10 picturesque small towns to visit near Toronto

Small towns in Ontario are some of the best places to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. You don’t need to spend the whole day in the car to get to these scenic escapes from Toronto — most of them are within a couple hours of downtown. Whether you’re looking for a romantic weekend getaway or a quick jaunt with the kids, these stunning spots are the perfect place to enjoy beautiful architecture, quaint restaurants and charming accommodations.

 

Elora 

 

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This picturesque small town is perched on the eponymous gorge and offers beautiful views of the Grand  River. You’ll want to start your visit on Mill and Metcalfe Streets where the roads are lined with beautifully preserved 19th century limestone buildings that operate as galleries, restaurants, and independent shops. For a memorable experience, stay at the recently restored Elora Mill Hotel & Spa, which is located within the river and offers stunning views. When it’s time to eat, try The Evelyn for its French-inspired cuisine or the Elora Brewing Company for its great list of beer on tap. Don’t forget to take a hike through the Elora Gorge Conservation Area and to stop in nearby Fergus to complete your journey.

 

Goderich

 

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Located on the southeastern shore of Lake Huron, Goderich is often referred to as “Canada’s prettiest town.” If you’re staying the night, you’ll want to check-in to the cozy Samuels Boutique Hotel where each room features a fireplace and a private terrace with scenic views. A visit to the famous Cuthbert’s Bakery—originating in 1877—should be on every visitor’s to-do list. Take a stroll across the octagonal square which will shuttle you back to the early 1900s. Don’t forget to check the events calendar for a list of activities and things to do, including plays at the local theatre and evening ghost tours. End your night with dinner at Thyme On 21 and enjoy the Victorian décor or indulge in some comfort food at West Street Willy’s Eatery.

 

Stratford

 

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Come for the Shakespeare, stay for the food. While Stratford is well known as a festival town and arts hub, it’s also home to a budding dining scene. Those with a sweet tooth will want to explore the Chocolate Trail, while those with savoury palates will enjoy the Bacon and Ale Tour, a self-guided jaunt that offers a peek at the area’s culinary offerings. You can stay at one of the many charming B&Bs or at the cozy Parlour Inn, which is located near the historic Avon theatre. Stratford is also the hometown of pop-star-turned-bad-boy Justin Bieber, and the proud town has even created a map of all his favourite places to go.

 

Port Hope

 

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Located at the mouth of the Ganaraska River, this small town is the picturesque entry way to Northumberland County. When you arrive, take a stroll along Walton Street, which is lined with restaurants, cafes and one of the last restored atmospheric movie theatres in Canada, the Capital Arts Centre. This small town is known for its preservation of its 19th century architecture, which is on display at the Hotel Carlyle & Restaurant, an old bank branch built in 1857. There’s also plenty of cute B&Bs that operate out of beautifully preserved Victorian homes. The town’s burgeoning food scene is marked by restaurateurs who offer locally grown produce.

 

Cobourg

 

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Located about 10 minutes east of Port Hope on Lake Ontario, this adorable town is worth a visit in its own right. There are some great cycling trails to explore in the surrounding area, but if consuming calories is a bigger priority than burning them, check out one of the many self-guided tasting tours. There is a  Chocolate, Bakery & Bison Tour, Butter Tart Tour or the Cheers Tour which includes three breweries and two cideries. There’s also quaint pubs and restaurants in town to try before spending the night at the historic Woodlawn Inn or at the Breakers, a charming lakeside resort.

 

Creemore

 

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Nestled amidst the stunning Niagara Escarpment this town is known as the “little village with a big heart.” Take a stroll along Mill Street to see what the hype is all about. Don’t forget to stop at the Old Mill House Pub for a pint, as it’s located next door to the Creemore Springs brewery. This small town is also home to North America’s smallest jail, now a historical landmark. Surrounded by woods, there are many trails to hike, choose from Bruce Trail or atop the Nottawasaga Bluffs, where the vistas are particularly gorgeous. You’ll want to stop at Eigensinn Farm where Chef Michael Stadtlander offers an exquisite eight course meal. If you plan to stay the night, Sequel Inn Creemore  the “urban chic country retreat”,  is the perfect spot.

 

Cambridge/Galt

 

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This town with two names seems like it could be plucked right out of Europe. The blend of Romanesque and Gothic architecture turn Galt into a unique gem worth visiting. The town provides an old-world vibe. Visiting its farmers market, one of the oldest in Canada, will transport you back to its opening in 1830. Stay at the beautiful luxury hotel, Langdon Hall in Cambridge and dine at the beautifully restored 19th century industrial building-turned restaurant, Cambridge Mill for the exquisite food, panoramic views of the river, and warm up with a cocktail by the fire.

 

Paris 

 

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This municipality stands out thanks to its variously Victorian, Edwardian, and Gothic architecture. You can spend the day exploring the quaint restaurants, bakeries and shops along the river as well as some of the last remaining cobblestone buildings in Ontario. For dinner, Stillwater Plate & Pour is the ideal spot for elevated pub fare and a spectacular view. If you plan to stay overnight, there are a few B&B’s operating out of historic homes as well as the beautiful chateau-style Arlington Boutique Hotel, an Ontario Heritage Site, situated right downtown.

 

Aberfoyle 

 

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Take a trip back in time by visiting this Wellington County town, home to the Aberfoyle Antique Market, the oldest of its kind in Canada. With over 90 vendors, you’re sure to spot a gem or two, whether you’re seriously shopping or just soaking in the scene. If antiques aren’t your thing, you can explore the old town or check out the farmers’ market. When you’re hungry, head to the Aberfoyle Mill Restaurant, where the cozy country charm and the mood lighting makes for a romantic night out. For the more adventurous, there’s also Murder Mystery Theatre Dinner. For accommodations, check out Airbnb listings in town or head to Guelph for a hotel stay.

 

Uxbridge

 

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Located in the Durham Region, just northeast of Toronto, this small town is considered to be the trail capital of Canada. It’s the perfect spot to go for a hike and take-in all the historic charm. There are several B&B options available if you want to stay the night and a beautifully renovated guesthouse, Century Schoolhouse Gymnasium Loft in the Country, a cool-looking hanging bed. Sit by a roaring fire and enjoy the serenity of this country loft. Before you head back to the city, play a round of golf and enjoy a post-game drink at the Wooden Sticks.