St. Jacobs and Elmira

St. Jacobs and Elmira are two delightful, neighbouring communities in the Township of Woolwich. They are home to the largest population of Mennonites in Canada. Often seen around town on their horse-drawn buggies, St. Jacobs and Elmira Mennonites trace their origins back to German and Dutch speaking Pennsylvania Mennonites who immigrated to the area in 1806. 

Visitors flock to St. Jacobs and Elmira for their quaint atmosphere and down-to-earth sensibilities. Both villages are famous for artisan goods and organic fare, seasonal festivals celebrating local goods, farmers’ markets and the historical buildings and establishments that remain unchanged yet functional.

To learn more about all there is to see and do in St. Jacobs and Elmira, scroll down or visit the region's tourism website.

Where are St. Jacobs and Elmira?

Both St. Jacobs and Elmira are located in the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, with the former just a 15 minute drive north of Waterloo and Kitchener and the latter 15 km further north. Both villages are approximately an hours drive north from Hamilton and an hour and a half from London or Toronto. 

Things to do in St. Jacobs and Elmira

Learn more about St. Jacobs' and Elmira’s Mennonite heritage by visiting the Mennonite Story, an interpretive centre that offers a comprehensive crash course into the world of the Mennonites. Located in downtown St. Jacobs, visitors can follow a self-guided audio tour through an exhibit detailing the Mennonites’ history of persecution and diaspora, and watch two films about their culture and religion. Visitors who want a closer look at the Mennonite lifestyle can participate in Mennonite Country Tours. Guests are taken for a ride around town aboard a traditional buggy, then a visit to a local Mennonite farm famous for its homemade maple syrup and handmade quilts. Hungry for some old-fashioned pastries? Get a slice of pie from the Stone Crock Bakery, a Mennonite-run bakery that sells artisanal fruit pies, breads, muffins, scones, and many more delectable pastries.

Visitors who love one of Canada’s most popular products, maple syrup, should drop by the Maple Syrup Museum in St. Jacobs. Observe the displays of buckets, taps, and even Indigenous artifacts related to early maple syrup production methods. Examine the cross-section of an ancient maple tree bearing scars of previous syrup tappings over its lengthy lifetime, as well as an assortment of maple syrup bottles dating back over 50 years. Head over to Elmira in April to participate in the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival. Since 1965, the festival has attracted a massive following, even gaining recognition from the Guinness Book of World Records for having the largest single-day maple syrup festival in 2000 with 66,529 visitors. Festival-goers are treated to homemade pancakes soaked in local maple syrup, to homemade toffee, local competitions like log-sawing, arts and crafts by local artisans, souvenirs and sugar bush tours. 

Get a taste of rural country life at the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market. Open year round, Ontario's most famous farmers’ market is among the largest in Canada. It's filled with fresh farm-to-table produce and foods from different global cuisines, vintage goods and collectibles, clothing, pantry essentials and more. With over 200 vendors, every visitor will be able to find something their heart, or stomach, desires. Sample more homemade artisan goods at Kitchen Kuttings Inc. in Elmira. Pick up local cheeses, sauces, and meats or take home a traditionally-made quilt. Or get into quilting by buying materials, accessories, and fabrics from Quilter’s Nine Patch Quilt online store.

Take in the local sights along the Millrace Footpath in St. Jacobs. Part of the Trans Canada Trail, the Millrace Footpath traces the Conestogo River up towards a dam. Revel in the scenic views of the Conestogo River, as well as the historic mills that powered the town’s economy in the mid-19th century. 

For modern recreation, head over to the Woolwich Memorial Centre in Elmira. The Township of Woolwich houses two NHL-sized ice rinks, two swimming pools, one well-equipped fitness centre and a walking track.

St. Jacobs and Elmira neighbourhoods and districts

Be sure to visit the two most famous landmarks in Woolwich Township.

St. Jacobs Market District

This district is home to the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market, St. Jacobs Market Road Antiques and the St. Jacobs Outlet Mall. Market Road Antiques comprises up to 20,000 square feet and 100 booths of antiques and collectibles sourced from all over the world. The Outlet Mall is located across the street from the Farmers’ Market, and carries a fantastic selection of quality products, from clothing, housewares, linens, toys and furniture.

West Montrose

A scenic 12 km drive northwest of St. Jacobs lies the hamlet of West Montrose and its famed covered bridge, also known as The Kissing Bridge. Dating back to the 1880s, it's the last of its type of wooden covered bridges in Canada and a popular stop for photographers and romantics alike.

Things to know about visiting St. Jacobs and Elmira

There is so much to offer in St. Jacobs and Elmira, start your visit with some local favourites and follow the inspiration from there: 

Where to take an Instagram photo

A short drive from either Elmira or St. Jacobs is the famous West Montrose Covered Bridge, or the “Kissing Bridge”, the last covered bridge in Ontario.

Favourite local gem

The Mennonite Story in St. Jacobs is a wonderful place to learn about the history and culture of the Mennonite community.

Where to go for live music

The Village Biergarten in St. Jacobs. With a large outdoor patio and delicious Mexican food, you’re in for a treat!

Last updated: December 15, 2022

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