Small Town Life at Its Best
Descending the long sloping Walton Street, which leads into the heart of the town, we found our first clue that Port Hope would be something special. Dozens of massive, brightly colored flower baskets and rows of Canadian flags dot the stunning streetscape, beautifully accenting the heritage architecture. We were wowed by our first look at Port Hope and came to discover that the shops, restaurants, boutique hotel and the people we met would be just as impressive.
Port Hope is located about an hour east of Toronto on the shores of Lake Ontario and the edge of the Northumberland Hills. This historic community is nationally acclaimed for its designated heritage conservation downtown district and 300 designated buildings, which they claim is more per capita than anywhere else in Canada!
Here are a few of our favourite stops along the main street:
The Highlights of Our Day
Mercury Chocolates – This chocolate store was the catalyst for our visit to Port Hope. Owner Darren Johns creates the most beautiful artisanal chocolates we have ever seen. These glowing spheres and pyramids, with flavours like Malta Blood Orange, Saigon Cinnamon, Aztek Chili, Warkworth Maple, Balsamic and Red Peppercorn just beg to be tasted. And let me tell you – they did not disappoint. One bite of the Saigon Cinnamon and the drive was completely worth it! These chocolates are some of the most delectable we have ever sampled. Darren is a master at creating innovative flavours and pairing them perfectly with vintages from local wineries. I refer to him as a “sommelier of chocolate.” You can find Mercury Chocolates at 24 John St.
marché 59 – Crossing the threshold of this little bistro and bakery is like magically transporting yourself to France. The scent of baking and lavender, mixed with the soft French music in the background, was a lovely surprise. You will find tarts, cookies and homemade loaves as well as savoury fare like quiche and croque monsieur on the lunch menu. The pastries and breads are made on site by a husband and wife team who recently moved to Port Hope after running a bakery in France for 30 years. marché 59 showcases certified organic, local, seasonal fruits and vegetables from the owners, P&H Farms in Ward II. marché 59 is located at 59 Walton St.
Furby House Books – Book lovers will drool over this gorgeous store. The pristine shelving and lighting are as well appointed as the titles on the shelves. The owners have curated an outstanding inventory of books that will hook you immediately. I picked up a copy of the newly released Give and Take from their extensive non-fiction section. It was unfortunate we were on a schedule or we could have spent a LONG time in this store. Furby House books is located at 65 Walton St.
Mad Monkey Clothing – Mad Monkey could be my personal one-stop clothing shop if I lived in Port Hope. I love that everything on the racks is fresh and exciting, from special occasion dresses and casual clothes to shoes and accessories. Mad Monkey carries a broad inventory to completely outfit their clients from head to toe. Sarah and I did a little jewellery shopping here, both of us finding a special piece we had been searching for. I will definitely be back to shop here on my next visit to Port Hope! Mad Monkey Clothing is located at 5 Walton St.
My Bark Avenue – A dog lover at heart, I was surprised to fall instantly in love with a miniature Bull Terrier. My Bark Avenue owner Cathie Hudson is a breeder and has her two prize dogs Cloe and Miriam in the store to greet the customers. These two dogs are really something special. They enjoy sitting in the Bark Avenue Café with their cat friend Hannah (who wears a dress!) where they enjoy the store’s many delectable treats. My Bark Avenue offers the best in luxury dog clothes, accessories, food and treats for dogs and cats as well as award-winning dog obedience training. My Bark Avenue is located at 51 Walton St.
The Waddell – When The Waddell was built in 1845 it was one of the first of the large brick buildings built on the main street. Now this 12-room inn overlooks Port Hope’s Ganaraska River and park, anchoring Historic Port Hope’s Heritage Business District. Innkeeper Cameron Hughes toured us through the hotel during our visit, allowing us to peek at all the pretty canadiana style furnishings and elegant décor. The overall feel of this boutique hotel is contemporary yet offers a classic and distinctive presentation. The terrace rooms, with balconies and a view of the river are especially nice. The Waddell is located at 1 Walton St.
Capitol Theatre – This theatre is an iconic structure both inside and out, featuring a stylized interior that makes it completely unique from other theatre venues. This summer you can enjoy live professional performances by the Port Hope Festival Theatre or enjoy live HD performances of the Metropolitan Opera on the big screen. 20 Queen St.
Trattoria Gusto – As part of The Waddell Hotel, Trattoria Gusto can extend your experience into a full weekend escape. With a classic, simple ingredients-driven menu Gusto delivers an authentic taste of Italy. Although we did not personally experience the food at Gusto we have it on high authority that this restaurant is a must-try! 1 Walton St.
Bibelot – Owner Elizabeth Stefoff’s business card reads beel’los: small objects of rarity and beauty. This properly summarizes the experience of shopping in this boutique. The collection of Canadian made and one of a kind art and giftware is impressive. 91 Walton St.
Ruralist on the Road
Port Hope was the initial destination for our first ever Ruralist roadtrip. Over three days we experienced the best things to see, do and buy in Port Hope, Bloomfield and Almonte. Unfortunately, we discovered that one day in Port Hope was not nearly enough time. Next time, I would make an entire weekend out of my stay. Cycling through the countryside, visiting the neighbouring vineyards or fishing on the Ganaraska River would be an excellent way to round out a trip to Port Hope.
Hopefully we’ll get back there again soon!