7 Historic Small Towns in Southwestern Ontario To Add To Your Road Trip
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Planning a road trip around Southwestern Ontario is one of the best things you can do. There are a lot of beautiful hiking trails, scenic landscapes and small towns in Southwestern Ontario to visit - not to mention the farm-to-table restaurants dotted around this part of the province. Southwestern Ontario is also famous for its freshwater beaches that attract crowds in the summertime, as well as its stunning sunset views. If this is your first time visiting Canada, Southwestern Ontario may not be in your itinerary, but if you want to see an authentic corner of Canada then it should be.
Southwestern Ontario was first occupied by a variety of different Indigenous First Nations, before later being settled by the French and colonized by the English. It sits nestled between two freshwater lakes and has an abundance of fertile land within its boundaries, making it a great destination in the summer and autumn if you’re shopping for fresh produce. Here’s a look at some of the best historic small towns in Southwestern Ontario that would make a great addition to any Canadian road trip.
Stratford is home to the world-famous Festival Theatre, is the birthplace of Justin Bieber, and is one of the most popular day trips from Toronto. On top of it being a hub for artists in Canada, downtown Stratford boasts a number of unique boutique shops, art galleries, and some pretty fantastic eateries too. Places like Bijou Restaurant, El Cactus Taco Shop, and Pazzo Pizzeria are just a few examples of places to eat in Stratford that I’d recommend checking out. And if you happen to be visiting Stratford on a budget, there are a number of free things to do in Stratford too. You’ll probably need at least 48 hours in Stratford to explore all that this small town in Southwestern Ontario has to offer.
Having lunch in Stratford?
If you’re a person that’s constantly on the go and would rather have something to take away, the best takeout restaurant in Stratford is Sirkel Foods. All of their food is made fresh daily using local products, and their portions are very generous. They have a main menu as well as a daily specials board, but you can’t go wrong with one of their enormous sandwiches.
St Mary’s is one of Ontario’s oldest communities, and is the perfect historic town in Southwestern Ontario to visit if you happen to be in Stratford as it’s only a 20 minute drive away. This pretty small town is home to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and is the burial place of Canada’s 9th Prime Minister. The downtown area is significantly smaller than Stratford’s, but one place you need to stop at is The Chocolate Factory who have chocolates very similar to that found in Rheo Thompson at a slightly cheaper cost. Known as “Stone Town” thanks to its buildings made from local limestone, St Mary’s is a great place to stop at any time of the year.
Seaforth may not be your typical tourist spot in Ontario, but it’s a nice small town to stop at as you make your way to Lake Huron. The town was incorporated in 1875 and was a major shipping point for wheat and a grain-buying centre. Seaforth was even handling more dollars worth of wheat than Toronto at one point. Today visitors can enjoy a walk down its main street where you’ll find some quaint shops and places to eat before heading off to your next historic small town in Southwestern Ontario.
Not far from Seaforth is the small Canadian town of Clinton. Located in Huron County, Clinton was established in 1831 and is known for being the home of Canada’s radar, because of the large radar in town and its association with the RCAF base nearby. There isn’t too much to see in Clinton, so I would recommend planning to spend an hour or two here at the most. Make sure you do a bit of research about Clinton beforehand as there’s some interesting stories tied to this small town.
Blyth is one of the smallest communities in Huron county, but it certainly has a lot going for it. It’s quickly becoming a cultural and artistic centre along Ontario’s western coast, and is home to the famous Blyth Festival Theatre. The main street is filled with local shops, but my favourite has to be Maple and Moose which features top-quality Canadian products, many of which are handmade by artisans. Blyth is also a hub for people seeking outdoor adventures, with many bike tours taking place in this area.
Where To Eat in Blyth
We’ve driven through Blyth numerous times, and each time we make sure we stop at the Cowbell Brewing Co. for something to eat. They produce sustainably focused craft beer which has won them numerous awards and cemented their place in the list of Canada’s destination breweries. New flavours of beer are released each season, and their on-site shop means you can take a case of your favourite ones home with you. What’s great about this Ontario brewery is that visitors are free to explore the upper area which gets you as close as possible to the fermenting tanks and gives you a unique view of the restaurant below.
The food at Cowbell Brewing Co. really can’t be beat. They use all locally sourced products and their dishes are made to order. The Spinach Dip is delicious and a great way to start things off. You won’t be disappointed by any of their burgers which are grilled to perfection, and their pizzas are stone baked right in front of you. The Nola Fried Chicken was what I ordered here the first time around and I would gladly drive the hour from Stratford to have it again. If you’re looking for unique places to eat in Southwestern Ontario, this is it.
Consistently named one of the prettiest towns in Ontario, Goderich is the perfect coastal historic town in Southwestern Ontario to spend a day at. Apart from its popular shorelines which are bursting with people in the summer months, Goderich boasts a beautiful downtown area too. It was incorporated as a town in 1850, and is famous for its unique octagonal roundabout known as “The Square” where you can find many of the town’s shops and restaurants. If you’re planning a road trip in Ontario, Goderich should definitely be on your list.
A short drive down the coastline from Goderich will bring you to Bayfield. This quaint town in Ontario is known for its stunning views of Lake Huron as well as its charming shopping street. It sits between Goderich and Grand Bend, and was settled in 1832 by a Dutch nobleman. The buildings here are very similar to those found in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s old town, so it’s like stepping into another world. It’s the perfect small town in Southwestern Ontario to visit in the summer months when you can enjoy walking in the sunshine and sitting outside on the patios.
Southwestern Ontario isn’t filled with large cities or major tourist attractions, but if you enjoy visiting places that are more off the beaten path with lots of charm then a road trip around this part of the province will be a great fit for you. There are a lot of historic small towns in Southwestern Ontario to visit, but these are just a few that are easy to drive to if you’re making Stratford your base (including Stratford, of course).
Have you driven around this part of Ontario before? I’m always looking for more recommendations and places to visit near my hometown of Stratford, so please feel free to get in touch or leave a comment below. You can also follow my travels on Instagram to stay up to date with my latest adventures too.