Relax With Ice Cream, Gelato, and Other Treats
Elora has plenty of great spots to stop for a cool treat. Shopping on Mill Street can be fun, but it gets hot. Take a break and stop into one of many shops that offer goods to tantalize your palate. Enjoy your delicacy at a table outside a shop or in the green space. You can watch the other shoppers go by. Better yet, find a shady spot to sit by the gorge, listening to the chatter of the water as it flows over the rocks. Not on Mill Street? There are plenty of spots, located around Elora, to find snacks and treats. All have their own specialties.
Explore the Gorge
Scrambling about in the Irvine Gorge on a warm afternoon is a fabulous treat. Take the stone stairs in the little park near downtown Elora. Here you will enter another world. The air is cool and delicious and the sound of the water trickling over the rocks is mesmerizing.
You have choices at the bottom of the stairs. Walk straight ahead and follow the trails through the trees or turn to the left and climb down to the water. Chances are good that many others are already there. This is a popular spot. Many of the stones are large and flat. They’re perfect for relaxing in the sun and taking in the view of the vast walls of the gorge. If you feel up for a bit more adventure, and don’t mind getting your feet wet, you can cross the river and head upstream to the caves. Take care climbing, the entrances are steep and slippery. Leave a friend with a camera at the base, ready for your photo-op when you peek through the natural window in the first one.
While in the gorge, it is difficult to miss the presence of the historic David Street bridge. While the top is new, the stone pillar is over 100 years old. Take the time to wander farther upstream to explore. Understand, though, that it is private property on both sides of the gorge after you pass the bridge. You will have to backtrack to the steps to get out of the gorge.
The Irvine Gorge is a fascinating place. There are so many places to explore. Because the area was once the bottom of an ancient sea, you will find plenty of fossils. Most are plant matter, but it is fun to look. In the water you can find minnows, crayfish and water bugs. On a quiet day, eagles and gulls soar overhead, looking for dinner.
Should you choose to wander downstream from the stone steps, you will get to the Grand River. The water is deeper and the current is stronger. There seems to be a greater sense of urgency with the Grand. You can explore it, too. It’s just a little more challenging than the quiet area of the Irvine.
Play in the Park
You can’t beat O’Brien Park, behind the LCBO on a hot afternoon – especially if you have little people in your group. This park has swings, slides, plenty of space to run and a splash-pad. There are also picnic tables where tired parents can rest while supervising rambunctious family members.
If you are closer to downtown, but still in need of a park with play equipment, check out Hoffer Park, behind the town hall. It has the usual fun equipment, plus a picnic shelter if it is time to dig into that lunch that you packed.
For those who don’t need play equipment, walk down the road from Hoffer Park to Victoria Park. This park has the steps to the gorge, picnic tables, trails around the top of the gorge, Lover’s Leap look-out and a view of the famous Tooth of Time waterfall at the Elora Mill.
Bissell Park off Mill Street East and Melville is another great park. It’s the home of the Elora Farmer’s Market every summer. The park is named for the Bissell family who had a farm equipment foundry on the site. All that remains of that enterprise are the Bissell dam and the mill race. Now, it has a boardwalk along the Grand River and plenty of places to play.
Take a Hike or Bike
Elora is the home of the beginning of the Elora Cataract Trail. It follows old railway right-of-ways from Gerrie Road to The Forks of the Credit. Walking the trail from Elora to Fergus is just over 2km. This section is well-maintained and is easy to walk or bike. The trail passes through woods, farmland and wetland, so be on the lookout for wildlife and interesting plants. There is a secondary trail, just past the 1km marker, that leads to Wellington Terrace Home, the Wellington County Museum and the Wellington County Library. This trail joins onto another trail on the other side of the museum.
Elora has plenty of shorter walking trails of interest. From the south side of the river, off Ross St. there is an entrance to a trail where you can get an excellent view of the river, the Elora Mill, the Drimmie Dam, and the Tooth of Time. The trail follows along the edge of the gorge. Caution is advised. Note also, the private property signs.
The Elora Gorge Park has some wonderful trails through the woods along the top of the Grand River Gorge. The entrance to the park is off County Rd 21. Ask the gate attendant for directions to trails and features, such as the Hole in the Rock.
Go For a Swim
Elora doesn’t have a public pool – you have to go to Fergus for that, but we do have the Quarry. Located on the eastern end of Mill Street, the quarry started its life providing stone and lime for the area. Now that it’s full of water, it makes a fabulous spot for a dip on a hot day. This area is run by the Grand River Conservation Authority. Entry fees apply.
Take a Tour
Elora has guided and self-guided tours. The information centre on Mill Street East has all of the information needed to find a guided a tour.
You can also stroll around, reading the self-guided tour signs that are posted around town. Elora is rich in history. Check out the signs for information and old photos.
As you wander about the town, watch for the sculptures that various artists have displayed for the Elora Sculpture Project. For a more formal look at art, be sure to check out local galleries, studios and the Elora Centre for the Arts on Melville St.
Take in a Special Event
Some days, there are more events in Elora, than one can find time for. The Elora Festival has become world famous, but there is more. The Information Centre on Mill Street East has a complete listing, or just check out one of the many posters adorning the shop windows.
There are many more wonderful things to see and do in Elora. Start experiencing and compiling your own list.