Ontario, Canada has many small towns to visit that will make you fall in love with day trips from whatever city you are from or are staying in. Elora is one such city that is definitely worth the trip.
Founded in the mid 1800s, this town became a haven for agriculture and much later for craftspeople and artisans of all sorts who flocked to this beautiful area known for its massive gorge that has two rivers flowing through it. When the conservation area was established in the 1960s, this town quickly became a tourist town for Ontario.
We took a day in the winter to visit this city to enjoy its quaint atmosphere and amazing natural beauty that it has to offer. Situated about 1.5 hours West of Toronto, it is the perfect place for a day trip from the city. Alternatively, it is a great place to stay for a couple of days to escape the big city life and get some hiking, camping, and shopping done.
With so much to see in do in this beautiful city, there is more than enough to keep you busy for a couple of days or to just sit in one of its lovely cafes to get some work done. Either way, we have the best things to do in Elora, Ontario.
What to Do in Elora, Ontario
Though the city is just as beautiful in the winter time, if you want to visit the Elora Gorge or Elora Quarry to swim, hike, or camp then it is better to visit during the summer when these are open. There are still areas that you can visit to look into the gorge during winter time, just do not try to walk down past the fenced in areas as this is trespassing.
The main street of the town is still a beautiful place to walk around in the winter time and it is extremely picturesque with its old buildings. We loved visiting the city in the winter time, but there is so much more to do in this town during the summer months.
A perfect weekend getaway in Elora would include camping in the Elora Gorge campground, doing an early morning hike, canoeing and swimming during the day, and taking a stroll through the town in the evening. Here is everything that you can do while you are in Elora:
7400 Wellington County Road 21, Elora, Ontario
Open Every Day May 1st to October 15th
8 a.m. until Sunset
Day Passes into the Park (Subject to Change):
- Children 5 and Under are Free
- 6-14 are $3
- 15+ is $7 with a senior discount at $5.50 65+
Phone Number: 519-846-9742
The Elora Gorge is a conservation area in Elora. The gorge towers over the Grand River at 22 meters in height. It is the perfect place to hike, camp, canoe, kayak, tube, or fish.
This is the perfect place to stay when you are in Elora from May 1st to October 15th while it is open. You can purchase day passes to get into the park while also taking advantage of the swimming spot at Elora Quarry with the same pass.
However, if you are wanting to stay overnight then there is an option to camp here as well. This is the best way to make the most of your time while in Elora and to take advantage of all of the different activities that this park has to offer.
There is a playground and two baseball diamonds with a large green spaces throughout the park for visitors to use. Dogs are welcome to the park, but must be kept on a leash and under supervision at all times. There is a concession stand available on most weekends and throughout the week in July and August. There are also washrooms with showers available.
Elora Gorge Camping
Elora Gorge Hiking and Cycling
Elora Gorge Fishing
Elora Gorge Swimming
Elora Gorge Tubing
Camping at Elora gorge is quite possible the best way to experience the area. Not only is it the least expensive way to see the city and the nature aspects of it, but it is the most beautiful and efficient way to see everything.
Being able to stay within the camp and wake up to go on an early morning hike right from your campsite is something that you cannot do if you do not book a campsite. If you stay outside of the conservation area, you will not be able to get back in until opening at 8 a.m.
This saves you a lot of time if you want to take advantage of every last minute that you have available to you while you are in Elora. If camping is something you love to do, then you are definitely going to enjoy camping at Elora gorge.
Camping costs $40 and up plus a $13 non-refundable reservation fee and $14 for any additional vehicles depending on the area and whether or not the site is serviced with electricity and water.
There is a complete alcohol and cannabis ban in this area. Pets must be kept on a leash at all times and cannot be unattended. Quiet hours are between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. Six people are allowed per campsite. Check-in is after 2 p.m. Check-out before noon.
There is not a significant amount of hiking to do in this conservation area. With three kilometers of trails to hike, it is more about being able to see the incredible views of the gorge from within the park. It is recommended that you stay away from the edge of the gorge and behind any fences for your own safety. Maps of the hiking trails are available at the visitor center.
If you are interested in seeing more hiking that is offered in Elora, then check out the 47 kilometer Elora Catarct Trailway on the east end of Elora. However, this is best enjoyed while cycling.
This particular area of the Grand River that includes the Elora Gorge has a reputation for being one of the best for brown trout. Most people will wade into the water and fly fish in this area. If you are an Ontario resident between 18 and 65, you will require a fishing license. However, there are exceptions on a weekend in February, Mother’s and Father’s Day weekends, and generally the first week in July that you do not need to have a fishing license for. You will need to bring your own equipment.
There is no swimming area at Elora Gorge Park, but the nearby Elora Quarry Park has a swimming area available free of admission upon showing your receipt of admission to the Elora Gorge Park.
There is a splash pad that has features to keep the kids happy on any day from June to August 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Tubing is an incredible experience through the rapids of the Grand River within Elora Gorge. Unfortunately the shuttle bus for tubing is currently not in operation, so you will need to find a way back to the start or hike it with your tube.
Still, it is a great activity to enjoy. Make sure that you call in advance to see if it is available as equipment is rented out on a first-come first-serve basis. On days where there is a high river flow, tubing can be cancelled.
The complete tubing package costs $25 per person with a deposit of $75 and registration can be found at the concession.
June 1 – September 1
Monday to Friday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
319 Wellington County Road 18, Elora, Ontario
Day Passes into the Park (Subject to Change):
- Children 5 and Under are Free
- 6-14 are $3
- 15+ is $7 with a senior discount at $5.50 65+
Phone Number: 519-620-7596
There is no Elora Gorge beach, but rather your chance to go swimming at a beach while in Elora comes at the Elora Quarry. This is a 5 minute drive, 45 minute walk through Elora, or a 15 minute bike ride from the Elora Gorge Conservation Area. Admission to this is included with the price of admission into the Elora Gorge Conservation Area.
Surrounded by massive cliffs similar to that of the Gorge but not as high, the Elora Quarry is a gorgeous natural setting for families wanting to go for a swim while in Elora. The beach is the perfect sandy spot for you to relax and enjoy on any summer day. There is also a small one kilometer trail that loops around the quarry to hike around.
There is a maximum capacity and it is recommended that you call ahead to check whether or not the capacity has been reached. There are two washrooms and a small change room on site. Please note that dogs, alcohol, and cannabis is not permitted while in the park. Visitors are not allowed to jump from the cliffs into the water. Watercraft are not permitted in the Elora Quarry. Life jackets are available for free with a refundable deposit. The beach is not patrolled, so you will need to look after your children.
Walking Around Elora
If you do not want to visit Elora Gorge Conservation Area, but you still want to see the Gorge it is still possible. There is a lookout that you can walk to that is circled on the map above and is accessible just a short walk from the main street in Elora. It allows you to see parts of the Gorge, including the Tooth of Time seen below.
West Mill Street is the place you want to visit while you are in Elora. It is a wonderful small stretch of shops and restaurants that run from the old Elora Mill to a bridge over the gorge. It is the home to all of the old buildings from many years past that make for the perfect setting for photos.
It is best to wander this area for yourself and see what you can find, but we have a few places we would recommend that you check out while you are here:
Elora Gorge Zipline and Rock Climbing
The Gorge Cinema
Shopping in Elora
Cox Creek Winery
Grand River Raceway
There are other adrenaline filled options at Elora Gorge including ziplining and rock climbing. This does not require an Elora Gorge Conservation Area pass and you can book this through a third-party company to take you on this adventure. Other adventures that they offer are cave exploring and other fun challenges that you can book.
This is the perfect place to stay, eat, and relax at the spa. Built in the mid-1850s as the town mill, the building has since be transformed on the existing foundation to create the perfect environment for your stay in the city. Take some time to visit this place and maybe even have a meal or relax at the spa that it has to offer. It is the perfect place to start your walking tour of the city, based at the bottom of Mill Street West and overlooking a portion of the gorge.
This is a small cinema located along Mill Street West where you can enjoy a movie while enjoying your stay in this area of Elora.
There are so many great shops along Mill Street West. From antique shops to leather and boot shops, this town has some incredible things that you will not find anywhere else. We particularly liked the reFind Salvage shop which has a lot of crafts and antiques for you to peruse through. If you want more shopping than what this area has to offer, turn left onto Metcalfe Street from Mill Street West (opposite direction of the bridge) and continue shopping all the way until you get to the Elora Brewing Company. Another shop here that stood out to us was the lavender store.
If you are interested in visiting a winery while in the area, just a 15 minute drive from the Elora Gorge Conservation Area is this unique winery that offers fruit wines. Black currant, cranberry, blackberry, apple, and raspberry are just some of the wines that are offered at this winery. Tours are only available at 2 p.m. on Sundays for $7 that includes 4 samples and a tour of the facility.
If you are in the gambling mood while you are in Elora, located just a couple minute drive from the Elora Gorge Conservation Area is the Grand River Raceway. There are horse races scheduled from June and on at this raceway, as well as games and slots to entertain you. There is also a dining option and other events that you can check out here year round. This is a good option for adults to visit while in Elora.
Where to Stay in Elora, Ontario
As we stated before, the best way to experience Elora is to go camping at the gorge. Nothing beats getting back in touch with nature like going camping in a conservation area with the sound of a river below. It is the best feeling to be able to get up bright and early and start your hike immediately without having to get in your car and drive somewhere. Being able to do everything you want to and be within walking distance to where you will be sleeping is an unbeatable feeling to have and why we would recommend camping whenever you are in Elora as long as it is still camping season.
However, we do understand that not everyone is up for a camping trip or have the equipment handy to go camping. This is where the few places to stay in Elora provide a wonderful place to escape from the outdoors.
If you are looking for the number one place to stay in Elora, then it is simply the Elora Mill. This was once the mill from the mid-1850s that has since been redeveloped and created into a hotel, restaurant, and spa. It overlooks a portion of the gorge and is at the foot of the Mill Street West. The perfect location matched with the perfect environment for your stay in Elora. It is also the best place to have your wedding.
The Cellar Restaurant and Suite is the number one choice for a place to stay while you are in Elora. It is located right on Mill Street East, right by Mill Street West where all of our favorite storefronts are located. It has all of the amenities you would need, the room looks lovely, and it holds a strong rating.
Though maybe a quaint bed and breakfast in a quaint little town is more your style. If that is the case then The Cheshire Cat Bed and Breakfast is perhaps what you are after. It is located a little bit further away from Mill Street West being across the bridge and down a side street, but it is still within walking distance. Also, breakfast is included!
If you are looking for a budget place to lay your head because you know you will be out and enjoying everything that Elora has to offer you, then The Village Inn is your best option. It is located a little bit further away from Mill Street West than the bed and breakfast, but still within walking distance.
You cannot go wrong with any of these choices, but they are in order of what we would choose. We do understand that each of these choices serve their purpose as well. Camping is only for certain types of people and not everyone is interested in being outside while they are sleeping. For some, location and being comfortable is most important and others just want a place to lay their heads with an inexpensive option. Regardless, you have a lovely area where you will be staying.
Best Elora Restaurants
There are a lot of great choices when deciding where to eat in Elora. From a brewery to a high-scale restaurant, this small city really packs a punch with these restaurants:
Elora Brewing Company
Cafes and Other Stores
With a great selection of beers brewed and bottled on site and a farm-to-table food offering, this is the great choice for those looking for a pub setting. There is also free live music on Fridays and events put on by the restaurant to entertain you. This is the number one choice for any beer lover in Elora.
If fine dining is what you prefer, then look no other place than the Elora Mill. We have already talked about this place in detail in the previous two sections, but it really is the best place to stay, relax, and eat if you are looking to spend a little money on yourself while in Elora.
There are several dessert and cafe shops to choose from along Mill Street West and onto Metcalfe Street heading north towards the Elora Brewing Company. They are all lovely places that offer a wonderful escape from outside and into an atmosphere that is warm and inviting. One cafe in particular that we suggest you visit is The Lost & Found Cafe right near the reFind Salvage shop we recommended earlier. This is in a little inlet just off of the main street, but a perfect setting to grab some coffee. Afterwards, visit the Cafe Creperie of Elora to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Why You Should Visit Elora, Ontario
Elora is a beautiful city that takes you away from the busyness of life and into the quaint backdrop of a city with old buildings and a massive gorge. It is the perfect place for a day trip or to get away for a weekend.
Get away from it all by going camping at the Elora Gorge Conservation Park or enjoy the comfort of a bed and breakfast within the city. Regardless, the city is a great place to explore for a couple of days.
It will not overwhelm you and you will not leave wishing you had more time here. It is the perfect balance of providing you with just enough. Or maybe it will blow you away and you will want to come back to do it all again.
Have you ever been to Elora? What was the highlight of your trip here? Let us know in the comment section below!