Much of this quaint capital of Lanark County looks much like it did when it was first settled by Scottish soldiers after the War of 1812-14 in Europe. Both the name of the town and the adjacent Tay River arises from those Scottish roots. For visitors, you’ll see the main street that was restored in the early 1980s to reflect the town’s long history as an early settling place for soldiers and their families.
Don’t be fooled by the national brand stores along Highway 7. Turn south and within a few blocks, you will discover Perth’s unique shops and fine dining on virtually every corner of the downtown. Admire the stone buildings, see the site of Canada’s last duel then walk a historic path and portage route that was first tramped down in 1816. Soon you’ll see why it was named the Prettiest Town in Canada.
The town draws a high rate of retirees due to the diversity of the shopping and the ease of getting around. With fabulous parks and a golf course within town limits, you’ll enjoy the mix of urban and rural settings that make you feel like you’ve landed in a spot that has it all.
- For more ideas see: 25 of the Best Things to Do in Lanark County This Summer
Between the parks in and around Perth, you will get your fill of fresh air whether you’re exploring the area along its riverbanks or taking a short drive to an attraction nearby.
- Stewart Park is a divine oasis in the middle of the town, with creekside trails, accessible bridges and a statue in memory of Big Ben and Ian Millar, who won Olympic equestrian gold together. (41 Mill Street)
- The Rideau Trail is the longest of its kind in Eastern Ontario, running from Parliament Hill in Ottawa to the city of Kingston. In between, it follows the route of the historic Rideau Canal, right through the heart of Perth. It comes in via Riverside Drive and leaves via Conlin Drive.
- The Tay River Trail was worn into the ground by soldiers in 1816 and still welcomes visitors to retrace those steps in modern times. (99 Christie Lake Road)
- Conlon Farm Recreation Area has a great playground, tennis courts, a splash pad and so much more. You can also explore the entire 54 acres and trails. (127 Smith Drive, Perth)
- The Perth Golf Course opened in 1890 and is the oldest course in Canada. You can walk to it across a bridge right in town and enjoy its pristine conditions. (141 Peter Street)
- Drop your canoe or kayak into the water and paddle along the Tay Canal right in the middle of the town. This branch of the Rideau Canal takes you right to the Perth Wildlife Reserve.
- The Round Garden for the Blind is a lovely, accessible getaway for those who love flowers and rely of senses other than sight in order to enjoy them. (99 Christie Lake Road)
- The quiet oasis of Perth Wildlife Reserve is a lovely spot to slow down and observe natural sights within the Tay Marshland. (100 Wild Life Rd, Perth)
- Murphy’s Point Park has 1,240 hectares and 22 kilometres of trails with six different loops to take you through fields, a former mine, forest, wetlands and to the shores of three different lakes. (243 Elmgrove Road)
- The Mississippi Lake Bird Sanctuary, just 10 minutes away near the village of Innisville, is a haven for several species of birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals (1027 Concession 10B, Balderson)
- Perth’s Mammoth Cheese is a landmark to celebrate the creation of a 22,000 pound brick by 12 cheesemakers for the 1893 World Fair in Chicago. A replica appears on a wagon near the town’s farmer’s market for inspiration to greatness. (28 Drummond Street East)
Art & Culture
The rich history of the town is unavoidable, with its preserved heritage buildings, 130-year-old golf course, and so many fascinating stories, including the one about the love triangle that led to Canada’s last duel.
- Take a walking tour through the town to discover 56 of its highlights, including heritage architecture and hidden gems. You begin at the historic town hall and follow this map.
- Perth Town Hall was built in 1863 out of cream-coloured sandstone and has become the signature image for the community, due to its attention-drawing clock tower. It was designated a site of national historical interest in 1984 for its design and its longevity as a town hall. (80 Gore Street East)
- Matheson House is the home of Perth’s museum and another national historic site. Inside the sandstone structure, you’ll find rooms furnished in the style of the 1840s, an impressive mineral collection, and the gun used in Canada’s final duel in the park nearby. (11 Gore Street East)
- Last Duel Park marks the site of Canada’s final gun battle in 1833 for honour between law students Robert Lyon and John Wilson. (Lyon perished while Wilson was acquitted and married the woman at the heart of their dispute.) Currently, the site also offers camping and geocaches. (22 Craig Street)
- Inge-Va is a gracious home built in 1823 in a neoclassical, or Colonial Georgian style, for the town’s first Anglican minister, Rev. Michael Harris. (It was also the home of the ill-fated Mr. Lyon.) 66 Craig Street
Food and Drink
For a small population, this town has a great variety of family-owned restaurants from pub fare to international cuisine. The foodies here are treated to a great mix of fare, from Italian to Mexican and European dishes.
- Dining on the patio of Mex & Co. puts you on a patio right over the water, which relaxes you as you enjoy fabulous Mexican cuisine. (55 Gore Street East)
- The legendary wiener schnitzel at Maximilian’s Restaurant is one reason that visitors return. Its European cuisine has kept it as a mainstay among the town’s many restaurants since 1973. (99 Gore Street East)
- The Perth Brewery: After your historical tour, you may wish to taste the Last Duel Lager or any of the 17 other beers they create here. (121 Dufferin Street)
- Tucked into one of the town’s oldest buildings, you can listen to the courtyard fountain at Fiddleheads as you dine in a relaxed but classic atmosphere. 53 Herriott Street
- Bistro 54 offers fine Italian dining with fresh ingredients that will leave you wanting more, also in a heritage stone building in the centre of town. (54 Foster Street)
Gore Street is the main shopping stretch, with fantastic shops from high end to thrifty options. You’ll find unique fashions and fabulous gifts, including many maple-themed items to reflect the area’s thriving syrup industry.
- Riverguild Fine Crafts takes the best work of local potters, jewellers, weavers, leather workers, and people with many more talents and supports the artistic community in Canada’s oldest cooperative store. (51 Gore Street East)
- Get local, ethical, and environmentally-conscious cheeses from Perth Cheese Shop. (64 Gore St. E.)
- Balderson – When you arrive at the traffic lights at the west end of Perth, turn north to discover the little town with a surprising number of treats. In addition to the Balderson Cheese Shop (a former cheese-making plant), you’ll find Amish furniture, women’s fashions and great takeout food, all just four minutes off the beaten path.