Exploring Elora: Ontario’s Charming Town That Will Surprise You

I’ll admit – when it was suggested that I explore locally within Ontario and Canada for the next little while, I sneered. Ugh! It isn’t exotic enough! Yep. Really.

I’ve since come to realize how much unseen beauty there is in Canada. I’ve always been lured by far away places but this whole pandemic has changed my thinking and I’ve been so grateful to have so many amazing places to see around us.

And, as a bonus, I can get there and back within a day to most places and only have the mild inconvenience of sitting in traffic (which I am still trying to manage my temperament better – just don’t ask Dana about that πŸ˜‚).

Exploring Elora: Ontario's Charming Town That Will Surprise You

We decided to head to Elora after hearing numerous people mention how pretty of a town it is. It’s an easy drive from the Niagara Region and only took about an hour and a half to get there, and is the same distance from Toronto as well.

Our visit here had us agreeing that this is one of the most charming towns in Ontario.

EloraArchitecture
Beautiful buildings all over town.

I’m the type of person to research something to death before I actually go (especially when it comes to parking and bathrooms (πŸ˜‚), but even more so during a pandemic. Yes, there are many people who will poo-poo the idea of traveling to another town, but we figured this was something that could be done safely, and the fact that masks are now mandatory made us feel better about our decision. We had actually planned to visit St Jacob’s Market as well but decided last minute that may be too packed for us to feel ok with going there.

Most Road Trippable Town in Canada

Road-Trip-Elora

Did you know that Elora won the award for the most Road Trippable Town in Canada? It scored the town a $10,000 donation from Chevrolet to be put towards beautification projects.

Once you visit, it’s certainly no surprise that Elora won.

There is plenty of free parking available in Elora and we managed to grab a spot right by the LCBO (which was the cutest one I’ve ever seen!). There is also tons of street parking too, just be mindful of residents’ driveways. The main bridge was closed but there was a pedestrian footpath right by the old Foundry and Elora Mill.

What I loved about Elora was the small-town feel. The streets are shut down during the summer weekends for foot traffic and you’re instantly enthralled and enchanted by this cute little town.

Where to Eat & Drink

We arrived midday and decided to get lunch first. Upon heavily researching (πŸ˜‚) I came across a bakery that specializes in sourdough breads – something my husband had been trying to perfect during our lockdown time earlier this year. He’s always on the hunt for good sourdough so this felt like the perfect place to come.

Elora Bread Company

Elora Bread Trading Co. is magical. You walk in and there’s a tall rack of different varieties of sourdough bread that, from what I’ve seen, changes often.  The employees are friendly and entertained our conversation while we were ogling the different breads, and obviously we had to buy some to take home. We picked up a fig and anise loaf and one called “The Northerner” – made with beer, buttermilk, pumpkin seeds and some other goodies. They also make sandwiches ($10 including tax) and you have to get one. We split a roast beef one and had to go back before closing to try their eggplant with tahini. They’re that good and this alone was worth the drive!

We wandered down the street to enjoy our lunch overlooking the river.

EloraTallMan
“A Question of Who’s in Charge” – Elora Sculpture Project.

If you’re in the mood for a sit-down meal, we passed numerous restaurants with patios along Metcalfe Street and they looked so inviting! From The Metcalfe Restaurant, The Porch Light, or The Evelyn, there are no shortages of tasty options in Elora!

There are many charming spots to grab a drink – including Elora’s own craft beer brewery, the Elora Brewery, and distillery, the Elora Distilling Company, home to unique spirits cocktails, like this Amethyst spirit,  filtered through charcoal and raw Ontario Amethyst (!!!) which is sourced from The Amethyst Mine Panorama just outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario. You can even do tours of the distillery for $25 per person and includes a cocktail!

Elora Distillery
Photo courtesy of Elora Distilling Company

Elora Distilling Company

Where to Shop

I didn’t know where to look first – each building is so unique and draws you in. On the main street alone there is a second-hand book shop, a florist, clothing, pottery, antiques, home goods, and my favourite of all, an eclectic and quirky store called The Mermaid in Elora.

I could’ve easily spent all day here. It looks like it’s straight out of a storybook and reminds me of all of my favourite shops in Rye, UK, full of whimsical items you can’t find anywhere else, like miniature Italian food magnetics (seriously, like little bottles of champagne and bags of pasta), posters of the world, pocket watches, canvas bags, jewelry, paperweights, door knockers, mailboxes, and these gorgeous, handmade posters made by a family in Texas – “in the Land of Elsewhere” – combining vintage photography and artwork.  I wanted to buy them all, but realized I have 12724830 other prints to hang at home still πŸ˜‚.

Elora Shopping
Each shop had a handpainted rainbow and symbol that best represented the store. It was adorable!

I didn’t even get started looking at the cards – the same ones I can usually only buy in the UK. Dana was waiting outside due to shop restrictions for social distancing so I grabbed a poster of the British Isles and dashed (I know, another poster to add to collection of unhung frames!).

I just hopped on their website to grab the link and got sucked in to looking through their pages. I just saw they sell Eiffel Tower door stops and now I have to go back. 😭

Elora Book Store

The second-hand book shop, Twice Loved Books, is adorable. You can even shop online and have it shipped to your house for $10 flat rate, or pick up locally. There’s an extensive collection of books and they also offer a trade exchange for some book titles they’re looking for! I love the concept of this little store.

Drimmie Elora
Drimmie Florist. Love this building!

Elora Gorge

Elora is well known for the Elora Gorge – and is truly the showstopper. I had no idea such beauty existed so close to us. 

Formed by glacial melt waters during the last ice age around 14,000 years ago, the Elora Gorge has stunning cliffs reaching 22 meters (70 feet) and is a popular tourist destination, surrounded by waterfalls, stone cliffs and trails at every turn.

p.s. because I was a Geography major and studied Geomorphology, I can’t help but add the bedrock is of the Siluran Period from the Paleozioc Era – 450 million years old!!!! You may even find fossils in the limestone formations!

Elora Gorge Hike

I wasn’t prepared to go hiking today, which you can do at the Grand River Conservation Authority, amongst other fun things like tubing down the Grand River, camping, swimming, fishing, boating etc. Instead, you can view the Gorge for free at Victoria Park, just at the end of James St (off of the main drag, Metcalfe St). 

There’s a beautiful wooded area you can picnic in and stroll along the stop of the Gorge. There’s a beautiful lookout that will give you sweeping views of below and I probably looked like a kid in a candy store because I was so impressed. The banks of the Grand River have enough rocks on them to sit along the edges, which we saw many families doing, or you can go tubing down the river. Tons of hikers were also down there which offered spectacular views. 

Elora Gorge

We walked along the fenced perimeter and happened upon a set of stairs leading down to the Gorge. I had to get down there. It was a steep set of 60 cement stairs with a railing which wasn’t that bad, but once you got to the base of the stairs there was a steep dirt incline with rocks (which helped with footing, at least!) and a fallen tree to navigate under, to reach the water. There were loads of people down there but saw many in flip flops. How did they manage that?😨

Elora Gorge Stairs

The views from below are even more spectacular. You can walk right into the middle of Irvine Creek which is just off of the Grand River and is low enough to cross. There are little pools of water with minnows. Families were splashing in the water or sitting and enjoying the views. 

Elora Gorge Walk

I looked up and saw a set of zip lines – how fun would that be? Sadly that activity wasn’t open yet but I imagine that would be an exciting experience!

Final Thoughts

Elora is a little bit of everything – Dana and I couldn’t agree on what place it reminded us of most – Europe? England? USA? It’s a bit of all of it! You’ll be drawn in to the small-town atmosphere and friendly community. 

Even the side streets are filled with old houses full of charm, many reminding me of our visits to the UK. 

We can’t wait to return and explore some more areas once they’re open – like the Elora Quarry. We may even make a weekend of it and stay at the Elora Mill. I’m so thankful we have such cute towns near us to visit!

Elora Ontario
I love how each house is unique!

Truly I don’t know when I will feel comfortable getting on a plane again, but that’s my personal decision and I don’t judge others for doing so. Sadly there’s a lot of travel shaming going on and a lot of locals may not necessarily want “foreigners” or “outsiders” travelling to their towns. And I get it. 

I’m happy to support Ontario towns and Ontario businesses. We rely on domestic tourism in Canada (it accounts for 80% of all tourism spending!) and 1 in 10 jobs in Canada is travel and tourism related. Did you know Canadians spent $900 million more abroad than foreigners spent here in 2019? Maybe it’s time to change that. 

For now,  I’m happy to explore our own beautiful province. Being “stuck at home” isn’t all that bad. A day trip to Elora will make you feel like you’ve transported yourself to another country. It’s definitely worth a visit.

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72 Comments

  1. Cathy
    August 10, 2020 / 8:12 am

    This town looks perfect!! And glad to hear you felt safe right now. Will definitely have to go next time I’m there! Thank you! πŸ™‚

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 10, 2020 / 11:17 am

      Thanks Cathy! It’s a gorgeous little town!

  2. August 10, 2020 / 9:12 am

    Wow! I grew up in Buffalo, NY and have been to Toronto, Hamilton, Welland and the Niagara region MANY times. I never heard of this place. Looks so cute. I would love to visit it next time I am up in that area. Great post. Btw, that Amethyst drink looks so pretty. And the fig bread probably so yummy! Thanks

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 10, 2020 / 11:19 am

      It’s funny because I’ve lived here my whole life and just found out about it! Thank you! It was delicious!

  3. August 10, 2020 / 10:46 am

    Wow! Your post makes Ontario seem so exciting and inviting! It’s amazing how the pandemic is making us appreciate what’s close by. Once it’s safe to travel, I need to make my way over there. Thanks for sharing!

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 10, 2020 / 11:20 am

      Thank you Stephanie! It’s been great exploring locally! πŸ™‚

  4. August 10, 2020 / 12:01 pm

    That looks like such a fun cute town!!! That Amethyst liquor 😍

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 10, 2020 / 5:19 pm

      Right??? It’s SUCH a cool place!!

  5. August 10, 2020 / 2:00 pm

    What a wonderful place to have nearby! I love the buildings, they’re so quaint and charming. And the gorge looks great! πŸ™‚

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 10, 2020 / 5:19 pm

      Thanks Sarah! It’s a great place to visit!!

  6. August 10, 2020 / 9:05 pm

    Ontario seems to be a popular province in Canada. I hope to visit it one day. This little town is so picture perfect.

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 10, 2020 / 9:23 pm

      We have sooo much here!! Which I’m thankful for this year! I hope you visit too. Let me know if you come! πŸ™‚

  7. August 10, 2020 / 10:39 pm

    Elora looks absolutely adorable! I haven’t made it to Ontario yet, but it’s on my list, and I’ll have to stop by this charming tow. Great tips!

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 11, 2020 / 6:39 am

      I hope you do – it is SO cute!! Thank you!

  8. August 10, 2020 / 11:20 pm

    I love that you’re putting in so much heart into exploring your home! I’ve been trying to do that but just can’t seem to see it through fresh eyes – but this is definitely inspiring me to give it another go though!

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 11, 2020 / 6:53 am

      Thank you so much Shafinah!! It was a bit tough at first, but trying to make the most of it and I’ve been enjoying it!! πŸ™‚

  9. August 11, 2020 / 10:32 am

    Woww, Ontario has so much to explore and I am just waiting for this pandemic to get over so I can travel to all the countries in my travel bucket list which also includes Ontario. Saved it for my future travel plan. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 11, 2020 / 11:20 am

      Thanks! Me too – I can’t wait to get back to more travelling!!

  10. August 11, 2020 / 10:43 am

    I love Elora. I agree it is a really charming town! I’ve yet to visit this year but I was there a couple winters ago. πŸ™‚

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 11, 2020 / 11:22 am

      I’d love to visit during the winter! I bet it’s so beautiful!

  11. Kanupriyaa Choudhary-Legha
    August 11, 2020 / 4:30 pm

    I have been seeing all these amazing posts about Ontario recently, I didnt even know there was such a gorgeous destinations just in my backyard!

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 11, 2020 / 8:58 pm

      I’ve been uncovering the exact same thing! It’s been a great experience viewing our home with a fresh set of eyes!

  12. August 11, 2020 / 11:17 pm

    Wow, I had no clue Ontario had so many cute towns like this! Elora looks so charming, such a hidden gem πŸ™‚ I will have to make an effort to visit Ontario and spend time not just in Toronto next time!

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 12, 2020 / 7:02 am

      Thanks Kelly! I actually lived in Toronto for 4 years for school and am just now uncovering all the different villages – so we’re planning a trip back! But there’s definitely tons to see around us!!!

  13. August 12, 2020 / 6:44 pm

    The Mermaid is so cute! I would head right there. I’ve never heard of Elora, but it certainly looks charming!

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 13, 2020 / 7:23 am

      Thanks Sharon! It’s a sweet little town!

  14. Laurel
    August 12, 2020 / 8:24 pm

    Looks beautiful! Living in Minnesota, I haven’t had much time to get up to Canada! This makes me want to get there, once all this Covid crap settles down!

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 13, 2020 / 7:37 am

      No kidding! I feel the same about getting back to the US to explore some amazing National Parks!!!

  15. August 12, 2020 / 10:41 pm

    What an adorable town! I’ll have to visit (as soon as I can travel to Canada again)

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 13, 2020 / 11:17 am

      Yes you should! It’s so cute!!

  16. Ramya
    August 13, 2020 / 5:23 am

    Your observation was true, Elora has that European charm attached to it. After seeing the photos, the first thought which crossed my mind was the similarity with Europe. This place has everything, from hiking, good food, trails, even historical fossil. This definitely sounds my kind of place. Have incorporated it in my bucket list.

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 13, 2020 / 11:17 am

      Thank you Ramya! It’s definitely a unique town and is a great place to visit!!

  17. August 13, 2020 / 8:29 am

    That’s so interesting that it got the most road tipped town in Canada.

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 13, 2020 / 11:55 am

      Isn’t it?? Not hard to see why though!!! πŸ™‚

  18. August 13, 2020 / 10:09 am

    I always love the small-town feel as well. Especially the picturesque buildings with charming little stores. Something that I always try to find wherever I travel. Elora sounds like a great place for a weekend getaway. I love sourdough bread as well so love the fact that you mentioned the Elora Bread Trading Co spot where you got your lunch from!

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 13, 2020 / 11:55 am

      Thanks Polly! It’s definitely a wonderful place for a weekend getaway!!

  19. August 13, 2020 / 12:06 pm

    Elora sounds like quaint, charming town : love your description of the Mermaid shop selling door knobs, magnets, etc. The distillery and sourdough bread place sounds equally interesting !

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 13, 2020 / 8:08 pm

      It’s such a unique shop – full of things you’d never expect to find or things you never knew you needed!

  20. August 13, 2020 / 2:55 pm

    I can’t believe that you had never been to Elora!!!! Next time you have to plan on hiking and maybe even do a bit of ziplining and tubing. Last time I was there (last summer), I ate at the Porch Light Restaurant. It had a really cool decor on the inside.

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 13, 2020 / 8:12 pm

      Haha seriously!! I’ve always gone overseas because I always thought Ontario was too ~boring~ – but now that I’ve been forced to stay home it’s been amazing! I definitely plan on going hiking next time!!!! We almost went to the Porch Light…and then…we saw Sourdough πŸ™‚

  21. August 13, 2020 / 7:07 pm

    The more I read about Ontario, the more interested I am at visiting. The stats you gave about Canadians spending more abroad then at home is really interesting and an eye-opener. Maybe the Canadian Tourism Board can do more to promote Canada for visits and more tourism. I didn’t know Canada has so many treasures to see.

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 13, 2020 / 8:36 pm

      I certainly hope so! I wasn’t aware we had so much either – shamefully on my part – so it’s been great seeing our own country and province with a new outlook!

  22. August 13, 2020 / 10:54 pm

    Elora looks so cute! Amazing that it was voted Most Road Trippable Town in Canada – who knew? I would definitely venture down into the gorge. Thanks for always coming up with incredible, less known finds πŸ™‚

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 14, 2020 / 6:09 am

      Thank you Steph! It’s been keeping me sane while we’ve been at home haha!!

  23. August 14, 2020 / 9:29 am

    Such an inspiring article! I love the way you summarize everything and you make me want to read more and more. Also, I love your webdesign a lot btw, simple yet chique! πŸ™‚

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 14, 2020 / 11:12 am

      Thank you Florin! πŸ™‚ I really appreciate that!

  24. August 14, 2020 / 9:48 am

    I’ve been thinking the same as well – will I be comfortable to getting into a plane again – but I guess I need to adjust to the new norms of air travel because I do want to see the rest of the world.

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 14, 2020 / 11:23 am

      I know – it’s been a bit of a struggle but I know I will eventually, just maybe not quite yet!

  25. August 14, 2020 / 10:38 pm

    What an adorable town!! It looks like you had so much fun there! I would love to do the Amethyst distillery tour!

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 15, 2020 / 7:35 am

      Thank you!! Yesss the distillery is so awesome!! I want to go back for a proper tour!

  26. Chelsea
    August 14, 2020 / 11:26 pm

    I never got to go to Elora before I left Ontario.. so annoyed!
    I had always seen pics and it looks just amazing!
    I love the small town feel so would fit right in here.
    I also love that you’re supporting small towns; that is a crazy stat about how much Canadians spend abroad compared to others in Canada!

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 15, 2020 / 8:50 am

      I was surprised too! It’s a great year to help boost our own tourism industry and it’s getting me to some towns I’d never otherwise visit! πŸ™‚

  27. Sanchita saikia
    August 14, 2020 / 11:32 pm

    Wonderful place,
    Definitely visiting someday 😊😊

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 15, 2020 / 8:47 am

      I hope you are able to!

  28. Sanchita saikia
    August 14, 2020 / 11:38 pm

    Your article is quite a travel inspiration.
    Someday ought to visit these places ❀😊

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 15, 2020 / 8:46 am

      Thank you Sanchita! πŸ™‚

  29. August 15, 2020 / 8:47 am

    I’ve been reading a lot of posts from Canada and can’t believe how gorgeous it is!! This town is no exception and I definitely would love to check it out!

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 15, 2020 / 9:21 am

      Thank you Savannah!! It’s a sweet little spot to visit!

  30. August 15, 2020 / 2:23 pm

    What a stunning little town…. thanks so much for bringing it to my attention! I pinned & saved this blog for my next trip to Ontario, which will hopefully be soon!!!

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 15, 2020 / 3:36 pm

      Thank you so much Shelley! Let me know when you decide to come here! πŸ™‚

  31. August 15, 2020 / 2:51 pm

    The Mermaid in Elora store looks so cute! Really enjoying reading about Ontario. It looks beautiful.

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 15, 2020 / 3:40 pm

      Thanks Katy! Even my own eyes have been opened recently to how beautiful our province is!

  32. August 15, 2020 / 8:46 pm

    Oh it looks so charming here! My friend has been touring tiny towns in Ontario since quarantine and she has a hashtag on instagram (#tinytownontario) you should check it out! I bet you would love all the towns she’s sharing

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 16, 2020 / 8:31 am

      That’s awesome! I will definitely check it out!

  33. August 15, 2020 / 9:49 pm

    Such a lovely place! These photos makes me want to come visit this gorgeous town. Thanks for sharing!

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 16, 2020 / 8:31 am

      Thanks Shany! πŸ™‚

  34. August 16, 2020 / 5:50 am

    Absolutely love reading about small and charming towns to visit. Before this I’d not even heard of Elora – that bakery is stunning, and I love all the unique products and shops there. The distilling company? Looks incredible. Definitely on my radar now!

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 16, 2020 / 8:32 am

      It’s been so fun uncovering these little treasures!!!

  35. August 16, 2020 / 4:33 pm

    Elora looks like a great day trip when we (finally) get to Ontario. It’s nice to know you guys are feeling safe enough to move around and really explore places. Fingers crossed we can all get back out and scratch our wanderlust itch πŸ™‚

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 17, 2020 / 5:42 am

      Thank you Sophia! Thankfully there are enough safe activities to do here which has been great, but I am looking forward to international travel again πŸ™‚

  36. August 16, 2020 / 5:45 pm

    I’ve never even heard of this town! It sounds so cute!

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 17, 2020 / 5:47 am

      It’s just adorable! Love this tiny town!

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