Looking for a cute town to visit in Ontario? Then Perth County should be at the top of your list!
Located an hour southeast of Ottawa, Perth is an adorable town in Lanark County. The town still retains much of its old-world charm, with well-maintained heritage buildings that you can still explore.
It’s a peaceful town, especially after escaping from the noisy city of Ottawa. You’ll be able to enjoy mornings woken by only birdsong and stroll down the street without any construction noise.
It’s the perfect, peaceful getaway in Ontario. And the fact that it is full of amazing food and stunning hiking trails doesn’t hurt either!
I took a restorative 3-day weekend away in Perth and regained my love for Ontario. So I’m writing this guide to help you fall in love with Perth, just like I did.
Here is a complete guide to the best places to visit and things to do in Perth, Ontario!
Looking to get around via car? Find the cheapest car rentals here!
15 Best Things to Do in Perth, Ontario
1. Explore Code’s Mill
The first building that caught my eye in Perth was Code’s Mill.
This classic limestone building is located on the Tay River alongside Stewart Park. The building was founded as a mill for the Codes Custom Wool factory, which processed sheep’s wool.
It evolved from a functional mill in the 1990s and became a landmark for the town.
Now Code’s Mill houses some of the best shops in Perth.
Even if you aren’t interested in visiting the shops, I recommend going inside this unique building. The interior atrium is stunning!
Perth Chocolate Works
Of course, I had to start with chocolate.
Perth Chocolate Works is a must-do when you’re in town. They’ve been making gourmet chocolate since 1911!
Their chocolate supports fair trade cocoa farming in West Africa, so you can be sure it’s ethical and delicious.
I stopped by for a truffle and left with a box of chocolates that I devoured before dinner.
Pick up a box for yourself or get some packages as a gift.
Every time you visit, the selection will change. With their locally sourced ingredients and small-batch production, you’re sure to find something new every time you visit.
Kelly’s Flowers and Gift Boutique
Are you a plant lover? Then you should stop by Kelly’s.
I popped in to browse and nearly left with a bag full of inspirational signs, cute Christmas ornaments (yes, in February!), and gorgeous placemats.
Don't Forget to Pack the Essentials!
At the back of the store, you can find a selection of plants that will brighten up any home.
Fiddleheads Bar and Grill
If you’re looking for a casual meal, Fiddleheads is a safe bet.
The interior has an Irish pub feel, with exposed beams and limestone walls. You’ll feel very at peace drinking a beer here.
I stopped by for salmon on my first day and was honestly surprised at how delicious it was. I’ve heard their fish and chips are even better, but as a celiac, I couldn’t test it out myself.
Visit in the summer to sit on their patio overlooking Stewart Park.
Blackfly GrubHub gives Suzy Q’s in Ottawa a run for its money. Not only are they excellent donut makers, but they’ve come up with fun flavours that you’ll never see anywhere else.
When I visited, they had pina colada, Bailey’s hot chocolate, chipotle chocolate, and cinnamon toast crunch!
They have vegan options as well.
You can also get unique hot dogs there, like a delicious-looking BLT dog.
Art lovers should stop by Concave Gallery. It’s a space where art can come to life.
Their collection is unique in that they include mixed-media forms and allow artists who don’t fit into traditional gallery shows.
2. Explore the Old Mill’s Shops
The Old Mill is another historic building that you can’t walk past without taking a photo. It was built in 1835 as a flour mill before being turned into a National Trust Building in the 1990s.
Now it houses one of my favourite things to do in Perth.
The Perth Cheese Shop
Perth is known for its cheese. A visit to Perth isn’t complete without a stop at this gourmet cheese shop.
The Perth Cheese Shop focuses on local cheeses and charcuterie boards. Stop in to sample some cheese and pick out a board to take on a picnic.
I love their charcuterie cones – they’re smaller and perfect to take with you on a hike!
Red Brick Emporium
Red Brick Emporium is a home goods store that features locally made decorations. I love their DIY kits and quirky socks.
3. Learn About Perth’s History
Perth was first settled in 1815. It was named for Perth in Scotland, as many of the settlers were Irish and Scottish.
It became a military settlement soon after due to the War of 1812 in America. The soldiers were offered land in exchange for their service.
Soon the area was well populated and the residents founded their own government.
Perth Museum & Visitor Centre
The Perth Museum is located inside the Matheson House. The home was originally owned by Roderick Matheson, a wealthy merchant who was also one of Canada’s first parliamentary senators.
His home is now a museum that features four historically maintained rooms to reflect how it looked in the 1840s, when Matheson lived in the house. You’ll learn more about life in early Canada when you visit.
Behind the house is the Courtyard, which is a stunning spot to visit in the summer.
The McMartin House was built in the 1830s for Daniel McMartin, one of Perth County’s first lawyers.
Perth still has a great legal tradition. When you walk outside the town centre, you’ll see many signs for law practices out of the surrounding houses.
The house is free to visit Monday – Friday from 1 to 4pm. Stop by to see the original designs inside.
Perth, Ontario is home to the last fatal duel in Canada.
In 1833, a law student named Robert Lyon was killed in a duel with his friend John Wilson. They were fighting over Elizabeth Hughes, a woman that they both fancied.
The duel is commemorated at Last Duel Park.
4. See Perth’s Most Famous Sites
The Mammoth Cheese
For the Chicago’s World Expo in 1893, the town of Perth produced a Mammoth Cheese. This wheel of cheese weighed 22,000 pounds!
It was meant to promote Canadian cheese on a global scale. Now, Perth is best known for its cheese.
You can visit a commemorative cheese at the Tay Basin behind the Crystal Palace.
Big Red Chair
Like many small towns in Ontario, Perth has a giant red Muskoka chair for visitors to visit.
In winter, you can’t access the chair, so I could only see it from across the Tay Basin.
But in summer, you can go and sit on this big red chair for a classically Canadian photo.
Dry Stone Bridge
The dry stone bridge is located in Stewart Park. It was built in 2016 to celebrate the town’s 200th birthday.
It was built using ancient techniques of dry stone masonry, which is why it looks much older than it is.
It’s a great spot on a sunny day to look out across the park.
5. Get Back to Nature on a Summer Hike or Winter Snowshoe
Perth isn’t just a cute town to laze about in. You can have a very active vacation with these epic spots for hikes, snowshoeing, and walking your dog.
Stewart Park is one of the prettiest things to do in Perth.
The park is located beside Code’s Mill and is the perfect place for a summer picnic.
I had a winter picnic in the park, following by a nice wander through the snow. It was bracingly cold, but still a gorgeous place to spend an afternoon.
In winter, you can bring your skates for the small free ice rink in the park. It’s only a few metres big, but is a great place for a quick skate.
The park is a big spot for dogs, which is why I can’t wait to go back in the summer with my pup for a nice picnic with some local cheese and chocolate!
Last Duel Park
Last Duel Park is south of the city centre.
It commemorates the spot where the last fatal duel was held in all of Canada.
For those who are interested, it was between two law students who were fighting over disparaging remarks made about a local woman. It’s unclear whether one of the men was sweet on the girl or if his friend was, but he felt the need to defend her honour.
In the end, it cost him his life.
It’s now a large park and a beautiful campsite, complete with electrical hookups for RVs.
In the daytime, it’s massively popular as a local dog-walking area. So expect a lot of cute pups!
The Rideau Trail is a 387 km network of trails from Kingston to Ottawa.
Perth County is located along this trail. One of the best things to do in Perth is to hike or snowshoe a part of this trail.
I’ll be honest, the trail is hard to find and follow in the winter. Even with snowshoes, it’s unclear where the trail goes after about 1km following the Rideau Canal.
In summer, it’s said to be better marked and easier to complete. However, it does cross a number of roads without a crosswalk. So be careful!
Perth Wildlife Reserve & Tay Marsh Lookout Tower
My favourite hike that I did on my weekend trip in Perth was at the Perth Wildlife Reserve.
You’ll need a car to get to it from Perth.
Once you arrive, you’ll pay a parking fee online via your phone. Or you can buy this ahead. It’s $7 for the day.
Then get ready for a beautiful hike!
The trail is very easy to traverse, with beautiful trees and berry bushes on either side. The main loop takes you to the Tay Marsh Lookout Tower, where you can get a higher vantage point to see the entirety of the marsh.
In winter, it’s a beautiful snowy landscape.
You don’t really need snowshoes to do this winter hike, but I had a new pair and I was gonna test them out!
In summer, solid running shoes would be enough for this easy hiking trail. But be warned: there are many garter snake spottings.
It takes less than an hour to walk this 2.9km trail.
Murphy’s Point Provincial Park
Located near Perth, Murphy’s Point Provincial Park is full of beautiful hiking trails.
Visitors can go hiking in the summer or cross country skiing in the winter. You can also tour the Silver Queen Mine when you visit to learn more about the area’s mining history.
In the summer, the RV and campgrounds are open for use.
There are also reports of snakes on these trails in summer.
Plant lovers won’t want to miss a visit to Perth’s Kiwi Gardens.
It’s a plant nusery that features 10 acres of show gardens. Fans of botanical gardens around the world will love a stop to admire these plants.
Kiwi Gardens is open from May to October.
6. Take a Perth Walking Tour
One of the best ways to get to know any city is with a walking tour.
Use the Driftscape app for a free historic walking tour of the town. The downtown heritage walk is perfect for exploring the architecture and most prominent sites in Perth.
If you’re interested in a group tour, the Perth Visitor Centre runs walking tours that you can join. Click here to explore their different tour options.
7. Sip Suds at a Perth Brewery
If you only have time for one brewery when you’re visiting the attractions in Perth, Ontario, make it the Perth Brewery.
Founded by a “hippie buffalo farmer”, Perth Brewery is a small batch beer company. They’re most famous for their Last Duel lager and their O’Canada Maple Ale.
My favourite is Easy Amber.
You’ll also find their beer served in basically every restaurant in Perth.
Weatherhead Brew Co.
Weatherhead is a beautiful brewery located on the Tay River. Their summer patio is a great place to sample their beer.
This brewery comes with a fantastic story.
Samuel Weatherhead, was taken prisoner by pirates when he ran away from his home in Barbados in the 1700s. He was stranded on an island when he refused to join the crew, until Quebec lumber tradesmen rescued him. From there, he moved to Canada where he established a booming trade post on the Tay River.
Although Samuel didn’t found the brewery, his spirit inspired the founders.
I love the names of Weatherhead’s beer – especially Long Winter’s Nap (a Russian stout) and Drink Me!
Top Shelf Distillers
Are spirits more your thing?
Top Shelf Distillers should be on your list of things to do in Perth, Ontario!
The distillery makes local spirits that you’ll find around the Ottawa area.
My favourite is their moonshine – solely for the indie designs of the bottles.
They sell classic spirits like gin, moonshine, homemade bitters, and even dessert liqueurs (the peanut butter chocolate one makes my mouth water!).
8. Go Shopping in Perth, Ontario
One of Perth’s primary tourist attractions is the main street. It’s historic-looking but features modern shops with unique opportunities for souvenirs.
There are so many shops to feature, so I’ll do a quick rundown. These shops are all very close together so it’s easy to visit them all in an afternoon (depending on how long you need to browse).
- Apropos is a small florist shop off the main street in Perth. It’s a local favourite for blooms (as I was told by every local I asked for their 5 favourite things about Perth).
- Fall River Fashion has one of the most beautiful storefronts in Perth. Stop by to shop their selection of globally sourced fashion. And if you go down the alley beside the shop, you’ll find the Fall River Gelato Cafe, which is perfect for a mid-shop pick-me-up!
- Blackbeat Books and Music was my first stop for shopping. They have an amazing collection of books that you can read while lounging in Stewart Park on a sunny day.
- Flint and Honey is a local favourite for clothes. They offer seasonal styles that everyone will love.
- Need a new hat? Head to Queen Bee Millinery!
- Gore Street Antique Market should have a warning that says “we will take all your money” because that’s how I felt the moment I walked in. I wanted everything!!
- Ground Waves is a hub for kitchenware and cookbooks. If I didn’t have a tiny apartment kitchen, I’d have left with a car full of their hand towels! Their gift selection is truly wonderful. If you need to pick up gifts, come here!
- The Rideau Candy Shoppe is a must for anyone with a sweet tooth. You’ll love this tourist attraction that features candy from around the world.
- Art lovers should stop by Katherine Muir Miller Gallery. I’m not a big art lover, but I was transfixed by the vibrant landscapes that felt like Indigenous art meets the Group of 7.
- Studio 87 is another beautiful art gallery in Perth that’s great for browsing.
9. Perth Pie Co.
One of the best things to do in Perth is to stock up on pies – both sweet and savoury – from Perth Pie Co.
They have seasonal flavours that are so perfectly delicious. You can ever get frozen pies to take home!
10. Kayak the Tay River
Perth is located on the Tay River, a beautiful and clean waterway that wraps around the town and follows the Rideau Trail.
In the summer, one of the best things to do in Perth is to get out on the water.
Rent a kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddleboard from Perth Major Outfitters. Then spend the day exploring the waterway and enjoying the greenery surrounding you.
You don’t need to be an expert to enjoy your time on the waterfront. The Tay River doesn’t have an incredibly strong current, so even beginners can spend some time paddling the river.
If you bring your own canoe or kayak, you can launch it from Last Duel Park. The Tay Basin also has a launch, but it’s often crowded on sunny days.
I brought my inflatable kayak with me, and you should too!
11. Have a Spa Day
I escaped to Perth to relax. And you can too!
Pamper yourself with a massage, facial, and mani/pedi at one of the town’s best spas.
I stayed at the Best Western Plus Parkside Inn and Spa, which is the most popular destination for spa-goers in the city. You can get a variety of treatments, including a haircut and style at their attached salon.
12. Rent a Bicycle
Perth is a beautiful place to explore in the warmer months. Get around more easily by renting a bicycle from Heritage Bikes and cycling along the city streets.
I recommend venturing out of the main town centre to go along the Tay River to Last Duel Park or to wind through the residential roads. It’s a great way to see all the best places to visit in Perth, Ontario.
The local houses are so charming!
13. Watch a Local Production at Studio Theater
I love local theatre. As a theatre kid growing up, I feel an obligation to go to any theatre production I find in small towns.
The Studio Theatre is unique in that they don’t just show plays. They also host concerts and display movies.
14. Watch a Movie at the Drive-In
Drive-ins are one of the best things to do anywhere. In Perth, Ontario, you can go back in time and enjoy a modern flick at an old-school drive-in.
It’s one of my favourite Perth Ontario tourist attractions in the summer.
The nearest drive-in is Port Elmsley Drive-In, between Perth and Smith Falls (about 20 minutes away).
The drive-in is only open in the summer months. Pair it with a sunny day exploring Perth for the perfect day in this small town.
15. Get Fresh Veg at the Farmer’s Market at the Crystal Palace
Who doesn’t want to eat local produce?
The Farmer’s Market in Perth is open on Saturdays from May – October. Visit between 8am and 1 pm (but it’s best before 11 am) to shop the local vendors.
You’ll find some of the best jams, local cheese, organic produce, handmade crafts, and small-batch kombucha.
The market is located at the Crystal Palace on the Tay River. It’s a great spot to grab some goodies for breakfast before walking a bit of the Rideau Trail.
Best Perth, Ontario Restaurants
Perth is full of amazing places to eat. I basically did a tour of every eatery in the long weekend when I visited, and genuinely was so excited at all the menu options.
As someone with dietary restrictions (celiac, lactose intolerant, etc.), I usually struggle in small towns.
But Perth is so accommodating!
Everywhere had great, inclusive options that made it so easy for me to enjoy every meal I had.
The Stone Cellar ($$)
The Stone Cellar was my favourite sit-down spot for meals. It’s a gorgeous eatery with stone walls and a massive fireplace on the main floor.
You can pop in for lunch or put on a nice top for a romantic dinner (even if it’s for one!).
The servers are so amazing and the food is delicious. Seriously, they have a candy apple duck dish and a peach bourbon salmon!
I recommend the salmon, the mussels, or the brie flatbread. Don’t forget to pair your meal with a Perth Brewing beer or a local wine!
Northfolk Cafe ($)
Northfolk Cafe is my #1 spot in Perth. I think I’ve told every single person I’ve spoken to since my trip about this amazing place.
I was drawn to the cafe for the artisan kombucha and homemade gelato, but stayed for legitimately the best grilled cheese I’ve ever had. Made with brie and apple this grilled cheese has a tangy red pepper jam that I immediately bought a jar of (and have eaten almost all of it in the 5 days since). They even have gluten-free bread options!
They also have a selection of made-in-house sweet treats daily. And tons of local souvenirs you’ll enjoy browsing.
The cafe is expanding to do takeaway dips, soups, and more. I highly recommend a stop for breakfast or lunch, or to get some takeaway treats for later!
Seriously, if you don’t eat anywhere else, eat at Northfolk!
Bistro 54 ($$)
When I asked locals for recommendations of where to eat, a number of them pointed out Bistro 54.
This Italian restaurant is only open Wednesday – Saturday. So plan your visit accordingly.
They’re best known in Perth for their homemade pasta, but my mouth waters at legitimately every item on their menu.
Their pizzas would be perfect for a takeaway dinner in the park!
Coutts Coffee Roastery and Cafe ($)
Once again, I was shocked to find (delicious) gluten-free bagels and breads here to be able to eat their yummy breakfast sandwiches.
This is definitely the place to go for your caffeine fix.
Fiddleheads Bar and Grill ($$)
Located in Code’s Mill, Fiddleheads is a great place for a casual lunch.
In winter, you can dine indoors to bask in the warmth of their Irish pub interior. In the summer, dine on the patio to have a view of Stewart Park.
Fieldhouse is a cafe in Perth only open Tuesday to Saturday for lunch.
You’ll want to stop by for a homemade croissant and a sweet treat.
Picnic Cafe + Catering ($)
Only open on weekdays, Picnic Cafe stands out for their variety of gluten-free and vegan options. Their gluten-free brownie is incredibly fudgy and delicious!
O’Reilly’s Ale House ($$)
If you’re looking for live music to accompany your meal, head over to O’Reilly’s!
They’re best known for their entertainment, beers on tap, and wide range of culinary delights.
Fancy a schnitzel by the river?
Maximillian’s is an authentic German eatery located amongst the quaint shops on Perth’s main street. Who would have thought you could find authentic Bavarian cuisine in one of the Perth, Ontario restaurants?
They even have gluten-free options!
Mex & Co. ($)
For a town with no Mexican heritage, Mex & Co came surprisingly highly recommended. Locals told me that it’s best in the summer, when you can eat on their waterfront patio.
But in winter, the warmth of a fajita never fails to brighten your spirits, too!
Tips for Visiting Perth, Ontario
Perth is a great town to visit on a day trip from Ottawa or Kingston.
They know they’re popular with visitors, so the town has free street parking for 2-4 hours (depending on the street). Look for the very visible signs posted at street level.
These signs also have maps to show you all of the parking lots in Perth.
When in doubt, you can park by the Crystal Palace and the Perth Library at the paid lot.
Looking to get around via car? Find the cheapest car rentals here!
Events in Perth
- Frost & Fire Winter Festival (February) – A celebration of winter and local vendors
- Festival of the Maples (April) – A maple-themed festival
- Stewart Park Festival (July) – Free concerts in the park
- Perth Antique Show (July) – Antique markets
- Perth Ribfest (July) – BBQ ribs event
- Perth Garlic Festival (August) – A farmer’s market to raise money for food stamps and healthy food initiatives
- Perth’s World Record Kilt Run (August) – 5 mile run in kilts
- Perth Night Market (October) – Evening farmer’s market with live entertainment
- Halloween Ghost Walk (October 31) – Spooky tour of the town
- Christmas Festival of Good Cheese, Festival of Lights, and Christmas Market (December) – Celebrations of Christmas
Best Time to Visit Perth, Ontario
Summer is said to be the best time to visit Perth. It’s when the wealth of outdoor activities are in full swing.
The town is far quieter than the busy summer in Ottawa and offers many opportunities to slip inside for air conditioning at the shops.
However, I visited in winter and found the town just as charming!
With a free skating rink, snowshoe trails, and warm fireplaces in most restaurants, I was overwhelmed with things to do in Perth.
All of the main tourist attractions were open to visit, so I had no problem enjoying the best of the small town, even if it was covered in a blanket of snow.
Perth is a small town. That means that most stores close for at least one day of the week – including the restaurants.
Expect almost every shop to be closed on Sundays, and often on Mondays as well.
If you’re planning a three-day weekend in Perth, try to come Friday to Sunday rather than Saturday to Monday. You’ll get two days to enjoy more stores and restaurants that way.
Places to Stay in Perth, Ontario
Check out the best places to stay when you visit Perth for a weekend getaway.
Best Western Parkside Inn and Spa
The Best Western in Perth is the most convenient place to stay.
Located one block behind the main street, and backing on to Stewart Park, you’ll be right among the town centre. It makes it so easy to roll out of bed, have your free breakfast, then immediately get to the Perth, Ontario tourist attractions.
The hotel comes complete with a jacuzzi tub in every room!
My stay was incredibly comfortable. I even had the whole pool and hot tub to myself.
Take advantage of their spa services while you’re there. And head down to the restaurant for a delicious dinner in their fireside, glass room. You’ll get to enjoy views of the park (either in full bloom in summer or covered in icicles in winter).
It’s the best Best Western hotel I’ve ever stayed in!
Looking to stay in a heritage building?
Head to Nevis Estate, a boutique B&B that is so picturesque your Instagram feed is sure to blow up!
The residence is a cute cottage B&B, with a private pool on the grounds and beautiful gardens for guests to enjoy.
It’s only a short walk from Perth’s main street with all the shops and restaurants, so very convenient for anyone visiting. You’ll be very close to all the things to do in Perth county.
They have a lobby bar opening in 2022, which will make the scotch experience even more complete!
Best Airbnbs in Perth, Ontario
If you have a car, consider staying a short drive from Perth to have a full house to yourself.
You’ll still be close to what you want to do in Perth while getting a more private place to stay.
- My favourite Airbnb near Perth is this converted gothic church. It features 2 bedrooms with modern amenities. You can enjoy nights curled up in front of the fireplace and still easily access Perth within a 5-minute drive.
- Want more of a cottage feel? This historic log cabin is complete with its own sandy beach and bonfire pit for evening s’mores. You’ll have the luxury of a summer cottage just 15 minutes from Perth’s downtown core.
- For a winter cabin, check out this traditional log home. You’ll be located on Big Rideau Lake with plenty of snowshoe trails at your doorstep. You can even ice fish right outside of the log home!
How to Get to Perth from Ottawa
Perth is most commonly accessed from Ottawa, both for locals and for tourists who fly into the Ottawa airport.
Perth is a 1-hour drive (85.7km) from Ottawa.
Leave downtown Ottawa to get on the 417 highway heading West. Take exit 145 for Carelton Place/Toronto.
Continue on to Highway 7. From there, you’ll turn left onto Drummond St. W, right onto Isabella St., and left onto Gore St. West.
There are also signs for Perth from the highway that you can follow.
Or enter “Perth, Ontario” into your GPS for directions.
Looking to get around via car? Find the cheapest car rentals here!
Is Perth Ontario Worth Visiting?
I certainly think so!
Perth is a cute little town with lots of history. If you’re looking for quaint shops and restaurants to spend your day in, Perth has it all!
The little town is so peaceful that I genuinely started looking at house rentals a day after I’d arrived. If I hadn’t had to come back to my apartment, I might never have left this cozy getaway.
Many people sleep on Perth. It’s an underrated historic town that makes the perfect weekend getaway from Ottawa or Kingston.
Whether you’re travelling solo, on a romantic getaway, on a family weekend, or with your friends, you’ll love visiting Perth.
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