Are you tired of fighting the traffic and crowds of cottage country? This summer, trade the hustle and bustle of touristy towns for a relaxing rural escape and discover the difference of open country roads, charming small towns and friendly farm hosts who can’t wait to welcome you. To make things even easier, use the rural retreat itinerary ideas below to blend a mix of activities in Oxford and Middlesex counties with fabulous local dining options and the perfect place to rest your head.
Rural Retreat #1: Country Life Flavour Finder
If country comfort foods are your love language, Oxford County is calling!
- Kick off a day of foodie fun by helping roast your very own batch of coffee beans at Early Bird Coffee’s Roasting Lab.
- Taste along the Oxford County Cheese Trail’s selection of stops, including cheese producers like Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese, restaurants, dairies and more.
- The Harvest Brunch experience at Thames River Melons, an Ontario’s Southwest Signature Experience, invites participants into the garden to harvest fruits and veggies before gathering in the farm’s kitchen to cook and enjoy a beautiful brunch built around what’s just been picked.
- Golspie Dairy’s innovative milk vending machines are a great option when you’re ready for a delicious mid-day chocolate milk break!
- Berrylicious Fruit Farm offers a variety of Picnic In The Patch experiences, also an Ontario’s Southwest Signature Experience, that include a blueberry picking lesson, taste testing, and the opportunity to fill your own basket before enjoying a picnic right in the patch.
For a true food lover’s escape, book a stay and some meals and classes at The Chef’s Estate, in neighbouring Middlesex County, where two world-renowned chefs will host you in their luxurious 12,000-square-foot home.
Rural Retreat #2: Adventures With Animals
If your best days involve four-legged, furry, or feathered creatures, there’s a whole new flock of friends waiting to greet you in Oxford and Middlesex counties:
- Udderly Ridiculous’ A Taste of Farm Life experience will have you doing agility training with a lively pack of goats, chilling with chickens and hanging out in the hay field with an alpaca as your guide.
- Saddle up and hit the trail on a scenic horseback ride along the Sydenham River with the friendly hosts at Texas Longhorn Ranch.
- Take a walk on the woolly side and wander with an alpaca down a country road at S.A.M.Y’s Alpaca Farm.
Fuel up before or after your farmyard fun with a classic country breakfast or hearty lunch at The Olde Bakery Café, pub fare favourites at Upper Thames Brewing Company’s Brickhouse Brewpub or delicious Italian classics at Fat Olive.
Keep the farm fun going with an overnight stay at the Ontario’s Southwest 2022 Sustainability Trailblazer of the Year Award winning Jireh Hills Homestead’s comfortable glamping trailer and enjoy add-on homestead activities like soap and cheese-making classes. If you’d prefer to stay at a hotel, Woodstock’s Best Western Plus Inn and Suites and Strathroy's Holiday Inn Express are both very comfortable options.
Rural Retreat #3: Breathe It All In
If you’re looking for a few days of sensational solitude, that can easily be arranged!
- Stow your phone in a locker and sink into Terra Nova Nordic Spa’s relaxing thermal experience. The spa’s circuit features a wood-fired sauna, eucalyptus steam room, hot pool and chilling stations, as well as spaces to relax lounging by a campfire, on the patio or in a geodesic dome.
- Enjoy a private film or art viewing courtesy of your car by watching a movie at The Mustang Drive-In, or taking in the eye-catching collection of folk art that makes up the North Middlesex Barn Quilt Trail.
- Hike the ten kilometres of quiet nature trails that meander through forests and ravines at Longwoods Road Conservation Area. While you’re there, be sure to explore the Ska-Nah-Doht Village and Museum, an interactive experience that engages visitors in preserving local First Nations history.
Keep the quiet quotient high with a stay in one of Fernwood Hill’s cozy spaces, which include a forest cabin and a studio loft. Strathroy’s Clock Tower Inn is another excellent option, where you can also enjoy a delicious farm-to-table meal.
Rural Retreat #4: Find Me In The Garden
If you’re happiest in the garden, you’ll adore the hands-on activities that these Oxford County farms make available to visitors:
- The Cut Your Own Flowers experience at Makkink’s Flower Farm, a Ontario’s Southwest Signature Experience, will have you roaming about in the flower fields as you build a 25-bloom bouquet of dahlias or sunflowers to take home.
- The Perennial Palettes art experience gives guests the opportunity to create their own watercolour piece in a beautiful Oxford County perennial garden.
- In between activities, take a scenic drive over to Middlesex County to shop for some of the freshest microgreens on the market at Slegers Living Organic Greens, incredible apples at Apple Land Station and beautiful berries at Heeman’s.
While you’re out and about, enjoy a meal where local ingredients shine at farm-to-table favourites like Sixthirtynine, Ironworks Kitchen, KALOS at Oxford Hills and Donnelly’s Café, Taphouse and Pizzeria.
Looking for even more new and exciting things to see, do, taste, and experience in Ontario's Southwest? Browse our collection of experiences and itineraries that have been specially curated for those who are endlessly curious and love to learn about the hidden gems others may overlook.