What to Do in the Town of St. Marys Ontario

Discover the historic town of St. Marys Ontario Canada by taking a self-guided walking tour.

The town of St Marys is like an open-air museum chock-full of surprisingly rich Canadian history.

There are so many things to do in this pretty town. It’s full of wide-open green spaces and bridges spanning 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. 

If it’s time for another Ontario road trip, why not explore this delightful small town?  

Is St. Marys Ontario Worth Visiting?

tree over pond in the  town of St. Marys, Ontario

You bet it is!

St. Marys, Ontario is a charming and picturesque town that has earned its spot on Ontario’s best small towns list.

From its quaint, tree-lined streets to its beautifully preserved historic buildings, there is no shortage of things to see and do in this welcoming community.

Whether you’re a history buff looking to explore the town’s fascinating past, or simply someone who enjoys a relaxing day out in nature, this family-friendly town has something for everyone.

With plenty of inviting shops and restaurants, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to sit back, relax, and soak up the friendly small-town atmosphere.

Where is St. Marys Ontario?

The historic town of St. Marys, Ontario is a pretty town with an interesting Canadian history. With a cute downtown, scenic Thames River, and lots of trails there are endless options for things to do in St Marys.

The small town of St. Marys is located in Perth County at the junction of the Thames River and Trout Creek in southwestern Ontario.

To reach it from Toronto it’s just under 2 hours which means it makes for a great day trip or small-town weekend getaway.  

It is conveniently located 20 minutes southwest of everyone’s favourite theatre town of Stratford. If you continue west to Lake Huron, in under an hour you will arrive at the charming beach town of Bayfield and Canada’s prettiest town of Goderich.

A Historical Walking Tour of St Marys Ontario

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.  

St. Marys Water Tower

water tower on hill in st marys ontario

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

train tracks, train station in town of St Marys Ontario Canada.

Location: 5 James Street N | A 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, it’s 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. 

train bridge in town of st Marys Ontario

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. 

St Marys Town Hall

Town Hall in St. Marys, Ontario Canada

Location: 175 Queen Street E | A 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

library in st marys ontario

Location: 15 Church Street | A 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

flowers and river St Marys

Location: Queen Street across the Thames River | A 5-minute walk from Public Library | Built in 1865

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.  

St. Marys Museum

museum under trees in st marys ontario

Location: 177 Church Street South| 10-minute walk from the Victoria Bridge | Built in 1854

The former residence of George Tracy, one of the earlier settlers of the historic St Mary’s. The Georgian architecture with its smooth large blocks of limestone looks especially grand as it sits in a prominent location atop 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 and gardens in St. Marys, Ontario

Location: 67 Peel Street South | A 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. 

End of Your Self-Guided Walking Tour
Walk along Peel Street for 3 minutes to Queen Street and you are back downtown St Marys Ontario.

6 Things to Do in St Marys Ontario

streets of St. Marys Ontario with flowers and shops

Wondering what to do in St Marys Ontario? After your self-guided walking tour, you will end in the charming downtown. So, let’s start here.

1. Downtown St Marys Ontario

shop with streamers in st marys ontario downtown

A walk through the historic streets of St. Marys, Ontario offers a first-hand look at the stunning limestone architecture and vibrant downtown core.

St. Marys is known as the “Stone Town” because of its numerous limestone buildings, which were built using locally quarried stone.

shop in downtown st marys ontario

Take a stroll along Queen Street, St. Marys downtown, full of cute specialty shops and cafés. Some of my favourite stores in St. Mary’s Ontario to visit are The Chocolate Factory, Millie’s Kitchen, The Floor Mill and Bungalow. 

woman in storefront in st marys ontario
A special shout out to Cindy of Millie’s Kitchen, her warmth and passion for her shop are infectious. Her specialty shop offers gourmet sauce mixes with blends of vegetables & spices making your next homemade meal delicious. UPDATED: Millie’s Kitchen is available only online now.

2. The Farmers Market

flowers at farmers market in town of st marys ontario

One of my favourite things to do on a Saturday morning is go to a Farmers Market. If I’m daytripping, I skip my hometown and head to the local one of the places I’m visiting.

St. Marys is a fun one to visit. First, it’s 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. Mary’s Museum. 

I had a lovely chat and the Museum Curator happily shared some interesting St Marys history and fun facts about her hometown:

  • The town of St. Marys was founded in 1842 by a group of settlers led by Thomas Ingersoll, who named it after the nearby St. Marys River
  • Arthur Meighen, Canada’s 9th Prime Minister, is buried in St. Marys Cemetery
  • Timothy Eaton, of the Eaton’s department store fame, opened his first retail business here and in the nearby village of Kirkton

She also boasted about the town’s Stonetown Heritage Festival, a family-friendly fun event that honours the town’s past. Held in the middle of July weekend this festival features a vendor’s market, food, live music and a fireworks show.

3. The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

building home to canadian baseball hall of fame in st marys

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? 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.  

4. The Nature Trails

tree canopy with girl and dog walking on trail in st marys ontario

Enjoy the more than 25 km of trails perfect for walking, running and biking. The most popular ones follow the Thames River and Grand Trunk trail of the old railway. Check out the trail map and explore one for your next visit.

5. St. Marys Quarry

swimming pond with floating docks in st marys

Be sure to visit Canada’s largest outdoor freshwater swimming pool.

The St Marys quarry dates back to the mid-1800s, when the former limestone quarry closed in the 1920s it was converted into a public swimming area. It includes cliff jumping, SUP boarding, and beach volleyball. 

6. Paddle down the Thames River

kayakers on water in st marys ontario

Explore the 5 km 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. How can you say no to that? This makes paddling one of the best things to do in St. Marys.

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 the town of St Marys Ontario extra special 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.

If you want to see the full list be sure to check out my Canada home page. There are endless options for day trips near Toronto to small towns just as charming as St. Marys and other experiences you might enjoy too!