Eastern Ontario Staycation Guide: Experience the magic in Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry

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Editor's Note

This article originally appeared in the spring edition of EOBJ. Read the full staycation guide here

For centuries, people have wandered off the beaten path to come to the counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry (SDG). Fish-full rivers, fertile soil, rich forests, abundant wildlife and big, beautiful open skies lured them here. Their ingenuity and determination created places that continue to flourish. SDG is chock-full of spots where the welcome mat gets rolled out every day, as you can see in new videos showcasing the region. Visit and take delight in rural fairs, pick fruit at a local orchard, paddle down a river, explore a museum, play on a fairway, cycle a country lane and learn from a rich trove of stories. You’ll discover a place where history comes alive every day. A place that instantly feels like home — so much so that after you visit, you might even want to make it your home. It’s a region where the pulse of life beats a little stronger. From the buzz of vibrant nature to the hum of busy, welcoming communities, you’re sure to be amazed at how inspiring and refreshing a trip to SDG can be. For a staycation like no other, venture off the open road and discover the place Where Ontario Began. 

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Active exploration

With water flowing throughout the counties, you’ll enjoy abundant opportunities for boating, beaching, paddling, camping and fishing, whether on smaller rivers and lakes or on the mighty St. Lawrence, which also offers incredible scuba diving, including in the Lost Villages. Hike through pristine forests and cycle — whether on quiet rural roads alongside immaculate farm fields or along the impressive Waterfront Trail connecting SDG along the St. Lawrence River.

Sample itinerary: A tour for the adventurer

  • Rent diving gear at Deco Stop Outdoor Centre in Lancaster and spend the day exploring local dive sites.
  • Stop for lunch at The Blue Anchor.
  • Hop on your bike to discover hidden treasures along the Long Sault Parkway. See the impact of flooding during the 1950s Seaway construction, including the remains of lost villages visible just below the river waters.
  • Feast on Mediterranean cuisine at Nautica Grill & Wine in Long Sault.
  • Rent a cabin or pitch your tent at the Long Sault Parkway Campgrounds and enjoy a relaxing bonfire. 

For a blooming good time

Looking for some Insta-perfect moments and a chance to revel in natural beauty? Check out the sunflower-studded Fields of Gold farm, expanding this year to offer 40 acres of sunflowers, a fresh flower u-pick area plus corn maze and pumpkin patch. Loulou Lavender in Williamstown showcases the sights, smells and healing properties of lavender. People are also buzzing about the pollinator fields planted at Smirlholm Farms where you can enjoy the flowers, have a tour and take home some honey. 

History comes alive 

Immerse yourself in the world-class living museum that is Upper Canada Village and step back into Ontario’s formative years. Be enchanted by the St. Raphael’s Ruins, a National Historic site. Witness salvaged history at South Stormont's Lost Villages or unlock the past at the historic SDG Jail, which offers guided tours and special events. 

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Tastes and tipples

Local flavours play a starring role here. From award-winning cheesemakers to pubs, breweries, berry farms, cafés, pizzerias, farmers’ markets, ice cream shops, orchards, chip trucks, cideries, bakeries, bistros, wineries and general stores, it’s safe to say that almost every culinary or beverage craving can be satisfied in the towns and villages of SDG. 

Get cultured

Unique cultural and artistic experiences abound in SDG. Take in a performance at one of several playhouses, visit artists’ studios or enjoy live music. Expand your knowledge of Scottish culture and heritage by attending Maxville’s popular Glengarry Highland Games in August or by visiting the Glengarry Celtic Music Hall of Fame in Williamstown. 

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County fairs

The season begins with the longstanding Avonmore Fair in July and the Winchester Dairyfest in early August. Another big draw is the Williamstown Fair in South Glengarry. Established in 1812, it’s the oldest annual fair in Canada and it also takes place in early August. Next up is the South Mountain Fair in mid-August, then the Chesterville & District Agricultural Society’s fair later that month. Extend your fun at the Stormont County Fair, which has been hosting a fun-filled Labour Day weekend since Confederation. 

Unique accommodations

Do your tastes run to a cozy bed and breakfast or a familiar chain hotel? Perhaps staying in a riverside cottage, on a farm, in a treehouse at the Upper Canada Bird Sanctuary or glamping in a yurt is more your style? From backwoods camping right up to luxurious, historic inns, you’ll find lots of options for sweet dreams throughout SDG. 

Fun facts:

  • The world-famous McIntosh apple originated in Dundas County.
  • SDG has a distinct multicultural flair with Mohawk, Iroquois, Ojibwe, French Canadians, American Loyalists, Acadians, Scots, Irish and Eastern Europeans all part of its history. 
  • Glengarry is the birthplace of John Sandfield MacDonald, Ontario’s first premier.