Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Exploring Ontario’s West Coast: Goderich, Ontario

People tend to want to see all that the wide world has to offer. In doing so, however, they can forget about seeing their own country; the surrounding cities, towns and landscapes that make up their own backyard. I live in Ontario, a huge province in Canada that has many different offerings including massive cities, small towns, rugged tundra, vast forests, the Canadian Shield, watersheds and much, much more. I always like to take a bit of time whenever I can to explore all that Ontario has to offer. Each summer, one of my favourite places to visit with a carload of great friends is Goderich, located on Ontario's west coast.

View of the harbour of Goderich
View of the harbour
Located about three hours from Toronto (four hours if there is traffic, which there always seems to be), Goderich is a quaint little town with a lot of history, a booming salt mining industry and a whole lot of beauty. In fact, it was deemed to be one of Canada’s prettiest towns by Queen Elizabeth II which led to the creation of their motto: Canada’s Prettiest Town.

Upon arrival you are greeted into the community with an octagon town square oozing with small town charm.  The courthouse sits proudly in its centre surrounded by local businesses and shops. We recall it looking similar to the 1950’s version of Hill Valley, the town featured in the Back to the Future movies. If you are a fan of architecture and house design, then Goderich will be worth your drive. Every street has incredibly beautiful homes; some of the more prominent ones still featuring original horse rails and ties in front of the properties. There are also a variety of parkettes that feature stories and monuments hearkening back to the town's former life.

A view of Goderich lighthouse.
Goderich Lighthouse built in 1847
On our last visit, our home for the weekend was located minutes from one of the town's best attractions, the three beaches. Main Beach, St. Christopher’s Beach and Rotary Cove Beach are all in walking distance of each other, but all offer a slightly different experience. Main beach is the closest to the harbour activity, so it is a great spot to chill and watch massive ships load up with salt, tug boats roaming around the waters; or simply catch the waves crashing in. St. Christopher’s beach is definitely the family spot. Playgrounds, pavilions, BBQ pits and more make this area more suitable for families or larger groups. There are also rock piers to sit on and soak up the views. Rotary Cove is the furthest of the three beaches but offers a quieter beach experience; better for smaller groups or couples.

Beach in Goderich
The almighty beach! Just one of the few reasons to visit Goderich
You can explore the town by foot to get some hidden views of Lake Huron and come across some gems like the Goderich Lighthouse. Built in 1847 this lighthouse is not of a typical build. It is short and squared off, but because it is situated on a bluff it does its job just fine. Located by the lighthouse are steps that lead down the bluff to St. Christopher’s beach. Goderich lore says you can watch the sun set twice here; once down at the beach and again after climbing up the stairs to the top of the bluff. I didn’t get to test this claim out, but would gladly go back and try.

View of Lake Huron through trees
Hard to believe this is Ontario! A view of Lake Huron from a park in Goderich
Beauty aside, what is a place without food and drink? The town has your typical fare of McDonalds, Subway, etc., but we have found a few gems along the way. The Park House restaurant is located at the top of the road leading to the beach. Here you will find a killer patio with great views. They serve normal pub fare menu, but also offer fish from the lake.

View of an older home in Goderich.
John in front of one of the beautiful old style homes you can find in Goderich
Preserving history by converting an old rail station into a restaurant is exactly what the Beach Street Station Restaurant did. While offering up a more high-end menu than the other restaurants, it still manages to stay on a budget friendly price point. It also happens to be a focal point of St. Christopher’s Beach and offers great views of the lake.

Situated in the heart of the town square is a little shop called Cravings. Its name is exactly on par with what they offer, the treats you crave. Be sure to stop by and try out one of their 43 ice cream flavours or some homemade treats.

Goderich is just one of many places along Ontario’s west coast that are worthy of a visit, but with its small town charm; beautiful homes and parks; quiet and friendly atmosphere and top notch beaches, you may just want to make it your first.


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