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  • Writer's pictureKrista the Explorer

Things To Do in Elora, Ontario During a Day Trip

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

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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 and I’m so glad we managed to squeeze it into our schedule!


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.


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Things To Do in Elora

Whether you’re spending a day in Elora or more, there are plenty of great things to do in Elora for all interest types. Although we didn't have enough time to check out the Elora Gorge, it comes highly recommended and is one of the main attractions in Elora. 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

A Victorian bridge with lampposts on it in Elora.
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.


Elora Mill

A large mill on the edge of the water in Elora.
Elora Mill

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 sculpture of a tall man in silver in a park.
Tall Man

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

A mystery bag of products inside a local shop in Elora.
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!


Elora Mews

A shopping area in Elora with artisan shops.
Elora Mews

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.

A bread shop inside a colourful building in Elora.
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

A small clock tower made by local artisans in Elora.
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

The interior of a quirky shop with stone walls and different rooms.
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.


Victoria Park

A pin shaped sign from Chevrolet about a road trip in Elora.
Victoria Park

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!


Wellington Museum

A large stone museum building with staircase in front.
Wellington Museum

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.


Where To Eat in Elora

Elora may be a small town in southwestern Ontario but it’s teeming with beautiful cafes and restaurants that are open all year round. Nestled between the quaint shops you’ll find a fantastic selection of eateries that offer a wide selection of cuisines - most of which are prepared using locally sourced produce too. Here are my tips on where to eat in Elora.


The Wild Tart

If you find yourself longing for Europe or if you enjoy treating yourself to afternoon tea every once in a while then The Wild Tart is the place for you. This European-style patisserie is perfect for breakfast, lunch, and everything in between but what you really need to try is one of their afternoon tea options (classic, savoury, and signature). We were absolutely blown away by the quality of their Signature Afternoon Tea which starts off with a seasonal soup and a glass of prosecco followed by your choice of tea.


All of this comes paired with traditional cakes and pastries that you’d find in a classic afternoon tea but with a mixture of savoury bites that go above and beyond finger sandwiches. Let’s not forget about the scones that come with homemade preserves and herb butter. This was by far the best afternoon tea experience I’ve ever had - including in Europe!


The great thing about The Wild Tart is that they also offer afternoon tea for children, a savoury afternoon tea if you don’t like sweet food, and the classic afternoon tea with finger sandwiches, scones, and small cakes and pastries so there are plenty of options available. And if you just fancy something light for lunch their open faced sandwiches are incredible and well worth ordering. This is one place to eat in Elora that you won’t want to miss.


The Badley

Located next door to The Wild Tart is The Badley - a popular restaurant in Elora in the evening with a cozy cocktail bar and lounge that’s the setting for their weekly Thursday night darts and magic night. I’d recommend starting your evening off relaxing in their cocktail bar while you indulge in some incredible cocktails that are all expertly prepared and presented at your table. For dinner there’s one table directly in front of the main window that provides the perfect view of Elora so try to snag that if you can.


The Badley is very well known for its steaks and you would be remiss if you missed out on that. There are various cuts available on the menu but for the best experience I would go for the tenderloin with house cut fries. If you’re feeling particularly hungry you can always upgrade your side to the mac n’ cheese! I hadn’t had Chicken Parmesan for a long time so as soon as I saw that on the menu I knew I had to order it. The chicken is crisped to perfection and comes with a generous portion of penne a la vodka so make sure you come on an empty stomach.


The steakhouse and bar at The Badley creates the ultimate dining experience and should be on everyone’s itinerary when planning a trip to Elora. And if you happen to visit on a Thursday evening you’ll be treated to some fun card tricks at your table from an experienced magician too.


The Friendly Society

Each time we visit Elora we end up stopping at The Friendly Society. This time around we opted for a lighter lunch but they do have a very big menu that includes sandwiches, salads, bowls, and larger main dishes. There aren’t too many vegan places to eat in Elora so it’s great that The Friendly Society is able to cater for vegans too. The Dragon Bowl is a delicious option with buckwheat soba noodles and a mixture of fresh vegetables - especially on a warm day. Alternatively the salads are very well portioned and a refreshing choice if you don't want something too overwhelming in the middle of the day.


While you’re at The Friendly Society I would recommend ordering one of their cocktails or mocktails. On top of their regular cocktail menu they have a few seasonal options available so don’t forget to ask about those! And for those of you who have a bit of a sweet tooth there are several desserts to choose from such as the Key Lime Pie. Seating is available both outside and inside but the downstairs part of the restaurant is beautifully decorated and some tables have a riverside view which adds a special touch to your meal.


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. 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. 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.


Both the Chocolate Brownie and the Lemon Crème Brûlée were the perfect way to round off our meal. It’s a great 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. The menu at The Evelyn changes seasonally so that only the freshest ingredients are used.


Where To Stay in Elora

The Badley Suites

Many people only plan a day trip to Elora since it’s a small town to explore and can be seen for the most part in one day. However, I would suggest spending at least 2 days in Elora to really get a feel for the town and to enjoy shopping and dining at your leisure. And the best place to stay in Elora is at The Badley Suites. Located directly above The Badley Steakhouse & Bar, in a newly renovated inn, there are two suites to choose from - The Garden Suite and The Patio Suite. Both of these modern suites are equally as roomy and comfortable so whatever option you choose you’ll be more than happy with.


The Garden Suite offers a beautiful view over Elora’s main street with a large queen bed, smart TV’s, a separate lounge, a spacious bathroom with a walk-in shower and a bathtub, and motorized blackout curtains which are great if you want an undisturbed sleep. You can also help yourself to custom roasted filter coffee and make use of the miniature fridge.


Across the hallway is The Patio Suite which has similar amenities but with a larger floor plan in the bedroom. This is a quieter suite since it sits at the back of the building and doesn’t overlook the main road. It’s a beautifully decorated 1-bedroom spacious luxurious suite that really makes you feel at home.


Looking for the best breakfast spot in Elora? The Wild Tart offers all day breakfast so whatever time you wake up you know you can have a fantastic high-quality breakfast only steps away from your suite. They have everything from avocado on toast to French toast served with potatoes and bacon to a full cooked breakfast and eggs benedict. We tried a selection of all of their main dishes and found it hard to choose a favourite - they were all that good! You can pair your breakfast with a delicious herbal tea (the same options as you get at their afternoon tea experience) to start the day off on the right foot.


View of the back of houses in Elora along the gorge.
View from Badley Bridge

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.


 

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