15 Amazing Things to do in Perth Ontario

Are you looking for places to visit in Ontario, Canada that have all the charm of a European village? Then head east to Perth Ontario! This picturesque eastern Ontario town has historic stone buildings lining its main street. Winding through town is the sparkling blue Tay River. Located in Lanark County, Perth is 85 kilometres southwest of Ottawa. At an hour away, it’s one of the many Ottawa day trips. But with so many fun things to do in Perth Ontario, I love it as a weekend getaway.

Perth is home to a rich heritage, an assortment of unique shops, fabulous foodie finds, and endless outdoor activities. So, with such a diverse range of Perth Ontario things to do and places to explore, it makes for one of the best road trip destinations!

10 Best Things to do in Perth Ontario

Mammoth Cheese in Perth
the Mammoth Cheese

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Behold the Mammoth Cheese

The weirdest item on the list of things to see in Perth Ontario is a mammoth block of cheese!

Standing proud in a bright red barn behind the Crystal Palace in downtown Perth, is a replica of a significant piece of the town’s history. Plus, it’s one of the many weird big attractions in Ontario.

An idea sparked in Mr. Henderson, the owner of the Perth Cheese Company, in 1893. With the help of fellow dairy producers, he created an enormous block of cheddar cheese. Made with the milk from 10,000 cows, the cheese weighed 22,000 pounds.

Fun Fact: Ontario’s first Mammoth Cheese was made in Ingersoll in 1866, weighing 7,300 pounds.

The Perth Mammoth Cheese was sent to the Chicago World Fair by train. After a lot of fanfare as it made its way across Ontario, the cheese made a surprising impact on the Fair. After crashing through the floor, a cement platform was made for it. The judges were even surprised by its delightful taste and it became a Grade A cheese!

After the success at the World’s Fair in Chicago the cheese was shipped to England for use by local chefs.

However, one chunk was sent back to Ontario. Now, the famous cheese is in the collection of the Perth Museum. While not always on display with its respective Perth cheese artifacts, it’s often brought out for curious onlookers!

Stewart Park with Perth water tower in the distance
view of the Perth water tower in the distance from Stewart Park

Stroll Stewart Park

In the heart of downtown Perth Ontario is a sprawling green oasis called Stewart Park. Named after the Honourable John Alexander Stewart by his wife, she gave it to the town in 1947 for people to continue to enjoy for years to come.

Officially known as John A. Stewart Park, it’s a scenic 5 acre green space with the Tay River weaving through it. The park also covers parts of Cockburn and Haggart’s Islands, being connecting by beautiful bridges.

The best place to enter the park is across from Code’s Mill. At the entrance is a bronze statue of Ian Millar and his horse, Big Ben. Ian Miller is an equestrian rider and Canadian Olympian who calls Perth home.

One of the popular Perth Ontario events is held in the park every July. The Stewart Park Festival is a free weekend festival that takes over the park in the middle of July for three days. At the festival you’ll find both Canadian and international artists bring some epic tunes to delight of festive goers. There’s also food and various vendors set up.

Travel Tip: Stewart Park is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic! Grab some cheese from the Perth Cheese Shop, sweets from Perth chocolate works, and some iced coffees from North Folk Café.

orange chocolates at Perth Chocolate Works
Orange Meltaway chocolates

Indulge in Sweets at Perth Chocolate Works

Across the street from Stewart Park is one of the sweetest Perth Ontario attractions, Code’s Mill. This historic complex is comprised of five different buildings and dates to 1842. Today the old mill is a must stop for visitors and locals alike.

Code’s Mill is home to a number of unique shops like Kelly’s Flowers and Gifts and Blackfly Grub Hub. In addition, there’s Fiddleheads Bar & Grill and a charming interior courtyard patio.

But the sweetest shop in Code’s Mill is Perth Chocolate Works! This family owned chocolate shop originally started on Manitoulin Island. Expanding the company, they opened up a second location in Perth.

Perth Chocolate Works sells a wide assortment of artisan chocolates. Plus, if you come during the week, you can see the magic happen as there are windows looking into their chocolate making kitchen within Code’s Mill!

All of their chocolates are made with high quality ingredients in small batches. Along with Belgian Callebaut chocolate they source ingredients locally when possible.

Browse their shelves to find an array of goodies from bars and barks to fun confections. There’s everything from chocolate covered chips to chocolate drizzled popcorn.

My favourite are their individual artisan chocolates! Two of the top ones on my list are the Orange Meltaway and the Mango, which is made with real mango puree!

Travel Tips: Be sure to pack a cooler when you travel to Perth to bring some goodies home. In addition, there’s a large parking lot behind Code’s Mill.

Tay Canal running through Perth Wildlife Reserve. The water is surrounded by lush forests and the sky is blue with white fluffy clouds.
Tay Canal running through Perth Wildlife Reserve

Hike the Perth Wildlife Reserve

Covering 257 hectares, the Perth Wildlife Reserve is a short 7 minute drive from downtown. This conservation area is one of the many hidden gems in Perth Ontario! When I visited, I didn’t see another person.

Perth Wildlife Reserve is a conservation area that’s home to an array of habitats, making it a rich hotspot for birds, wildlife and plant species. Along with marshlands, a number of waterways run through it like the Tay River and Jebbs Creek. It’s a prime viewing spot for bluebirds, waterfowl, deer, porcupines, and more.

The main trail in Perth Wildlife Reserve Conservation Area is called the Betty Wilson Nature Trail. At 2.5 km, the trail is easy to follow and can be completed in under an hour. However, I highly recommend taking your time.

There are a number of interpretive signs along the trail. Each shares some key features of the conservation area like wildlife, trees and fish in the park.

Plus, at the midway point there’s a lookout platform. Climbing to the top will give you sweeping views of the Tay Marsh. If you’re a bird nerd like myself, download the Merlin app before you go. At the top of the platform, you’ll likely hear more birds than you see and the app will help you know what is nearby. When I visited there was a family of Cat Birds.

The park is also home to another short trail that’s under 1 km. This trail takes you around a butterfly garden. It’s full of various wildflowers and butterflies in the summer.

Travel Tips: There is a parking fee of $8 for the day and can be paid via a pay by phone app. In addition, no dogs are allowed in the park.

Iced Coffee at North Folk Cafe in Perth Ontario
Iced Coffee at North Folk Cafe

Fuel up at Perth’s Coffee Shops

Always on the hunt for the best coffee shops when I travel, I was delighted to find a bunch in Perth! Most restaurants, cafes and coffee shops in Perth are found downtown, either along Gore Street East or North Street.

Coutts Coffee Roastery & Café

A staple in town is Coutts Coffee Roastery & Café. Set within a heritage building which dates to 1841, it’s known as The Sherriff’s House since the town’s Sherriff Thompson lived there. Inside you’ll spot original details like the fireplace and stone walls.

This café also roasts their own coffee in house. They source beans directly from farmers and produce Fair Trade, organic coffee. Plus, Coutts has the best café patio with views along the Tay Canal. Along with a list of coffee beverages, Coutts also serves a variety of baked goods and light meal options.

North Folk Café

One of my favourite places in Perth for coffee is North Folk Café! This is another downtown café but as soon as you enter, you’ll be greeted by the friendliest staff! Plus, the vibe is a mix of earthy boho chic with a splash of Instagrammable!

They use a local coffee, Mighty Valley from Smith Falls. I loved my straight black iced coffee! Plus, if you’re looking for a bite to eat, North Folk serves an assortment of light options, made in house, like pastries, sandwiches, and more. Plus, for tea folk you can enjoy one of their high tea experiences. They are offered weekends in the summer and include tea, mini sandwiches, desserts, as well as fresh flowers and fruit.

Hourglass

Another Perth hidden gem is Hourglass! Situated a few minutes’ walk from downtown, Hourglass is located in the old Perth Show Factory. Built over 100 years ago, the stunning brick building is hard to miss! At two stories, the building covers 17,000 square feet and is now home to a variety of businesses.

Originally Café Bean, Hourglass is a charming coffee shop that offers various places to relax with a coffee or work. Inside it features the exposed brick walls, photos from its past, and has a cozy industrial vibe.

A top Perth Ontario attraction is the Silver Queen Mine in Murphys Point Provincial Park.
Silver Queen Mine in Murphys Point Provincial Park

Explore Murphys Point Provincial Park

For outdoor enthusiasts or history buffs, one of the best things to do in Perth Ontario is visit Murphys Point Provincial Park!

Situated on Big Rideau Lake, a 15-minute drive south from downtown Perth, Murphys Point is an awesome park to hike, camp, and enjoy the water. The park has a mix of landscapes including wetlands, forests, lakes.

Murphys Point Provincial Park is home to six hiking trails, most of which are under 2.5 km. Plus, part of the 300 km Rideau Trail from Kingston to Ottawa runs through the park.

The most popular trail is the Silver Queen Mine Trail. The beginning of the trail is across the street from the Lally Homestead, where you’ll find a parking lot. I recommend checking out the old homestead before you head off on the hike.

Silver Queen Mine is an early 1900s mica mine that has been restored. During the summer, on select days there are tours available to take into the mine. However, you’ll need to contact the park ahead of time to book one.

On the way back, you can take the Beaver Pond Trail that leads back to the Lally Homestead parking lot.

Another great trail in the park is the Point Trail. This 5.5 km loop trail takes you out to the tip of the peninsula with awesome views of Big Rideau Lake. Plus, you can stop and have a refreshing swim at a sandy beach along the way.

Trail Tip: I recommend borrowing a trail booklet at the trailhead. In it you’ll find information about the mine, the area’s history, and more interesting facts.

inside the Gore Street Antique Market in Perth Ontario
Gore Street Antique Market

Shop for Antiques

Lanark County is a hotspot for antiquing! Along with books and coffee, I love browsing antique markets and shops. And if you enjoy the same, then you’ll love all the antique shops in Perth.

One of the most popular shops in town is Gore Street Antique Market. It’s considered Eastern Ontario’s best indoor antique flea market.

Walking up to the old brick building, it deceives its true size. Gore Street Antique Market covers over 8500 square feet! Along with a main floor and upstairs, there’s more out front. Within the market are over 45 vendors. There’s everything from jewellery to retro kitchenware as well as books to vintage clothing.

One of the newest shops in the Perth antique world is The Collection Vintage. Also on Gore Street, this little shop is full of midcentury modern items and cool vintage finds. I even found one of the brass bird statues I was looking for!

Another great place to go shopping in Perth is at the Perth Flea Market. South of downtown, the flea market has a mix of antiques and new items. A staple in the community since 1985, this family run shop has something for everyone.

The Red Fox Mural in Perth Ontario
The Red Fox Mural

Spot the Red Fox Mural

Welcome to Perth says the mural on the back of The Red Fox restaurant. This massive mural takes up the entire wall in downtown Perth’s main parking lot.

It’s known as the Red Fox Mural and one of a number of murals scattered around town. However, this 1988 mural is famous for being the backdrop of many photos from visitors and weddings.

Unlike most murals, The Red Fox Mural has an endearing story. After finding himself in a tough place after an ended marriage, Craig Campbell needed a place to stay. Larry Geroux, the owner of the restaurant said Craig could stay in an upstairs room.

Instead of paying for his lodging, food and drink, Geroux asked Campbell to paint the exterior rear wall of the building.

And it’s stories like this that make me fall in love with small towns and their lovely people.

The mural is a showcase of Perth’s iconic places and people. There’s an image of a red fox, Ian Miller and his horse, the Tay Basin, the Last Duel, and Stewart Park. Plus, there’s also an image depicting a horse drawn wagon ride celebrating Lanark County as the Maple Syrup Festival of Ontario.

McMartin House in Perth Ontario
McMartin House, built in 1830

Take a Heritage Walking Tour

With such a wealth of history and heritage buildings, one of the top things to do in Perth Ontario is to take a tour of it!

Crafted by masons are incredible stone buildings lining the streets of Perth. It’s one of main reasons Perth is known as one of the prettiest towns in Ontario! Plus, these historic buildings help give it a very European feel.

Whether you’re a history buff like me or looking to learn more about Perth, I suggest taking a self-guided Heritage Walking Tour of Perth. The tour includes over 20 stops throughout downtown. You’ll stop at buildings like Town Hall, Code’s Mill and Code Mansion, as well as the McMartin House.

Along the tour, which can be found here, you’ll learn about the history of each building, many of which are over 170 years old.

My two favourites are Code Mansion and McMartin House. However, another interesting stop is at the Pharmasave at 57 Foster Street. Built in 1871, it has been a drug store since its construction. Plus, its one of the oldest pharmacies in Canada.

Insider Tip: For those planning a short stop in Perth on a Toronto to Ottawa drive, this walking tour is a great way to explore.

lunch at Mex & Co
Vegetarian Burrito & Club Quesadillas at Mex & Co

Dine at the Best Restaurants in Perth

Whether you’re coming in for the day or a couple, you’ll find plenty of places to eat in Perth! Throughout downtown are a variety of restaurants serving up different cuisine. There’s everything from pub grub to Mexican as well as Italian to Canadian classics.

Mex & Co is my favourite restaurant in Perth for a few reasons! They have delicious Mexican food, lovely staff and the best patio in Perth. Sitting waterside on one of their patios, you have amazing views as well as shade from the overhanging umbrellas. If you’re looking for what to order, I suggest the Vegetarian Burrito.

Fiddleheads Bar and Grill is another great spot to grab a bite to eat. Located in Code’s Mill, you can dine inside or on the patio overlooking Stewart Park. Their menu features a range of classics like nachos, perogies, prime rib, and more.

Bistro 54 is a cozy Italian restaurant. Located within an 1858 blacksmith shop, the menu boasts fresh hand made pasta and fresh desserts made in house. A few top dishes include Zuppa Gamberi di Bosco for its fabulous seafood and the chicken parmesan.

For 50 years, Maximilian Restaurant continues to be a staple in town. Serving up authentic European cuisine, the restaurant is best known for its schnitzel. Set in another heritage building, Maximilian is also home to an adorable little patio with views of the water.

Perth Museum
Perth Museum

More Places to Visit in Perth Ontario

Explore the Perth Museum – Situated within a historic building in town called the Matheson House is the Perth Museum. The stunning stone building dates to the 1840s and is the perfect place to explore, especially on a rainy day. Inside the Museum you’ll find elegant rooms that are furnished to represent the Matheson family’s time in the home over 160 years ago. Plus, the Perth Museum is a National Historic Site.

Visit Scotch Line Farms – Just outside of town is a working cattle farm that blossoms in the summer. If you’re looking for place to visit in Perth in August then head over to Scotch Line Farms. The farm has a photogenic sunflower field that’s worth a wander!

Shop the Perth Farmers Market – One of the best things to do in any small town is visit the local farmers’ market. While in town, I highly recommend shopping the Perth Farmers Market. Running on Saturdays from May through Thanksgiving, you’ll find it at one of top attractions in Perth, Crystal Palace. Vendors are inside and out and range from local produce to artisan crafts.

Take in a Show at Studio Theatre Perth – Another fun thing to do in Perth Ontario is to go to the theatre. The Studio Theatre Perth is considered one of the best community theatres in eastern Ontario. Among the live performances include musicals and plays.

Browse Perth Art Galleries – Along Gore Street you’ll find a variety of art galleries in Perth Ontario. One of my favourites is Studio 87. Inside you’ll find an array of mediums by artists from within 100 km of Perth. Riverguild Fine Crafts is known as one of the oldest artist co-operatives in Canada. Another is Katherine Muir Miller Gallery.

Where to Stay in Perth Ontario

If you’re planning on more than a day trip to Perth and looking for accommodation, there’s plenty right downtown. Below are some of the best places to stay in Perth, with options for luxury hotels and a budget inn.

Best Western Plus Perth Parkside Inn & Spa – With the best location, the Best Western Plus in Perth offers a boutique experience. The hotel has a full-service restaurant, sauna and hot tub. Each room includes a spa bath and some feature kitchenettes or park views of Stewart Park.

The White House Inn – Another beautiful downtown Perth accommodation is the White House Inn. Rooms are cozy with chic wooden accents. There’s also a restaurant on site. Additional amenities include access to the Parkside Spa with indoor pool and fitness centre.

Perth Plaza Inn – Set along the Trans Canada Highway, just north of downtown, is the Perth Plaza Inn. Along with an outdoor pool, the inn has some rooms that have spa baths and kitchenettes. The Plaza Inn is only a 20-minute walk into downtown and is a great budget friendly hotel option.

Final Thoughts on Visiting Perth Ontario

If you’re looking for places in Ontario that feel like Europe then Perth is it. Plus, with so many fun things to do in Perth Ontario, from outdoor adventures to great food and cool shops, there’s something for everyone. I love visiting Perth and always find new hidden gems whenever I visit.

Frequently Asked Questions about Perth Ontario

Is it worth visiting Perth Ontario?

Yes, Perth Ontario is worth visiting! Perth is a charming small town full of history that is reminiscent of a European village.

What is Perth Ontario known for?

Perth Ontario is known for being one of the prettiest towns in the province because of its stone buildings that give Europe vibes. In addition, Perth is known for having produced a mammoth cheese that inspired a representation of it that is a top attraction.

Is Perth Ontario a city or a town?

Perth is a town is eastern Ontario.

Looking for more fun small towns near Perth to visit?

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Things to do in Perth Ontario

Stephanie

I'm a Canadian gal with a passion for travel, the great outdoors as well as coffee and books. I hope to inspire others to feel the same way! Traveling mostly solo, I love to explore my own backyard of Ontario as well as exotic cities around the world.

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