ELORA, ON — The streets of this sleepy 19th-century mill town are crammed with weekend visitors. The eclectic shops gathered along Mill St. are buzzing with activity. The lineup to get a seat at the town’s chic Elora Mill Hotel & Spa’s restaurant stretches out well past the handsome property’s stone walls. The narrow foot bridge crossing the town’s Grand River is packed with camera-wielding tourists taking pictures of the old limestone buildings lining the shore.
Just a typical summer scene in tiny Elora, whose population (7,800) swells to three times its size each weekend when the city slickers from Toronto and other Southern Ontario cities arrive in search of some peace and tranquility. Elora has plenty of both.
Above: Elora's world-famous gorge attracts swimmers and paddlers.
It also features a geographically significant gorge, whose dramatic cliffs rise 22m up from the shores of the Grand River and provide swimmers, kayakers and tubers with a place to play. Trails and lookouts carved along the cliffs allow visitors a bird’s-eye view of the natural brilliance and the cascading waters that once provided power to the town’s grist mill.
Elora’s handsome commercial area is lined with ivy-covered buildings that come in a variety of shapes — the flat iron Gordon’s Block building and the similar Dalby House, are the most striking. A variety of restaurants and pubs occupy most of the downtown space and a weekly farmers' market draws people from far and wide.
Above: The town is sprinkled with many interesting buildings.
The biggest draw here, besides the natural wonders, is the Elora Mill Hotel & Spa, where reservations must be made months in advance. The five-storey boutique property is housed in the old grist mill, which has also served as a saw mill and distillery over its distinguished history — it was first erected in 1843.
The hotel is perched above the thundering Elora Gorge and provides guests with a tranquil setting that few other properties can match. Its spa is considered one of the best in the country and the dining room was rated among the 100 best in Canada.
Many of the hotel's 30 elegant rooms come with views of the falls and the Grand River and the property has become a favourite for wedding couples. Room rates here are not cheap, with prices starting north of $350 a night and the most expensive suite will cost you $1,500.
One visit to Elora, though, will confirm why so many call this "the prettiest small town in Canada."
Above: There's plenty of reminders of Elora's historic past.
For information on the Elora Mill Hotel & Spa, go to https://eloramill.ca
Elora is a 1.5 hour drive from Toronto along the 401 and Highway 6 north.