This Picturesque Canadian Town Is A Hidden Gem Full Of Family-Friendly Adventures

When visiting Canada as a family, it can be hard to pass on wonderful places like the breathtaking Banff National Park, the coastal pleasures of Tofino, and the tranquil islands of Nova Scotia. Although popular for a reason, there are countless picturesque Canadian towns full of family-friendly adventures worth considering for your next outing. One hidden gem you might want to visit is Elora, in the township of Wellington County, Ontario — one of the best charming towns in the world.

First inhabited by the Indigenous Attawandaron, Metis, and Inuit peoples, Elora began to develop after European settlers arrived in 1817. Roswell Matthews built the first home, and Captain William Gilkison, a Scottish veteran of the War of 1812, named it after buying the 22-square-mile land. With the dream of a city, Gilkison established a community sawmill and general store, creating a foundation for the beautiful town to come. By the 1870s, Scottish stonemasons built factories, tanneries, distilleries, and mills, some of which can still be visited and seen today.

Located just 70 miles from Toronto, with a population of 7,500 residents, Elora is a unique destination that feels worlds away. Although hidden from popularity, Elora certainly doesn't hide its beauty. This charming small town, with its unspoiled 19th-century limestone architecture and a wealth of historic sites, is full of fun. Visitors can partake in outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, and tubing while also enjoying the village's seasonal events, quaint shops, and restaurants, all with a touch of Elora's special history.

The best family-friendly adventures in Elora

Start your Elora family adventure at the Elora Gorge, also known as the "Jewel of the Grand." Here, the Grand River flows 72 feet below, offering stunning views. The best way to experience this wonder is at the Elora Gorge Conservation Area, located just outside the village. The Elora Gorge has activities for everyone — hike along its riverside banks, fish, and set up camp within the conservation area (here are some tips on how to choose the best campsite). For those seeking something more thrilling, try kayaking or tubing through the Grand River, navigating both rapids and quieter waters.

Another main attraction is the Elora Quarry. Surprisingly, this former limestone quarry is now a 2-acre swimming hole surrounded by 40-foot cliffs. On a sunny summer day, the water glistens an emerald green, giving it a tropical look that's rare to find in Canada. So, bring a bathing suit and go swimming, sunbathing, or even set up a picnic!

However, not all activities have to be outdoors. If you like learning about history, visit the Wellington County Museum and Archives. Built in 1877, this building is Canada's oldest remaining rural House of Industry and Refuge. Once a place of safety for anyone homeless or impoverished, today, it stands as a National Historic Site of Canada. Inside, you can learn about the people who passed through it and explore its 12 galleries that showcase the social, agricultural, native, and settlement history of the town.

Events, accommodations, and food

If you plan your visit strategically, you can enjoy even more activities as various events spring up in Elora. For over four decades, the Elora Festival has been a highlight, featuring a variety of performances, especially choir music. You and the family can listen to some of Canada's best professional choirs, such as The Elora Singers and the Vancouver Chamber Choir, as well as past guest artists like Gordon Lightfoot and Randy Bachman.

More frequently, however, is the Elora Farmers' Market, which is open every Saturday from May to December, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Since 2005, The Elora Farmers' Market has been a delightful event where you can pick out fresh produce, artisanal products, and delicious treats for the whole family to enjoy. It's an excellent way to spend a relaxing morning, prepare for the day's picnic, and experience the local community and its offerings.

If you're planning to stay overnight, the most popular accommodation would be none other than the Elora Mill Hotel & Spa. This 200-year-old hotel is set in the village's traditional 19th-century limestone mill with the most unparalleled views of the Grand River in Elora. It provides luxurious accommodations with old charm and modern amenities, offering a perfect retreat for families and couples alike. Furthermore, it's worthy of being on this list of award-winning hotels with the best spas for its state-of-the-art treatments, saunas, outdoor pools, and more. Plus, it has a top-rated restaurant serving refined, seasonal Canadian fare.