Are you looking for things to do in Port Hope? From some pretty cool architecture, landscapes, and activities paired with a slow-living feel. Port Hope is an urban southern Ontario setting dipped in character and charm. While Port Hope can be considered a small settlement, this enchanting location packs a punch by offering a variety of unique and fun experiences.
Whether you’re looking for adrenaline-fueled adventure or solace from the hustle and bustle of nearby busy cities, Port Hope has something for everyone. As this quaint town is in close proximity to Toronto, this Ontario destination is the perfect day trip.
Need help to determine what to add to your itinerary? We’ll guide you through the best things in Port Hope to give you a sample of what to expect on your trip to this exciting town.
Where is Port Hope & Best Time to Visit
So where is Port Hope, Ontario? This urban area is in close proximity to Lake Ontario, near the town of Cobourg in southern Ontario.
The Port Hope to Toronto route takes a little more than an hour and a half to travel; a pleasant drive if you’re looking for a shorter Ontario road trip option. Summer (from June to August) is usually the busy season in this town, providing optimal temperatures to explore the natural beauty surrounding Port Hope.
Top Sights & Activities in Port Hope, ON
Whether you’re looking to explore the town’s staple monuments or are excited to visit a hidden gem or two, the picturesque plains of Port Hope will have you transfixed. This town has an array of experiences to delve into, which will never have you wondering what to do in Port Hope.
Pop in at Port Hope Farmers’ Market
Nothing personifies a perfect weekend morning like a local market trip. With farm-fresh products and the smell of baked bread in the air, you’ll soon find yourself bewitched by the enchanting atmosphere of Port Hope on the weekends.
Port Hope is widely known as a farming town, which means you’ll be able to tickle your tastebuds with the finest produce the given season offers. Whether you want seasonal preserves or locally-made candles, this popular farmers’ market will provide a personal touch to your daily shopping list.
Tip: This Port Hope, CA, market is generally only open on Saturdays, so be sure to plan accordingly.
Visit Downtown Port Hope
While it can be fun to jam-pack your small-town getaway itinerary with activities, Port Hope has a knack for immersing travellers in the leisurely way of life. In the downtown area of Port Hope, you’ll find a variety of small eateries, secondhand shops and art galleries.
This area is also known as the Heritage District, which will allow you to experience a slice of the essence of this wonderful small town at its best. If you’re looking to grab a coffee alongside a feline friend, you can go to the Toe Beans Cat Cafe for some caffeine and cuddles. Other downtown highlights include:
- Capitol Theatre – By opening its doors in the 1930s, this functioning relic has a selection of events, performances, and shows to enjoy. From musical wonders to ballads, this eventful location will surely bring out the theatre geek in everyone who steps into this historical landmark.
- Smith’s Creek Antiques – If you’re looking for hidden gems of the past, you’ll love strolling through this antique shop and uncovering its vintage finds. Whether you’re looking for furniture or second-hand books, you’ll be sure to leave this space with a trinket or two.
- Northumberland Arts Gallery and Shop – With a mission to showcase local artists’ work, this gallery is the perfect place to come and feel inspired. The type of art on display for you to see includes handmade jewellery, textile creations, and folk art.
Dip Your Toes at East or West Beach
If you find yourself in Port Hope in the summer, you’ll be able to cool down at the two main beaches of this town. While they might not be large in size, they are well-maintained and provide a stunning setting to end your day of activities by watching the sunset over the water.
East Beach is nearest to downtown Port Hope, the optimal pick to splash around after spending time in this Heritage District. This sandy bay also has a playground for the little ones, so you can soak up the summer rays in peace while kids play nearby. The waterfront trail is also easily accessible from East Beach if you plan to add a hike to your Port Hope getaway itinerary.
West Beach, near Marsh Street, is far less busy than East Beach and provides a tranquil space to relax if you want privacy. As this beach is part sand and part rocky terrain, remember your sandals to walk this pristine landscape without any discomfort.
Attend a Port Hope Festival & Events
Small towns are generally not known as hotspots for any significant influx of activity, but Port Hope has an abundance of big and popular events in its repertoire. While you might have a specific time of year in mind to visit Port Hope, here are a few festivals and happenings to look out for:
Candlelight Festival (end November to January)
What better way to get into the jolly spirit than a festival dedicated to the whimsical wonders that Christmas brings? This seasonal happening has a variety of traditions in its itinerary that will provide fun for the whole family.
With themed markets, art projections, and magical light displays – visitors will feel like they have been teleported straight into their favourite Christmas movie setting. Be sure to look out for a sea of red coats and white beards near the end of November as the Santa Claus Parade passes through the town’s decorated streets.
Vintage Film Festival (October)
A historical event with its humble beginnings planted firmly in the chronicles of Port Hope, this old-school festival is a wonderful option for budding cinephiles. With a location like the prestigious Capitol Theatre, you can enjoy a selection of vintage films with a hefty sprinkle of old Hollywood glamour.
Cultivate Festival (September)
Port Hope has a thriving farming community, so it’s easy to see why they have allocated a time of celebration to commemorate the harvest season. These festivities include live music performances, tasty food stalls and child-friendly workshops to cultivate creativity.
This festival takes place on the premises of Haute Goat, with a kaleidoscope of activities and interactive experiences in this event itinerary. If you want to enjoy a few pints from local breweries at the festival, you can use the free shuttle service that travels from Ganaraska Brewing Company to the festival.
Salmon Migration (mid-August to October)
While heading to a structure known as the ‘fish ladder’ (or Ganaraska River Fishway) might not sound eventful, this location is the perfect place to see Mother Nature. Here, you’ll witness the migration of various types of salmon (and brown trout) in full throttle.
Watch thousands of finned beauties swim against the current of the majestic Ganaraska River and jump their way to spawning territory. This travelling animal affair is a must for nature lovers, as the glint of scales during seemingly countless leaps of faith from fish is an experience beyond comparison.
Marvel at the Primitive Designs Structures
If you’re looking for an arty experience with a twist, Primitive Designs in Port Hope is the ultimate spot to enjoy a stunning display of structures. This includes a variety of giant constructed robots made from recycled materials.
This unique location also has a range of exhibits to explore, from metal garden art to tiki bars made to sell. Primitive Designs is a beautiful representation of making upcycled and recycled material into environmentally conscious art displays.
Hike in Ganaraska Forest
Many activities in Port Hope are centred around the down-to-earth charm of the town itself, but the natural sceneries in this area are where this location truly shines. This tree-filled area is the second-largest forest in southern Ontario, with a tapestry of hikes and trails.
Whether you’re looking for a running path or winter snowshoeing trails, the Ganaraska Forest has a variety of activities available throughout the seasons. Specific trails are closed during unfavourable conditions, so check trail availability beforehand to avoid disappointment.
If you’re looking for a short hike with ample bird-watching opportunities, the Ganaraska Yellow Trail is an excellent path that takes around an hour to complete.
Tip: Visitors must purchase a day pass or membership to enter the forest.
Go, Farm Hopping,
The farms of Port Hope are a treasure trove of countryside bliss with various specialties, making farm hopping an excellent activity for an agriculture-filled afternoon. Take a look at a few options to get into the simple pleasure spirit of this small town:
A 200-acre smallholding filled with all kinds of farm life, Haute Goat is an epic excursion if you’re looking for an interactive countryside experience. As the name indicates, this farm has Nigerian dwarf goats to pet and cuddle. Other animals on the premises include alpacas, horses and chickens.
The fun does not stop at simply basking in the beauty of these woolly creatures. The Alpaca Sleepover packages provide accommodation within the bounds of the alpaca herd, allowing you to follow the old wives’ tale of ‘counting sheep’ to sleep in a whole new way.
This farm also offers several workshops that involve these furry creatures. This includes the serene splendours of goat or alpaca yoga, which takes you on a sensory journey through the countryside scents, sights, and sounds of farm life.
If you’re looking for a quintessential farm experience, the organic Foragers Farm is the perfect escape from the big city. These green plains have a wide selection of fresh farm produce to shop and offer various seasonal forager workshops for visitors genuinely wild at heart.
These workshops provide an informative and thought-provoking insight into the plants that grow around us and get your hands dirty while foraging a few organic farms finds.
One of these seasonal experiences is the ‘Mid Spring Shoots’ option (in early June) which is instrumental for visitors seeking to learn how to gather wild plant life.
A farm situated within a blanket of purple-hued florals, Laveanne is the ultimate dreamy escape for travellers looking to experience serenity in style. With 4 acres of pastel-coloured landscape to explore, this agri-tourism location will have you strolling along flowers for hours.
If you’re looking to see the fields on the farm at their best, the Laveanne flower crop is in full bloom in July (which is when summer finds its way to Ontario). August is when the flower harvest begins to collect and transform these lavender bunches into essential oils to be included in various of the farm’s hand-crafted products.
Beyond the tranquil scene of lavender fields, you’ll have the opportunity to partake in other experiences centred around this fragrant flower. From lavender-infused baked goods to a dedicated plant nursery, this farm will ensure you leave with this calming scent soaked into your summer memories.
Tip: The Reflection Labyrinth on the premises, a maze-like structure bordered with lavender plants, is a wonderful excursion to experience a lazy adventure.
Explore a Few Filming Locations
When travelling through the streets of Port Hope, you might have an eerie sensation that you’ve witnessed this tranquil scenery before. This town has been used in various film productions that you might have stumbled across.
From the anxiety-inducing scenery of IT to the comedic splendours of Tommy Boy, Port Hope is a great place to stroll and identify various movie scenes. A few walking and guided tours are available to see these specified places, but you can also enjoy the film-famous scenery by simply walking through the town.
Visit The Farley Mowat Boat Roofed House
Famous Canadian author Farley Mowat spent his last days in Port Hope (as did his wife). And so the town erected a large sculpture in the author’s honour. This sculpture is the boat-roof house and was inspired by one of Mowat’s stories.
You can find the boat-roof house in Farley Mowat Park on Mill Street.
Shop Up a Storm at Bibelot
You’ll find almost anything at Bibelot, a charming gift shop that stocks cards, soaps, and souvenirs galore. Stop in here to buy a small trinket.
Indulge in a Port Hope Meal
Port Hope’s culinary experiences are diverse — just like the town itself. There are a few spots I’d suggest you visit while here, and they are:
- Queenies Bake Shop – A delectable array of pastries will call your name at this quaint bakery. Grab a chicken wrap, a hot coffee, and one of their popular date squares for a little treat.
- Dreamer’s Cafe – This cosy French cafe serves breakfast, lunch, and a selection of sweet pastries. The cutesy decor and welcoming feel may even have you returning before heading home.
- The Thirsty Goose – Pop into Port Hope’s friendly neighbourhood pub for a burger steak and any of their 24 beers on tap. This is a small spot but perfect for a pub lunch or after-dinner drinks.
- Olympus Burger – I did say this town had a vast selection of eateries. Olympus Burger is a Greek-themed restaurant serving some super burgers, and many say it’s the best place to eat in town.
- Ganaraska Brewing Company – Feel like a brew? You’ll find quite a few at Port Hope’s very own brewery – and a bite to eat will follow not far behind.
- Twenty-six – This slightly more upscale bar closes at 9 pm, so it’s great for an after-dinner cocktail. But you could also book a table and enjoy a dinner of Oysters, Smoked Cauliflower, and Rhubarb Crumble.
- Crawford’s Lakeview Café – Sit on this café’s patio overlooking the beach and enjoy a fish-and-chips meal as you soak in the surroundings.
Tips & Tricks for the Perfect Port Hope Getaway
While it can be an exciting experience to load your car and dive into the intricacies of Port Hope headfirst, some planning is required for a hitch-free excursion. Take a look at a few key and crucial components to make the best of your trip to Port Hope, Canada’s small-town gem:
- Decide on your itinerary list from the season – Port Hope experiences a wide range of weather conditions, so you’ll need to plan your day trip according to the season. You can also plan your trip around seasonal festivals and events.
- Use public transport – While this town is walkable, there are a few options if you want to travel around easily. Be sure to check the bus schedule to get a good idea of your trip time schedule to plan ahead.
- Stay the night – Instead of rushing from place to place to experience Port Hope, why not spend the night? This town has a darling selection of Port Hope hotels and inns to stay in, allowing you to feel like a true local. Be sure to select a place based on the locations of your specified itinerary to minimize any unnecessary travel time.
- Follow camping bylaws – With its stunning natural landscapes and various outdoor activities, camping is popular in Port Hope. However, many rules need to be followed. From camping restrictions at certain times of the year to burn permits, you’ll need to research before setting up camp in this town.
Port Hope (Ontario) Things to Do | Final Thoughts
Whether planning a longer vacation or just visiting for a day, the pathways of Port Hope are paved with abundant attractions and excursions to experience. This town provides a great blend of urban and rural activities, so you’ll never be short of things to do in Port Hope, Ontario.
The seasons of Ontario bring a stunning selection of environmental and weather changes that welcomes a variety of chapters to enjoy throughout the year. From the seemingly snow-dusted buildings in winter to the bloom of wildflowers in spring, Port Hope is a playground of spectacles waiting to be explored and experienced.
Are you looking for another short drive option from Toronto? Take a look at a few day trip ideas to curate and craft the ultimate road trip for an unforgettable vacation.