4 Day Ontario Road Trip: European Inspiration
Craving some European culture, heritage and food this summer? No passport required on this Round the World road trip in Ontario’s southwest and West Coast. Visit the counties of Brant, Oxford, Huron, Perth, Wellington, Waterloo, and more. Here you will be charmed by the towns bearing the same names of major European cities; flavours inspired by the European culture and immigration that developed this rich, agricultural area. Find cobblestone streets lined with quaint shops and cafes that will make you feel like you have ‘gotten away from it all’ when in fact, you found it right here – in our own backyard. Note: This is a loop itinerary.
Ontario is the world in one province and is the original homelands to many nations of the First Peoples. With the Cree Nation in the North, the Haudenoshaunee in the South, and the Anishinabek Nation all around the Great Lakes, we are pleased to acknowledge and support the First Peoples and First Nations of these lands; the Inuit; and the Metis as we host visitors together.
Some things to do may not be available due to COVID-19.
Many tourism experiences require advance bookings or have restrictions in place due to COVID 19. It is important to check directly with the business operator before you travel. Get the most up-to-date information now.
Paris, Ontario – Day One & Two
Paris to London – 100 km / 62 mi
Not only is Paris, Ontario bearer of the same name as the capital city of France, it also holds the reputation as The Prettiest Little Town in Canada. It is situated at the intersection of two rivers – the Nith and the Grand, a Canadian Heritage River encompassing the town centre. Paris’ cobblestone streets give it the European flair of a pedestrian-friendly downtown as 19th century structures situated along the Grand River have been remarkably well preserved. Many of Paris’ best restaurants and shops are housed in buildings more than a century old.
Fun fact: This is where Alexander Graham Bell himself answered the world’s first long distance phone call in August 1867. The call was placed from Brantford, which become known as the Telephone City and where you can learn about the time that Alexander Graham Bell spent living there at the Bell Homestead National Historic Site.
Things to Do
Take a self-guided Cobblestone Tour of the town.
As if the title of Prettiest Little Town in Canada isn’t enough of a claim to fame, Paris holds another title of Cobblestone Capital of Canada, being home to a dozen pristine cobblestone buildings and even a few garden walls. The Paris Museum and Historical Society has handily plotted these out for you on a map that you can download.
Book a Tasty Road Trip self-guided tour for 2-4 people.
Book the One Bite at a Time Tour! and spend the afternoon on a curated tour that will take you to shops and unique tastings from fine dining to grilled cheese and the local bakery. All tastings/samplings on this tour have a behind-the-scenes element, all exclusive to Tasty Road Trips guests.
Rest for a spell at Penman’s Dam Park.
Take a break after all the walking and tasty sampling at historic Penman’s Dam. It was built more than 100 years ago by the Penman clothing company to provide waterpower to run the mills. Every evening at dusk, Penman’s Dam is lit by spectacular colours. Known as “Lighting of the Paris Falls,” you can best view it from the William Street Bridge.
Tip: If you decide you love Paris so much that you want to spend more time, the Arlington Hotel in the heart of the town has historic charm and an imaginative literary theme. Each of the 24 rooms’ décor is inspired by iconic authors like the Jane Austen Suite, the enchanted R.R. Tolkien room and the Ernest Hemingway Suite.
Distance to Next Stop: 40 km / 25 mi – Paris to Simcoe
New Limburg Brewery, Simcoe.
At New Limburg Brewery, they serve up Belgian Style Ales in an old elementary school that the family has transformed into a microbrewery, with a bistro-style restaurant. The inspiration for the name comes from time the family spent living in Limburg in the Netherlands and Limburg in Belgium.
Norfolk County, also known as Ontario’s Garden, is a charming location.
In Elgin County, be sure to snap pics of yourself in front of the town signs for Copenhagen and Vienna.
Distance to Next Stop: Simcoe to Woodstock, 60 km / 37 mi
Oxford County Cheese Trail, various locations in and around Woodstock.
For the past 150 years, cheese has been made in Ontario. Oxford County is the Dairy Capital of Canada so be sure to download the Cheese Trail map – a self-guided tour of 24 stops featuring cheese, dairy and other delicious spots to visit on the way to your next stop.
Distance to Next Stop: Woodstock to London, 54 km / 33 mi
Covent Garden Market, London.
Much like Covent Garden in London, England is Covent Garden Market in downtown, London, Ontario. Older than the city of London, it had its beginning in 1835 when a patent was issued to hold a “public fair or mart” in the area.
Open six days a week, the market is chock-a-block with food, services and a twice-a-week local farmers’ market. Stock up with snacks for the rest of your journey!
Distance to Next Stop: London to Copenhagen 48 km/ 30 mi
Copenhagen & Seville
Pinecroft/The Green Frog Tea Room - Pinecroft has been a thriving business in Elgin County since 1948, supplying fine-quality earthenware and stoneware pottery and unique Canadian gifts to its’ customers. The Pinecroft Gallery and Gift Shop and Green Frog Tearoom occupy an original log cabin built in 1934 and overlook an expansive pond which attracts a great variety of wildlife from the Blue Heron to Canadian Geese. The 54-acre pine forest setting is reminiscent of Northern Muskoka, an ideal setting for creative artists. Open March 1 to Dec 30th.
Historic Village of Sparta - Today, Sparta includes the studios of several artists, a traditional tearoom, handmade artisan candles, boutique shopping, a nearby lavender farm, a local vineyard and several locations of historical importance.
Distance to Next Stop: Copenhagen to Vienna 26 km / 16 mi
Port Burwell Beach – Port Burwell is often referred to as the jewel of Lake Erie’s north shore with its Blue Flag certification for water quality and environmental protection. In addition to the clean, sandy beach, you’ll find hiking trails, camping, a cold-war era submarine, a marine museum and historic lighthouse, two marinas, and a provincial park.
HMCS Ojibwa – Cold War Submarine - It quite simply one of the most unique experiential tours around. 297.5 feet long, 5 stories high, elegant, imposing - hiding secrets of the Cold War. Explore the exterior while listening to guides share insights or head inside for an in-depth submariner tour.
Places to Stay
Idlewyld Inn and Spa, London – This premier historic inn has been a local landmark since 1878 and provides travelers the elegance of a bygone era with all the modern amenities. 21 uniquely decorated rooms, an on-site spa and restaurant.
The Park Hotel, London – This all-suites hotel is conveniently located steps from trendy Richmond Row. Each room is equipped with a small fridge, coffee maker and microwave.
Château la Motte – A mansion from 1895, this unique B&B is filled with charm.
The Elm Hurst Inn & Spa a landmark since1872 – Elm Hurst is a boutique hotel that combines historic charm with modern amenities
Places to Eat
Plant Matters Cafe, London: Quality organic, vegan food, drinks and coffee, the cafe now serves wine, beer and cocktails.
The Southside Grill, London: Casual dining with great food. Also serving dinner with a varied menu that has something for everyone.
Garlic’s of London, London: Romantic, upmarket outpost of seasonal Canadian entrees and Italian favourites like pizza and pasta. Farm-to-table philosophy with a rustic menu and modern flare.
Church Key Bistro Pub, London: Cross the street from the regal Grand Theatre in a heritage building on Richmond Row in downtown London with an intimate outdoor courtyard. It follows the British tradition of the gastro pub by specializing in traditional food done with a gourmet flair.
Craft Farmacy, London: A farm-to-table restaurant with everything from bar bits to sharing plates and mains. Enjoy!
Arlington Hotel, Paris: Its blackboard-based menu with changing options are seasonally inspired. Follow on Instagram to find the most up-to-date menu offerings.
Brickhouse Brew Pub: Offers 25 taps of Ontario craft beer and a pub-inspired menu with a warm and inviting atmosphere.
SixThirtyNine, Woodstock: Taste true local flavours at this restaurant committed to farm-to-table cuisine.
New Limburg Brewery Bistro, Simcoe: The Bistro and tasting room at New Limburg are fashioned after laid back European beer cafes. Pair a flight of beer with some ‘slow food’ like the on-site made pizza as well as Dutch and Indonesian-inspired bites like Bitterballen, the Frikandel Special, and Nasi Goreng.
London to Goderich – Day Three
Distance to Next Stop: 100 km / 62 mi
While its name is not European in nature, Goderich’s attributes are. It is an architecturally rich port town, on the bluffs overlooking the shores of Lake Huron with a unique octagonal town square in the centre of town, known as Courthouse Park or “The Square” to locals from which streets radiate out into the town. Courthouse Square is a gem of Canadian Heritage Architecture and is home to a weekly farmers' market, specialty shops, restaurants and cafes. From Courthouse Square it's just a short stroll along West Street, a designated heritage district, to the beautiful lakefront.
What to do on the way to Goderich: 62 km / 39 mi
A short detour to the east and you will come across the quaint town of St. Mary’s, which sits on the banks of the Thames River and is home to the St. Marys Quarry, Canada’s largest outdoor swimming pool.
Along the banks of the Avon River and home to the Stratford Festival. The town is noted for the Stratford Festival, which performs Shakespearean plays and other genres from May to October. For this 2021 season The Stratford Festival is transforming into an outdoor festival offering a season of six plays and five cabarets reflecting on the theme of Metamorphosis, with performances held under beautiful canopies that will hark back to the Festival’s founding under a tent back in 1953.
Distance to Next Stop: Lambton Shores – 92 km / 58 mi
Twin Pines Orchard, Thedford, Lambton Shores – Continue your immersion into all things British with a stop at this cidery which produces an array of Heritage and English Cider apple varieties, as well as apple wine.
Shale Ridge Estate Winery & Cidery puts a new spin on a European tradition. Flavours come from fresh fruit and tasting flights are available to tickle your palette.
Distance to Next Stop: Zurich 42 km / 26 mi
As the name would suggest, Zurich, Ontario is known for its Swiss heritage, which is reflected in the attractive local architecture.
The Hess Clock is one of three “Canadiana Tower Clocks” still operating as it was designed to run. Is that surprising in a town with Swiss heritage?
Distance to Next Stop: Brussels 53 km / 33 mi
While Brussels bears the name of a European capital, its vibe is much more Western with a strong agricultural heritage to the town and surrounding area.
Take a heritage walking tour or follow the self-guided Fairy Door Trail created by the Brussels Horticultural Society.
Distance to Next Stop: Goderich 48 km / 30 mi
Huron Historic Gaol, Goderich – Mimicking the eight-sided style of the Square, the Gaol is a unique octagonal building that served as the County Jail in Goderich from 1841-1972 and is now a registered National Historic Site offering tours and historic storytelling. Be sure to check operating hours prior to visiting as they are subject to change.
Take a self-guided walk heritage walk, Goderich.
Take in a famous Goderich sunset.
Ontario’s West Coast sunsets are renowned, especially those enjoyed from Goderich. Locals know that instead of one beautiful sunset, you can actually see two.
On Friday evenings during the summer the musical backdrop to these stunning sunsets is the Celtic Blue Highlanders Pipe Band who “pipe down the sun.” They begin their performance about an hour before sunset at Rotary Cove.
Places to Stay
Benmiller Inn & Spa – Goderich A Unique Country Inn nestled in the hamlet of Benmiller. 55 guest accommodation rooms.
Cedar Lodge Motel – Goderich is a budget-friendly option without the frills.
Dreamz Inn – South of Goderich has a modern interior is complemented by the beautiful landscaped grounds and courts for you to get active on – tennis, basketball, volleyball and badminton. Then you can cool off in the indoor saltwater pool.
Samuels Hotel – Goderich on the banks of the Maitland River and built within the walls of a historic landmark dating back to 1860. Every room features a private terrace and a cozy fireplace.
Hessenland Inn – Zurich located just on the outskirts of Zurich and serve up hearty European fare and offer elegant rooms to guests who are spending the night.
Where to Eat
Culbert’s Bakey, Goderich: Culbert’s Bakery to grab some tasty treats for the road.
Jam Jar Pub and Eatery, Brussels: So that you can say that you had a meal in Brussels this summer. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, serving up comfort food with great service and reasonably priced.
Need a java? Get your jolt at Down to the Bean, Zurich: Treat yourself to an icy cold coffee on a hot day.
Beach Street Station, Goderich: Dine here for a mouth-watering dinner as you enjoy views of beautiful Lake Huron. The restaurant is steeped in history as it was originally the town’s CPR Train Station built in 1907.
Thyme on 21, Goderich: Dine at this cozy restaurant in a Victoria building just off Couthouse Square. It offers lunch and dinner options from a continental menu.
Schatz Winery, Hessenland County Inn, Zurich: At Hessenland Inn’s onsite Schatz Winery, you can book a Wein & Dine experience - a BYOB (Blanket) picnic on the lawn or in the vineyard! It carries a FEAST ON designation from the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance to signify the owners’ commitment to using local food and producers.
Goderich to Kincardine – Day Four
Distance to Next Stop: 52 km / 32 mi
Before heading inland from Lake Huron, take a trip up the coast to Kincardine.
Self-proclaimed as Ontario’s Scottish destination, north of Goderich on the shores of Lake Huron. Beautiful sunsets and surfers!
Kincardine Lighthouse – Historic octogonal wooden tower that was built into the banks of the Penetangore River in 1881.
Huron-Kinloss Ice Cream Trail – With six delicious stops where you can make your ice cream dreams a reality.
Distance to Next Stop: Kincardine to Cambridge 161 km / 100 mi
In the Galt section of Cambridge you will find a European vibe from the old Main St. bridge to the way in which the historic buildings are built up directly from the river's edge. With its architectural heritage you will be transported to an earlier time and place. Stop by Reid’s Chocolates to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Castle Kilbride National Historic Monument, Wilmot – A European tour should include a castle and here is one to add to your road trip of Ontario with European flair.
Just outside of Cambridge, Ontario – Visit this 1877 mansion of James Livingston, a flax industrialist, politician and entrepreneur, inside and out. It is named after Livingston’s birthplace in East Kilbride, Scotland, Castle Kilbride and showcases lavish Victorian era décor.
Distance to Next Stop: Cambridge to St. Jacobs, 34 km / 21 mi
Going to local markets is part of the European experience where it is fun to see the local culture, crafts and taste the local treats. You can have this experience right here in Ontario in St. Jacob’s. a town steeped in Mennonite history. While in the area you may see Old Order Mennonites driving horse and buggie down country roads in and in town at the market and shops.
St. Jacob’s Farmer’s Market, St.Jacob’s – A European-style market, which is also Canada’s largest farmer’s market. Year round on Thursdays and Saturdays and Tuesdays in the summer. You can feast on food (must have is the Mennonite Summer Sausage); shop for treasures, and then head to the nearby Market Road Antiques in the St. Jacob’s Market District.
Distance to Next Stop: St. Jacobs to West Montrose 16 km / 10 mi
West Montrose Kissing Bridge – This is Ontario’s last remaining covered bridge. Built in 1881, visitors come from all over the world have come through the years to experience this ebridge. It has a 198-foot span across the Grand River.
Distance to Next Stop: West Montrose to Fergus / Elora – 15 km / 9 mi
Technically two different towns, Fergus and Elora are so closely linked that one must make sure to visit both when in the area (it's less than a 10-minute drive between them). Both of these quaint and scenic towns are steeped in Scottish history dating back to the mid-1800s. Nestled along the cliffs of the Elora Gorge and the Grand River, many of the historic limestone structures of that era survive in these towns today, put to new use housing shops, galleries and restaurants.
A.J. Casson, one of the famous Group of Seven painters, called Elora “Ontario’s most beautiful village.”
Where to Stay
Elora Mill Hotel & Spa, Elora – Perched atop the Elora Gorge with a luxurious spa and fabulous dining. Here, 27 luxurious guest rooms with rustic, modern and French designs to reflect the dynamic history of the building. Tip: Book Room 305 and you get a terrace with a view above the River.
Hampton Inn & Suites, Waterloo / St. Jacobs – Located next door to the Oxford Mills Factory Outlet, and just a couple of kilometres from the St Jacobs Farmer’s Market
Delta Hotels by Marriott Waterloo – Located in uptown Waterloo, close to Centre in the Square and the town of St. Jacob’s and just a couple of kilometres from the St Jacobs Farmer’s Market.
Walper Hotel – Kitchener Gracing the Kitchener downtown area since 1893. The rooms exude the perfect blend of heritage and charm, coupled with modern amenities.
Langdon Hall Country House Hotel & Spa – Cambridge One of 14 properties in Canada recognized by Relais & Chateau for the standard of excellence provided to guests. The hotel is a grand and tranquil estate amidst woodland and gardens.
Where to Eat
Cellar Pub and Grill, Elora: Patio offering great views. Enjoy a lunch or dinner featuring fresh, and local food at affordable prices.
Anna Mae’s, Millbank: For a down-home meal in a relaxed setting. Bring your appetite and enjoy Mennonite favourites. Featured on You Gotta Eat Here, the food is so good you may not have room for dessert. Good thing you can buy homemade pies to take home!
Lancaster Smokehouse, Kitchener: Follows three guiding principles – keep in local, keep it fresh and ensure it is homemade.u Featuring Southern-style BBQ, po' boys and seafood mains, with live blues music.
The Breadalbane Inn, Fergus: One of two restaurants at the Breadalbane Inn. The Fergusson Room Pub is a gastro pub where local fresh food is their passion. Scozia offers authentic Italian dining in this Scottish inspired town.
Langdon Hall, Cambridge – The kitchen is headed by executive chef Jason Bangerter who finds inspiration in the kitchen from the inn’s 75 acre estate – a chef’s kitchen garden, honey production, foraging for wild edibles, house churned butter and bread baked fresh daily onsite.
Top 5 Things to Know For This Trip
- Pack comfortable walking shoes for exploring walking-friendly town centres, some with cobblestones, just like Europe.
- Pack a cooler and ice packs because you are going to find treats along that way that you will want to pick up and keep fresh.
- Find farms along this route at Ontario Farm Fresh and see what fruit and produce is in season and when with the handy Foodland Ontario calendar and you’ll find a comprehensive list of local, pick-your-own farms.
- Looking for some natural areas on this road trip? There are a number of beautiful Ontario Parks along this route. This year, day-use permits for mid-week visits Monday to Thursday are free. Daily vehicle permit information, find beaches along this route and find the closest Blue Flag Beach – a beach designated Blue Flag meets 33 criteria across four categories: Environmental Education and Information; Water Quality; Environmental Management; and, Safety and Services, making them safe places to swim.
- Get a local perspective Driftscape App on Google Play and Apple Store Driftscape, a Canadian travel appis perfect for travellers and curious locals to discover hidden gems nearby! Wherever you are, Driftscape will put diverse perspectives from local experts at your fingertips. Explore thousands of places, events and self-guided audio tours.
Last updated: October 19, 2021