There are lots of fun things to do in Woodstock, Ontario. Have you ever visited? I can’t believe that it took me this long. Wedged between Brantford and London, I know that I’ve driven past Woodstock on the highway numerous times. This time, I finally stopped and spent some time in the city. Woodstock is a fantastic place to go for an overnight getaway or a road trip pit stop.
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Woodstock is the perfect destination for foodies and eco conscious travelers. In fact, I visited several local businesses that offer delicious food and drink, plus they’re mindful of the environment.
It’s one of my top picks for the best Ontario road trips. Here’s how you can spend a fantastic day in Woodstock, eating and drinking your way through the city, feeling good about supporting small businesses with sustainable practices.
Early Bird Coffee
If you know me, you know that I love coffee and local coffee shops. So, I was thrilled to visit Early Bird Coffee in Woodstock. For a trip to Woodstock, start your day off right with a cup of their small batch coffee. Early Bird Coffee is a micro-roastery, and they roast beans fresh daily right inside the shop. You can see the roasting machine right behind the counter, and it’s a beautiful piece of equipment. The owners, Elio and Kate, are passionate about coffee and truly ensure that you’ll enjoy the best tasting bevvies.
The cafe is warm and inviting with space to sit, relax, and sip your drink of choice. Not sure which roast to try? Try a coffee tasting! I sampled three of their different roasts: the Cardinal (medium), Nighthawk (dark) and Raven (espresso). To be completely honest, they all tasted great and it was too hard to choose a favorite one. There are six different Early Bird Coffee roasts in total, from light roasts to dark roasts and even a decaf. Visiting the cafe and participating in a coffee tasting is one of the best things to do in Woodstock, Ontario.
The owners of Early Bird Coffee are mindful about choosing coffee beans that are sustainable and support local communities. Their partners source beans directly from family coffee farms and have excellent relationships with coffee farmers. In addition to drinking coffee at their cafe, you can also bring freshly roasted coffee beans home with you. If you live in Oxford County, you can participate in Early Bird’s coffee subscription program where their fresh coffee beans are delivered straight to your house each month.
Wild Comfort Body Care
Next, drive out towards the nearby countryside to visit an amazing local business called Wild Comfort Body Care. The owner, Danielle Paluska, handcrafts all of the products using only the best, natural ingredients. She takes care to experiment and develop the best formulations for natural body and skin care products, such as soap, moisturizers, deodorants, serums, bath products, and more.
Wild Comfort Body Care is committed to creating as little waste as possible, and uses local ingredients where possible, too. For example, there are beer soaps that use beer from Upper Thames Brewing (who appear a little later in this article!). Wild Comfort has liquid soaps where you can purchase refills to reduce packaging. Her felted soaps use soap trimmings that would otherwise get thrown away in order to reduce waste.
Wild Comfort Body Care also stays connected to the local community. You’re welcome to visit the shop location in person or you can browse their products at the Woodstock Farmers Market. With their eco-friendly practices, all natural products, sustainability efforts and local connections to the community, it’s the perfect addition to your eco trip around Woodstock. I bought home some of their beautiful soaps and bath tea products (a great alternative to bath bombs), and they’re fantastic.
Thames River Melons
A trip to Thames River Melons is one of the most fun things to do in Woodstock. And you’ll get to bring home freshly picked fruits and vegetables, hand picked by you! Thames River Melons is a family owned and operated farm that grows fresh produce to feed the community.
They grow a huge variety of fruits and vegetables, including asparagus, rhubarb, potatoes, onions, garlic, tomatoes, broccoli, zucchini, peppers, beans, cucumbers, sweet corn, pumpkins, squash, melons, and berries. While you can shop at their farm stand to prepare your own meals at home, it’s even better to get out into the fields to pick you own fruits and veggies.
Grab a basket and hit the fields to pick the produce of your choosing. The fruits and vegetables will vary depending on the time of year. When I visited in mid-August, I picked broccoli, kale, green beans, cucumber, and I even dug up my own potatoes. Even though I’ve grown a vegetable garden at home, I’ve never picked my own potatoes before, so that was a brand new experience for me. The prices are extremely competitive, too. I had my arms full of fresh veggies and it only ended up costing about $20.
Picking your own fruits and vegetables fresh from the farm is one of the most eco-friendly and sustainable things you can do! You’re supporting a small, family owned business, and the food doesn’t get any more local than this. Visiting Thames River Melons was one of my favorite things to do in Woodstock, and you absolutely must add it to your travel plans.
When you travel to Woodstock, don’t miss Habitual Chocolate, a chocolate shop with a huge variety of sweet treats “from bean to bar”. Located right in the middle of downtown Woodstock, Habitual Chocolate will have you immediately drooling upon entering because the whole place smells like chocolate! Owner and chocolatier, Phillipe takes great pride in producing the finest chocolate around.
First, Habitual Chocolate sources their beans directly from family farms worldwide, like Nicaragua, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru, Madagascar, and the Dominican Republic. They make all of their chocolate in-house, hence the phrase “from bean to bar”. You can even see the equipment that they use to make their delicious chocolate. Furthermore, the coffee for their coffee-infused chocolate bar comes from Early Bird Coffee in town.
While they have a couple of milk chocolate bars, most of their bars use dark chocolate that’s naturally vegan. When you’re at Habitual Chocolate, you can try samples of any of the bars that you’d like. Tasting all of the delicious food and drink is one of the best things to do in Woodstock, so you simply must do a chocolate tasting. They’ve also got chocolate dipped dried fruit and chocolate covered chickpeas (it’s a nut-free facility, and the chickpeas provide a similar crunch like nuts do).
Upper Thames Brewing Company
After your chocolate tasting, venture down the street to Upper Thames Brewing, the first and only brewery in Oxford County. This bright and spacious brewery has tasty and refreshing beer, plus they have mindful business practices. For instance, they source ingredients as locally as possible. Fortunately, there are lots of nearby farms that supply Upper Thames Brewing with the best ingredients, including farms in Tavistock, Eden, Guelph, and Belleville.
And on the topic of local ingredients, it can get as local as down the street! Upper Thames Brewing uses cacao nibs from Habitual Chocolate in their chocolate stout beer. I had the opportunity to sample this one, and it was a really smooth and rich tasting beer (and I’m usually not a fan of dark beer!). If dark beer isn’t your jam, don’t fret. They have 12 different beers on tap in their tap room, so I know that you’ll find one that’s just your taste. My personal favorite was their amber ale. They even brew their own non-alcoholic root beer, too!
Upper Thames Brewing gives back to the local community as much as possible, too. I could feel such positive community vibes even upon my short visit to Upper Thames Brewing. I chatted with a couple of patrons at the bar, as well as the super friendly employees. After noticing a wall of beautiful beer steins lining the wall, I learned that those belong to exclusive members of the community who get to drink from their own special mug.
You can visit the tap room of Upper Thames Brewing, and you can also drink their beer at their pub, Brickhouse Brewpub. Check out Brickhouse Brewpub if you’re looking to go for a beer and a meal, or visit the brewery to sample the beer.
1909 Culinary Academy
While there are many great restaurants in Woodstock, 1909 Culinary Academy is one of the best places to dine in Oxford County. Eating a meal at 1909 Culinary is one of the best things to do in Woodstock, even though it’s a little bit of a trek out to the countryside. It’s a restaurant and culinary school focusing on fresh cuisine and sustainable efforts.
1909 Culinary Academy was founded by Chef Murray Zehr, a successful restaurateur, Chopped Canada contestant, and advisor to the Ontario government for healthy eating initiatives. It’s inside a centuries-old completely renovated schoolhouse, and named for the year that it was built. A tour of the kitchen was a really unique experience. They’ve kept all of the old chalkboards in tact, and there’s a rope hanging from the ceiling that attaches to the original school bell.
I had no issue finding vegan options on the menu at 1909 Culinary. Chef Zehr places a large emphasis on sustainable eating when designing his menus, and he believes that eating more vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based meals plays a huge role. For instance, his full menu features an entirely vegan/gluten-free meal across four courses, with exciting and innovative options throughout. A lot of the produce comes directly from their own garden, directly on site at 1909 Culinary.
Currently, you can dine at 1909 Culinary Academy’s outdoor patio without requiring any reservations. I enjoyed a delicious cauliflower, vegetable, and noodle dish with an Asian sauce that tasted so fresh and flavorful. While 1909 Culinary is operating during the pandemic with a casual dining option at their outdoor picnic tables, I’d love to return in the future to try their vegan four course menu.
Where to Stay: Chateau La Motte
Chateau La Motte Guest House is a beautiful place to stay in Woodstock. It’s a family owned and operated bed and breakfast inside a historic mansion. The home is a National and Provincial Historic Site, built in 1895. There’s even a historic plaque outside of the home. The owner, Alida, instantly made me feel right at home and she’ll happily take care of any requests that you might have.
My room was beautifully decorated with antiques, and you’ll also have access to many modern amenities, like complimentary Wi-Fi, and a flatscreen TV with both satellite channels and streaming services. The bathroom is really spacious and has a huge bathtub where you can soak and relax after an exciting day (perhaps with your bath products from Wild Comfort!). In addition, I had my own private second floor balcony. There’s a screen door that I left open at night to let the fresh breeze enter the room.
Breakfast in the morning was delicious, and Alida is happy to cater to any allergies or special diets. I thoroughly enjoyed the fresh fruit, toast and preserves, coffee, and her homemade biscotti. Alida also started her own loose leaf tea company, so you’ll have to pick up some of her tea blends, too.
Book your stay at Chateau La Motte and feel free to read more reviews written by fellow travelers who have spent the night. Staying at Chateau La Motte is one of the top things to do in Woodstock for a memorable holiday.
More Things to Do in Southwest Ontario
Ontario’s Southwest is a treasure trove of amazing cities and epic small towns that you’ll love. I recommend combining your trip to Woodstock with another day in Tillsonburg and Otterville. Here are more ideas on how to explore Southwest Ontario: