Road Trip Guide: Exploring the Lost Towns Along Canada's Highway 7
What to know before you hit the road.
Known to some as King’s Highway, to others as the Lost Highway, and historically as the Northern Highway — the road that traverses through Ontario is also simply referred to as Highway 7. It's a name that's straightforward and as uncomplicated as the route itself.
Where to find Canada's Highway 7
Starting north of the city of London, in Ontario, and extending all the way to Ottawa, it’s a drive that runs through mostly rural Ontario. For this reason, this two-lane highway has been largely abandoned for the quicker, multi-lane Highways 401 and 416.
As a result, many businesses have shuttered along Highway 7. But for some travelers, this could be considered an advantage. Canada's Highway 7 is definitely the road less traveled, and is perfect for travelers in a road trip that's all about the scenic drive.
Where To Go
Give your legs a stretch in Stratford, a city that sits on the Avon River in Ontario, Canada. Brimming with old world history, you’ll find Victorian buildings, a gorgeous City Hall, and the Shakespearean Gardens: a beautiful green space featuring all the plants that have been in the playwright's famous works. Time your trip so that you arrive here during the Stratford Festival, where Shakespeare’s work comes to life in theaters all across town.
Keep navigating along Highway 7, and you’ll eventually come upon Guelph, Ontario, a municipality that’s known as “The Royal City." Built in the early 1800s, it’s considered one of Canada’s first planned towns. During your visit here, admire the Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate (a Gothic Revival church with impressive works of stained glass) during a guided tour.
For souvenirs from your road trip east to Ottawa, stop at the Aberfoyle Antique Market, which is currently Canada’s largest outdoor market. Hosting more than 100 sellers who offer collectible trinkets, art, and furniture, it’s a fun spot to browse and make small talk with locals. Entry is an easy $2 per person.
Soon enough you’ll reach Perth — and yes, you're still in Canada. Here, 19th-century structures pepper the banks of the Tay River, and there are ample parks for travelers interested in a picnic or stroll. Visit the Perth Museum (located in the 1840 stone house built for a senator in Canada's first parliament after Confederation) to learn a bit about this quaint town's history. Thanks to the impeccable restorations, this popular downtown attraction is a National Historic Site.
Take the hour-long drive from Perth to Canada’s capital, Ottawa, where you’ll reach the end of Highway 7.
While here, visit Parliament Hill — a sprawling Gothic building — and the Peace Tower. This 180-foot bell and clock tower is the icon featured on Canada’s $20 bill. Reward your efforts with a drink at the new Star Wars-themed bar, The Cantina, and then bed down in one of the best hotels in Canada (like the landmark, 429-room Fairmont Château Laurier).
Good to know
Travelers should be aware that Highway 7 is now interrupted in many places, particularly in the West between London and Peterborough. To experience a continuous drive along Highway 7, skip to the straight-shot stretch of trans-Canadian that extends east from Peterborough to Ottawa. This drive will take just over three hours.