Things To Do in Elora, Ontario During a Day Trip
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Wellington County is a beautiful part of Ontario to drive through, especially in the summer months. Among the rolling hills of farmlands are some stunning points of interest and towns that are the perfect addition to any Ontario road trip itinerary. Although no longer much of a hidden gem in Ontario, Elora is one of the best day trips from Toronto you can go on, and is close to other nearby towns such as Stratford and St Mary’s. Despite having grown up in Stratford, I hadn’t actually visited Elora until now, and I’m so glad we managed to squeeze it into our schedule! Whether you’re spending a day in Elora or more, there are plenty of great things to do in Elora for all interest types.
Elora consistently ranks as one of the most beautiful towns in Ontario, and it’s very easy to see why. Its 19th century limestone architecture with a charming river running through it makes for a very scenic place to explore on foot. Pair that with the quaint shops in Elora and the variety of locally run restaurants, not to mention the outdoor activities available, and you’ll soon know why so many people fall in love with this small town in Ontario. Here’s a look at my top picks for the best things to do in Elora if it’s your first time visiting.
Walk across the Jack R MacDonald Bridge
The Jack R MacDonald Bridge is a beautiful pedestrian bridge in Elora that offers an unbeatable view of the Elora Mill across the water. The bridge was reconstructed in 2019 and opens up into the historic centre of Elora, where you can find a wide array of shops and restaurants. If you’re planning a day trip to Elora, you definitely need to get a photo from this vantage point.
Grab breakfast at The Friendly Society
Wondering where to have breakfast in Elora? There are many options around the historic centre, but I would highly recommend The Friendly Society if you want a more unique breakfast experience. I chose their huevos tostados, which was basically a breakfast version of tacos served with eggs, all sitting on top of two crispy taco shells. There’s a bit of a kick to it with the spices, but it was delicious. The patio setting is also very nice if you’re able to sit outside in the summertime. You can find The Friendly Society a short walk from the pedestrian bridge and across the road from the Tall Man sculpture.
One of the best things to do in Elora is to visit the Elora Mill Hotel & Spa. This hotel and spa sits atop the Elora Gorge, and is the perfect place to relax and unwind after a long day of exploring the town. We didn’t stay here this time around, but I did enjoy taking in the different angles of the Elora Mill throughout the town and getting some nice photos from the outside. Elora Mill is known for being one of the best spas in Ontario, so if you like to treat yourself there’s no better place to do it.
Visit the Tall Man sculpture
A unique thing to see in Elora that you may walk past if you’re not specifically looking for it is the Tall Man sculpture. It’s located in the Elora Green Space and is one of the most photographed points of interest in the town. The small corner park itself is full of other unique sculptures from local artists, and there’s some shaded seating areas too, so it’s worth stopping by quickly.
Pick up a mystery bag from Jammed Lovely
You won’t be disappointed if you’re planning on doing some shopping in Elora. There are plenty of quaint and locally run shops in this charming town to hop between, and all offer something a little different. Jammed Lovely was one of my favourite shops in Elora, and it’s full of unique home decor and gift ideas. What’s great about this store is that they offer different priced “mystery bags” which are full of products worth double the price you pay for the bag. Of course you can’t see what’s inside until after you buy it, so it’s like giving yourself a gift!
Across from the pedestrian bridge is where you’ll find the Elora Mews - a unique collection of shops set around an open courtyard. There is everything from clothing to antique to home décor shops here, so it’s a nice place to start your shopping spree from. It’s one of the best places to visit in Elora too, and is always on people’s itineraries.
Elora Bread Trading Co.
If you love freshly baked bread, then you’ll want to stop by the Elora Bread Trading Co. which is located along the main street of the historic centre. It’s a small-batch artisan bakery using traditional methods to create bread. They focus on sourdough bread that’s lovingly handcrafted, and their bread varieties rotate throughout the week. Once a certain type of bread is gone, it’s gone for the rest of the day so make sure you visit as early as possible to avoid disappointment.
Elora Clock Tower
Elora tourist attractions don’t come much more unique than the Elora Clock Tower. Nestled down a side street, this clock was formed by several local artisans and took just over a year to complete. It’s very interesting to look at up close, and you can find it located between the Mermaid Shop and the Hanscomb Glass Studio.
Mermaid in Elora
As I mentioned before, one of the best things to do in Elora is to shop. Mermaid in Elora is probably one of the more well known shops in Elora, showcasing an extensive selection of unique treasures that have been sourced from all over the world. The shop is made up of different rooms, with the original stone walls showing through in some areas. Be prepared to spend quite some time exploring the various rooms - you never know what will catch your eye.
Elora Gorge Conservation Area
Did you know that Elora was named the Most Road Trippable Town in Canada by Chevrolet? You can find this unique sign at the entrance to the Lover’s Leap trail. It’s a popular part of the Elora Gorge to visit, and has an interesting story behind it too, and there’s a lovely stone viewing platform at the end of the trail where you can look out over the gorge. Visiting the gorge is one of the best free things to do in Elora if the weather is nice!
You’ll need to take your car to visit the Wellington Museum, so it can be considered one of the hidden gems in Elora. The Wellington County Museum & Archives sits in a building that dates back to the late 19th century, and was once a poorhouse and a farmhouse. Today the museum is a key cultural point of interest in the region, and gives a fascinating insight into the history of Wellington County and the events that helped to shape it.
Dine at The Evelyn
For such a small town, there are a lot of restaurants in Elora to choose from. If you truly want to have the best dining experience in Elora, then you should book a table at The Evelyn. Located along Metcalfe Street, The Evelyn is a French-inspired restaurant that uses seasonal and local produce to create unique dishes that are sure to satisfy any taste buds. We visited in the summer, so we were lucky enough to be able to sit outside on the patio while we tucked in to what many describe as the best food in Elora.
The menu is small but the food is incredible. After ordering our drinks, we started things off with The Evelyn Summer Salad and the Alsatian Flatbread. I’m not sure which I enjoyed more because they were both perfect. The mixture of flavours on the flatbread was delicious, and the salad was a nice refreshing starter on a hot day. For the main course we chose the Fogo Island Cod and the Gnocchi. The cod was cornmeal-crusted and came with a unique display of various vegetables and tasty sauces to bring out the flavour of the fish. The Gnocchi was the vegetarian option on the menu, and was a mixture of wild mushrooms, zucchini, garlic, and truffle cream. It was the best gnocchi I’ve ever had and you could really taste the truffle flavour throughout.
Of course we left room for dessert. We tried the Chocolate Brownie and the Lemon Crème Brûlée. Both were the perfect way to round off our meal, and the Lemon Crème Brûlée in particular was very tasty. If I could recommend one place to eat in Elora, it would be The Evelyn. It’s the perfect restaurant in Elora to treat yourself to a world-class meal after being on your feet all day, and it’s a big hit with the locals too - so you know it’s a great choice! Plus, the staff couldn’t be nicer and more accommodating, which helps to make the dining experience all the more enjoyable.
So, is Elora really worth visiting? The answer is a definitive yes! If you’re looking for things to do in Elora this summer, you won’t fall short on options. You can even go punting in Elora which is a very unique experience and something I haven’t come across apart from in England. Elora is the perfect small town in Ontario to add to a road trip itinerary at any time of the year, and is a nice retreat from the larger nearby cities. There are plenty of attractions in Elora to visit, so get your walking shoes on and start exploring!
Have you been to Elora before, or know of any other small towns in Ontario to visit? Let me know in the comment section below! And don’t forget to follow my travels on Instagram too where you can find more travel tips and inspiration for where to travel to next.