Insider’s guide to Oakville: Where to find fascinating history, outdoor fun and destination dining
Anchored by a downtown core along the shore of Lake Ontario, Oakville maintains its small-town charm, with the central square, flanked by boutique shops and destination-worthy restaurants, lending a European feel. In less than an hour’s drive from Toronto, day trippers can arrive at the beautiful Oakville Harbour, which forms the mouth of the Sixteen Mile Creek (so named because it flows that distance from the Niagara Escarpment).
After my family’s move to Canada, I grew up in a Georgian farmhouse built in 1840 in Oakville’s historic district, spending summers skipping stones on pebbly beaches, picnicking in Bronte Creek and wandering the heritage streets. Here are five of my favourite spots for your next visit here.
For immersive history: Oakville Museum (8 Navy St., Oakville)
Oakville Museum encompasses several landmark buildings, including the well-preserved Erchless Estate (c. 1858), once home to the town’s founding family, the Chisholms. Stop in to learn about the town’s rich history and its significance to the country — Oakville was once a main port of entry — through costumes and textiles, art and artifacts, and period furniture. Outside, a stunning rock garden cascading down toward the harbour is a faithful recreation of the 1920s original. Erchless Estate also overlooks Lakeside Park, as well as Oakville’s original post office and the pioneer home Thomas House, all free to visit.
For outdoor fun: Bronte Creek Provincial Park (1219 Burloak Dr., Oakville)
On the town’s western edge, this 6.8-square-kilometre park features hiking, biking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails, and other outdoor attractions. Kids and kids at heart will want to start at the farm, which houses animals in rustic barns year-round. Meet goats that aren’t shy about asking for neck scratches, alongside pigs, chickens and full-feathered peacocks. Peek inside Spruce Lane Farmhouse, a red-brick Victorian built in 1899, where you’ll get a glimpse into the life of a fruit farmer. Summer programming includes hands-on heritage days where you can try spinning, jam making, weaving and Victorian games.
For cosy Canadian goods: Homebody (176 Lakeshore Rd. E., Oakville)
Launched during the pandemic, this high street boutique is a haven for hygge. You’ll find giftable beauty and body products from labels like Salt & Stone, jewelry from Eteriese and Oakville’s own Minted Mama, and Drip Candle Studio’s locally inspired, scented candles named after Toronto (described as “roasted coffee beans and hustle”) and Prince Edward County (“ripe orchards and rosé”). Most of the store’s carefully curated collection hails from responsible, sustainable Canadian brands, and every other month, owner Claire Hatziioannou also hosts a pop-up to showcase more products from small businesses in the GTA.
For hands-on art: Crack Pot Studio (301 Robinson St., Oakville)
When you’re ready to get your hands dirty, head to Crack Pot, a beloved pottery studio for 27 years. This light-filled, warehouse-style space pairs soaring ceilings with cottagey furniture for a friendly, inspiring atmosphere. Drop in (or better yet, book ahead) for a two-hour wheel workshop to create your own bowl, mug or pot, or just see where your hands take you; classes suit all ages and levels. They also offer drop-in ceramics painting and clay birthday parties for kids.
For destination dining: Hexagon Restaurant (210 Lakeshore Rd. E., Oakville)
This acclaimed restaurant is consistently full with locals and Torontonians alike, who come for the elevated contemporary dining and well-curated wine list. Warm, mid-century-inspired woods with brushed gold create a sumptuous atmosphere, with tables and leather banquets around a spectacular, modern suspended fireplace. In summer, a loungey patio on the restaurant-lined square makes it feel like you’re dining in Europe. North America’s S. Pellegrino Young Chef winner Rafael Covarrubias works subtle Mexican flourishes into diverse dishes. The menu changes monthly but always features seafood, like buttery Hokkaido scallop crudo with citrus, or halibut with sea asparagus and divine mole blanco. Reserve well in advance.