Summer is the time of year when most people book their vacations to soak up the sun, but that doesn’t necessarily mean visiting an international destination. Canadians looking to travel locally this summer can explore these quaint towns that thrive on summer tourism. For international travelers heading to Toronto this summer, rent a car and take a day trip (or spend a few days) to one of these destinations to experience Ontario’s unique small-town charm.
Elora, Ontario is located in Wellington County and boasts beautiful 19th century limestone architecture. Elora is a quaint little town on the banks of the Grand River and has been called “the most beautiful village in Ontario” by Canadian artist AJ Casson of the Group of Seven. A focal point of the village is the Elora Mill which backs onto the river and is an upscale wedding venue and spa. Visitors exploring Elora for a day can stroll the quiet streets, visit local shops, eat at one of the many patios, and hike the Elora Gorge.
Stratford is Ontario’s theater town, famous for hosting the Stratford Festival, where there is an impressive line-up of shows each season. This artsy little town is the birthplace of musician Justin Bieber and is just over an hour from Toronto, making it easy to visit on a day trip. There are plenty of quaint shops and delicious restaurants to try before hitting the theater.
Looking for a quaint Canadian town to spend a summer day in? Paris, Ontario may not have an Eiffel Tower, but it’s called the cobblestone capital of Canada for its charming streets and traditional architecture. It is located where the Nith River meets the Grand River and has been named “Canada’s Prettiest Small Town” by Harrowsmith magazine. Grab an ice cream at Paris Twisted Treats before strolling through the beautiful streets and snapping some photos of this small town.
Goderich is a coastal town in Huron County, Ontario. It overlooks the shores of Lake Huron, one of the five Great Lakes. Goderich has a quaint historic district and stunning views of the blue waters that stretch off the coast. The shocking blue tint of the water in Goderich is due to the salt content of the water since Goderich has a major salt mining industry. Some of the top things to do in Goderich include enjoying a scenic day at Goderich Main Beach, visiting the Goderich Lighthouse, or visiting the Huron County Museum.
Perth, Ontario attracts less traveler attention than Perth in Western Australia, but it’s still an interesting travel destination when you visit Toronto. It takes around 3.5 hours to drive to Perth from Toronto, so it’s well worth spending a night or two in this charming town en route to Ottawa. Perth has beautiful green spaces like Stewart Park and Perth Wildlife Reserve, but it also offers a chance to learn about local history at McMartin House and the Perth Museum. Don’t miss the Mammoth Cheese, made from the milk of 10,000 cows.
5 South Hampton
South Hampton, Ontario is a small, upscale town in Bruce County on Lake Huron. It is a stunning seaside town that is perfect for exploring during the summer months, whether on a day trip or on vacation. There are cabins for rent in the area and tons of local restaurants serving up high quality delicacies. For a taste of coastal living right here in Ontario, South Hampton is the place to be this summer.
4 big bend
Grand Bend is one of the best beach towns in all of Canada, so it’s no wonder Ontarians flock to this beautiful destination from June to August every year. Grand Bend has a strong commitment to water safety and quality, ensuring visitors can swim at the beaches here each time they visit. For this reason, Grand Bend’s main beach is one of 22 in the country to be awarded Blue Flag status for water safety.
Muskoka is Ontario’s cottage country, and there’s nothing quite like escaping the hustle and bustle of Toronto life for a rural getaway in Huntsville. This small Ontario town is home to the Deerhurst Resort, a popular wedding venue and retirement destination in the heart of Muskoka. Alternatively, travelers can rent a cabin or Airbnb on lakes like Fairy Lake, Lake Vernon, or Fox Lake. Prepare to see wildlife here, with deer, moose, black bears and even wolves frequenting the area. Mosquitoes are also ferocious in these parts of the province, so be sure to pack insect repellent.
Cobourg is a tourist town east of Toronto that is famous for its beach. MoneySense magazine has repeatedly called Cobourg, Northumberland County one of the best places to live in Canada, and the town has a vibrant downtown that ensures visitors never get bored. Cobourg Beach is the city’s main attraction; there is a large boardwalk, several scenic picnic areas, and a wading pool for children to play in.
Picton is a beautiful little town located in Prince Edward County in southeastern Ontario. It is known for its many shops and historic architecture and for being the largest city in Prince Edward County. This region has wineries, craft breweries and cider houses open 12 months a year. So while summer is a fantastic time to visit when the weather is nice, it’s a year-round entertainment destination in Ontario.