Ruralist »

{Try} Design your own Rustic Retreat

All photos by Ardis McDonald

When you grow up in rural Southwestern Ontario, you become quite accustomed to green space: yards the size of football fields and acre upon acre of trees. So, when this country gal bought a loft in the city, I quickly realized how much I missed… and needed… that green space! As much as I absolutely loved my loft, after about two years without a yard, it was time to buy a house with a yard.

After quite a search, I found my cottage in the city, one with a yard that lets me forget I’m within city limits. My green cocoon, so to say.

With its mature trees and large lawn space (for the city), I had an amazing blank slate to begin some projects to make it mine. I began by planting some hostas (Riverbend Gardens, Wroxeter; Mr. Chambers, Belmore), seeing as the yard gets a great deal of shade due to the mature trees. I then moved on to installing a patio (With the help of my brother (Mike McDonald Construction). Okay, he installed it all with very little assistance from me.). I have many more plans in the works, but we’ll get back to that later.

I’m not one for having things perfectly manicured when it comes to gardens and lawns. When you grow up with over five acres of lawn to cut and gardens to tend, a bit of rustic charm goes a long way! I have grape vines, Wisteria vines and vines I don’t even know the name of crawling all over the exterior of my property. I find it adds a softness, but also a bit of whimsical wildness, too.

I wanted the patio to also feel like it had been there for quite some time… an established feel. After putting it all together (From Sarah: look for an upcoming post with the details on Ardis’ deck!), I had that blank slate I was looking for to build from.I tend to gravitate towards neutrals as a base for larger items like the love seat and chairs (Hudson Bay Co.), tables (coffee table – my neighbour’s barn; Aberfoyle Market, Neustadt); side table crates (Kijiji; Aberfoyle Market; Rooster’s Perch Antiques, Clifford) and larger décor pieces such as the metal fire pit (Canadian Tire).

I also tend to use neutral planters (Home Depot; Guelph Farmer’s Market; Folmer Landscaping, Walkerton), in this case black and green (yes, outdoors, I would consider a lime green a neutral, much like the surroundings), so that every year, I can change up the plants to whatever colour palette I may choose. I also always use a mixture of rustic and more modern/clean lined pieces (whether it’s outside or inside my home) as I love how the two styles juxtapose against each other.


Then, it’s accessory time! For my day to day use, I tend to keep it neutral as well for the most part. Black and grey accessories such as the candle holders and lanterns (The Garage Home Décor, Belmore; August Skies Home Décor, Port Elgin; Target; HomeSense) and even neutral plants such as coleus, grasses and potato vine (Guelph Farmer’s Market; Folmer Landscaping,, Walkerton; local Mennonite greenhouses in the Belmore area). I then introduce pops of colour through pillows, throws, candles, entertaining pieces, flowers etc. Once you have the neutral base to start from, you can head in whatever direction you want!20140623-220750-79670102.jpgThis summer I’ve gravitated towards pinks, oranges and greens. The pillows (Finishing Touches for the Home, Wingham; The Garage, Belmore) not only make for comfy seating, but they liven up the space. The throws (Southampton Market; Achesons, Harriston and Orangeville) add a bit of luxury to the space and are perfect to help ward off the evening chill. Candles, candles and more candles are key! Especially as the sun is setting. The drinkware (Achesons, Harriston) also brings fun into entertaining and whether it’s glass or plastic, there are so many options available to really help make the entertaining experience your own.


Your turn!

Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re designing your own bucolic backyard retreat:

  • Have a plan. Whether it’s an entire backyard makeover or an afternoon get-together with friends you are hosting in your backyard, be sure to have a plan. Plans allow you to get all of your ideas out on paper and see how they work (or may not work) together. I find that lists, plans and a calendar keeps me on track, makes things less stressful and helps me stay on budget.
  • What are you using your space for? For me, the patio is mainly used for lounging, reading and visiting with friends over drinks (versus my deck which is more of a dining space). I would consider my patio to be my outdoor living room. Always know what each space in your yard is going to be used for when planning the overall big picture.
  • Is this space mainly in the sun or shade or both? This helps you decide which plants will and will not work both in containers and planted in the ground. It also helps with the decision as to what type of furniture may be needed (ie; a pergola type piece to offer shade if the space is in direct sunlight all day).
  • Move things around. If you’re like me, you’re constantly re-organizing rooms inside your home. Do that outside too! Move furniture pieces around their space, take planters from one area over to another etc. Keep it fresh!


Ardis McDonald is an Ontario home stylist and blogger who calls her decor style “rustic chic.” She lives in what she refers to as a character home with a country feel. See more of her work and find out how to follow her on Instagram and so much more on her website,

Related Posts

art school, ruralist, ontario

Connect with Your Inner Artist this Summer

Summertime is the time of year when we relax, let our hair down and live a little, explore new interests and appreciate our natural suroundings. It’s the perfect time of year to make time for your creative side. We’ve found six rural Ontario art schools that can help you do just that. Whether it’s painting, photography, sculpture or any other form of art, you’ll be able to enjoy the process of creating art in a beautiful environment assisted by professionals who can help you develop your technique and bring out your inner artist. Why not find a friend and sign up for a class this summer and explore a new corner of rural Ontario while you’re there.

1. Haliburton School of the Arts  (297 College Drive, Haliburton) – Set in the inspiring Haliburton Highlands, this is the perfect setting for a campus dedicated to innovative arts and sustainable design programming. The Haliburton School of The Arts, a school within Fleming college, is renowned for providing unique and flexible arts education in Canada. The extensive list of summer programming is impressive with courses for children and adults like ranging from music, painting and jewellery making to totem pole carving and all things in between.

2. Kryart Studio  (24 Main St. N, Bayfield) – Located next door to Bayfield’s historic Little Inn, Kryart is a fun for all ages art studio that will get your creative juices flowing! Kryart’s unique Art Project Menu, allows you to create your own unique art piece with as much or a little guidance as you require. This isn’t paint by numbers style painting. You choose the subject matter as well as the style you’d like to approach your piece with. Staff will teach you the techniques and coach you along the way and help you create your own masterpiece using Kryart Studio’s Art Project Menu. Use high quality supplies and the guidance of a practicing artist to maximize your creative potential. Throw paint, let loose, groove to the music, develop your inner artist! Our artists provides as much or as little guidance as each student requires to bring their painting to completion. Also, the Kids Drop-in Painting session is a HUGE hit with kids and parents alike. Kids get canvas and supplies to create their own masterpiece, ready for hanging. Professional working artists are present to mentor the students. Each class begins with a drawing warm-up which helps the kids focus on the coming project. $25 includes supplies. Drop this kids off at 10AM and pickup by 11:45AM every day from July 1st to August 31st, 2014. No need to book ahead.

3. Southampton Art School and Gallery (201 High St., Southampton) – The Southampton Art School & Gallery is a non-profit registered charitable organization dedicated to celebrating the joy of creativity and developing artistic talent since 1957. With more than 130 art and creativity classes offered year round, artists from 3-103 are sure to find something to enjoy and spark the imagination. Courses range from single day classes to 5-day workshops. To ensure your spot – sign up online! When you visit the town of Southampton leave time to shop in quaint stores and boutiques, sample local cooking and enjoy the friendly community surrounding you. There are Canada Day fireworks on the beach, a fish fry by Lake Huron’s biggest flag, Thursdays’ antique car displays on High Street, summer theatre – in short, something for everyone.

4. Grand Bend Art Centre (63 River Road, Grand Bend) – With a mission to educate and increase the public’s understanding and appreciation of the visual arts, the Grand Bend Art Centre has it all. By providing instructional classes, seminars and workshops related to the visual arts, including, painting, watercolours, oils, acrylics, sculpture and photography, you’ll have a great time unleashing your creative spirit. This summer you can learn to knit, work with mixed media or create a stained glass mosaic – and much more.

5. The Art School of Peterborough (Charlotte Mews Tunnel Arcade, 178A Charlotte Street, Peterborough) – Founded in 1993, The Art School of Peterborough provides excellent art instruction to the people of Peterborough and the surrounding communities. The Art School of Peterborough is dedicated to providing a professional level of instruction year-round for adults and youth in a wide variety of studio media to both. No prior art training is necessary and there are no entrance requirements or examinations. The Art School of Peterborough offers a variety of ten week long courses and 1-2 day workshops for adults and children, Art Camps, PA Days, Birthday Parties and Date Nights. Their instructors are dedicated professional artists and are backed by a supportive board, staff and many volunteers.

6. Art & Class (53 Gore Street East, Perth) – Located in downtown Perth Ontario on the beautiful Tay River, Art & Class Studio Boutique opened its doors in the Spring of 2010. They provide numerous art and craft classes for all ages and supplies to keep your creative side flowing. Art & Class also carries unique and beautifully handmade gifts by talented locals. Classes for adults include sketching, watercolour, acrylic and oil painting. Kids can pick up week long classes on a variety of themes throughout the summer.


P.S. If you’re feeling creative in a culinary way check out our Ruralist story {Try} Cooking Lessons to Love in Rural Ontario

Related Posts

{See} An Off-the-Grid Home in Huron County

Photos 1-3, 6-7 by Shai Gil, and photos 4-5 by Gabriel Li

On Limekiln Line near Blyth, amid acres of trees and crops, lies a house unlike any in the area. It isn’t made of brick or siding and is not a traditional shape. It looks more like a barn than a house, and has an extraordinary long deck that reaches out across a field. This house, the home of Ontarian Maggie Treanor, is an off-the-grid home designed and built by Lisa Moffitt. We were so curious about this unique home in our own county that we contacted Lisa to ask her how it came about:

Tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you and what do you do?

I teach Architecture at the University of Edinburgh and I run a small independent design practice, Studio Moffitt. At the moment, I am teaching third year design, second year Technology and Environment, and a design course for an Advanced Sustainable Design Masters degree.

In teaching and practice, I explore the relationship between buildings, site and weather/environment. During the summers of 2009-2011, I completed a design-build off-grid home in Huron County between Blyth and Auburn, the house on Limekiln Line for Maggie Treanor.

You have a cross-continental existence. What is that like?

Living across two continents is exciting and allows for a fresh perspective on projects in unfamiliar places. I have lived in many places in my life, so I think I am able to both see a place with fresh eyes while also being able to root myself quite quickly. My work is heavily rooted in the context in which it is built and I like to know as much as I can about a place before designing a project there.

I think familiarity comes best through exposure over time. To complete the house on Limekiln Line, I moved from Toronto (where I had been living until 2008) to live in a farmhouse near Blyth to oversee construction. By living on site, I gained a much better sense of the physical and cultural landscape than I would have been able to had I completed the project from abroad.

What inspired you to build in Huron County?

I didn’t find Huron County; it found me through the client, Maggie. Maggie grew up in Woodstock, Ontario and had been looking for a property to build in southwestern Ontario for her retirement. When she found a lot, she approached me to design a house for her on it.

My first experience of her 25 acre property was of navigating the cornfields in October. Being subsumed by the crops, the heightened awareness of the rustling of the stalks, the smell of the earth all left a strong impression of the expansiveness of the Huron County landscape. I tried to design the house to be as respectful of the land as possible. I sometimes call the house an ‘observation shed,’ because all of the views into and through it encourage daily observation and appreciation of the landscape.

Why an off-the-grid home?

Maggie and I shared similar sensibilities about building as lightly on the land as possible, which involved minimizing energy consumption using a number of environmental design features: the house has a very small 85m2 footprint, is oriented to maximize solar gain for heating in the winter and for cross-ventilation in the summer, and uses locally available materials, etc. All electricity is provided through a 1.4 kilowatt photovoltaic array.

There are obvious environmental benefits of going off-grid, but there was the added benefit of preserving the expansive views by not installing hydro poles to the house.

For the uninitiated, can you explain what “off-the-grid” means and give us a glimpse of everyday life in such a home?

In this case, “off-the-grid” refers to the house not being connected to the municipal electricity system and generating electricity via solar panels instead. When sunlight hits the photovoltaics, electricity is produced and this electricity is stored in a battery bank in Maggie’s garage; an electrical line carries electricity from the garage to supply the house.

In Maggie’s case, the house does use propane for heating, so only the energy for electricity is renewable. Renewable technologies are advanced now, so the daily life of living in an off-grid house isn’t much different from the daily life of living on the grid except that the source of the electricity differs, the amount used in the house is minimized, and energy generation and consumption needs to be monitored.

The first rule for going off-grid is to minimize energy consumption all together. The house has low energy consuming appliances and doesn’t require artificial lighting during daylight hours because there are so many evenly distributed windows in the house. Maggie’s lifestyle (not her personality!) is ‘low energy'; she doesn’t own a TV, for example, so she doesn’t really require a lot of electricity on a daily basis.

In the winter, living off grid requires more attention because there are fewer hours of sunlight to power the batteries. In November and December, Maggie has to occasionally top up the batteries by running a generator for a few hours.

What are your favourite aspects of the Limekiln Line house and why?

I am pleased with the relationship of the house to the site. The house sits on a slight shift in the topography and there is a long western walk that extends into and creates a datum within the landscape; walking along the walk starts by being within the crops and ends by hovering over them. There is something unexpectedly lovely about hovering over the site at that moment looking to the farmland beyond.

I am happy that the house minimized disruption to farming activity on the lot; crops grow right up to the house. And I like that the house is both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. The shape and materials of the house borrow from those of agricultural buildings in the area (galvanized steel and stained wood), but the interior configuration is very unexpected. Most people who enter the house are surprised at how big it feels, despite its compactness. I am also happy that construction of the house involved so many people in the area. I felt that through working directly with those involved in building the house, I came to understand and respect a particular kind of sensibility that is rooted in Huron County.

Can you tell us 5 things you love about rural Ontario?

{See} An Off-the-Grid Home in Huron County

Lisa on the Limekiln Line property

The five things that I love most about rural Ontario are tied to daily experiences of living in it:

1. The down-to-earth people, their warmth, work ethic, and honesty.

2. The stunning landscape, expansive views, rolling hills and big skies.

3. Driving in the pickup truck at the end of a summer’s day to Goderich for a swim in Lake Huron.

4. The fact that every season is stunning in its own way and that you are aware of the seasonal shifts due to the vastness of the landscape.

5. Everything that Alice Munro writes about it.

And one last question: what inspires you?

I’m inspired by all the things listed in the previous question and would also add the intricate beauty of the natural world, long walks in the Scottish hills with my dog, Mabel, and the joy that comes through making things.


Want to know more about the Limekiln Line house, off-the-grid design, or Lisa’s work? She welcomes your questions. Send her an email: lisa.moffitt(at)

You can also see more photos of the Limekiln Line house on Lisa’s website.


Related Posts

  • Virginia - What a beautiful example of the best of modern rural sustainable architecture, right under my nose! Thank you for sharing this story of these two fascinating women! Ms. Treanor’s home looks like a little piece of heaven.ReplyCancel

    • Sarah Koopmans - Doesn’t it? I hope it’s the first of many!

      Thanks for your comment, Virginia!ReplyCancel


9 Luxury Year-Round Cottage Rentals in Rural Ontario

Have you ever dreamed of renting a luxurious home in a beautiful out-of-the-way place? A place where you can bring family and friends to enjoy good food, stunning views and gorgeous architecture in total relaxation while making unforgettable memories? Mmmhmm, we dream of it all the time too. Why not turn that dream into reality this year? Whether you’re celebrating something special or just looking for a great getaway, here’s a list of nine of the most magnificent cottage rentals available in rural Ontario. Enjoy!

1. Serenity Cottage, Owen Sound – This recently built, eight bedroom stone and log home has EVERYTHING you need to have the ultimate cottage getaway! Located on a 2 acre, Georgian Bay waterfront property boasts two stone fireplaces and can accommodate up to 20 overnight guests. Guests can enjoy the XBOX 360, high-end karaoke machine, iTunes/CinemaNow access, large library of digital movies/music, satellite TV, 4 TVs (LCD screen in great room, master bedroom and bar, 8ft front projection screen in lower level), dedicated connections for guests’ gaming consoles and tablet/smartphone devices as well as a foosball table, dart board, board games and children’s toys. Outside you’ll find a wood burning sauna with separate lounging area with its own fireplace, hot tub, 2 stone fireplaces in main cottage in ground year-round hot tub as well as a large 800 sq inch Weber Summit BBQ with stainless steel pig/lamb roaster. This luxury cottage can be rented by the 2 or 3 day weekend or 7 day week throughout the year.

2. Big Bear Estate, Apsley - The epitome of luxurious lake living under the roof of one exquisite family residence. Located on the west shore of Jack Lake in the Kawarthas, this luxury home offers over 5,500 square feet of glamorous, yet relaxed lakefront living. In the main home, the great room, dining room and kitchen have 20 foot high-beamed wood tongue-and-groove ceilings with stunning views of the lake, nature preserve and adjacent forest. The gourmet kitchen has all the amenities for large groups, including a gas fired Viking Stove and oven. With a media room, a fitness centre & a family/games room with bar, HD Projection home theatre, an in-ground swimming pool and hot tub, the home is ideal for entertaining. Your guests can also move outside throughout the day, to the large pool deck and patio area, to bask in the sun. With seven bedrooms and five bathrooms Big Bear Estate can accommodate up to 15 guests.

3. Muskoka Soul, Gravenhurst - Muskoka Soul is a two-story, luxury cottage providing accommodation for two to ten people. With soaring architecture and breathtaking lake views, Muskoka Soul provides all the luxuries of a boutique hotel. With five luxurious bedrooms and three full bathrooms, Muskoka Soul will accommodate up to ten people. Nestle comfortably in pillow-top beds with 400-thread-count linens. Indulge yourself in the fully outfitted gourmet kitchen. And be inspired by the lake views from the soaring, two-story Great Room. Muskoka Soul is available by the week, for weekends and on weekdays throughout the year.

4. Raven’s Quest, Muskoka - Expect the extraordinary in this stunning luxury cottage sitting 35 feet from the water’s edge plus a two storey boathouse with living accommodations and a separate office studio. Superb finish and craftsmanship throughout, adorn the completely private 500 ft shoreline and 8+ acres of forest. Raven’s Quest has been called THE luxury cottage rental of Muskoka. Located on Skeleton Lake, this 4000+ square foot cottage has three fireplaces, multiple decks, and a media room. With six bedrooms and three bathrooms, two on the main floor and one on the upper level, there’s enough room to sleep up to 17 people.


5. Log Haven, McKellar – This stunning six-bedroom, 3000 square foot log home faces south-west on beautiful Lake Manitouwabing. Rentals include the use of a 14 ft. Sylvan fishing boat to enjoy on the 220 ft. private water front. The perfect getaway for up to 14 people, the cottage boasts magnificent cathedral ceiling, hardwood floors, screened-in porch and wrap-around deck.

6. Cedar Rails Farm, Barrie - Cedar Rails Farm features a fully renovated and restored 1830s brick farmhouse. This 4 bedroom home has a chef’s kitchen for those who love to cook, a large living room, formal dining room, breakfast nook and 3 bathrooms. The quiet luxury of designer fabrics and antique and classic furniture in a classic setting makes Cedar Rails Farm a tasteful and cozy retreat. The restored house sits on 200 acres of beautiful farmland in the rolling hills of Oro-Medonte township. A long weekend at Cedar Rails is the perfect mini-vacation. Arrive anytime Friday and enjoy 4 days of quiet luxury, resting, hiking, golfing, fishing, antiquing and more.

7. Lulu’s Repose, Ahmic Harbour – If you are looking for supreme privacy, million dollar views, beautiful sandy waterfront, and outstanding accommodation, this impressive post and beam log home on Ahmic Lake delivers all these must-have criteria. Whether for a family reunion, corporate getaway, or a themed event, Lulu’s Repose is the perfect location to create a successful get-together. Just 30 minutes from the summer bustle of Parry Sound, the 7-acre private forested location on quiet Ahmic Lake can be your home for a winter weekend, spring or fall break, or a lazy summer vacation on the water. “Walk-in” swimmers will enjoy the sandy beach and shallow walkout while divers have the option of much deeper water at the end of the dock. The cottage is situated on approximately 7 acres of unspoiled hardwood forest with about 300’ of private waterfront. The cottage is a one-of-a-kind, custom designed, hand-crafted timber frame structure. The 4800 square foot home features five bedrooms and four bathrooms to accommodate 12-14 overnight guests.

8. Easterbrook Farm House, Price Edward County – This charming farmhouse is a year round retreat located in a quiet rural area close to tranquil Point Petre and only 10 minutes from the Sandbanks Provincial Park. Easterbrook Farmhouse accommodates up to 10 guests, with three bedrooms plus a loft bedroom in the main house and an additional bedroom in the bunkie. Equipped with a BBQ, fire pit and a Sandbanks beach pass, this cottage has everything you need for a relaxing getaway.

9. Benoir Beach, Haliburton - Benoir Beach cottage boasts a huge stone fireplace, beautiful wood floors and hand crafted pine cabinets. You’ll enjoy all the comforts of home that comes fully equipped and includes three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and the added luxury of a private sauna. With ample space for your family and friends, the cottage can accommodate groups of up to 10 people, with sleeping quarters for 9 in the main cottage and 3 in the separate bunkie. Situated on a superior waterfront property, Benoir Beach cottage features a large stretch of golden sand beach and clean, clear water for great swimming. Surrounded by majestic pines and outstanding western exposure, this is a perfect location for watching beautiful sunsets. Nestled on Benoir Lake, in the Haliburton Highlands of Ontario, Canada, the cottage rests on the outskirts of the southern tip of Ontario’s Algonquin Park and is located just 25-30 minutes from both Haliburton and Bancroft.

Related Posts

Destination Restaurants in Rural Ontariophoto above features a Pattyshack Wednesday Burger from The Combine

16 Destination Restaurants in Rural Ontario

Looking for a great road trip idea? Feeling like taking off for the day and heading to eat somewhere memorable? Well have we found some places for you! Check out these unforgettable dining experiences just waiting for you to discover in rural Ontario. You may be wondering just exactly what a destination restaurant is? Well, in our books, it’s a restaurant that makes you want to jump in to your car for a drive just to check it out. Or, a destination restaurant could be the kind of place that you organize an entire trip around. Sometimes it the special menu, or a certain atmosphere, or sometimes something you’ve heard that makes you just want to find out what everybody’s talking about. Here are 16 Ruralist approved destination restaurants that are sure to surprise and delight you when you visit.

Southeastern Ontario

Bistro 54, Perth - This adorable tiny 36 seat bistro is family owned and operated. Locally, Bistro 54 is legendary for its excellent Italian menu. An extensive homemade pasta menu and savoury meat menu will boggle your mind. This dining destination does not take reservations, rather has two dinner seatings: 5:00 and 7:00 p.m.

Wilno Tavern, Wilno - Nestled in the gentle hills of the Madawaska Valley, on the eastern edge of Algonquin Park, the Wilno Tavern Restaurant has been offering exceptional hospitality for over 100 years. This historic pub features hearty Polish fare, celebrating the heritage of Wilno’s early pioneer families, as well as a traditional Canadian menu. The tavern is equally famous for vibrant entertainment – Tuesday Nite Blues Jam, as well as rock, country, jazz or folk bands on weekends. The traditional Polish Food Buffet, served every Saturday and Sunday from May to October, features jumbo pierogies and cabbage rolls made in their kitchens, as well as pickled herring (sledzie), polish sausage and sauerkraut, spiced red cabbage plus much more!

Southwestern Ontario

The Combine, Simcoe - Owners Ryan and Jennifer have built a restaurant in their home. The Combine menu is built with local bounty and the restaurant features a handmade brick oven and lovely garden and patio. This Norfolk county favourite is a known for their ‘back yard to table’ cuisine coming right from their own garden.  It’s hard to describe the charm and atmosphere in words, you just have to experience it for yourself!

The Church Restaurant and Belfry, Stratford - Enjoy a fine dining experience in a beautifully renovated church. The Church Restaurant takes great pride in the quality of the dining experience and has received the coveted Four Diamond award from AAA/CAA for the past nine years. The Chef’s approach to modern French cuisine accents subtle flavours. His creative flair and the use of finest local and international ingredients is an adventure in itself. The a la carte menu evolves seasonally taking advantage of the abundant supply of local artisan farmers produce. PLEASE NOTE: As of June 2015 The Church restaurant is under new ownership and will be closed for renovations. It is an extraordinary venue and we’re eager to hear your reviews of the new Revival House.

Thyme on 21, Goderich - Enjoy a casual dining atmosphere in a historic home in Goderich. Thyme on 21 is your destination for good food and excellent service. With a menu that is distinctly their own, Thyme on 21 presents mouth-watering steak, lobster and souffle in a way that will have you coming back for more. We love the rustic yet refined atmosphere of the restaurant that is divided in several intimate dining rooms to allows guests a peaceful and private atmosphere.

sixthirtynine, Woodstock - Located at 639 Peel St., sixthirtynine is a 30 seat restaurant which offers a local seasonal menu as well as Chef’s table and tasting menu’s available upon request. Intimate and intensely fresh, this restaurant is a true destination in Oxford County. sixthirtynine does not have a website, but you can find them on Facebook here.

Lord Elgin’s Fish and Chips, Port Elgin – Made from Grandpa Verral’s 1955 secret batter recipe, a family secret for over 50 years, Lord Elgin’s Fish and Chips is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. Lord Elgin Fish & Chips was recently voted one of Canada’s Best Fish & Chips in a nation wide survey by Canadian Living in 2013. With a commitment to making over 90% of their products, including the coleslaw, tartar sauce and famous chowder, fresh from scratch remains a constant. Lord Elgin’s Fish and Chips aims to simply make the best Fish & Chip experience in the land.

Georgian Triangle

Hasai, Singhampton - Featuring dim-sum and wood-fired pizza, Haisai is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday for lunch and dinner. Eigensenn farm is the primary source of ingredients for Haisai dishes along with the bounty from the waters and forests of Georgian Bay and the Niagara Escarpment. Haisai uses locally raised and foraged ingredients as much as possible. Whether stinging nettle & potato soup, Eigensinn Farm pork Gyoza or wood fired pizza, their dishes feature seasonal flavors and textures both familiar and strange. At Haisai, the process of raising, growing and sourcing, fresh, local and organic ingredients, converting them into fine cuisine and serving it in reasonably priced dishes is their passion. As unique as the food, so too is the atmosphere of the restaurant. The interior and exterior are constructed and decorated using found and recycled materials. Every stick of furniture is unique and individually constructed by Michael Stadtlander and his friends.

Bruce Wine Bar and Kitchen, Thornbury - Bruce Wine Bar Kitchen is a unique eatery with an award-winning wine list and a Feast Ontario designation for a focus on sustainable, quality food, crafted in-house. You will also find a full-scale restaurant with seasonal menus, the best Neapolitan-style pizza north of the GTA, and on Fridays an impressive roster of independent Canadian musicians not to be missed! Tucked away in the alley behind the TD Bank, this unique eatery features two venues in one.

Alphorn Restaurant, Collingwood - If you enjoy a fun family atmosphere then you simply MUST check this place out! Entering the Alphorn Restaurant is like taking a mini vacation to the heart of the swiss alps. Everything about this restaurant is authentic. Located on highway 26 halfway between the town of Collingwood and the Blue Mountain Ski Resort, their specialty is wienerschnitzel. Also very popular is their cheese and beef fondue, trout, chicken, steaks, and traditional Swiss appetizers such as raclette, buednerfleisch, and hearts of palm salad. The Alphorn has been at this location since the early 1980s and has become a local landmark over the years, made especially famous by their unique birthday celebrations. I’m fairly sure you’ll find out what that’s all about on your first visit.

Ted’s Range Road Diner, Meaford - Get ready for a wild game bonanza at Ted’s Range Road Diner. From elk, venison, caribou and quail to emu and bison, they have a fantastic selection that will be sure to impress you. No need for a menu as everything is posted on blackboards on the walls along with the prices. Head to Ted’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner or enjoy the bands that play every Wednesday – they even offer free cab rides back to Meaford! This restaurant is all about good food and fun and we think it’s a fantastic road trip destination.

Mono Cliffs Inn, Mono CentreMono Cliffs Inn has built a solid reputation as a “treasure in the country”, “worth the drive” and “favourite spot for family celebrations”. In addition to their customers’ wonderful words, the Cliffs has received several awards and commendations from across the region, including Trip Advisor and Headwaters Tourism. Situated in one of the most scenic stretches of the Bruce Trail, next to the Mono Cliffs Provincial Park the Inn has become a mecca for lovers of food and Australian Wines. Chef Van de Hock is dedicated to the local food movement and creates his menus by season and availability of local products. He is proud to serve up only the freshest made from scratch items on the ever-changing chalkboard menu. He relies on local farmers, producers and the Mono Cliffs own farm just up the road to provide the best local ingredients available by season.

The Tremont Cafe, Collingwood – Open for brunch, lunch and dinner, The Tremont Cafe was a recommended “must-do” restaurant by a trusted foodie friend a few years ago. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed! What makes this restaurant a destination is their weekend brunch, featuring classic french fare as well as their beautiful dinner menu. You will also find the building as delightful as the food, the beautiful crisp white restaurant interior makes your dining experience feel completely transportive and the street view in the front is a lovely place to watch the world go by. People are known to rave about the burgers here, so I would suggest you give them a try. Tremont Cafe is featured as our post image for this Ruralist story.

Golden Horseshoe

Benchmark Restaurant, Niagara-on-the-Lake – Do you want to try something new? If so, Benchmark is just the place for you! This student run restaurant is part of the Niagara College Culinary school and serves gourmet fare in their 100 seat fine dining teaching restaurant. Every Saturday evening the students and chefs prepare a special Four Course Table D’Hote Menu for only $50 +taxes and gratuities – the students will also pair each course with NC Wine for an additional $15 per person +taxes and gratuities. If you go for lunch try the “Trust Us” menu, which features the chef’s daily selection, and is presented to diners as a surprise. We’re certain you will not be disappointed! Reservations are definitely recommended.

Lake House Restaurant, Vineland - Fine dining in an old Niagara home with views of Lake Ontario, with fireplace in its main room, or tables in its sunroom or outdoor patio. The Lake House Restaurant features European Mediterranean cuisine, including such specialties as gourmet, thin-crust pizzas, magnificent risotto and pasta dishes as well as the signature Prime Rib and rack of lamb. Originally, the government granted the land where Lake House currently stands to Colonel J. Butler for his contribution to the war. The Moyer family purchased the property in 1862 and built what is now known as Lake House Restaurant in 1867. Much of the natural charm of the house has been maintained with all of its original woodwork, exposed brick and three fireplaces still intact. A beautiful sunroom has been added onto the house, overlooking the lake. Lake House was said to have been one of the first stops for the ‘Underground Railway’ for slaves escaping from the United States to Canada. The slaves were fed and hidden here until they could be sent to safer areas. Enjoy spectacular views of Lake Ontario from the picturesque dining room.

Memphis Fire BBQ, Winona - Professionally trained Chefs Steve and Lori Popp bring together great southern barbeque, 50′s drive-in classics, regional and international comfort food greats created with integrity, passion, care – and all made from scratch! Memphis Fire Barbeque Company offers fresh hot barbeque classics like pulled pork sandwiches, brisket entrees, and the best burgers known to man, including their famous “Sneaky Cheese”. From real hard ice cream milkshakes, authentic fountain floats, and coney fries, Memphis Fire Barbeque Company is sure to please not only the children, but bring back fond memories to the young at heart.

**Post image features Tremont Cafe in Collingwood

Related Posts

  • mark law - Good article… though I am wondering why the Fireside Cafe (Highway 4 between Wingham and Belgrave) is not on the list. World class food in a rural setting – best of both worlds!


  • Rachel - I would add under Southwestern Ontario category The Warrington in Listowel, ON!ReplyCancel

    • Sarah Koopmans - Thank you for those suggestions, Mark and Rachel! This won’t be the last Ruralist collection of excellent Ontario eateries, so we will definitely keep those two in mind for next time.ReplyCancel

  • Kate - A great place that’s not been included on this list is Bread and Water Bistro in Chelsey! It’s a fantastic little Italian place right in the center of town, incredible food and great service in a casual and comfortable environment! If you’re in the Port Elgin area it’s a restaurant you must check out!!ReplyCancel

  • Alison - You should check out the Erie Belle Restaurant in Kincardine, Ontario. The best fish and chips on the shores of Lake Huron. Great food, great views of the lake and the sunsets.ReplyCancel

  • Mike - Been fortunate to try many of your recommendations & those I have tried deserve your posting. Hard to post all the great finds but Rosina in the Town of Saugeen Shores provides fresh food including fresh pasta & local flavours including local wine & beer selections. Great spot for casual fine dinning & new owners work to please all types of customers!ReplyCancel

  • Kathleen - Bistro 54 in Perth does not take reservations! Excellent choice & our present favourite ! They have 2 sittings for dinner, 5 & 7.ReplyCancel

    • Sarah Koopmans - Thanks, Kathleen! Our post has been updated to reflect that information.ReplyCancel

  • Heather Herman - The Church in Stratford has new owners and will re open softly as Revival House!! It will be amazing!!!ReplyCancel

  • Anita - love this list – curious why “the barn” in exeter didn’t make the list?ReplyCancel

  • Anonymous - Hey Ladies, just an FYI that The Church Restaurant and Belfry is reopening in June as The Revival House – all newly renovated -looks like it will be beautiful.

    Thanks again for this wonderful website, always enjoy reading it!ReplyCancel

  • Rob - One of my favorite spots in Niagara is the Honsberger Estate bistro with there wood oven pizzas and there lamb spadinni’s.

    Bon a Petite