Come Wander
Ghost Towns in Ontario

A large portion of the Ontario’s Highlands region lies within the Canadian Shield, where lakes and rivers dot the valleys between rolling hills. Back in the mid 1800s, the government enticed immigrants to settle this part of Ontario with an offer of free land, and began building colonization roads such as Opeongo Road in the Ottawa Valley. Most early settlers made their living in the logging or agricultural industries, gathering in small communities where they could warrant a school, general store, and church.

But as they soon found out, the rocky soil of the Canadian Shield was not ideal, and the growing season too short to make a livelihood. Residents of these small towns began to move away in numbers, leaving behind their homes and businesses. Many of these buildings still stand today, some decrepit from the elements that try to reclaim them, others given a second chance.

These ghost towns now serve as a fun road trip destination for curious explorers who enjoy feeling just a little uneasy, especially this time of year. Some of the ghost towns in the region are completely abandoned, whereas others have small populations that are nothing like they once were. When you hit the road in search of these ghost towns please remember to be respectful of private property and do not trespass.


You don’t have to venture far off of Highway 132 in the Ottawa Valley to find Balaclava, a former mill town that was abandoned by its inhabitants in the mid 20th century. The first thing you’ll see is a run-down sawmill from the 1850s, once the lifeblood of the town, but now barely standing. Rumour is there are a few other run-down buildings you can find, but please be aware there are a handful of residents who still live in Balaclava, and the mill is on private property.

Allans Mills

Allans Mills, just west of Perth and only about an hour from Ottawa, was once a booming community. Eventually the mill closed and inhabitants left, but unlike many other ghost towns, the buildings have remained fairly well preserved. The heritage stone mill sits undisturbed right along Allans Mills Road with a few log buildings visible on the property. The town’s original general store across the street appears to be converted into a home, so be mindful that the small community is on private property.


Ontario’s first gold rush began in 1866 when gold was discovered in Eldorado, about 10 kilometres north of Madoc. Word spread quickly of the discovery and prospectors flocked to the area, leading to a huge building boom. The gold rush didn’t last long, and Eldorado’s population dropped from a speculated 10,000 to the 50 or so people who live there today. Many of the original buildings have been repurposed, but the abandoned general store which sits right on Highway 62 is perfect for snapping a creepy shot.


If you’re not in the mood to be frightened, take a drive out to Ormsby, a former ghost town that bounced back. It was the last stop on the Central Ontario Railway, and earned a bit of a wild reputation as a party town before the townspeople established churches, hotels, a school, and businesses. When the railroad was extended to Bancroft in 1900, the town’s lumber industry, along with the residents, started to disappear. 103 years later, the formerly abandoned general store and schoolhouse were restored and now house The Old Hastings Mercantile & Gallery, and the Old Ormsby Schoolhouse & Tea Room, respectively. The Presbyterian church has also been restored, and is open to the public.


Now, if you are in the mood to be frightened, head for the hills in search of Newfoundout. In 1853, 13 families, enticed by the government’s offer of free land, traversed the rocky mountainside and set up homes and farms in the tiny settlement they called Newfoundout. This promised land proved difficult to farm, and the small community was unable to attract schools or shops. In the late 1940s, it was officially declared abandoned when the last of the community members left. Head up to the completely abandoned and disturbingly quiet settlement to explore run-down log homes amongst the trees.

Bonus: Al Capone’s Former Hideout in Quadeville

Quadeville is not necessarily a ghost town but it does have an abandoned home in the woods that draws in explorers due to the rumours surrounding its former inhabitant. Legend has it that in the early 1940s a local man was hired to build a log cabin from an unknown American source. Soon after, the townspeople began to murmur about sightings of American gangster Al Capone and his cronies. This remote cabin, with boarded up windows and doors, supposedly has collapsed tunnels built underneath it. The exact location is a mystery, but word has it if you stop into Kauffeldt’s Grocer and ask, they’ll point you in the direction of this creepy hideaway.


Cider Season

Find these cideries on your next road trip through Ontario’s Highlands to discover a refreshing way to toast the apple harvest with a cold cider.

Wandering the Festival of Small Halls

Discover all the small halls throughout the Ottawa Valley, Lanark County, and Hastings County that will host a performance for the Festival of Small Halls in 2019.

An Ode to Poutine

Discover these chip trucks and their classic dishes, located throughout Ontario’s Highlands.

The Great Pizza-Off

Chow down on artisan wood-fired pizza at any of these gems across Ontario’s Highlands.

Before the Lake Wakes

Wake up lakeside with a steaming cup of coffee from a roastery in Ontario’s Highlands.

A Delicious Day Trip

Sip & Savour your way through the best food and drink spots in Lanark County.

The Perfect Scoop

Discover these top ice cream stops across Ontario’s Highlands to keep cool this summer on your road trip.

Exhale and Unwind

Experience a slice of farm life at Dwyer’s Farmhouse in the Ottawa Valley.

Strawberry Fields Forever

Discover these top ways to enjoy the strawberry season, when you let these farm-fresh berries shine on their own or in a variety of treats.

Farm Fresh Finds

Indulge your taste buds this summer with these 5 local finds at Farmers Markets through Ontario’s Highlands.

Pause for Pi Day

Celebrate PI Day with the best pie at these bakeries in Ontario’s Highlands.

Winter Jams

Warm up your winter with good music and good food, together, at the Sharbot Inn & Crossing Pub, in Sharbot Lake, Ontario.

Valentine’s Day Treats

Treat that special someone this Valentine’s Day to a gift of sweets at one of these top places.

Moo-ve Over, Vodka

Discover Vodkow, the new beverage from the Dairy Distillery causing a stir in Almonte, Ontario.

The Best Baked Goods

Discover some of the best bakeries in Ontario’s Highlands and their tasty treats.

A Day in Ormsby

Discover why Ormsby Ontario is worth exploring on your next road trip.

A is for Apples

Meeting cider kings and discovering great things in Hastings County.

Concerts with a Community

In September each year, the spirit of community comes alive all across Ontario’s Highlands when the Festival of Small Halls rolls in.

Roam If You Want To

Follow along with Chris from Travelling Mitch as he wanders through Haliburton Highlands and Hastings County on the Rustic Roamer Road Trip.

Ground to Glass

Discover how four craft drink makers harness Mother Nature’s flavours to elevate their beverages in Ontario’s Highlands.

5 Senses of Nature

Leave the city behind and immerse yourself in the natural charm of Ontario’s Highlands.

Where Am I?

Devour an Ottawa Valley tradition and feel your taste buds rejoice with Wes’ Chips in Arnprior.

Where Am I?

Discover the big things happening in the small towns along the Rideau Canal.

Top 4 Summer Treats

Top 4 summer treats that are worth the stop on your next Ontario’s Highlands road trip.

The Rustic Roamer

I’m a Rustic Roamer. I wander to discover authentic moments, to embrace the spirit of locals, and to understand the stories of the communities and countryside that I visit.

Where Am I

Explore the sweet moments and ageless beauty of Perth, Ontario.

Maple Mania

Discover one writer’s quest to discover what makes Lanark County so sweet with Maple Mania.

Life is a Highway

Two wanderers explore 135 kilometres of hidden gems in Hastings County.

The Ultimate City Escape

Explore these three ways to escape the city, slow down, and absorb rural life in Ontario’s Highlands.

My Hometown: Haliburton

After years of travel, read the story of why Emily returned to Haliburton to officially call it her home.

Journal of a Foodie

Take a journey through Ontario’s Highlands on a road trip that will satisfy your inner foodie.

Summer Brews

Take a trip around Ontario’s Highlands to these micro-breweries to discover your perfect summer beer.

A Different Kind of Detour

Take the road less traveled through Ontario’s Highlands to these unique festivals that are sure to leave a lasting impression.

Good Food, Great Company

The Good Food Tour, a delectable walking tour in Almonte the showcases a story and the local flavours.