Best Small Towns in Ontario to Visit in 2023 (Local’s Guide)
Discovering some of the best small towns in Ontario is my favourite thing to do! And Ontario sure does have a lot of them.
Visit a small town in Ontario and you’ll find nothing but charm. Nothing quite beats small town Ontario where the slower pace of quiet streets filled with quaint shops. Ontario small towns don’t offer visitors any tourist attractions per se. The best ones are often in the most scenic areas in the province. Each one offers something a bit unique and special.
If you are looking to visit some of the prettiest towns in Ontario, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s my list of the best small towns to visit in Ontario perfect for your next road trip.
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The Best Small Towns in Ontario
There are A LOT of Ontario small towns to visit. So how do you decide which ones to go to?
How far they are from where you live is key to a successful road trip. With so many spread across the province, this list features the best small towns in Ontario west of Toronto.
Bayfield is located in Ontario’s West Coast in Huron County. This charming village is known for its incredible views of Lake Huron, as well as, its beaches, parks and historic downtown.
Bayfield may be tiny in size, but big in appeal. Find the heart of the village of Bayfield by wandering the historic Main Street lined with unique shops, restaurants and galleries.
Visit Bayfield’s Pioneer Park for a breathtaking view of Lake Huron before you head to its main beach.
Driving distance from Toronto to Bayfield = 2.5 hours
Elora, located in Wellington County, sits on a stunning gorge alongside the banks of the Grand River. The 25-meter limestone cliffs offer many adventures all year round. From rafting, repelling, ice climbing, ziplining or riverside walks.
The downtown in the village of Elora is incredibly charming. With its 19th-century-old buildings being transformed into art studios and galleries, boutique stores and eateries. And, the restaurants, there are plenty! Elora Brewing Co. provides a true craft beer experience not to be missed. This makes Elora one of the best downtowns in Ontario!
Driving distance from Toronto to Elora = 90 minutes
Fergus is a pretty little town that sits on the Grand River in Wellington County. It has deep Scottish roots dating back to 1833 when its earliest settlers called it “Little Falls.” The best way to see scenic waterfalls in Fergus is to walk along the river through Templin Gardens.
Next, take a stroll through the historic downtown along the main street. There are over 200 buildings built in the early 19th century that are now turned into unique shops, antique stores and restaurants.
Lastly, the annual Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games are held in August. This is the largest Highland Games festival in North America drawing crowds of over 30,000 people to Fergus.
Driving distance from Toronto to Fergus = 75 minutes
Galt in Cambridge
Cambridge is a new and thriving city in the Waterloo region since it amalgamated 4 small towns of Galt, Hespeler, Preston and Blair in 1973. There is a long history of Galt in Ontario.
Visit here and you will see it resembles a little piece of Europe. The historic limestone buildings dating back to the mid-1800’s are built right up against the Grand River. Even its farmers’ market dates back to 1830, making it one of the oldest markets of its kind in Canada.
Walk or bike along the waterfront trails where you will have spectacular views from atop 400-year-old limestone cliffs.
End your day and dine at Cambridge Mill overlooking the Grand River. Or, indulge yourself by visiting Langdon Hall, a Relais & Châteaux property, known for its spa services, fine dining, high tea and luxurious accommodations.
Driving distance from Toronto to Galt (Cambridge) = 60 minutes
Goderich is located in Ontario’s West Coast in Huron County. It sits on the scenic shores of Lake Huron. This Ontario town is described as “the prettiest town in Canada” by Queen Elizabeth II.
As a coastal town, visitors flock to Goderich for the beach, but it also features an interesting history. The largest underground salt mine is located under Lake Huron, along with the oldest lighthouse and former jail, Huron Gaol, which operated from 1841 to 1970. A former jail has since been converted into a museum and offers a guided ghost tour.
Driving distance from Toronto to Goderich = 2.5 hours
Paris Ontario is located in Brant County where the Grand and Nith Rivers meet. It’s no secret that Paris is one of the prettiest towns in Ontario. Against the backdrop of the two rivers sits the small downtown lined with little shops and restaurants. Venture a couple of streets over to The Paris Wincey Mills Co. This historic building dates back to 1889 and has been transformed into a year-round market with local vendors.
Another thing to do in Paris is gaze upon the town’s different architectural styles, including Victorian, Edwardian, Gothic and Post Modern. Paris is best known for its cobblestone buildings. Builders used over 14,000 cobblestones all of the nearly identical size drawn from the Grand and Nith Rivers to create several homes and buildings.
Driving distance from Toronto to Paris = 75 minutes
Port Dover sits on the shores of Lake Erie in Norfolk County. This laid-back beach town offers up a whole lot more than fun in the sun.
Port Dover’s lighthouse from the mid-1800s is this small town’s most famous beacon. Walk along the long pier for those panoramic lake views. The lively downtown offers many restaurants and several unique shops.
Driving distance from Toronto to Port Dover = 2 hours
St. Jacobs is located in the heart of the Old Order Mennonite community in the Waterloo region. You will see many families on the country roads in traditional horse and buggy. St. Jacobs is famous for its massive all-year-round Farmers’ Market. You can catch over 300 local vendors on Tuesdays (summer only), Thursdays and Saturdays. Part of the seasonal market includes a craft and flea market.
After the market, visit the village of St. Jacobs, home to boutique shops, artisan stores, restaurants and its own craft brewery. St. Jacobs is one of the cutest small towns in Ontario you’ll ever visit!
Driving distance from Toronto to St. Jacobs is 75 minutes
St. Marys is located at the junction of the Thames River and Trout Creek in southwestern Ontario. St. Marys is one of the most beautiful towns in Ontario with lots of green spaces and bridges spanning calm river waters. It has a surprisingly rich Canadian history with many designated National Historic Sites.
Stroll the Main Street lined with stores in the historic limestone buildings. And, wander a bit beyond to gaze upon the lovingly restored century-old homes.
Driving distance from Toronto to St. Marys = 2 hours
Stratford, sits on the banks of the picturesque Avon River, just like England’s Stratford. Take a stroll along the pathway along the gentle flow of the river with an abundant amount of swans linking five beautiful gardens in full bloom in spring, summer and fall.
Stratford is famous for its theatrical productions, in particular, showcasing the plays of William Shakespeare. The Stratford Festival began in 1952 and welcomes just over 500,000 attendees in a season. 90% of visitors to Stratford come for the Festival.
Beyond this small town being a cultural hub, it is also a foodie hot spot with many top restaurants. Lastly, explore the historic downtown lined with 19th-century buildings filled with many shops and restaurants. Small town shopping doesn’t get any better than in Stratford!
Driving distance from Toronto to Stratford = 100 minutes
More Cute Towns near Toronto
Although this article focused on the best small towns in Ontario west of Toronto, there are other nice small towns in Ontario worthy of a day trip.
If you are looking for more inspiration, look no further than some of the cutest towns in Ontario.
- Caledon Ontario – known for its many small villages in Ontario that are close to Toronto
- Niagara-on-the Lake Ontario – one of the most well-known towns in Ontario to visit for its wine and picturesque downtown
- Jordan Ontario – one of Ontario’s wine country’s best villages to visit
- Prince Edward County Ontario – east of Toronto and Ontario’s favourite weekend getaway
- Creemore Ontario – located in one of the most scenic areas north of Toronto especially in the fall
As a holidaymaker
Within a little more than an hour west of Toronto, you can find yourself in one of the prettiest towns in Ontario. There’s nothing better than spontaneously hitting the road and spending the day in a small town in Ontario where life is a little simpler and a bit more charming. Happy exploring!