Ontario’s approximately 14 million residents are certainly spoiled for choice when it comes to finding great small-town vacation destinations. While charming Niagara-on-the-Lake attracts the most attention with over 3 million visitors annually, there are many equally wonderful communities worth including on your visit to Ontario.
From Gravenhurst, Canada’s steamship capital, to Fergus, Scotland’s heritage site, to Gananoque, gateway to the Thousand Islands, each of Ontario’s six most underrated towns offers a glimpse into the province’s lesser-known areas. It offers the opportunity to explore lesser but equally fascinating destinations.
Despite being called the “Gateway to Muskoka,” the small town of Gravenhurst is a popular destination for tourists heading north on Highway 11 from Toronto to visit the larger cottage country towns of Bracebridge and Huntsville. I often (quite literally) walk by. This is a shame because Gravenhurst has some great attractions that are worth visiting. Top of the list is Muskoka Lake’s popular summer spot, Muskoka His Wharf. It boasts a weekly farmers’ market, great restaurants, and most importantly, North America’s oldest continuously operating steamship. RMS Segun. With sister ships, Wenona II, Seguun It offers visitors a variety of cruise options that sail past million-dollar cottages to the small towns of Barra and Port Carling. Your cruise ticket also includes admission to the pier’s other great attraction, the Muskoka Discovery Center for kids.
Other points of interest include the Gravenhurst Opera House, where Kiefer Sutherland’s father Donald began his acting career. Bethune House is a particularly important attraction for tourists from. China People gather here to pay tribute to Norman Bethune, the Canadian doctor who saved the life of a wounded Chinese soldier in the 1930s. And Music on the Barge is Gull Lake Her Park’s popular concert series started by the late Queen Elizabeth II during her 1959 visit.
Located just over 100 miles from Ontario’s largest city, you can easily incorporate Fergus into your day trip from Toronto. The town’s Celtic roots are best known for the annual Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games. This festival is one of the longest running (currently running for over 70 years) and largest of its kind in North America. Highlights of his three-day festival, which shows the deep ties between Canada and Scotland, include traditional caber throwing, highland dancing and bagpipe competitions.
The nearby town of Elora, about 10 minutes away, is home to Elora Gorge, a stunning natural formation carved by the Grand River that features 70-foot-tall limestone cliffs and stunning views. Best of all is the 2-mile long scenic trail network that leads all the way to Elora Gorge Preserve. The Grand River, which formed the beautiful gorge of Elora, also helps define Fergus. This beautiful river flows through the town, giving outdoor enthusiasts the opportunity to participate in activities such as fishing, kayaking, and leisurely walks along the riverbank. Templin Gardens is another attraction worth visiting for its beautifully landscaped grounds.
Gananoque serves as Canada’s gateway to the Thousand Islands, a spectacular region of outstanding natural beauty along the St. Lawrence River shared equally by Ontario and upstate New York. This archipelago of more than 1,800 islands, most of which are part of Thousand Islands National Park, can be explored on a boat tour from Gananoque that provides up-close views of the islands, their diverse wildlife, and historic villas. can do.
Other highlights of Gananoque include the 1000 Islands Historical Museum, housed in a former train station and filled with interesting information about the area. The Gananoque Trail System is also fun to explore, consisting of more than 7 miles of scenic walking trails through the town’s parks and streets.
Ontario is so large that it surrounds four of the Great Lakes. One of the best places to get a feel for Lake Huron, the second largest lake, is to visit Goderich. Considered one of Canada’s most beautiful towns, Goderich’s appeal is largely due to its unique town layout, centered around a distinctive octagonal roundabout known as “The Square” (yes , urban planners have a sense of humor). This vast green space was developed in the mid-1800s and is considered the heart of the town.
Learn more about the town’s rich history at the Huron Historic Jail and Huron County Museum, both of which offer interesting insight into local history and culture. Goderich’s beaches are another great reason to visit, offering opportunities for swimming, sunbathing, and enjoying the town’s famous sunsets. The town also has several parks and trails, including the Menesetun Bridge, which offers great views of the Maitland River and Lake Huron.
Lovely Picton is located in the increasingly popular tourist region of Prince Edward County, an idyllic corner of the province jutting out into Lake Ontario, about halfway between Toronto and Canada’s capital, Ottawa. This island community has also made a name for itself in the wine industry, with notable wineries such as Harwood His Estate, Domaine Darius, and Huff His Estate. Hough Estates is especially fun to visit Oeno Gallery, the on-site art venue.
Highlights in town include the Regent Theater, a historic film and performance venue. and Macaulay Heritage Park, with its well-preserved historic buildings and gardens. Sandbanks State Park is also a popular attraction nearby, known for its sand dunes and beaches.
Situated at the base of the Bruce Peninsula on the shores of Georgian Bay, Owen Sound is a great place to visit both cultural attractions and many natural wonders. Founded in 1841 for its protected harbor area and access to Lake Huron, the city is an important port for agricultural products, as evidenced by the grain elevators still in use within the harbor. Continuing. The town was also an important terminus for the Underground Railroad, helping an estimated 40,000 slaves escape north to Canada, and its role is celebrated in places like Harrison Park’s Black History Cairn.
Other attractions include the Community Waterfront Heritage Center, which has exhibits about the town’s maritime and railroad history. The Tom Thomson Art Gallery is dedicated to one of Canada’s leading artists who inspired the famous Group of Seven. Near Inglis Falls, it is one of several waterfalls in the area and is popular for its location along the Bruce Trail, a 550-mile historic hiking route that connects Georgian Bay and Niagara Falls. there is.
Thanks to Ontario’s vast area, New York is seven times the size of the state, and there’s room to squeeze in Maine and Delaware as well. It should come as no surprise to learn that Ontario is full of wonderful small towns to visit. From Goderich’s stunning sunsets and Gravenhurst’s steamships to Gananoque’s connection to the spectacular Thousand Islands, these often overlooked towns are definitely worth including in your future travel plans.