Grand River Country – a complete travel guide

Quaint little riverside towns and some of the best fishing in Southern Ontario


Grand River Country is the aptly named title for this sub-region of Southwest Ontario as it is centred on the Grand River, the largest river in Southern Ontario and recently designated as a Canadian Heritage River.

The Grand River starts at the base of the Niagara Escarpment near the Bruce Peninsula and instead of heading north towards Georgian Bay or Lake Huron it meanders 280 kilometres (168 miles) south before emptying into Lake Erie near the Town of Maitland.

Along the way it flows through some quaint little towns that draw tourists by the busload and also throuigh some of Ontario’s largest cities. Along its banks near the Town of Caledonia also lies the Six Nations Indian Reserve, the most populous First Nation commun ity in Canada.

The Grand Valley Trail, an excellent hiking destination, runs along almost the entire length of the river stretching 275 kilometres (163 miles) from Rock Point Provincial Park on lake Erie to just outseide the Town of Alton where it then links to the Bruce Trail.

Located for the most part less than 2 hours drive from Toronto it has long been known by locals as an excellent fishing, canoeing and boating destination. The region also includes a lot of rolling farmland and valleys as well as being dotted with many local conservation areas that help to protect its natural beauty. One such spot is to be found in the small town of Elora (pictured at left). Here the river has cut a spectacularly scenic gorge through the landscape that culminates at a beautiful waterfall, the “Tooth of Time”, which is also the location of the town’s historic and picturesque old mill.

Located just south of this pretty little town is the regions largest community, the twin Cities of Kitchener-Waterloo. This urban conglomeration of 320,000 people is actually made up of two independent but closely intertwined communities: The City of Kitchener and the City of Waterloo. Together with the adjoining City of Cambridge they form the “Tri-Cities” area of Ontario and with over 450,000 people it is the 5th largest urban area in Ontario and the 11th largest in all of Canada.

The entire area is rich in German heritage with many small Mennonite communities in the surrounding vicinity including the small market town of St. Jacobs whose Mennonite heritage and marketplace have long made it a tourist draw and during the summer months its streets become literally overcrowded with busloads of tourists coming in daily. Kitchener is also world famous for its annual “Oktoberfest” that draws spectator and participants from across the world.

South of the tri-cities area lays the City of Brantford, named for the famous Mohawk First Nations leader Joseph Brant. Located at a fork in the river at its deepest navigable point this one time industrial centre of just under 100,000 people is known as “The Telephone City” after former resident Alexander Graham Bell but is more famous these days as being the birthplace of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.

Other small communities along its length worthy of a visit include:

  • Grand Valley near the Grand River’s source
  • Guelph just northeast of Kitchener
  • Paris just north of Brantford
  • Dunnville and Port Maitland near its mouth

Map of the Grand River's location


Getting to the Grand country:

By Car:

As the Grand River country is a large region running north – south in Ontario and there is not one main highway that runs its length accurate directions can only be found when the final destination is being sought. For the most part Highway #401 bisects the area in the middle of the north-south axis just outside the City of Kitchener, from there you can head north or south along a number of different highways that run alongside the Grand River such as Highway #8 heading north or Highway #24 heading south.

More direct routes to your location are to be found once you decide on your final destination. My best advice is to locate my city, town or attraction page closest to where you want to go and you will get more precise directions

By Air:

Getting to the Grand River Country by air is not really an option. The only passenger airport of any significance is the Region of Waterloo International Airport that services the “tri-cities” area of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge. Even then, while entitled an “international airport” its only flights that are international in character are a daily flight to Chicago in the United States and chartered tourist flights to the Caribbean in the peak tourist months, the rest of the flights are small regional or Canadian bound flights usually handling 15 passengers or less.

Insider Tip:

Since the airport is located less than 2 hours drive from Pearson International Airport in Toronto I would recommend that travelers flying into Ontario or from distant parts of Ontario traveling directly to the Grand River Country instead simply fly into Pearson and rent a car for the rest of the journey. It will be much less costly and probably alot faster than making a connection to a commuter plane for the short flight to Waterloo International Airport.

By Public Transport:

By Rail:

Kitchener and Guelph are both serviced by Via Rail as the lie along one of their main routes.

Guelph and Kitchener also are connected to Toronto’s Go Transit commuter rail and bus system.

Insider Tip:

This is probably the easiest and cheapest way for travelers to get to either of these destinations and from there if you are traveling to another destination you should be able to link up with another public transportation system to take you to your final destination. Check out one of the resources listed below for confirmation as the best way to get to your desired location.

By Bus: provides bus services to a number of Grand River Country communities as does Greyhound Canada at

Insider Tip:

Please note that the services are infrequent and may require lengthy waits between transfers to different routes and vehicles. My suggestion is simply to rent a car. Distances between the communities are not that great and you will really get to see some of the beautiful Grand River Country landscapes with little or no traffic except for a little in the “tri-cities” area.


The Grand River Country is one of those areas that while not really in the minds of most tourists when planning a trip to Ontario Canada, those that do visit marvel at the beauty and openness of the region. A leisurely float down this magnificent Canadian Heritage River is a great way to spend an afternoon. Visit a Mennonite community with its horse drawn carriages or experience aboriginal cultures at the First Nations Reserve. Along the way drive through some picturesque riverside towns and stop to throw a fishing line in the slow meandering waters of this historical waterway.

The Grand River Country is located less than 2 hours from Toronto and has many first class accommodations and/or camping facilities. A definite change from the hustle and bustle of Toronto or the tourist mecca of Niagara Falls it provides a great chance to experience the Canadian lifestyle in its more laid back, country charm. Visit some of my pages below to check out some of the things to see and do in the Grand River Country.


Attractions of the Grand River


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