish and Mennonite communities; Canada is the only location outside of the United States where Amish are found and they are a wonderful community that lives in a very different way.
NIAGARA ON THE LAKE
Niagara-on-the-Lake is one of Canada’s best wine regions, with over 20 wineries producing award-winning wines. Get a designated driver and do some tastings; many wineries have excellent restaurants too. NOTL is also known for the famous Shaw Festival, a theatre festival put on by the 2nd largest repertory theatre company in N America. Make a stop at 19th-century Fort George which the British built to defend against American attacks or just walk or ride your bike through this pretty, flower filled town on the shores of Lake Ontario, at the mouth of the Niagara River.
Visiting a big city is great, but there is just something about going to a small town!