What do you get when you combine cute shops and restaurants housed in heritage buildings with enticing waterfront or a dash of strollable parks? You get totally adorable small towns that make the perfect road trip destination.

 Whether you’re in it for the food, need some retail therapy, or are seeking natural wonders like towering cliffs or rushing waterfalls, Ontario’s Highlands has got the small town for you. 


This adorable small town near Ottawa will steal your heart at first glance. This community is known for its strong artist presence and culture which is reflected in the galleries and shops you'll see here. Stroll along the rushing waterfalls and head to Mill Street for a photo op you can’t miss. 

Portable Snack:

Pop in to North Market, a café turned bodega, for a sandwich, hot drink, or finger foods. 

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Arnprior’s slogan “Where the Rivers Meet” sets the stage for this town that sits on both the Ottawa and Madawaska Rivers. Downtown is always worth a visit, as is the riverside Robert Simpson Park. 


Bancroft rocks! Seriously, it’s Canada’s Mineral Capital. This former mining town is cute as a button with striking cliff faces throughout.  This is a great daytrip destination.

Portable Snack:

Arguably the best road trip fuel is candy, so stop into the Bancroft General Mercantile to get your fill. 

 Related Content: Bancroft Rocks!

Barry’s Bay  

Situated just 35 minutes from Algonquin Park, Barry’s Bay has an outdoor enthusiast vibe. It particularly comes alive in fall with lots of sightseers road tripping their way through the Valley. 

Portable Snack:

Polka Spudz honours the local heritage by putting a Polish twist on chip truck classics. 

Carleton Place  

Carleton Place is another photographic little town quite close to Ottawa. Snap a pic in front of one of the many murals or on the picturesque Bridge Street overlooking the Mississippi River. After a day of shopping and sightseeing, have a drink on a waterfront patio, walk the main strip, or paddle down the Mississippi.  

Portable Snack:

Grab a schnitzel on a bun or a dozen perogies at Bistro Polo to kickstart your adventure. 

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Nestled on the Bonnechere River is Eganville, a ridiculously cute village on a popular route between Ottawa and Algonquin Park. Walk the Recreational Geology Trail, snapping pics as you go. 

Portable Snack:

Coffee lovers will feel at home at Fifth Chute Coffee & Bread.   


The charming town of Haliburton is a favourite for Toronto cottagers and day-trippers, thanks to its great eateries, shops, art galleries, and prime lakeside location. This community is known for its artistic culture, and is home to the Haliburton School of Art + Design. 

Portable Snack:

Browse the antiques at Castle Antiques and fuel up with their vegan, gluten-free fare.  

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One of the smaller towns on our list, Madoc sits where Highways 7 and 62 meet. The downtown is small but lovely for a short stroll.   

Portable Snack:

You’ll blend right in with the locals if you have in hand one of Hidden Goldmine Bakery’s famous butter tarts.  

Related Content: Small Town Gold in Madoc 


If you’ve treated Marmora as a thoroughfare while driving Highway 7, make it a stop next time! Stretch your legs along the Crowe River or on Forsyth Street. 

Portable Snack:

Look for the brightly coloured Hometown Cones, scooping Kawartha Dairy ice cream.   


The Gull River is a gentle-flowing river that attracts paddlers to Minden. Whether you arrive by car or canoe, stop in town to stroll the boardwalk and out the shops.  

Portable Snack:

 Minden River Cone serves both ice cream and savoury snacks like a curry chicken poutine.  


Perth pops up a lot when talking about the cutest towns in Ontario, thanks to its stunning heritage buildings, canal, and greenspace that looks straight from a fairy tale. While you're there, visit the Perth Museum and ask for the inside scoop on the last duel that was held in Perth. 

Portable Snack:

Pose in front of the Mammoth Cheese monument with one of Perth Cheese Shop’s charcut-a-cones in hand. 


While it’s technically a city, with a population of 14,000, Pembroke counts as a small town when compared to Toronto or Ottawa! Take a self-guided tour of over 30 murals depicting the city’s heritage. 

Portable Snack:

Locals can’t get enough of McGuire’s Doughnuts, so show up early to avoid missing out. 


Renfrew is a sweet little spot where two Ottawa Valley recreational rail trails intersect. Grab a bite and head out on a walk on the OVRT or K&P Trails.  

Portable Snack:

One of Bonnechere Bakery’s classic sandwiches will fuel you up, but leave room for a baked good too. 

Sharbot Lake   

Sharbot Lake is another lovely town in Central Frontenac’s cottage country. While in town you will notice the lake is situated on both sides of the community, so no matter where you are located you will get a great view. The lakefront park is sure to be a hit with kids or can act as a starting point for a cycling adventure on the K&P Trail. 

Portable Snack:

 Cardinal Café is loved for its inventive ice cream cones, doughnuts, sandwiches, and coffees.  

 Related Content: 2-Day Cycling Staycation in Sharbot Lake

Smiths Falls   

Last but certainly not least is Smiths Falls, a town that has it all: locks on the Rideau Canal, heritage buildings, tasty restaurants, and beautiful waterfront.  

Portable Snack:

Several eateries in town prepare packaged lunches for their PICNIC program, including the Pickled Pig.   

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