If you’re on the lookout for a charming small town, look no further than Perth, Ontario. In fact, it’s considered one of Ontario’s prettiest towns.
Discover the best things to do in Perth Ontario!
Brimming over with small-town charisma, this hidden gem is a playground for all things quaint, quirky, and quintessentially Canadian.
Nestled amidst the picturesque landscape of Lanark County it has everything you need for a fun-filled Ontario road trip! From gorgeous parks to a vibrant downtown with heritage buildings overflowing with cute shops, and an endless supply of food and drink! Perth has it all!
I’ve spent a lot of time in this cute Ontario town making it my home base 4 to 5 times a year for several years for work purposes. So I’ve dined and shopped my way through Perth and am always happy to return. Which I did and this time instead of staying in town, I lucked out in finding a nearby lakefront cottage Airbnb that’s a short drive away. Making it the perfect home base to explore Perth.
Here is a complete guide on what to do in Perth Ontario. With the added bonus of where to stay.
Table of Contents
25 Things To Do in Perth Ontario
1. Join a Perth Walking Tour
The best way to get to know Perth is to learn from a local. Join a free walking tour and soak up the tales of pioneers and past events. These guided (or self-guided) tours hosted by Perth Tourism Centre are your ticket to insider insights and fascinating anecdotes you won’t find anywhere else.
2. Learn About Perth’s History
Steeped in history, Perth, Ontario, has a captivating narrative that dates back to its early beginnings in the early 19th century. Established in 1816 as a military settlement, Perth was strategically located to serve as a key hub for British military and government operations during the era.
The town’s name pays homage to the historic town of Perth in Scotland, reflecting the Scottish heritage of many of its early settlers. As the settlement grew, it flourished as a commercial and cultural center, boasting bustling streets lined with beautifully preserved Victorian architecture.
In fact, Stonemasons made up a considerable amount of the population and were responsible for many of the well-maintained historical stone buildings in town.
Swing by the Perth Museum housed in the impressive historic Matheson House. This charming Georgian mansion built in 1840 for the Honourable Roderick Matheson, a senator in Canada’s first parliament after Confederation, is a treasure trove of local history and culture.
Inside, you’ll find everything from intriguing artifacts to exhibits in four period rooms showing you what life was like for the Matheson family.
📍11 Gore Street East | 🕘 10 am to 5 pm Wednesday – Sunday | Free (or donation)
Insider’s tip: Be sure to visit the community garden adjacent to the Matheson House. It can be easily missed. But this secluded garden is so lovely and managed by the Perth Horticultural Society.
The Last Duel in Perth went down in 1833 between two law students John Wilson and Robert Lyon, both fighting over the affections of a lady named Elizabeth. These two foes took their grievances to the field with pistols, and well, let’s just say it was a less-than-honourable way to settle a love triangle.
Those very pistols can be found in the Perth Museum. But if you want to visit the actual site where this duel took place head to Last Duel Park.
Insider’s tip: For history buffs especially wartime enthusiasts, a lesser-known place to visit is the second floor of the Royal Canadian Legion. Here you’ll find military artifacts from the Boer War, World Wars, Korea and Afghanistan.
4. Discover Code’s Mill
Venture into the heart of Perth and discover Code’s Mill, dating back to 1842. This stone mill is now home to some unique shops you’ll want to visit.
Find your way to the tranquil courtyard with the soothing murmur of the water fountain in The Atrium. Here, you’ll be encircled by charming boutiques, tropical palm trees, and elegant wrought iron balconies – all bathed in sunlight pouring through the 40-foot-high glass ceiling.
Start with indulging your sweet tooth at Perth Chocolate Works. Pick out a chocolate or a box (the best deal) and choose from their top-selling favourites like salted caramel, Forget Me Not, and pralines. With at least one melt-in-your-mouth chocolate, make your way to the next shop.
Kelly’s Flowers and Gift is full of neat and thoughtful gifts with a flower shop tucked off to the side. You won’t leave empty-handed, as there’s bound to be something that catches your eye.
Specialty donuts are all the rage, and if you love them as much as I do, then a visit to Blackfly Grub Hub is a must! Their top-sellers have names like Birthday Cake, Cookie Dough, and PB&C Cup. On Saturdays only they offer Boston Cream (a local favourite) and a vegan donut.
Fiddleheads Bar and Grill is the place to be if you love pub food! And, on fair weather days take a seat at the large outdoor patio with uninterrupted views of the Tay River meandering through Stewart Park. I recommend any of their yummy salads (which isn’t something you normally would try at a pub!).
5. Shop the Downtown
Downtown Perth is a shopper’s haven all along the charming streets of Gore and Foster. This is always my measure of a small town in Ontario that’s worth visiting. And, Perth doesn’t disappoint!
As you stroll amidst historical buildings you’ll find an endless array of boutique shops. There’s something for everyone! Collectors will love the many antique shops. Art lovers will appreciate the artisan shops and art galleries. Children will adore the toy and book shops. And, on and on.
Shopping in Perth, here are a few that caught my eye and are my long-time faves:
- The Collection Vintage– go for the curated mid-century finds
- Update your vinyl record collection and visit Backbeat Books & Music
- Flint and Honey has all the cozy feels for home and fashion
- For trendy streetwear head to LIDA, you’re not only going to find something cool to wear but will support a woman solopreneur who’s a big promoter of inclusivity
- Ground Waves is where you’ll find a unique gift for that hard to buy for person from housewares to children’s toys
- A fun shop to browse and admire is Queen Bee Millinery which is all about the modern fascinator or hat. Her acclaimed work has been worn on the most prestigious events such as Royal Ascot, as well as the late Queen’s garden parties
- Red Brick Emporium is another lifestyle, clothing, and housewares shop that is fun to browse
- Some of the cutest shops for little ones include Aprikose and Fawn & Fox
6. Visit Perth Town Hall
Right in the centre of town stands Perth’s Town Hall from 1863. Just like other buildings lining the streets, it’s crafted from the same local stone. However, the details on this impressive Town Hall make it truly stand out. Crowned with an ornate wooden cornice and framed by a boxed gable and tower, the mix of wood and stone makes it easily prominent from the rest.
Notably, the intricate bell and clock tower, added in 1874, serve as vivid markers of a structure meticulously designed to make a striking statement as a significant public landmark during its era of construction.
Insider’s Tip: Behind the Town Hall you will find the Perth Bandstand from 1852. Back in the day, this area was previously used as a Farmers’ Market where produce and live animals could be purchased. Since then the town band, The Perth Citizens’ Band, performs concerts throughout the summer.
7. Find Some National Landmarks
As part of the Chicago World Fair in 1893, the Lanark County Milk Producers worked together to craft a whopping 22,000-pound cheddar cheese block and shipped it off to the fair by train. The tale behind Mammoth Cheese is so unbelievable that it’s commemorated through a reproduction to prove it really did happen.
📍28 Drummond Street East
The McMartin House, a designated National Historic Site, was built in 1830 by Daniel McMartin, a descendant of United Empire Loyalists and Perth’s second lawyer. What makes this building unique is its Federalist architecture which is uncommon in Ontario. A distinctive feature is the “widow’s walk” atop the house.
📍Corner of Harvey and Gore Streets
Ian Miller and Big Ben Statue
It’s a point of pride that Canadian Olympian Ian Millar considers Perth his home. This esteemed equestrian clinched a bronze medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics with his horse, Big Ben. You can find this large bronze statue between Stewart Park and Code’s Mill.
The County Courthouse
The Courthouse from 1842 is most noteworthy because of the two very old cannons sitting out front. They are so old they predate the Courthouse. Hailing from the era of the American Revolutionary War, these two three-pound cannons are among the few surviving artillery pieces crafted for the army commanded by British General John Burgoyne.
It’s another example of Perth’s military role as a strategic defence location which helped to campaign in Canada and Northern New York before surrendering in 1777.
📍43 Drummond Street
8. Stroll Stewart Park
Tucked between Mill and Herriott streets behind Town Hall is the gorgeous Stewart Park. Spread across five acres in the heart of downtown Perth you won’t find a prettier park in any other small town in Ontario as you do in Perth.
Full of expansive lawns, gardens, towering mature trees and picturesque bridges spanning the meandering river this is a must-visit each and every time I visit Perth!
Insider’s tip: Visit in the early morning to catch the sublime water reflections. The iconic landmarks like Code’s Mill, Town Hall, Terrace on the Tay, and the Perth Water Tower are all framed perfectly by the park’s natural beauty.
9. Find Some Bridges
Not just another photo-worthy location in Perth but the dry stone bridge has garnered recognition for its design and aesthetic. In honour of the town’s 200-year birthday, the Stone Legacy Bridge was built using traditional methods of cutting and laying the stone without the use of mortar. You can find this on the edge of Stewart Park.
Other ones to visit include Little Tay Bridge and Mill Street Bridge which feature the original stonework. In Stewart Park, the Cavers Bridge and the Rainbow Bridge are a pretty one to capture on camera, while the Green Bridge offers the best view of the park.
Another one to seek out is the King Post swing bridge which is the last surviving bridge built over the Tay River in 1888. A year later, three more bridges were built when the Tay Canal and Tay Basin were completed.
10. Grab a Scoop
Nothing beats a warm summer’s day and grabbing a scoop of ice cream. That’s when I stumbled upon a new ice cream shop called Two Scoops. This cute shop has all the vintage charm you might expect to find in a small town such as this and you can’t beat the location being right next to Stewart Park.
📍10 Market Square | 🕘 12 pm to 6 pm Tuesday – Friday, 11 am to 7:30 pm Saturday
11. Visit the Perth Cheese Shop
Foodies take note, a visit to the Perth Cheese Shop is a must! This family-run business helmed by cheese lovers Meredith and Mark, offers a vast selection of local and imported cheeses from around the world. Stop and sample and you’re bound to walk away with some delicious cheese for your next charcuterie board.
📍64 Gore Street East | 🕘 10 am to 5 pm Monday – Saturday, 11 am to 4 pm Sunday
12. Treat Yourself at Perth Pie Co.
Who can resist a homemade pie? Not I! When you visit Perth Pie you will catch them in the act of pie-making, right in front of you in their open-concept kitchen. Choose from a delightful array of pies, from specialty coconut cream to savoury tourtière, alongside delectable butter tarts that I can never resist.
Among their offerings, they are most famous for their fruit pies with local favourites being tart cherry and wild blueberry.
📍12 Gore Street East | 🕘 8 am to 4 pm Monday – Wednesday, 8 am to 6 pm Thursday – Saturday, 9 am to 4 pm Sunday
13. Sit in the Big Red Chair
Many small towns across Ontario feature larger-than-life Muskoka chairs as a fun photo op and Perth just so happens to be one of those towns.
Near the Mammoth Cheese landmark, you’ll find the big red chair between Gore and Drummond streets. Remember to tag your best Instagrammable shot #PerthProud!
14. Admire Some Art
Perth is known for its thriving arts community. This means there are lots of interesting galleries and artisan shops to peruse. Shops and galleries like:
- Studio 87 – a contemporary art gallery
- Times Gone by Studio – is a cool gallery featuring two local artists works
- Studio Theatre – specializing in fine art, and offering a whole host of events for concerts and featured artist shows
- Katherine Muir Miller Gallery – features classic Canadian landscapes on canvas
15. Paddle on the Tay River
Something I haven’t done but think would be fun to do, especially for families is to get out on the water for a paddle. You name it, kayak, canoe or paddle boarding! I can’t think of a more scenic way to spend a few hours than paddling on the Tay River.
Set off from Last Duel Park or the Tay Basin. But if you require rental equipment head to Perth Major Outfitters. They have kayaks, Stand-Up Paddleboards and canoes which come with paddles and a life jacket.
16. Take a Bike Ride Around Perth
Bring your bikes and take advantage of the scenic roads nearby (Rideau Ferry Road and Perth Road are the best ones!). If you forgot to bring your bike, head to Heritage Bikes for all of your rental needs. They can even give you suggestions on routes based on how far you want to ride.
17. Do Some Bird Watching
Reminiscent of what you might find in Norfolk County, visit the Perth Wildlife Reserve for some great hiking trails in nature. This 257-hectare reserve helps preserve the wildlife and nature surrounding the Tay Marsh.
Seek out the Tay Marsh Lookout Tower for the opportunity to view some wildlife while you’re there.
18. Go for a Scenic Walk
The Tay River Trail, a historical pathway dating back to Perth-upon-Tay’s military settlement in 1816, is my go-to spot for running when I’m in town. Runners and walkers alike start at the Tay Basin as its heart, the trail branches upstream to Bobs Lake or downstream to the Tay delta at Lower Rideau Lake. Keep an eye out for navigational markers – peek through each marker’s circular viewfinder to spot the next one, and let the coloured faces guide you (green for upstream, red for downstream).
Dive into the trail’s history by exploring numbered plaques that match an aerial view, revealing a hidden Heritage Perth waiting to be discovered.
19. Play a Round of Golf
Why not play a quick round of nine-hole golf at the oldest course in Canada? Perth Golf Course (Links O’Tay) holds the title of the oldest nine-hole golf course in Canada, and it’s within walking distance of downtown. It reminds me of Niagara on the Lake which holds the title of the oldest 18-hole course.
Or, families might enjoy a stop at Perth Major Outfitters for a game of mini putt.
20. Relax at the Spa
Why not indulge in self-care at Best Western Perth Parkside Inn & Spa? I’ve enjoyed getting a pedicure and facial.
After your treatment, unwind on the stone terrace while you listen to the gentle sound of water from the fountain, with the gorgeous Stewart Park as your backdrop.
Just a stone’s throw away, you’ll discover the Port Elmsley Drive-In, a cinematic gem nestled within the woods where you can catch a movie beneath the open sky. Going to the drive-in is such a nostalgic way to see a movie. With so few of them left in Ontario, don’t miss out on the chance to do this fun activity.
22. Go to Farmers Market
Perth’s vibrant Farmers Market, nestled around the picturesque Tay Basin, boasts a lively atmosphere. Craft vendors can be found inside the Crystal Palace building while “al fresco” dining tables and live local music are held outside along with the local market stalls.
Like most Farmers’ Markets across small towns in Ontario, they are every Saturday between 8 AM and 1 PM (kick off Mother’s Day weekend to Thanksgiving Weekend).
23. Festivals and Events
Perth’s year-round calendar of festivals and events is chocked full of fun. Kick off the new year with a Polar Bear dip (brrr!) at the Frost & Fire Winter Festival in mid-February. Come spring be sure to attend the Festival of Maples (for all things maple syrup).
The standouts in summer include the Stewart Park Festival, the Perth Garlic Festival, and the Perth Night Market.
Lastly, kick off the holiday season with the Festival of Lights and Christmas markets.
24. Enjoy some Eateries
Wow, the food + drink options are endless in Perth. Every time I would come to Perth I would try a different restaurant. That means I’ve enjoyed my fair share of restaurants in Perth. Here are my recommendations.
- Coutts Coffee Roastery & Cafe – You can’t beat the views or location in the historical building built in 1841 called Sheriff’s House
- North Fold Cafe & Bakery – Known for their locally made Artizen Kombucha and plant-based goods, but a must-try is their yummy signature North Folk Cake
- Billings & Co – This cool concept of a modern cafe takes you from being a coffee bar to a wine bar offering bottle service. I spoke with the owner, Mary Catherine, and she wants this to be a space where you can enjoy the restaurant experience at home. With an easy menu of really good-tasting small plates complimented by a boutique wine bar experience, Billings & Co is a standout cafe you need to visit! (Thanks Mary Catherine for the wine recommendation, the Austrian wine was perfect!)
Lunch & Dinner
- Fieldhouse – This is a great choice for a casual lunch, you can’t beat their simple but tasty sandwiches
- The Twisted Fork Cafe & Bistro – Homemade food for takeaway from fresh salads and sandwiches to frozen meals (soups, lasagna, shepherd’s pie). There is not a huge selection for vegetarians, but I can recommend the quiches and quinoa salads
- Bistro 54 – If you crave homemade pasta the best choice is Bistro 54. This was my go-to restaurant when in Perth, so much so, I think the owner recognized me
- Mex & Co – The best Mexican food in the 613 area code! I loved going here when I could get a table on their terrace overlooking the Tay River. (Insider tip: no reservations, so you might need to have a backup place if you want to eat outside)
- The Stone Cellar – For a more refined menu and atmosphere dining in a historic building from 1850 come here. Their menu never changes, so locals come here to enjoy their favourites (mine is the pear and goat cheese salad and pesto gnocchi)
- Maximilian’s Restaurant – a long-standing German/Austrian favourite known for its schnitzel. They also have one of the best outdoor waterfront patios in this 1840 building along the Tay River
25. Sip Local Brew
- Perth Brewery – I couldn’t resist trying their refreshing grapefruit radler (yum!)
- Bridge Masters Brewing Company – Check out their summer experiences where they offer live music as you sip away
- Top Shelf Distillers – Your place to go for gin and spirits, and I’m a gin girl. I’m sorry my timing didn’t line up to check them out in person (but I know I’ll be back)
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Where to Stay in Perth
While sticking around town is definitely an option, I’ve had my fair share of stays at local spots, like the popular Best Western Plus Perth Parkside Inn & Spa. However, if you’re yearning for a stay that’s truly on the stylish side, allow me to introduce you to an Airbnb that’s pure waterfront luxury.
Nestled in serene seclusion, this property called The West House graces the shores of Upper Rideau Lake, a mere 24 km or 30-minute drive from Perth. Making it an easy day trip to Perth. The moment you step inside, an open-concept kitchen and seating area beckon, granting you captivating lake vistas.
Yet, the true showstopper reveals itself in the form of a sunken living and dining space. Imagine a spacious dining table accommodating 12, ready for hearty gatherings and spirited game nights. A large sectional sofa centred around a fireplace is the perfect spot for movie night! With guests in mind, the hosts have added a coffee & tea bar complete with a wine fridge.
In the realm where cottage charm meets stylish luxury, this waterfront Airbnb is meticulously designed down to the last detail, ensuring one of the most unforgettable weekend getaways. A crackling fire pit sets the evening scene, while a floating dock adorned with loungers extends an irresistible invitation to lake-side lounging.
The West House Airbnb Details:
- 3 bedrooms | Bedroom no. 1 features a queen-sized bed with fireplace and lake views | Bedroom no. 2 features a queen-sized bed with a walk-out to a private deck | Bedroom no. 3 is perfect for kids offering double bunk beds
- Dedicated home office with a Murphy bed (for overflow of guests) and walk out to a balcony with lake views
- 2 full bathrooms with gorgeous standalone tub and 2-person walk-in shower
- Open-concept kitchen with island and seating area with walk-out to balcony with lake views
- Large living and dining (seats 12) space with fireplace, TV and coffee/wine bar
FAQs About Visiting Perth Ontario
How can I get to Perth, Ontario?
Perth is a town located in Eastern Ontario, Canada. It’s situated along the Tay River, approximately 130 km (80 miles) southwest of Ottawa and a 3-hour driving distance from Toronto.
What are the best days of the week to visit Perth?
The best days of the week to visit Perth are Wednesday to Saturday when shops, restaurants, and attractions are fully operational. Most shops are closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Is parking available in Perth’s downtown area?
Yes, parking is available in downtown Perth. There are street parking spots marked for free 2-hour parking including the side streets.
Are there public washrooms available in Perth?
Yes, public washrooms are available in various locations throughout Perth, including in Stewart Park and the Visitor’s Centre.
As a Holidaymaker
Intriguing history, artisanal delights, and delicious food + drink await in Perth, Ontario! Add a stay at the incredible Main House Airbnb promises an unforgettable experience that encapsulates the town’s charm.