Want to know which of the best small towns in Ontario you need to visit?
There’s nothing better than discovering new small towns in Ontario to visit. Thankfully, Ontario sure does have a lot of them!
I’ve got a great list of the most beautiful towns in Ontario perfect for your next road trip!
Visit a small town in Ontario and you’ll find nothing but charm. Nothing quite beats that small town Ontario vibe where the pace is slower, the locals are friendlier, and the quiet streets are 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 and each one offers something a bit unique and special. It’s the town itself that is the tourist attraction.
Small town Ontario is my kind of my specialty.
I’ve lived in some of the best small towns near Toronto, and I’ve been day-tripping to cute towns in Ontario my entire life! In fact, my blog is only focused on beautiful small towns in Ontario. So, it’s kind of my jam.
Here’s my list of the best small towns in Ontario to visit in 2023!
Table of Contents
List of the Best Small Towns in Ontario
So, 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 will be divided into the prettiest towns in Ontario in the East and the West, using Highway 400 as our dividing line.
Here’s a quick list of the featured quaint towns in Ontario, followed by more information for you to plan your trip.
Best Small Towns in Ontario to Visit in the West
Alton is just one of those places to visit in Ontario if you love art. A hidden gem nestled in the Caledon area, you’ll find yourself captivated by its vibrant artist community hub.
What truly sets Alton apart is its unique ability to blend the tranquillity of a historic village with the pulsating energy of a thriving arts scene. The old mill lovingly repurposed into studios and galleries makes for an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.
Add in some local hiking or perhaps a self-guided walking tour to admire the pre-1900s homes dotted around Shaw’s Creek to round out your day here.
Driving distance from Toronto to Alton = 1 hour (78 km)
Bayfield is located on 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.
Find the heart of the village of Bayfield by wandering the historic Main Street lined with unique shops, restaurants and galleries. Peruse The Village Bookshop, a charming bookstore that features local authors. A must is a visit to The Pink Flamingo Bakery & Boutique for their delicious scones baked fresh every morning.
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 (220 km)
Creemore is just one of those delightful Ontario towns to visit any time of the year! Stroll down the charming main street lined with so many wonderful shops from the local bakery called The Bank offering some of the best cinnamon buns you’ll ever taste to the lifestyle shops with a dash of European flair.
Creemore also boasts the renowned Creemore Craft Brewery. Stop by for a sip of the pale ales they’re so famous for.
Visit the nearby trails giving you some of the best views in Ontario (especially in the fall).
Driving distance from Toronto to Creemore = 2 hours (122 km)
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 = 100 minutes (115 km)
Go to Erin for its adorable shops and well-preserved buildings. Indulge your senses at the local chocolatier, where handmade truffles and many velvety confections are made onsite daily. Let your nose guide you to the local bakery where you’re bound to be tempted by their breads and pastries. And for those seeking a high tea experience be sure to reserve a table at Maddie Hatters, a whimsical tea shop.
Erin is the perfect jumping-off point to other Ontario towns to visit like Elora and Caledon.
Driving distance from Toronto to Erin = 1 hour (80 km)
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 = 90 minutes (117 km)
7. 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 (100 km)
Goderich is located on 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 = 3 hour (230 km)
Jordan, often overshadowed by the nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake, should not be missed. It has an air of sophistication that other cute small towns in Ontario are missing. From the elegant shops and quaint galleries that line the village’s main street to the boutique wine shop of Cave Spring Cellars and the vintage hotel Inn on the Twenty.
But the magic doesn’t stop there. Just a stone’s throw away, are some of the best vineyards and wineries in the Niagara region. Here, you can sip away all while soaking in panoramic views that stretch to the horizon.
Driving distance from Toronto to Jordan = 1 hour (105 km)
Get ready for one of those beachy cute towns to visit in Ontario. Sitting along the shimmering shores of Lake Huron, Kincardine effortlessly combines the charm of a beach town with a surfer’s vibe that has a quirky vintage feel.
This family-friendly community is a mix of locals and cottage-goers. That interesting mix means the downtown appeals to both crowds in terms of its shops and eateries. And oh, the beach! Feel the sand between your toes while watching some of the best sunsets in Canada!
Driving distance from Toronto to Kincardine = 3 hours (220 km)
It’s no secret that Niagara-on-the-Lake is the most beautiful town in Ontario. Even Forbes named it the Top 5 Weekend Getaway Towns in Ontario! That’s because it offers something for everyone – theatre-goers, shoppers, wine enthusiasts, foodies and history buffs.
Wandering through the quaint downtown streets where the historic architecture creates such a picturesque backdrop to the boutique shops. The surrounding vineyards and wineries offer some of the best wines in the country. The culinary scene is top-notch with many farm-to-table restaurants serving up delectable dishes that celebrate the region’s bountiful produce.
Driving distance from Toronto to Niagara-on-the-Lake = 75 minutes (125 km)
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 (110 km)
13. Port Dover
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 (133 km)
14. Port Stanely
Discover the enchantment of Port Stanley, a hidden treasure among the cute small towns in Ontario to visit. With its quaint downtown, you’ll find charming boutiques, galleries and artisan shops reflecting the thriving artist community.
Grab a scoop of ice cream and freshly-made waffle cones at Broderick’s and head to the picturesque harbour offering stunning vistas of Lake Erie. Visiting Port Stanley is a serene escape from your daily life. It’s the kind of community that beckons you to slow down, relax and just soak it all in.
Driving distance from Toronto to Port Stanley = 2.5 hours (219 km)
15. St. Jacobs
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 (120 km)
16. St Marys
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 (168 km)
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 (149 km)
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Best Small Towns in Ontario to Visit in the East
You said you liked pretty towns in Ontario. Well, move Almonte to the top of your list! The epitome of small-town charm can be found right here. Its downtown exudes a picturesque allure as if plucked from a Hallmark movie scene.
Its roots as a former mill town, the streets are lined with 19th-century architecture and some of the best shops a girl could ask for, like the Tin Barn Market! It’s quality over quantity, as this downtown is small, but oh-so-worth it! And, Almonte’s heart is adorned with a beautiful waterfall cascading gracefully right in the centre of the town.
Driving distance from Toronto to Almonte = 4 hours (362 km)
Bloomfield is one of the three best Ontario towns to visit in Prince Edward County. Known as a culinary hot spot, try Seedlings, found in the dining room at Angeline’s Inn, where the menu changes as quickly as the seasons. Or, Flame and Smith with its farm-to-fire menu that uses a custom wood-burning oven to serve up all their dishes including house-baked bread.
After you’ve had your fill, visit the local shops that line the main street- from antiques at Retrospective to Kokito a modern-day general store that has something for everyone.
Driving distance from Toronto to Bloomfield = 2.5 hours (207 km)
Nestled on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, Gananoque is just one of those charming towns in Ontario you’ll want to visit. With a a rich heritage dating back to its early days as a lumbering and shipping hub is located near the Thousand Islands region, which means it offers a picturesque landscape dotted with emerald islands and crystal-clear waters.
Explore the town’s historic stone buildings, that are full of delicious eateries like Laverne’s Eatery (yum!) and a microbrewery called Gan Brewing Company. This scenic town is all about the food and less about the cute shops. But it makes up for it by offering an incredible view of the busy boat harbour and of the St. Lawrence River.
Driving distance from Toronto to Gananoque = 2.5 hours (288 km)
Perth, one of the prettiest small towns in Ontario, is chock-full of well-preserved heritage buildings, making it a charming hub for shopping, galleries, and cafes lining the downtown.
Start at the iconic Code’s Mill, a historic stone structure dating back to 1842, house unique shops like Perth Chocolate Works. The town’s vibrant downtown is a shopper’s haven all along the streets of Gore and Foster. From antique shops to art galleries, stores for children and cute gift shops Perth has many things you can see and do.
What makes Perth one of the most beautiful small towns in Ontario is Stewart Park. Nestled in the heart of town, this park offers expansive lawns, lush gardens, and picturesque bridges set against the backdrop of the meandering river.
Driving distance from Toronto to Perth = 3.5 hours (321 km)
Picton is one of the cute Ontario towns in Prince Edward County. Stroll the main street filled with cute shops. Grab a coffee at Miss Lily’s Café and browse the next-door Books and Company shop.
A fun thing to do in Prince Edward County is to have a picnic at the nearby Sandbanks. Pick up the fixings at Agrarian Market, and assemble some of the finest local cheeses, salads, and sneak in some of their chocolate chip cookies too.
Driving distance from Toronto to Picton = 2.5 hours (213 km)
23. Port Hope
A small town near Toronto worthy of a visit is Port Hope. Port Hope beckons with a picturesque downtown graced by a flowing river known for its outstanding trout fishing.
But it’s also known for offering the best small town shopping in Ontario. The main street lined with its tall Victorian architecture boasts many boutiques, galleries and cafes. If you adore antique hunting as much as I do, there’s no better place than Port Hope. Antiques on Queen is my favourite right next to the Capitol Theatre, a lovingly restored 1930s movie theatre.
Start your day at Milley’s Market, a little slice of Europe with its gorgeous interiors and imported fine food products. Owner Liza recommended their coffee and gelato as it’s a locals’ favourite. The famous burgers at Olympus Burger, featured on the Food Network’s “You Gotta Eat Here” holds down the best burger in Canada title.
Driving distance from Toronto to Port Hope = 1 hour (107 km)
24. Port Perry
Port Perry is just one of those nice towns to visit in Ontario. Positioned alongside Lake Scugog, the town’s scenic beauty is enhanced by its Victorian-era architecture.
Wander along the downtown’s Queen Street, adorned with an array of clothing boutiques, vintage stores, bookshops, furnishing outlets, and art galleries, all nestled amidst the backdrop of historic Victoria-era buildings.
Pop into the famous Hank’s Pastries for their cinnamon buns and the long-standing Nutty Chocolatier is a must for those with a sweet tooth. The Piano Inn & Cafe is a great spot for lunch, and a visit to the Old Flame Brewery is a popular spot to taste some local beer.
Driving distance from Toronto to Picton = 1 hour (83 km)
Wellington is one of the three best places to visit in Ontario in Prince Edward County.
So, start your day with a visit to the Italian-inspired coffee shop called Enid Grace Culinary & Piccolina and now you’re ready to explore. Rent bikes and tour some of the nearby wineries and vineyards. Stop at Norman Hardie for their delicious woodfire pizza and buttery chardonnay on the patio.
Or, beer lovers make your way to Midtown Brewing, one of The County’s top microbreweries where my husband recommends the giant cheeseburger to go with one of their ales. Lastly, the Drake Devonshire is the coveted hotspot for brunch.
Driving distance from Toronto to Bloomfield = 2.5 hours (200 km)
Recommended Places to Stay
Some of the small beautiful towns in Ontario might need a weekend getaway because of their distance from home, but many of them offer so much to see and do, that it’s impossible to experience them in just a couple of hours.
Luckily I have some resources to help plan your weekend getaway! So, let’s dive in.
In the East
For the towns in Prince Edward County – Wellington, Bloomfield and Picton
- A curated list of the best property rentals (Airbnbs) in The County
For the towns of Perth and Almonte, here’s where I stay – a lakeside cottage with a touch of lux living called The West House.
The West (Main) House, is an amazing lakeside retreat situated on the shores of Upper Rideau Lake. The allure of this Airbnb lies not only in its breathtaking lake views but also in its thoughtfully designed interior.
Large open living, dining and relaxing spaces perfect for families and friends to gather. A large chef’s kitchen, a coffee/tea nook, a dedicated home office and two balconies for quiet time to admire the view of the lake.
This 3-bedroom house can sleep up to 6 adults and 4 children. For even larger gatherings, you can book the cute lightly renovated Lake House bungalows that are on this large property.
With a crackling outdoor fire pit and a dock offering idyllic lakeside lounging, The West House sets the stage for a truly remarkable escape in East region.
In the South
Niagara-on-the-Lake is absolutely hands down a perfect weekend away destination.
- Enjoy a romantic getaway weekend with Niagara’s Finest Hotels
In the West
The shores of Lake Huron need to be enjoyed with an overnight stay. How else might you catch the beautiful sunrise and sunset.
- A curated list of the best property rentals (Airbnbs) near Bayfield, Grand Bend, and Goderich
- A curated list of the best property rentals (Airbnbs) near Kincardine, Sauble Beach and South Hampton
As a Holidaymaker
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. Within an hour of Toronto you can find yourself in some of the cutest little towns in Ontario or extend your day trip a little longer for even more amazing places to see in Ontario. Happy exploring!