Elora is a historic town located in Wellington County in Ontario. Elora is known for outdoor adventures like tubing, kayaking, camping and relaxing in the gorgeous countryside. This little town makes for an excellent day trip option from Toronto – located only 1.50 hours away. Read about all the fun things to do in Elora Gorge Conservation Area in this post.
Elora has had a long legacy to its fame. The site of Elora came to light when a British official who was posted in Ontario bought land situated near the Grand River. He worked in India prior to moving to Canada and was inspired by the Ellora caves in Maharashtra, India. After discovering this site, he named it “Elora”. According to official records, Elora was founded in 1892 by Captain William Gilkison.
Over the years a mill, bridge and many other settlements sprung here and slowly interest in this area grew. Today Elora and the nearby town of Fergus forms apart of Wellington County and the site is regulated by the Grand River Parks Authority.
Things to do in Elora Gorge Conservation Area
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Only a short drive trip from Toronto, you can indulge in outdoor activities and explore the Elora Gorge, conservation area, the town centre and can even camp overnight at one of their sites. Read our Toronto Itinerary Guide
As Elora is also a historic town, it is worth exploring and wandering through the town for a few hours before immersing into the fine gorge.
Elora Town Center
Elora town center is recognized as a historic center. The Ontario heritage sites had recognized the site in 1995. Since then efforts have been made to restore and preserve a lot of the historical characteristics of the town.
The town center is a perfect place for some shopping, go on tours, admiring the town’s history or enjoying the arts. The Elora Centre for the Arts is located here as well.
A 5 storeyed mill in Elora was the most historical remnant of the past. The site was later transformed to a hotel. After being closed for closed to a decade, a luxury – Elora Mill Inn and Spa – was opened last year to invite visitors into the area.
Elora Mill Inn and Spa makes for an awesome romantic getaway, only a few hours away from Toronto. BOOK YOUR STAY AT THE ELORA MILL INN AND SPA
Wellington County Museum and Archives
The Wellington County Museum and Archives is a National Historic Site. The museum is located in a building which is considered as the oldest remaining House of Industry in Canada. Originally the building was used as a “Poor House” or place of refuge for the poor and homeless people in the Wellington County. It continued to operate as such until 1947 (started in 1877) when it became a County Home for the Aged and later transformed into the Wellington County Museum and Archives. Today you can see exhibits and it is also a research centre.
They are open weekdays from 09:30 am to 4:30 pm and weekends from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
Elora Cinema Hall
Elora Cinema hall has the title of being the oldest operating cinema hall in Canada.
Elora Gorge Conservation Area
Elora Conversation area consists of the beautiful Elora Gorge and the Grand River. Elora Gorge is pretty steep and makes for stunning views with the Grand River cutting through it. Gorge is located at the edge of the town.
There are tons of activities that you can indulge at the conservation area.
To enjoy your time at the conservation area, ensure you are packing the following items
- Hiking shoes/boots – To enjoy the Elora Gorge hiking trails, it is recommended that you use hiking boots. Buy hiking shoes from Backcountry.com here
- Hiking socks – Hiking socks are equally important to protect your feet. Choose one that has breathable and moisture licking fabric. Buy your hiking socks here.
- Hiking Poles – Certain areas of the trail pathway are uneven, use hiking poles.Buy hiking poles here.
- Daypack – We recommend carrying a daypack to store your gear and clothes when you enjoy the outdoors especially if you will be swimming or tubing. Buy this hiking daypack that is trusted by many
- Light waterproof jacket – Evenings could get a little chilly and if you are camping overnight, do carry a waterproof jacket. Here are our favorites
- Water bottle – There are many streams at the Elora Gorge from where you can fill water for the day hike. We recommend using something with an in-built filter. Buy water bottle with filter here
- Sunscreen – Sunscreens are a must. Buy my favourite Vichy sunscreen with SPF
- Bug spray – Click here to buy bug sprays for your trip
- First Aid Kit – Carry a standard first aid kit for minor bruises or cuts. Buy a first aid kit for your trip here
- Hat – Carry an instagrammable hat to capture wonderful memories at the Gorge. Also use it for sun protection. Buy your instagrammable hat here
- Shorts – Carry extra pair of shorts with you for tubing or for after swim. Buy your shorts here
- Swim swear (quarry) – OMG! You will love the limestone quarry for a swim. Carry a swimsuit if you are visiting during summer for a swim. Buy this gorgeous swimwear here
- Waterproof cell phone case – If you must carry your phone with you (while tubing), keep it safe with this waterproof cell phone pouch. Buy a waterproof pouch here
- Go Pro 7 – To capture some of the amazing moments from tubing or at the Elora quarry, carry a Go Pro 7. Buy your Go Pro 7 here (Find the top digital cameras under $300 including the Go Pro 7)
- Picnic blanket (quarry) – If not swimming, carry a picnic blanket for day use or for picnicking at the quarry. Buy this sturdy, anti tear picnic blanket
- Floatation devices (quarry) – Buy these trendy floaties for the quarry
- Tent (if camping overnight) – Carry a tent for overnight camping. Don’t forget to make reservations ahead of time. More on that below. Buy this waterproof tent here
- Sleeping bag (if camping overnight) – Buy your sleeping bag here
Day use area and picnic
With tons of lush greenery around and gushing river sounds, you can find your peace at the Elora Park. There are designated day use park areas where you can picnic and wander through the green space for the day.
As you walk through, you will find signs and boards depicting the story of how the conservation area including the small town of Elora had evolved over the centuries.
The adult entry fee for day use is $7 CAD.
Overnight camping is not the only option, if you wish here for the night. Check out Elora Mills Inn and Spa for a luxurious night’s stay in the lap of nature.
Go hiking – Elora Gorge Hiking
Elora Gorge has hiking trails of low to medium difficulty. The trails take you through the conservation area, where you can also view the Grand River gushing through. There are tons of scenic spots on the way, ultimately leading to the falls. Trails along the banks of the Irvine rive (and at the junction of the Irvine and the Grand rivers) are stunning to capture the absorb the beauty of the conservation area.
Hiking shoes and poles are recommended. Always use the designated hiking pathways while exploring. Trails are operational from April to October. It is open for snow-shoeing during winters.
SHOP HIKING GEAR
Elora Gorge Tubing
One of the fun activities to do in Elora Gorge is tubing on the Grand River and soaking in the beauty of the conservation area and its towering cliffs. Tubing activities starts in late June and continues up till the Labour Day long weekend in September.
The tubing route is a 2 kilometre stretch of adventure on the Grand River. You will experience amazing natural formation of the Gorge and white waters. One thing to keep in mind is that there are no exit points in between the 2 km route. So if you start, you got to finish!
The Elora Conservation area has tubing equipment that you can rent. Or you can also bring your own tubing gear. You will have to store your valuables in your car before you start your adventure.
A life jacket and other personal floatation device is provided and you will have to sign a waiver form. It is recommended that you wear the helmet at all times, including secured footwear. Tubing activity occurs in natural up stream water and the river has huge rocks in it. Exercise caution while tubing. I found myself pushing through these rocks to stay floating/flowing to reach the exist area.
At the end of the tubing route, you will have to walk back to the car parking area.
Keep in mind there are no life guards or patrol officers in the area. Although tubing activity in itself is pretty safe (they will not allow tubing when river is not calm or safe), but I had heck of a time trying to reach back to the rental office to deposit my equipment (also the place where cars are packed).
It was quite a LONG and a lonely hike.
Tubing Rental fees: A tubing package costs $25 (includes helmet and personal flotation device). To use the helmet and other PFD a small deposit is required.
Overnight Elora Gorge camping
The Elora Conservation area has seasonal campsites that are open for use from May 01 to mid of October every year. There are 200 un-serviced sites and about 150 sites have hydro and water. All of these sites are regulated by the Grand River Parks.
You can reserve camp sites ahead of time. For all reservations, a non-refundable $13 CAD charge is to be paid. They offer different types of sites – namely standard and premium. Premium sites are larger then standard ones and have quick access to basic amenities water and the river. Nightly fees range from $39 CAD to $48 CAD – standard to premium sites.
Fire pits are scattered throughout the campground for use.
Probably one of the stunning oasis that is located so close to the city of Toronto is the Elora Quarry. Tucked between the towns of Elora and Fergus, this beautiful quarry with the rugged surroundings makes for dreamy moments.
The quarry is enclosed by 19th century limestone structures. Although the quarry is closed, it is open for swimming and light water activities. You can also picnic or sun bathe here. There is a one kilometre trail that loops the quarry which is also great for a quick hike before hitting the waters.
Diving into the swimming holes from the cliffs is not permitted.
If you head there before June, which is before the peak tourist season, you might find the quarry to yourself. The water in the quarry is cold up until summer time, so it’s not recommended for a swim, but you can picnic in the area. Check the website for quarry’s open dates.
Day Pass: A day pass costs $10 CAD. The best time to visit the Elora Quarry is from late June to early September at this hours 10:00 am to 08:00 pm weekdays (weekends they open at 11:00 am).
For the quarry, ensure that you carry sunblock, swim wear, picnic blanket, umbrella, floatation devices and a nice book!
Other noteworthy things to see in Elora
- Puzzle Rooms Fergus – Centre Wellington’s Amazing Award Winning Puzzle Rooms & Events is a MUST visit for puzzle lovers. You can solve puzzles inside incredible themed environments. Only open Thursday to Sunday until 09:00 pm.
- Elora Festivals and Singers – If you are in Elora village in mid July, you can attend the Flora Festivals and singers – a music fest that has been organised for the past 4 decades. More on the festival here
- Grand River Raceway – Grand River Raceway is unique place to enjoy horse racing, dining and entertainment in the village of Elora. Horse racing occurs in summer months, but the river raceway is open all year.
- Elora Cataract Trail – Elora Cataract Trail is a 47 kilometre trailway that links the Credit Valley Watershed to the Grand River Watershed and communities along the way. There are many side trails of around 1 kilometre that you can enjoy.
We spent a lot of time at the Elora Gorge and quarry. Hope to return back one day to explore more of the hidden gems in the Village of Elora
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Last Update: July 12 2019