One of the many small villages in rural Ontario is Elora, located along the gorgeous Grand River in Southern Ontario. It’s a charming destination for a day trip from Toronto. There are so many things to do in Elora Ontario, for every type of traveller. One of the famous Group of Seven painters, A.J. Casson, called Elora “Ontario’s Most Beautiful Village.” I have to agree, and at some point, I was even beginning to feel like I was in a small town in Italy.
If you love the outdoors, there are parks and extreme activities like river tubing, zip-lining, and hiking. For the shopaholic, you’ll love the authentic, original Mom & Pop shops in the Elora downtown area – trust us, these days, it’s all about supporting local businesses. Our foodie friends have numerous places to eat, from fine dining to cute cafes. Lastly, if you love art, you can visit several galleries or make your own art at one of the many art classes.
No matter why you’re visiting Elora, you’ll find something to do!
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Elora Town History
- Elora is known for its 19th-century limestone construction and the Elora Gorge.
- The first visitors were Roman Catholic missionaries who arrived in the 1600s. They attempted to turn the Indigenous People into Christians.
- The early European settlers arrived in 1817
- Born in Ayrshire, Scotland, Captain William Gilkison bought 14,000 acres and chose the area near the Grand River’s falls as the location for Elora.
- Mr. Gilkison named the village after his brother’s ship, which the Ellora Caves inspired in Maharashtra, India – A World Heritage Site.
- The Elora Mill – A five-storey grist mill that was built in 1832. In the 1970s, it became the Elora Mill Inn. After a 27 million renovation, the Elora Mill Hotel and Spa opened in July 2018 and featured 30 rooms and a restaurant.
Where Is Elora, Ontario?
The Village of Elora is in the popular province of Ontario in Canada. Elora’s population is only just upwards of 3000 people, giving this small village a quaint and quiet atmosphere that if you’re like me will love that small-town feel. I’m still trying to understand Ontario’s confusing makeup of towns, townships, counties, regions and municipalities so forgive me. What I do know is that Elora is located in the township of Centre Wellington in Ontario’s, Wellington County. The Township of Centre Wellington also includes the Town of Fergus and the Townships of Nichol, Pilkington, West Garafraxa, and part of Eramosa.
Elora to Toronto
A day trip from Elora to Toronto will take you just over ninety minutes on the road, depending on if you take your car, rent a car or catch a ride on the bus. You can also catch the train to Elora from Toronto. You can read below about the train and bus schedules to and from Elora.
Parking In Elora
Parking is free on all city streets. Finding prime parking spots during the summer can be harder than finding them during the rest of the year.
Taking public transportation to Elora is quite a challenge. Greyhound buses do run there, but very infrequently and, if coming from Toronto, you would have to wait for a transfer bus in Guelph.
Elora is such a small town; thus, bus service is quite limited. You can buy a bus ticket at Busbuster to reach Guelph. The earliest trip is around 6:45 am which will take about an hour and twenty-five minutes to get to Guelph.
From Elora to Guelph, you may book your bus ride online or reach them here at 1-855-566-2378. The earliest departure time is around 10 am and there may only be one bus per day – this is usually the case. Due to the COVID19 crisis, it is always best to ask Kasper Transportation for the updated arrival and departure schedule.
Trains run from Toronto to Guelph, but you would have to wait for the bus to Elora. You may buy your ticket via Train Buster. There are currently three schedules of departure: 8:18 am, 4:02 pm, and 4:19 pm. Booking the earliest time for departure means you’ll have to pay the highest amount compared to the other two afternoons.
The train trip from Toronto to Guelph takes about an hour.
Places To Eat In Elora
Elora is filled with charming little places to dine out, from cute breakfast and coffee shops to the more refined local inn restaurants. I’ve covered the best breakfast, lunch, and dinner places in Elora to help you find the best dining experience, so let’s start with breakfast.
Breakfast in Elora
Looking for an excellent spot to grab a continental breakfast or an elaborate a la carte menu with all your favourite morning meal options? Read up on some of our favourite breakfast spots in Elora below:
The Lost and Found Cafe
The Lost and Found Cafe showcases a European vibe in Elora. This cafe is an excellent stop if you visit for a hike around Elora Gorge because they’re near each other. For health-conscious guests, they have organic, gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options.
The coffee they serve is some of the best in Ontario. You have three options to hang out here: an outdoor area, an indoor space, and a cute loft with a shelf full of books. According to previous customers, the most recommended order here is gluten-free quiche, matcha latte in almond milk, and the smoked salmon bagel.
The Wild Tart
The Wild Tart is a European patisserie offering the finest cafe-style dining, exquisite afternoon teas, bubbles, cocktails, and a daily take-out counter to startup your day, located in the heart of beautiful Elora. After enjoying Elora Gorge Falls, it may be an excellent idea to visit this restaurant.
They also offer a full vegan afternoon tea option, including finger sandwiches, cakes, and pastries. If you’re looking for an authentic European cafe with a beautiful patio and indoor space, this is the place to be.
Address: 61 Metcalfe St, Elora, Centre Wellington, Ontario N0B 1S0 Canada
Website | Facebook | Contact Number: (226) 384-8278
Price Range: $$-$$$
Sun: 10am-5pm | Mon-Tue: Closed | Wed-Thu: 12pm-5pm | Fri-Sat: 10am-8pm
The Elora Cafe
A little further up the main street from the Elora downtown is The Elora Cafe. It’s difficult to miss it with its bright yellow sign. Grab a Montreal Bagal or Avacado Toast to go along with your coffee, or grab a Vegan Wrap or Avacado Turkey Bacon sandwich to take with you on your hike.
Despite the name Eric, which may be reckless, their coffee, food and catering services are not. The baristas will pour you a cup of one of their four fair trade organic coffee, loose leaf teas, local beer or a signature cocktail. Beer and cocktails in the morning? Well, hell, it’s Wreckless Eric.
Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, the chef makes everything from scratch. Using only the best, fresh ingredients and products, the food can be described as “a new twist on old classics” – Bowls, Burritos, Salads and Gluten-free Treats.
Address: 90 Metcalfe st. Elora, Ontario N0B 1S0
Website | Contact Number: (226) 369-0261
Mon – Fri: 6-4 | Sat-Sun: 8-4
Elora Things To Do Outdoors
The Grand River cuts through Elora like a knife. On one end you can walk along the river’s edge, then further down the river has gouged out the rock to make a steep gorge. There are spots you can do some rock climbing and even ice climbing in the winter.
Bissell Park is a small city park in Elora, Ontario, near the banks of the Grand River. It is home to the annual Riverfest music festival and the weekly Elora Farmers Market. The park features a large wooden boardwalk that extends along the length of the park and contains a playground, picnic tables, and benches.
Elora Centre Green Space & The Tall Man Statue
This tiny park in the middle of a bustling street corner (Metcalfe and West Mill Street) wasn’t always a park. In fact, it was once a gas station. With its big shady trees and Muskoka chairs, this sanctuary is the perfect place to take a break from shopping, grab a sweet snack, or people watch. There are several interesting sculptures here but The Tall Man sculpture was created by artist Scott McNichol, and its actually named, “Who’s in Charge”.
What To Do In Elora? Elora Gorge Activities
Despite its small population, there are plenty of things to do in Elora, from cultural attractions to farmers’ markets. Now that breakfast is out of the way it’s time to explore so of Elora’s gorgeous nature. You can read on below to find breakdowns of the best of Elora’s attractions.
Elora Gorge Lookout | Victoria Park
The Elora Gorge Lookout is one of the most visited spots in the town of Elora. The gorge is pretty steep and makes for stunning views with the Grand River cutting through it. Elora Gorge’s activities include tubing, camping, hiking, and swimming.
Overlooking scenic views provide hikers with the stunning sight of the water far below where kayakers and tubers make their way through the rapids. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, some activities are not open to the public and the schedule is always changing.
Before visiting, it is recommended to contact them first for the most updated details regarding these.
Hiking In Elora: Elora Trails
Elora Gorge Trails
The Elora Gorge Trail: The Elora Gorge is simply gorgeous. One of the most beautiful, natural areas in the Grand River valley. The riverside trails and scenic overlooks from the 22-metre high cliffs will give you some stunning views, while down below, tubers and kayakers make their way through the rapids – we’ll talk about that after lunch.
The main highlight of this trail is the 20-metre waterfall that clings to limestone cliffs.
My friend Lauren from Ontario Hiking talks about the specific details regarding the Elora Gorge trail, like how to enter as part of the area is private property, a map, and pictures and highlights.
Lover’s Leap Trail: Commemorates a legendary Indian princess who is said to have leapt to her death after her lover was killed in battle.
Trestle Bridge Loop: is a 9-kilometre reasonably trafficked loop trail near Centre Wellington that features a river and is suitable for all skill levels. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on a leash.
Elora Cataract Trailway
The Elora Cataract Trailway has initially been the route of the Credit Valley Railway. The mainline was constructed in 1879 between Toronto and Orangeville. The branch line from Cataract to Elora was built at the same time.
Its 47-kilometre railway links the Grand and Credit watersheds and follows the old Canadian Pacific railroad bed. It runs through rolling countryside east of Elora, through the historic community of Fergus, and past Belwood Lake to the Forks of Credit Provincial Park at Cataract.
The Grand River Conservation Authority and the Credit Valley Conservation Authority own the trail.
Price: No Admission fee
Elora Cataract Trailway Trail Events: In addition, the Elora Cataract Trailway hosts many events on the trail, like the Elora Cataract Trailway Trail Workday at the Erin Station site.
The Elora Quarry Conservation Area: The Elora Quarry
This two-acre limestone quarry is encircled by magnificent cliffs up to 12 meters high. The tree-covered park has places to picnic, swim, hike, and enjoy nature. Note that alcohol and dogs are not allowed at this park. In order to lessen the environmental impact there is a maximum of 1,300 guests allowed; so make sure to arrive early before it gets crowded.
Elora Quarry History
The Elora Quarry has a rich history dating back to the early 1900s. A company called the Whitestone Lime Company started operations here when they began their limestone operations. In 1930, the lime became impure, leading to the quarry being abandoned by Whitestone, which moved to another site.
Today, the quarry is a popular destination in Ontario and a favourite amongst locals.
Address: 319 Wellington County Rd 18, Elora, ON N0B 1S0, Canada
Admission fee: $10.50
The Elora Gorge Conservation Area
The Campsites costs between $39 to $48 depending on the site. But if you’re not planning on camping, the conservation area is open from 8 am to sunset from May to October and costs $7.00 for the day.
One Axe Pursuits
Step out of your comfort zone and experience the historic town from a breathtakingly different perspective, either by zipline, rappel, or ice climbing! With programs for the complete beginner to the intermediate adventurer, they offer high-quality instructions for every participant level.
You don’t have to go to Everest for some excellent outdoor ice climbing. Jump off their 200-foot zipline and rappel 25 meters down the gorge in Elora, directly into Elora’s Grand River. Rappel straight out of their 20-meter high bell tower for an unforgettable experience.
Address: 24 Henderson St, Elora, ON N0B1S0
Elora Gorge Kayaking, Canoeing, Tubing & Rafting
Elora Paddle Company
Located in the heart of Elora, Elora Paddle Company offers fun and affordable canoe and kayak rentals that will take you along the beautiful Grand River. You can start your 45-minute paddle from their dock and head upstream along ancient limestone cliffs to the waterfall at the beautiful Bissell Park (mentioned above). Then head back to the dock, down the river with scenic views of the historic riverside buildings.
The gentle current makes for a relaxing paddle experience that’s good for all levels & abilities, and you can choose between one of the two sit-on-top kayaks or a canoe. All Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) and equipment are included, and they accept walk-ups, reservations, and all card payments.
Address: 11 East Mill Street, Elora, ON N0B 1S0
Monday-Thursday: 2:00pm to 8:00pm, Friday & Sunday 11:00am to 8:00pm, Saturday 10:00am to 8:00pm
Elora Rapids & Adventure Tours
Elora Rapids is a locally owned and operated family business that provides river tubing & kayaking rental equipment if you like outdoor activities. They also operate bicycle rentals/tours around Elora and the Elora Gorge.
Experience the Elora Gorge’s beauty and its towering cliffs as you float through its numerous rapids. Or head out for a leisurely bicycle tour throughout Elora’s charming downtown and along its trails and parks.
Address: 78 James St, Elora, ON N0B 1S0, Canada
Daily: (Weather Permitting) 10 am-6 pm
Elora Raft Rides
Elora Raft Rides offer guided boat rides such as starlight and musical cruises piloted by chauffeurs and accompanied by local talent. You can pretend to be a pioneer on Canada’s only RiverBug Raft Ride, a unique & award-winning Eco-Adventure.
Escorted by a Trip Guide, you will captain your RiverBug Raft and raft over 36 gentle rapids. On the journey, you’ll pass under four bridges, descend over five mini waterfalls, navigate around eight islands, explore two riverside ruins & discover 400-million-year-old Fossils.
Address: 38 W Mill St, Elora, ON N0B 1S0, Canada
Mon, Wed, & Fri: Closed | Tue, Thu & Sat: 8:30am-6:30pm
Elora Mill Restaurant
Elora Mill is one of the best restaurants in this town, serving delicious regional Ontarian cuisine. The best spot in this restaurant is undoubtedly the one that provides an incredible view of Elora Gorge. While you eat, you may also notice the river’s sound running by like waves to your ears.
That’s why it’s not a surprise that this restaurant was Top Chef Canada’s filming location from the past season. Elora Mill is a fancy restaurant offering a menu that changes per season, owned by Elora Mill Hotel & Spa.
Address: 77 West Mill Street, Elora, Centre Wellington, Ontario N0B 1S0 Canada
The Friendly Society
The Friendly Society is a British-style restaurant and bar with a cozy, modern vibe, that serves soups, sandwiches, beers and more. It also has a large patio that overlooks the Grand River.
Address: 102-8 Mill St W, Elora, Centre Wellington, Ontario N0B 1S0 Canada
Open Tue-Sun: 12pm-11pm
The Evelyn is a French-inspired restaurant with outstanding, novel and delicious cuisine (with vegetarian options) and a charming atmosphere. It’s a little pricey but well worth the experience.
Address: 130 Metcalfe St, Elora, Centre Wellington, Ontario N0B 1S0 Canada
LaFontana is known for serving a delicious selection of homemade, fresh pasta and sauces and their traditional Neapolitan wood-oven baked pizza.
They’re very passionate about local, sustainable, and seasonal food. If you’re the romantic type, they have additional lawn seating by the river.
Address: 15 Mill St E, Elora, Centre Wellington, Ontario N0B 1S0 Canada
Sun: 11:30am-7pm | Tue-Thu: 5pm-9pm | Fri-Sat: 11:30am-3pm & 5pm-9pm
Sweet Distractions serves ice cream, gelato, and chocolate, as well as retro candies, British candy, baked goods, and more! They have some great flavours as well as some great non-dairy options + incredible staff. If you’re like us and love sweets then this distraction might not be a good one 😉
Address: 16 Mill St W, Elora, ON N0B 1S0
Sun: 11:00am-7:00pm | Tue-Thu: 11:00am-7:00pm | Fri-Sat: 11:00am-8pm
What To Do In Elora
The picturesque lantern-lit courtyard of the Elora Mews shopping center at 45 Mill St. West, a 1-hour drive North-West of Toronto, is known for its historic stone buildings along the Grand River, unique shops and eateries, a lively art and music scene, giftware, vintage wares and fashions, incredible nature and hiking in the Gorge.
The patio and cafe tables in the Mews are a relaxing place for a break while shopping at the unique, surrounding boutiques.
Address: 45 W Mill St, Elora, ON N0B 1S0, Canada
Mon-Fri: 10am-6pm | Sat-Sun: 11am-5pm
The Wellington Museum and Archives
The Wellington County Museum and Archives is housed in the earliest surviving example of a Poor House (later called the House of Industry) in Canada, built in 1877. Now a National Historic Site, the Museum houses two floors of exhibits that tell Wellington County’s people, places, and events.
The Archives is a state-of-the-art, award-winning facility to research local, national, and international records. In addition, it’s not that far from another quaint town in Wellington County called Fergus. While it’s known for the Scottish Festival but there are a few things to do in Fergus that you’ll love.
Address: 536 Wellington Rd 18, Elora, Centre Wellington, Ontario N1M 2W3 Canada
Price: General admission by donation; fees for special events, programs, and guided tours may apply. Free parking is available.
Mon-Fri: 9:30am-4:30pm | Sat-Sun: 1pm-5pm
Elora Centre For The Arts
The Arts’s Elora Centre is located in a restored, three-story limestone schoolhouse in one of Ontario’s most picturesque villages. They have two gallery spaces where artist exhibitions are featured ongoing throughout the year.
In spring, summer, and fall, their gallery also features a pop-up gift shop with handmade artisan products. Throughout the year, live music performances and special events are hosted in the gallery or their yard. You can check the official website for upcoming events.
Address: 75 Melville St, Elora, ON N0B 1S0, Canada
Price: Admission to the gallery and pop up shop is free (by donation if you wish)
Mon-Tue: Closed | Wed-Sat: 11am-4pm | Sun: 12pm-4pm
Blown Away Glass Studio
Because of these charming small towns many artists, excellent hiking trails, natural beauty and old heritage, many travellers find their way to this glass blowing studio in Elora, established in 1999.
The creative team of Katherine and Tim McManus design and produce blown glass sculptures, chandeliers, awards, and decorative pieces for homes, offices, and galleries. You’ll enjoy viewing them at work in the Hotshop if you come while they’re blowing.
Tue-Fri: 10am-6pm | Sat: 10am-5pm | Sun: 10am-4pm
Elora Farmers Market
The Elora Farmers’ Market is a vibrant outdoor market throughout the summer season and a relaxing indoor market experience all winter long. The new walkthrough market will be at Bissell Park on Saturdays.
It is a quaint little market that, despite the size, has a good selection of local produce from fresh greens & vegetables to local beef, lamb, and farm-to-table produce.
Address: Bissell Park, 127 E Mill St, Elora, ON N0B 1S0, Canada
Price: Free Admission
Dinner In Elora
The quiet village of Elora provides a peaceful setting for an intimate dinner for two, or even a relaxing meal out with your friends and family. From pubs and grills to more upmarket bistros, here are some places to dine out in Elora at night:
The Cellar Pub
The Cellar Pub And Grill is a tiny place in the rear of the building with a lovely patio right on the Grand River. Other dishes worth ordering are prime rib, fish & chips, feta salad, calamari, and mussels.
Address: 13 Mill St, Elora, Centre Wellington, Ontario N0B 1S0 Canada
Elora Brewing Company
Elora Brewing Company is a local craft microbrewery serving rotating house drafts, a flight of beers & modern takes on classic comfort food. Surrounded by century-old heritage, The Elora Brewing Company provides an authentic craft beer experience, especially the IPA’s.
They also have lagers, stout, sour ale, and more. Elora Brewing Company has a beautiful stone facade and interiors. The building is tastefully decorated with exposed beams and stone, as well as adequate lighting throughout. There is also a lovely open garage door spot at the restaurant’s front, which looks on the street.
Address: 107 Geddes St, Elora, Centre Wellington, Ontario N0B 1S0 Canada
Sun: 11am-9pm | Mon-Thu: 11am-11pm | Fri-Sat: 11am-1am
Handsome Devil Bistro
The Handsome Devil Bistro is a casual, upbeat restaurant that values exceptional food created with quality, local ingredients. The heaters on the patio here make for a lovely extended outdoor season. Previous guests swear that they serve the best house smoke brisket and beef brisket sandwich.
Beer lovers don’t have to look farther because the Bistro has Ontario craft beer rotating on five taps right under the roof. The same is true for cocktail lovers – just tell the bartender what you like and be prepared to be impressed.
Address: 146 Metcalfe St, Elora, ON N0B 1S0, Canada
Mon-Tue: Closed | Wed-Sat: 11:30am-10pm | Sun: 11:30am-7pm
Where to Stay In Elora
There are some cozy, home-style inns in Elora, where you can enjoy a comfortable stay that feels like home. We’ve covered two of Elora’s best inns, which offer top-tier hospitality.
How Many Days Should I Spend in Elora?
With so many fun things to do in Elora, you can spend the entire day, or even a couple of days, here. Being such a short distance from Toronto the average amount of time spent in Elora is a day. However, should you want to stay longer we’ve added some great accommodations:
The Elora Mill Country Inn And Restaurant
The Elora Mill Country Inn & Restaurant is one of Ontario’s “Four Great Mills,” dating to the 19th century, promising a charmingly historic ambiance. It offers four-poster and canopy beds, antique trimmings, and hand-crafted amenities, etc.
The Village Inn
The Village Inn’s ground-level rooms offer sliding door walkouts to picnic benches and direct access to the outdoors. The extensive parking facilities allow multi vehicles and even large trucks to park at ease.
The Cheshire Cat Bed and Breakfast
Just a 5-minute walk from the Mill and Elora’s downtown shops and restaurants, The Cheshire Cat Bed and Breakfast is well located to serve your needs. It’s a traditional bed and breakfast with the owners residing on-site, along with their faithful dog, Scrumpy. Trip Advisor
Elora Ontario Upcoming Events
Elora Rivertown Festival
Rivertown Fest is one of the best annual Elora events and is a popular Ontario music festival, hosting Canadian acts such as Alice Merton, City & Colour, and Men Without Hats. There are three stages, each hosting numerous performers from a variety of genres.
This annual festival is ten years old and has hosted names as big as MGMT and Metric. Throw in a food court and a park in the middle of the forest, and you’ve got Elora’s unforgettable Rivertown Festival.
The 2020 festival was postponed due to COVID-19, but next year’s event is currently in the works.
Things To Do In Elora In Winter
Winter is a great time to visit Elora, as it’s when you’ll find the town at its best. The Elora Gorge is covered in a thick layer of fresh powdery snow, making it easy to spot the many different species of wildlife that call this place home. You might even see some elk or moose wandering around! If you’re lucky enough to have a cabin or cottage nearby, you can take advantage of all of the amenities provided by your accommodation and stay warm while enjoying the sights and sounds of nature.
What is there to do in Elora in the winter?
- Cross country ski.
- Ice Fish.
- Ice Climb.
Hiking Trails During Winter
If you’re up for an adventure during winter, several trails are available in the Elora area. One of these is the Elora Ice Trail, which runs along the base of the Elora Gorge. This trail is open year-round and provides access to the frozen river below. It also allows hikers to experience the thrill of walking across a sheet of ice without worrying about slipping.
If you’re looking for an adventure, Elora is one place where you can go off-roading. Renting a snowmobile and heading out into the wilderness is one of several options for getting outside and enjoying nature. Snowmobilers love to blaze trails, so there are several trails between the towns of Fergusson and Erinsville and rural ones throughout Centre Wellington County.
Climb A Wall Of Ice
Ice climbing is becoming increasingly popular thanks to the number of new routes added each year. Many of them are explicitly designed for beginner climbers, so you don’t need to worry about falling. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can climb up onto the walls of the Elora Gorge to test your skills. Check put One Axe Pursuits for details.
Want to let loose? Head over to the Elora Sled Dog Park and rent yourself a sled. You can use it to race down the hill or enjoy the rush of sliding across the frozen surface. During the winter, you can head over to the Elora Sled Dog Park, where you can rent a sled and take your dog for a ride. The park is located right next to the Elora Community Arena.
There’s nothing more Canadian than an outdoor ice skating rink. Locals flock to the local arena when the temperature drops to skate away from the winter blues. Elora has two rinks: the Elora Community Arena and the Elora Recreation Centre.
Here are a few other outdoor rinks:
- Bissell Park, Elora
- Belwood Sports Field
- Beatty Park, Fergus
- Stait Park, Fergus
More Elora Ontario Winter Activities
Visit the Farmers Market – Farmers’ markets pop up across the city throughout the winter, selling everything from fresh produce to baked goods. Check them out to see what’s being sold at each market, and visit when you have more time to spend shopping.
Enjoy the Christmas Lights – With nearly 30 kilometres of lights lining the streets of Elora, there’s no better place to celebrate the holiday season than in the town itself! Check out the lighting displays at the Elora Gorge, the Elora Community Arena and the Elora Visitor Information Centre.
Final Thoughts On Elora’s Attractions, Restaurants, And Inns
Canada is full of beautiful and vibrant cities like Toronto and Quebec. But If you’re looking for something more relaxed and peaceful, then Elora, ON is definitely for you. This unique, small village will entice your curiosity with its wealth of things to see and do for tourists and locals alike.
Address: 84 E Mill St, Elora, ON N0B 1S0, Canada
Price: $109-$205 (subject to change)
Whether you’re shopping in downtown Elora, or venturing out to the gorge for a dip or a hike, Elora, Canada is an activity-filled travel destination.