Ontario has some of the best small towns. Visit a small town in Ontario and you will find nothing but charm. The slower pace of quiet streets filled with quaint shops. Small towns don’t offer visitors any tourist attractions per say. The best ones are often in the most scenic areas in Ontario. Each one offers something a bit unique and special. These quaint towns are considered off the beaten path and hidden gems that only the locals know about.
Visiting a cute small town makes for the perfect day trip don’t you think? But with so many spread across province, where does one begin. 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. This village 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.
Want to read more about visiting Bayfield? Check out my featured article about this charming small town:
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 offers many adventures all year round. From rafting, repelling, ice climbing, ziplining or to riverside walks. The downtown in the village of Elora is incredibly charming. The 19th century-old buildings have been 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 small town makes for a romantic getaway, especially if you stay at the historic landmark Elora Mill and Spa. The recently renovated luxurious accommodation is a definite splurge, but offers you such a unique experience that it’s worth it!
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 is 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
Cambridge is a new and thriving city in 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 date back to the mid 1800’s are built right up against the Grand River. The 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 their spa services, fine dining, high tea and luxurious accommodations.
If you are planning a trip to Cambridge, why not make a stop along the way. Check out my featured article about Aberfoyle:
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 a former jail, Huron Gaol, operated from 1841 to 1970. The former jail has since been converted into a museum and offers a guided ghost tour.
Want to read more about visiting Goderich? Check out some of my featured articles about this pretty small town:
Driving distance from Toronto to Goderich = 2.5 hours
Paris Ontario is located in Brant County where the Grand and Nith Rivers meet. It is often referred to as Ontario’s “Prettiest Little Town.” Against the backdrop of the two rivers sits the small downtown lined with little shops and restaurants. Venture a couple streets over to The Paris Wincey Mills Co. This historic building dates back to 1889 has been 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 the cobblestone buildings. Builders used over 14,000 cobblestones all of near 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 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.
Want to read more about visiting Port Dover? Check out my featured article about this beach town and surrounding area:
Driving distance from Toronto to Port Dover = 2 hours
St. Jacobs is located in the heart of 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 cute village of St. Jacobs, home to boutique shops, artisan stores, restaurants and its own craft brewery.
If you are planning a trip to St. Jacobs, why not stop in Kitchener. Check out my featured article:
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 such a pretty town with lots of green spaces and bridges spanning over calm river waters. It has a surprising 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.
Want to read more about visiting St. Marys? Check out my featured article about this historic small town:
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 percent 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.
Driving distance from Toronto to Stratford = 100 minutes
As a holidaymaker…
Within a little more than an hour west of Toronto, you can find yourself in one of these pretty small towns. There is nothing better than spontaneously hitting the road and spending the day in a small town in Ontario where life is a little simpler and bit more charming. Let me know in the comments if there are other small towns west of Toronto that are worthy of adding to this list.