Perth, Ontario: Worth more than a thistle-stop

Coming from Australia, it’s been a novelty to be able to drive from the national capital to Perth in an hour.

Perth, Ontario, lacks the population, mild weather, golden beaches and island of adorable marsupials of its Western Australian namesake. But don’t let that put you off. 

This beautiful town, located a little over 80 kilometres southwest of Ottawa, is a must-visit on any trip to the capital region. Whether you’re after historic architecture, culture, or a place to eat and drink an afternoon away, Perth has something to offer.

The canal running through the centre of Perth. Photo: Stephen Jeffery

We’ve visited three times – twice in late summer, once in the dead of winter – and it’s at the top of the list of places we want to return to and properly explore once this global crisis is over.

Resembling the original, Scottish Perth far more than the capital of Western Australia, the town sits on the Tay River within spitting distance of waterfront cottage country (perfect for summer) and Ontario’s premier maple syrup sugar shack region (a top winter attraction).

If you’re not keen to see the surrounding countryside, you can easily while away a day wandering up and down Gore Street, popping into the boutiques, bookstores and art galleries tucked into heritage stone buildings.

The canalduring winter. Photo: Stephen Jeffery

The Crossroads Tea Room, Perth Pie Co. and O’Reilly’s Ale House kept us going on our travels, just some of the many restaurants and cafes along the strip. 

Unfortunately, some of these attractions are not the kinds of places recommended during a pandemic; in many cases the intimacy of these small stores has gone from their greatest strength to a weakness. 

But Perth’s outdoors are also an impressive draw. Stewart Park, just behind Town Hall, is a calming, picturesque space in both summer and winter. So too is Last Duel Park (named after the final fatal such event in Upper Canada held there in 1833), home to boat docks, a canoe rental, and the annual Ribfest & Music Festival.

Stewart Park in summer…
… and in winter. Photos: Stephen Jeffery

For visitors after a quality beverage, Perth Brewery sits on Highway 7, just north of the main town. A popular brand on Ottawa taps, the brewery is take-out only during the pandemic, but usually offers tasting flights and snacks in a small but friendly space.

A flight from Perth Brewery. Photo: Stephen Jeffery

This is far from an exhaustive list of things to do while visiting Perth, but hopefully it’s enough of a taste for you to consider popping in on your next visit to Ottawa. Once this crisis is over and we’re able to visit again, we’ll be able to add more to the story.

Where: Perth, ON

When: There are events and activities year-round, but waiting until after COVID restrictions have eased will guarantee the greatest variety. Parking is free in council parking lots until December, 2020.

How: A one-hour drive from Ottawa or one-hour, 10 minute drive from Kingston. From Ottawa, travel west on Highway 417 until the Highway 7 exit, then follow that road for another 55 kilometres. From Kingston, take Route 10 north for 85 kilometres.

More info: The ‘What To Do’ section of Perth Town Council and the Lanark County Tourism websites should help.

We visited in: September, 2019; February, 2020; July, 2020.

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