Sometimes you’ve just gotta get away from it all. Living in the city, you get used to the noise, the crowds, and the traffic. As much as I love cities, it’s a good idea to take a break from them, too.
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Well, if you live in Ontario and you’re looking for a road trip from Toronto, Hamilton, Kitchener, London, or any other city, I’ve got a plan for you. Head straight to Perth County, Ontario for a peaceful getaway where you certainly won’t have to deal with noise, crowds, or traffic.
Where is Perth County? A Perth County Map
Not to be confused with the town of Perth, Ontario, Perth County is a large land mass just west of Kitchener, Cambridge, and Guelph. It’s also north of Woodstock and London. If you’re planning a road trip from Toronto, Perth County is about 1 hour 30 minutes or 2 hours from the city, depending on where you’re headed.
Perth County has four townships or municipalities within it: North Perth, Perth East, Perth South, and West Perth. In this article, I’ll organize these places to visit in Ontario for the weekend under these four geographical categories to make your trip planning a little easier. Here’s a map to not only show you where Perth County Ontario is located, but also to provide the details of every stop I made on my trip.
Perth County: Perth East
At the heart of Perth East lies the village of Shakespeare, known as Perth County’s antique capital. While you’ll definitely want to hit up the shops in town, there are also opportunities to sample local produce, pints, and pristine nature.
Shakespeare Brewing Company
Who loves visiting local craft breweries? The village of Shakespeare is home to Shakespeare Brewing Company, owned by husband and wife team, Ayden and Katie. On their travels through Europe, the couple stayed at an old English farm with a microbrewery where Ayden learned how to brew beer. Before long, they started Shakespeare Brewing and the rest is history!
Staying true to the region, their beer is brewed with locally grown ingredients like Ontario barley and 100% Ontario grown hops. Shakespeare Brewing supports local agriculture, farmers, and small businesses, taking the concept of “locally made” to the next level.
Keeping with the Shakespearean theme, their craft beers are all named for animals and feature those animals wearing Olde English attire. The art on each tall boy can is quite visually stunning. While you should definitely take some cans home with you, I recommend sampling some freshly brewed beer on site. Ordering a flight is a great way to try a few beers to discover your favorites.
I tried the Reckless Rooster (an Ontario Pale Ale with a citrus hop aroma), the Bumbling Bear (a blueberry wheat beer) and a special one only available on tap, the Strawberry Vanilla beer. Ayden is always crafting new varieties, so there will always be rotating flavors to try every time you visit. My favorite of the three was the Bumbling Bear because I’m definitely a sucker for the fruity wheat beers.
Exploring the Village of Shakespeare
Though the village of Shakespeare is pretty small, it’s one of my new favorite places to go in Ontario. Its packed with unique shops with intriguing gifts and things for many interests. A stop in Shakespeare is worth the road trip from Toronto. Its main street has several diverse shops with a main focus on antiques. You can easily spend a couple of hours here browsing the shelves of enticing finds. Here are a few of the best shops in Shakespeare.
Harry Ten Shilling
Harry Ten Shilling is an adorable tea shop in the heart of Shakespeare. If you aren’t able to stay for afternoon tea, browse this store with several Instagrammable rooms and displays featuring local handicrafts, bath and body products, jewelry, gifts and more.
The British Touch
The British Touch features all things British, whether you’re seeking your gifts, tea, or your favorite grocery items that are only found in the UK. As we had recently visited Scotland this past year, I had a craving for some Irn Bru and couldn’t resist picking up a few cans of it!
Land and Ross Antiques
Land and Ross Antiques is packed with high quality antiques and treasures. They also specialize in custom furniture design and restoration. You’ll find many classic and rare items over a century old that will surely add a special flair to your home. Make sure to say hello to their adorable dog, too!
The Quilt Place
Are you into quilting or sewing? You won’t want to miss stopping by The Quilt Place! They have reams upon reams of fabric for every project, as well as hundreds of quilting books and patterns. Take a peek upstairs to see a few bedrooms adorned with beautiful quilts for extra inspiration. When making the road trip from Toronto to Perth County and Shakespeare, I’m certain that many quilting enthusiasts make an extra trip here as I haven’t seen a store quite like this one.
Shakespeare Conservation Area
After browsing the shops of Shakespeare, drive a minute up the road to the Shakespeare Conservation Area to soak up the sights and sounds of glorious nature. The Shakespeare Pond is a great spot for a picnic beneath its shaded pavilion or at a picnic table beside the water.
Then, take a stroll around the pond to go bird watching, get some exercise, or to simply snap a few photos. I managed to meet a couple of locals who were also having a picnic lunch. It was wonderful to engage in a great chat with them. After making the road trip from Toronto to the country, I thoroughly enjoyed this laid back approach to the day by taking stroll at the pond and leisurely chatting to area residents.
TIP: Be sure to bring your sunscreen and your bug repellent while going for a walk at the Shakespeare Conservation Area. It’s always a good idea to protect your skin from the sun and the bugs. Don’t forget to bring your refillable water bottle!
TNT Berries is a sea buckthorn and blueberry farm where you’ll find the freshest and tastiest berries. They have a blueberry farm where you can pick your own berries when they’re in season (generally around mid-July to August). The blueberries were only starting to come into season when I visited. They tasted amazing right off the vine.
Have you heard of sea buckthorn berries? They’re tasty little berries that are a little bit tart. They have high levels of vitamin C, antioxidants, 18 amino acids, omega 3-6-9 and 7, beta carotene, and over 190 phytonutrients! You can add them to smoothies, jams and jellies, or even as an extra flavor in your water bottle.
When I visited TNT Berries, the sea buckthorn berries were still green. When ripe, they turn a beautiful shade of orange. I recommend that you purchase some frozen berries from Nadia as they’re quite delicious when consumed frozen. When making the road trip from Toronto to the rural communities of Perth County, you’ll want to visit their farm gates and farm shops to sample farm fresh produce.
Organic Oasis is an organic farm and farm store, selling unique and locally produced goods. Owners Jessie and Adam Young come from a long line of farmers, and they continue to explore innovative farming methods for better yields. I went on a guided tour of the farm, including soaking up the breathtaking views from “Happy Hog Lookout.”
While the farm has animals like pigs and chickens, my main interest lies in their fruits and veggies, as I don’t consume animal products. They have large patches of land for fruits and vegetables in the summer, as well as large greenhouses to extend the growing season. There’s even flower gardens and spaces to encourage Monarch butterflies to survive and thrive.
The Organic Oasis farm store features locally grown produce straight from their farm, and it’s all 100% organic. You’ll notice signs and labels denoting the products and produce grown on site. There are a few things like avocados and citrus that can’t be grown in Canada; for the most part, everything comes directly from their farm or nearby local farms.
Where to Eat: Dave’s Diner in Sebringville
Dave’s Diner in Sebringville is a favorite restaurant among locals. I found a couple of items on the menu that were vegan and completely contrasted one another: a healthy garden salad and a big plate of French fries. It’s good to have a little bit of both healthy and not so healthy, right?
Regardless of what you order, you need to try their fries. They’re definitely some of the most delicious fries I’ve ever had! After chatting briefly with Dave, I discovered that he has a secret blend of spices that make those fries extra special. I asked if he could share his secret recipe with me, but he’s definitely keeping this one under wraps. You’ll have to head to Dave’s Diner to sample the fries and let me know what you think!
Perth County: North Perth
It’s time to swing up to North Perth for a taste of rural living in Perth County Ontario. North Perth has plenty of locally owned businesses in town, as well as a vibrant sense of community. Whether you take a stroll through town or take part in a local festival, you’ll enjoy the best of both worlds as urban meets rural. When making the road trip from Toronto or other nearby cities to Perth County, Listowel is a fantastic destination for exploring a town steeped in rural traditions.
Goats on 86
On your way to Listowel, you’ll come across a roadside stop named Goats on 86. This one is wildly popular with anyone traveling through the area. Just search for the hashtag #GoatsOn86 and you’ll see what I mean!
Goats on 86 allows a local family to share their love for their pet goats and alpacas with the community. The animals live in a very large yard by their home. You’re welcome to pay the goats and alpacas a visit anytime you like. There are dispensers with corn if you’d like to feed them; make sure you don’t feed them anything but this corn. Though you have to pay a small fee for the corn, the family donates that money to a local charity.
The goats are so adorable, and they’ll be very curious to meet you. Be sure to watch your belongings and your clothing. One of the goats decided to munch on the end of my dress, and I only noticed as he started pulling me towards the fence! Visiting the goats and alpacas is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face, and it’s fun for the whole family.
Exploring the Town of Listowel
I recommend taking a stroll through Listowel to browse the shops in town. There’s a popular stop just behind the main street in town, the Yarn Factory Outlet store for all the knitters and crocheters in the crowd. As you walk away from the Yarn Factory Outlet shop, you’ll see a couple of walls with spectacular street art / murals to admire.
When I visited Listowel, it was right in time for the 163rd Listowel Agricultural Fair. There was a tractor parade rolling through town, a classic midway, and an agricultural hall with various ribbons assigned to talented members of the community. I wandered through the fair for a slice of country living. It was also super cute to overhear some local children discovering that they won a prize for an art or craft project.
Where to Eat: Cowan’s Community Fresh
Cowan’s Community Fresh in Listowel is an independent, small business focusing on local and organic whole foods. They support local farmers, growers and producers in Perth County and Ontario. This small grocery store is very vegan-friendly with many vegan grocery and pantry items. There’s always a vegan prepared salad or meal available on hand. I highly recommend trying the avocado salad, which comes with a side of cashew cheese as a topping. Yum!
Perth County: Perth South
Perth South has an assortment of activities and attractions. Looking for something sporty? Head to River Valley Golf (which also doubles as a snow tubing attraction in the winter). Looking for history and culture? The Stratford Perth Museum has rotating exhibits highlighting local celebrities and lifestyle. And there’s lots of locally produced food in this farming region, of course. If you’re thinking about southwestern Ontario day trips or weekend getaways, don’t miss these spots in Perth South.
McCully’s Hill Farm
McCully’s Hill Farm is a farm shop that I really wish that I had closer to home. They specialize in homemade preserves, maple products, baked goods, prepared meals, and garden fresh produce. I was thrilled to see a vast assortment of pickles, flavors of relish, unique types of jam, fresh salsa, maple mustard, and many more drool-worthy products.
After chatting with the owner, Dennis, I could see his passion for his market fresh farm operation, as well as creating innovative products for those living in the region. In addition to the farm and farm shop, McCully’s operates school tours for children, a fall harvest festival, and a maple syrup festival in the winter. It seems as though there’s always something fun and entertaining happening at McCully’s! It’s definitely one of my top picks for foodie places to visit in southern Ontario, especially if you’re planning a trip to Perth County.
The Stratford Perth Museum
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived at the Stratford Perth Museum. As I pulled into the driveway, I noticed that the museum was situated inside a historic home with a massive extension attached to it. What treasures would I find inside the Stratford Perth Museum? As it turns out, this museum has a slice of local life that suits many interests and tastes, including music, the arts, local history, oddities, war history, and so much more.
What makes the Stratford Perth Museum so intriguing? Their exhibits are continually rotating so the museum always stays fresh. You can visit year after year, enjoying entirely new exhibitions. There’s really so much that Perth County has to offer, and the Stratford Perth Museum emphasizes new details and aspects of that local history time and time again. For instance, there are ongoing exhibits illustrating Stratford’s Shakespearean Festival, including artifacts, props and costumes. The region’s railway history and glimpses into Perth County from the early 1800s are also prominently featured.
However, Perth County is a very important place in terms of Canadian music history. Did you know that three prominent Canadian musicians from Stratford and Perth County performed at the Woodstock festival? This exhibit includes personal stories and memorabilia from one of the most memorable and important music festivals in history.
And then there’s the exhibit that has drawn thousands upon thousands of visitors to the Stratford Perth Museum from all over the world. Justin Bieber: Steps to Stardom highlights Bieber’s humble beginnings, busking on the steps of the local Avon Theater through his rise to fame. There are hundreds of items, many donated from Justin Bieber’s family or the Biebs himself, including awards, drum sets, clothing, shoes, and even library cards. And in case you were wondering, there are even opportunities for selfies!
Where to Eat: River Valley Golf
By summer, it’s a beautiful golf course. By winter, it’s a snow tubing adventure park. River Valley Golf certainly has all four seasons covered for fun things to do in Perth County. Even if you aren’t partaking in a round of golf, their restaurant has a great selection of appetizers, burgers, and sandwiches. I ordered a veggie burger with a side of fries that was super yummy.
Perth County: West Perth
In West Perth, I explored the town of Mitchell. It’s home to a bustling historic downtown with many shopping options, as well as natural attractions with many parks, trails, and wetlands. If you’re taking a road trip from Toronto and you love adorable towns, you won’t want to miss a stop in Mitchell.
Shop at Jillian’s
Jillian’s is an absolute gem of a home decor store in Perth County. People travel from all over to shop at this boutique, and I can see why they come from far and wide. Jillian’s is such a beautiful store with home furnishings and decorations that I haven’t seen anywhere else. They have dozens of various displays featuring their one of a kind items to suit all styles. From colorful cushions to artsy pots and planters, you’ll be sure to find that special something that would look right at home in your home. It’s one of the best places to go in Ontario for home decor.
West Perth Wetlands
After you take a little walk around downtown Mitchell, make your way to the West Perth Wetlands, also in Mitchell. These 65 acres are a total paradise for nature lovers, including hikers, walkers, photographers, and bird watchers. There are 3 rehabilitated ponds, 10km of walking trails, and over 4700 different kinds of plants. A portion of the trails are accessible for wheelchairs, scooters, and baby strollers, while other sections are a little bit more rugged. When you enter the wetlands from the parking lot, there’s a fabulous wooden viewing platform where you can soak up the beautiful surroundings.
Most importantly, this is a natural habitat for many species of bird species and wildlife. You can find over 200 different species of breeding and migratory birds at the West Perth Wetlands. If you’re lucky, you might be able to spot some of them! The stunning nature in Perth County is totally worth the road trip from Toronto, Hamilton, and other cities.
Where to Stay in Perth County
My top pick for where to stay in Perth County is the Forest Motel, just outside of Stratford. I had an incredible two nights’ stay. This motel is a destination in itself for its natural surroundings and amenities alone. It’s the best place to stay when you’re taking a road trip from Toronto to Perth County for the weekend, a few days, or longer.
At the Forest Motel, you’ll stay in a warm and cozy private room with an en suite bathroom, flat screen TV, complimentary Wi-Fi, fridge, microwave, and Keurig coffee maker. Breakfast is complimentary each morning, too.
Everyone who stays at the Forest Motel receives free access to the property and its activities, including 32 acres of forest and trails, a private lake with canoeing and kayaking (I even saw a blue heron while kayaking!), lakeside bonfires, BBQ grills, and snowshoeing in the winter. The staff are lovely and very welcoming, and you might also be welcomed by the resident swan family, too! If you’d like to meet the swans, they waddle up around 5:00pm each day for their dinner, and I was lucky enough to arrive just as they were quacking for their meal.
Be sure to book your stay at the Forest Motel for amazing service, a comfortable stay, and to take advantage of the complimentary outdoor adventures. I chatted with guests who return to this accommodation year after year for one of the best southern Ontario getaways. If you’re looking for places to visit in Ontario for the weekend, plan your trip to Perth County and be sure to stay at the Forest Motel. Be sure to read more reviews by fellow travelers.
I hope that I’ve inspired you to take a road trip from Toronto, Hamilton, or any other spot in Ontario and beyond to this gem of a region. Not only will you breathe the fresh air and reap the benefits of a less populated area, but you’ll also find so many unique things to do in Perth County.
Oh, and one more thing! Before you take your road trip, you’ll want to check out our detailed road trip packing list to make sure you don’t forget anything important.
Looking for More Places to Visit in the Area?
There are many more lovely and beautiful places to visit in the region of Huron, Perth, Waterloo, and Wellington counties in southern Ontario. Here are some more great ideas for road trips and places you need to see:
- Stratford Ontario Travel Guide
- Amazing Things to Do in Stratford in the Winter
- The Best Things to Do in Elora, Ontario
- A Taste of Perth County: Local Produce and Organic Food Scene
- Donkey Sanctuary of Canada in Guelph, Ontario
Looking for More Weekend Getaways Near Toronto?
Justin and I love overnight stays that are within an hour or two from our home in the GTA. It’s always nice to plan little romantic getaways and short vacations between our lengthier overseas trips. We also love exploring more of our province because there’s truly so much to see in Ontario, Canada.