Discover St. Marys, a pretty small town in Ontario, full things to do from historic downtown to museums, to hiking or kayaking.
Canada

Discover the Historic Town of St. Marys, Ontario

Discover St. Marys by taking your own self-guided walking tour of this historic town. This delightful place is like an open-air museum chock-full of a surprisingly rich Canadian history. It’s such a pretty town, full of wide-open green spaces and bridges spanning over calm waters. Stroll the downtown lined with shops in the historic limestone buildings. And, wander a bit beyond to gaze upon the lovingly restored century-old homes. 

St. Marys is located at the junction of the Thames River and Trout Creek in southwestern Ontario. Just under 2 hours from Toronto, St. Marys makes for the perfect day trip. Here are all the best things to see and do, making the most of your day in St. Marys.  

Take a Historical Walking Tour

Discover St. Marys by taking your own self-guided walking tour of this historic town. This delightful small town is like an open-air museum chock-full of a surprisingly rich Canadian history.

What makes St. Marys unique from other small towns in Ontario is its interesting Canadian history. The best way to see some of these historical sites is to take a self-guided walking tour, like the one I’ve created for you. It starts at the town’s border and beacon – the St. Marys Water Tower.  

Water Tower

St. Marys water tower, built in 1899, is made entirely of local limestone. Visit this charming small town in Ontario, Canada.

Location: corner of Queen and James Streets

Built in 1899

The St. Marys water tower is made entirely of local limestone and is considered one of the best examples of industrial architecture constructed during the turn of the century in southwestern Ontario. It greets you as you enter the town. 

St. Marys Station

The former Grand Trunk Railway depot, built in 1907, in St. Marys, Ontario, Canada.

Location: 5 James Street N

1-minute walk from Water Tower

Built in 1907

The St. Marys Station, built in 1907, is made of glazed brownish stone known as Logan Brick. This station is designated as a National Heritage building. Today, its been restored and serves as an art gallery with rotating exhibits. 

On the opposite of town sits the Grand Trunk Railway from 1858. The Grand Trunk Railway, built entirely of limestone, was the town’s first station. It is considered the best preserved original GTR station in Ontario, and as such, is a National Historic Site. Today, it houses a craft brewery called the Broken Rail Brewer. 

In 1858, the Grand Trunk Railway was how most people reached St. Marys, Ontario, Canada.
To accommodate the Thames River and Trout Creek engineers were faced with a major challenge. In the end, they erected two towering stone railway bridges - named Sarnia and London. The London Bridge still operates today, but the Sarnia Bridge has been repurposed into a popular walking and biking trail. 

Town Hall

The Town Hall, built in 1871, in St. Marys, Ontario, Canada

Location: 175 Queen Street E

5-minute walk from St. Marys Station

Built in 1891

The Romanesque Revival style architecture was built of local limestone with red sandstone as the contrasting elements for window arches and checkerboard effects in the façade. Its towering height makes it an important part of the town’s skyline. 

Public Library

The Public Library, 1904, in St. Marys, Ontario, Canada.

Location: 15 Church Street

1-minute walk from Town Hall

Built in 1904

The local limestone building was made possible due to a $10,000 grant from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation. Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish American, was a very important industrialist and philanthropist in the 19th century and became one of the richest Americans in history.

Victoria Bridge

Discover St. Marys by taking your own self-guided walking tour of this historic town. This delightful small town is like an open-air museum chock-full of a surprisingly rich Canadian history.

The four-arched bridge spanning the Thames River is impressive. It serves as the backdrop to incredibly scenic Little Falls. An area where there are several very tiny waterfalls over the local limestone. It’s a pretty sight, especially seeing the abundance of lily pads floating on top of the calm waters.  

Location: Queen Street across the Thames River

5-minute walk from Public Library

Built in 1865

St. Marys Museum

The former residence for the George Tracy, one of the earlier settlers of St. Marys, Ontario, Canada. The Georgian architecture, built in 1854, sits in a prominent location atop of a hill.

Location : 177 Church Street South

10-minute walk from the Victoria Bridge

Built in 1854

The former residence for the George Tracy, one of the earlier settlers of St. Marys. The Georgian architecture with its smooth large blocks of limestone looks especially grand as it sits in a prominent location atop of a hill. Visit here to learn all about the history of this town through its archives, historical photos and stories. 

James Carter House

The James Carter House, built in 1883, sits in St. Marys, Ontario, Canada and is one of four mansions built by local businessman George Carter.

Location: 67 Peel Street South

5-minute walk from St. Marys Museum

Built in 1883

The James Carter House is one of four mansions built by local businessman George Carter. By 1868, George Carter had acquired the town block encircled by Jones, Peel, Elgin and King Streets with intentions to build several homes for his family on this land.

His other homes can be found at 224 Jones Street East (1869), 217 Jones Street East (1875); and 236 Jones Street East (1881). The James Carter house is the most advanced and stately building of its time in St. Marys. 

Stroll the Charming Downtown

Take a stroll along Queen Street, St. Marys downtown, full of cute specialty shops and cafés. A walk along here allows you to admire the stunning limestone architecture with store fronts below. Some of my favourites shops to visit are The Chocolate Factory, Millie’s Kitchen, The Floor Mill and Bungalow. 

A walk through the historic streets of St. Marys, Ontario offers a first-hand look at the stunning limestone architecture and vibrant downtown core.
A special shout out to Cindy of Millie's Kitchen, her warmth and passion for her shop is infectious. Her specialty shop offers gourmet sauce mixes with blends of vegetables & spices making your next homemade meal delicious.

Shop at the Farmers Market

One of my favourite things to do on a Saturday morning is go to a Farmers Market. If I’m day tripping, I skip my hometown and head to the local one of the place I’m visiting. St. Marys is definitely a fun one to visit. First, its set up in the most idyllic setting by the Thames River in The Flats, or Milt Dunnell Field. And, it not only features your typical farming produce and baked goods, but also some cute lifestyle vendors and even someone from St. Marys Museum. 

Visit the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

If you are a baseball fan you’ll want to visit the museum dedicated to preserving Canada’s baseball heritage dating back to 1838. The museum was moved from Toronto to St. Marys in the late 1990s. Why St. Marys you might be wondering? Apparently, the first recorded game of baseball in North America took place in Beachville, not far from St. Marys on June 4, 1838. The game appeared in Sporting Life magazine and was written by St. Marys native Adam Ford, who was the town’s mayor and doctor.  

Hit the Trails

St. Marys, Ontario has more than 25-kilometres of trails for walking, running and biking. The best ones extend over the Thames River.

Enjoy the more than 25-kilometres of trails perfect for walking, running and biking. The most popular ones follow the Thames River and old railway  Check out the trail map and explore a trail.

Go for a Swim at the Quarry

Visit Canada’s largest outdoor freshwater swimming pool in St. Marys, Ontario. It dates back to mid-1800s and used to be a former limestone quarry.

Be sure to visit Canada’s largest outdoor freshwater swimming pool. Dating back to the mid-1800s, when the former limestone quarry closed in 1920s it was converted into a public swimming area. It includes cliff jumping, SUP boarding, and beach volleyball. 

Paddle down Thames River

Explore the 5-kilometres of paddling routes on the Thames River and Trout Creek waterways. St. Marys offers a free kayak loan program through Yak Shack, reservations are a must, making it accessible for anyone to enjoy.  

As a holidaymaker…

As the slogan reads on its water tower, “St. Marys, The Town Worth Living In”, offers locals and tourists alike a lot of interesting history as well as things to do. But what makes St. Marys an extra special small town is its people. The locals are extremely welcoming and friendly. They are the heart of this charming small town, and the reason why I like to return over and over again.

Discover St. Marys by taking your own self-guided walking tour of this historic town. This delightful small town is like an open-air museum chock-full of a surprisingly rich Canadian history.
Discover St. Marys by taking your own self-guided walking tour of this historic town. This delightful small town is like an open-air museum chock-full of a surprisingly rich Canadian history.

51 Comments

  • Hannah

    St Mary’s looks like such a charming town! They have the most adorable Town Hall I’ve ever seen! All of the buildings look so pretty! I’d love to just take a stroll and admire all of thre unique architecture! Thanks for the great guide!

  • Cris

    What a charming little town! I love all of the stone and brick buildings and the river with the falls is simply stunning. Definitely looks like it’s worth a day or two of explorations!

  • simplyjolayne

    I grew up in Southern Alberta but never traveled East. I would love to see much more of Canada and this just gives a great glimpse of awesome things to see. Hoping the border opens back up soon so I can do some Fall trips in Eastern Canada.

  • Catherine

    Wow, St. Mary’s Ontario looks so quaint! I’d love to explore it, especially by the river. I’m pinning this for our next trip to Ontario!

  • MacKenzie

    St. Mary’s looks like a cute and beautiful town! I’ve never been anywhere in Canada, but every time I see a new town I’m hoping to make it sooner rather than later. (within safety reasons at this point)

  • Vanessa Shields

    St Mary’s looks like an adorable town to visit! That’s incredible how everything is built with limestone. I get why they call it Stonetown! After the walking tour I’d enjoy hitting a trail or kayaking on the river!

  • Angela

    What a charming town , it looks like a place with a real sense of community. I’d love to walk those trails , hit the water and then grab some provisions for a picnic from the Farmers Market.

  • Shelby Lamb

    This little town is so cute! A stroll along Queen Street, St. Marys downtown sounds absolutely perfect for our road trip getaway to Canada coming up soon. Historical little towns like this are always so amazing for photography too!

  • Tami Wilcox

    Well, you’ve highlighted a place I would love to explore as well — especially that quaint Town Hall made of rocks and Victoria Bridge — and the beautiful views. Ontario really is a wonderful area, with amazing landscapes.

  • Krista

    I think this is the first blog post I’ve seen about St Mary’s! Although I only live 30 minutes from here, I don’t think I’ve ever actually walked around the town and taken a look at its attractions. I’ll have to do it next time I’m home!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      I think you might be right! There’s not a lot written about it, and cant understand why. It’s such a pretty town and think it will soon be on the radar for others to discover it too! You’ll definitely have to visit here when you are home next.

  • Jamie Italiane

    What a beautiful area. In my dreams, I am going to RV with my husband all around at some point. I would love to explore this area. We love to kayak and the buildings are so adorable. I am also a lover of bridges.

  • Sherianne Higgins

    I love open-air museum’s so the thought that the town resembles one grabbed my attention right away. I love the water tower and the train station, perfect small-town emblems. The town hall, library, James Carter House and the downtown are well preserved. I love that the old limestone quarry was converted to a swimming pool and has cliff jumping, sounds like so much fun!

  • Linda (LD Holland)

    I have never visited St Mary’s. What an interesting look at the history of this area. And so many great engineering structures for this Civil Engineering geek. The Romanesque architecture was surprising to see in this Canadian town. But I would find a way to enjoy those waterways.

  • Anda

    St.Mary’s, Ontario, is such a lovely historic town! So many fun things to do there, like paddling down the Thames River, or strolling along Queen Street in the downtown area, or swimming at the old limestone quarry. Hope to visit this place someday.

  • Amrita

    I can understand why St. Mary’s is nicknamed “Stone Town”! The buildings are so grand to look at. St. Mary’s looks like a beautiful town. With those historical buildings, downtown, nature trails and Thames River, it gives such a happy feel. I am sure this would be s great place for both tourists and the locals. I do wish to visit here someday!

  • Subhashish Roy

    Wow what a charming and beautiful town. St. Mary’s would certainly be one of my dream holidays. Victoria Bridge site looks so picturous. The Public Library and Town Hall have an element of Royalty attached. Love to paddle on Thames and do the complete walking tour. Visiting the Farmers Market would be so refreshing as well.

  • Raksha

    Such a cute town. I love the town hall and the library. St. Marys surely looks like a cosy town to walk around. I had never heard of the town till now but it is now been added to my list for sure. I have so much to see the next time I am in Canada.

  • Candy

    This town is so adorable!!! I love exploring historical towns like this. The architecture of the town hall is my favorite and it looks like the trails are dog-friendly too. Bookmarking this!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Yes indeed the trails are dog-friendly. My dog loves to explore the trails, especially by the water and deep into the woods. So glad you liked the architecture of the Town Hall.

  • Trisha Velarmino

    I’m fascinated by the design of the Town Hall. It looks cozy and quaint. Thank you for these suggested activities. I’d definitely take a stroll on that lovely downtown. Blast from the past!

  • Clarice

    Wow! Did not realize that this small town in Ontario has a lot of hidden gems. My cousin just moved to St Mary’s and she has been telling me how beautiful this place is. Thank you for sharing these photos. Truly enjoyed them.

  • Indrani

    I agree with you that best way to connect with history of a place is through walking tours. The more than a century old St. Marys Station is indeed a fascinating piece of history. Long since I have been to a railway station. I would love to visit the Town Hall and the library. Love the place.

  • Natascha

    St Marys, Ontario looks so cute and picturesque. I would love to stroll through the streets and shops, have a coffee and some cake and go on a kayaking trip at the lakes.

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