Dubbed “Canada’s prettiest town”, Goderich charms visitors with its natural beauty and striking urban design. Located on the eastern shore of Lake Huron, in an area known as the West Coast of Ontario, Goderich’s location offers its beaches beautiful sunsets.
While there’s a lot to enjoy here for outdoor enthusiasts, Goderich’s historic downtown makes it an equally appealing travel destination for visitors with an interest in architecture. Here’s how to spend two days in this charming coastal town.
In the morning: Leave Toronto on Highway 401 west before following Highway 8 from Kitchener-Waterloo or Highway 4 from London. Depending on traffic, the journey should take around three hours. After a morning in the car, you’ll be ready to refuel at Cait’s Cafe, a quaint cafe that sources its supplies from local coffee roasters, Coastal Coffee and Shopbike Coffee Roasters. Fuel up for your afternoon with one of its homemade focaccia paninis.
Take a walk around The Square, which is the heart of downtown Goderich. The neighborhood’s distinctive design includes eight streets that extend from a central octagon. The focal point is the Huron County Courthouse, an Art Deco-style building built in the 1950s and a pleasant park. The area is full of architectural points of interest, so be sure to download Huron County Historic Walking Tours’ free audio tour to get a taste of the significance of the various heritage buildings you’ll see.
In the afternoon: Put on your flip flops because it’s time to hit the beach. From The Square it’s just a short walk to the seafront, where you can spend your afternoon relaxing on the sandy shore or strolling along the 1.5 kilometer promenade that connects the city’s trio of beaches. Watch ships pull into harbor from a spot on the main beach, or follow the wooden stairs up from St. Christopher’s Beach to Goderich Lighthouse.
After you’ve had your fill of lake views, it’s time to check in to your hotel. Head to Colborne Bed & Breakfast for cheerful rooms set in a Victorian-era house, or choose Samuels Hotel for modern rooms with private terraces, many of which overlook the Maitland River.
In the evening: Grab a table at Park House Restaurant for dinner overlooking Lake Huron. Taste the freshest Great Lakes catch with dishes like perch tacos or seared pike. Alternatively, head to Part II Bistro for dishes everyone will love – crab cakes, cheddar-stuffed perogies or pork and broccolini ravioli – paired with creative cocktails.
Return to Main Beach after dinner to watch one of Goderich’s spectacular sunsets. Then, stay the night or head to Paddy O’Neils Restaurant Pub, housed in the historic Bedford Hotel, for a drink to toast at the end of your first day.
In the morning: Start day two with a hearty breakfast at West Street Willy’s. The restaurant’s famous Morning After poutine, made with house fries, bacon, sausage, onions and tomatoes topped with cheese curds, chipotle, Hollandaise sauce and two eggs, is large enough to share with your traveling companion. Then, pop across the street to Culbert’s Bakery to pick up some of their beloved cream puffs to enjoy later.
Take time to admire the architecture of West Street, including City Hall, a Romanesque-style limestone building designed by Thomas Fuller, the architect behind the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.
Burn breakfast with a hike through Goderich’s natural landscape. The Maitland Woods Trail is a beautiful 3.2 kilometer loop that passes through groves of beech and cedar trees. You can also walk one of the trails in the Falls Preserve Conservation Area, home to waterfalls and limestone cliffs. If you’ve brought your fishing gear, the Maitland River, which surrounds the conservation area, is a great place to catch bass in the summer.
In the early afternoon : Drive 20 minutes south along the lake to visit the pretty community of Bayfield and enjoy a late lunch at Black Dog Village Pub and Bistro. Try the Stack Burger, which is topped with bacon from Metzger’s Meat Products in nearby Hensall. If you’re not the designated driver, Black Dog also has a huge selection of whiskeys to sample.
At the end of the afternoon : Spend the rest of your day strolling through downtown Bayfield, where you’ll find well-preserved yellow brick and clapboard buildings from the 19th century.
Peek inside the city’s collection of shops and art galleries, such as the Main Street Gallery, which showcases such creations as pottery, jewelery and glassware. You can also visit one of Bayfield’s four beaches or head to Pioneer Park for views of Lake Huron.
Before heading back to Toronto, consider taking a detour to Cowbell Brewing Co. in Blyth. This 26,000 square foot brasserie and restaurant is known for its commitment to sustainable initiatives. Get some craft beers, hard ciders or seltzer to take home.
COVID-19 need to know
Goderich is following Ontario provincial guidelines on COVID-19. Contact individual companies before your trip to learn about their protocols.
For the reader
Goderich hosts the annual Celtic Roots Festival, a three-day outdoor event in August celebrating Celtic music and art – a culture deeply rooted in the region. If you can’t make it to the festival, get into the spirit of the event by listening to Celtic music on your way.
CHRONOLOGY: driving guide
- 8am Leaving Toronto
- 11 a.m. Cait’s Cafe
- Midday The place
- 1 p.m. Beach
- 4:30 p.m. Hotel check-in
- 6 p.m. Park House Restaurant or Part II Bistro
- 9am West Street Willy’s
- 10:30 a.m. Culbert Bakery
- 11:30 a.m. Trek
- 1:30 p.m. Black Dog Village Pub and Bistro
- 4 p.m.. Return to Toronto
NOTE: Timings are suggestions only