small towns in ontario

Two small towns in Ontario were just named among the best places in Canada

Small towns are definitely having a moment right when it comes to travelling, no doubt thanks in part to the romanticization of country life amid the ongoing pandemic.

City folk have been fleeing their downtown micro-condos in droves for literal greener pastures over the past year and a half, not only in the GTA or Ontario but all over Canada.

These brave remote workers rave of cheaper living costs, fresher air, kinder people, more wide-open spaces and abundant wildlife... as do many of the urbanites who turned to small towns for vacations while travel restrictions kept us from leaving the country.

The prestigious American travel magazine Travel + Leisure has clearly taken note, as evidenced by their newly published "trip ideas" list of the 12 best small towns in Canada.

"While Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal often steal the spotlight, Canada is dotted with its fair share of delightful, laid-back towns," reads the piece's intro.

"From charming fishing villages in the east to atmospheric mountain towns in the west, many of these communities are gateways to outdoor adventures. Stay awhile, though, and you'll discover artisan shops, microbreweries, farm-to-table restaurants, and friendly locals to guide the way."

Of the twelve towns listed — nearly all of them from a different province, save for the towns in B.C. and Ontario — two of them are within driving distance of Toronto.

You'll likely be unsurprised to learn that they are Elora, famous for its gorgeous waters, and Niagara on the Lake (NOTL), known for its abundance of elegant wineries.

Both spots have proven popular among staycationers from Toronto this summer after pandemic restrictions lifted enough for people to feel safe leaving their own public health regions: Earlier this year, NOTL was independently ranked the most liveable city in Ontario.

"Famed for its sun-drenched vineyards and charming heritage homes, Niagara-on-the-Lake gives visitors to Niagara Falls a good reason to stay, sip, and savor the countryside," writes T+L of the town, which has a population of roughly 17,500 people.

"Thanks to its well-connected shuttle system, WEGO, and numerous bike rental shops, you don't even need a car to explore all it has to offer."

As for Elora — as if anyone needed more reasons to visit after seeing photos of the famous gorge and tropical-looking quarry — Travel + Leisure tells its readers that it "feels like a world away from the big city."

Roughly 90 minutes from Toronto with a population of fewer than 8,000 people, it certainly does.

"Historical 19th-century buildings form an idyllic town that's been kept alive by a vibrant community of artists, chefs, and entrepreneurs," reads T+L's description.

"While it's easy to spend a day wandering through the charming shops, the star attraction here is the Elora Gorge Conservation Area, a magnet for hikers, swimmers, and anyone adventurous enough to go tubing down the rapids of the Grand River."

That's as accurate a statement about a small Canadian town from a U.S. publication most of us have ever or will ever see again.

Lead photo by

A Great Capture


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