A Stunning Drive – Ontario’s Mennonite/Amish Countryside
Happy Canada Day!
During these crazy COVID times we all need ways to unwind. Relax by heading out on the open road in order to take in some stunning Ontario countryside views.
Tucked up 90 minutes west of Toronto is Ontario’s largest Old Order Mennonite/Amish region. You need to plan on a “minimum” of a half day in order to explore this wonderful destination.
I spent a few days driving throughout the area in order to research and compile this blog post. My post should provide you with all the details you need – you aren’t going to find much additional information on-line.
A good place to start your adventure is at the Tim Hortons in St. Jacobs, Ontario. It’s exterior isn’t typical – it nicely fits in with the look of this touristy town. Grab a coffee before you hit the road.
1229 King Street N
Set your GPS to direct you to the Kissing Bridge in West Montrose (15 minutes). On the way you may wish to stop at Picard Peanuts (3011 Sawmill Road, St Jacobs). You will pass through the community of Conestogo.
Built in 1881, the West Montrose Covered Bridge is also known as the Kissing Bridge. This historic treasure which spans the Grand River is an area landmark. Its a “back in time moment” when you drive over it. This is the last “wooden” covered bridge in Ontario and the oldest such bridge in Canada. Last year it was featured on a Canadian Postage stamp. Once you drive over it you will see a parking lot to the left where you can park and then walk back to the bridge in order to get your selfie pictures. You will admire the community of West Montrose – its filled with charming homes.
West Montrose Covered Bridge –
1 Covered Bridge Drive West Montrose
Next I suggest you continue to the small town of Floradale (20 minutes). Here in the heart of Mennonite Country you will find Hillcrest Home Baking and General Store. The bake shop is in the rear of the general store – its pretty tiny so during these times, only 1 person is allowed in at a time. The shelves are typically packed with reasonably priced, freshly baked goods. You can see the bakers at work in a small kitchen. I recommend you purchase their home made donuts and delicious bread. Gentleman, if you’d like a Mennonite felt hat they sell a variety of them. They only accept cash.
Hillcrest Bakery and General Store
2192 Floradale Road
In the small town of Floradale you’ll also find Bonnie Lou’s Cafe – 2238 Floradale Road and Earlidale Meats – 2065 Floradale Road.
Next, travel to the hamlet of Yatton – along the way you will by-pass the community of Elmira. Don’t be surprised when your GPS directs you down a gravel road or two. Chances are good that you will encounter some horse and buggy traffic. Yatton is a VERY small place – one of those “if you wink you’ll miss it” communities. Yatton Bakery is very unique spot – its located in the back of quaint home. On Fridays they bake tarts.
Yatton Home Bakery
7284 3rd Line
Fresh Bread – Tues/Thurs/Sat. Fresh Tarts – Fridays
The Wallenstein General Store is also close by. Its a fun place to visit so make it your next stop. The town post office is located in this Old Order Mennonite shop. Men are bound to find something to purchase (hardware/farm supplies) while the ladies search through fabrics and bulk foods. Grab an ice cream cone and take in the action as you take a seat on the front porch.
Wallenstein General Store Inc
7278 Line 86
About 30 minutes away is your next stop – picturesque Millbank, Ontario.
Here you find Millbank Cheese and Butter (great tasting aged cheddar) – been in operation since 1908 – owned by a number of local families.
Millbank Cheese and Butter
6974 Church Street
Its worth visiting Millbank Family Furniture – handcrafted by local craftsman. This impressive, new location just opened.
Millbank Family Furniture
4044 Perth County Line 72
Most travel to Millbank in order to visit Anna Maes Bakery and Restaurant. Their speciality is Broasted Chicken (marinated and deep fried in a pressure cooker) and this time of year, their Strawberry Pie is available and I highly recommend it. To keep the public safe with distancing measures they creatively offer “Scooter Service – Contactless Pickup” – their parking lot is typically filled with customers waiting in their cars for their order to be delivered by a staff member riding a scooter!
Anna Maes Bakery and Restaurant
4060 72, Millbank, Ontario
Scooter Service Orders – 519-595-4407 or 519-616-0466
Continue onwards to Milverton but along the way consider making a stop in Newton at Creekville Bulk Foods. I don’t think your GPS is going to be able to direct you this this stop, which is located on a secondary country road. You may need to look at a map in order to figure out how to get there. There isn’t even a store sign at the end of the farms long driveway. They cater to the areas Old Old Amish and Mennonites but the owners were more than happy to see us. In their small shop (no electricity), I purchased pure peanut butter, instant yeast, popcorn kernels and an excellent health book called, “Be Your Own Doctor”. They carry both Canadian and American popcorn varieties. When I asked the owner he told me his favourite popcorn variety is from “Weaver Popcorn” (World’s Largest Popcorn Supplier). Congratulate yourself if you find this “out-of-the-way”, unique stop.
4497 Line 67
Canada’s largest Amish settlement is found within the communities of Milverton and Millbank.
You should plan to take this scenic drive on a Friday so you can purchase melt-in-your-mouth, Fry Pies from the “Lil Fry Pie Shoppe” in Milverton. Its not unusual to see a sold-out sign on their door by noon, so you are best to call in advance to pre-reserve. Everyone has their favourite fry pie filling but I think the best ones, are cherry and blueberry. They are priced at $3. each or $27. a dozen. These freeze well so don’t hesitate – buy a dozen! You’ll be pleased that contactless service is offered – you stand on the sidewalk and their staff opens a small storefront window in order to pass you your order. I believe this is another cash only shop. They also sell well-regarded, Baden Coffee if you’d like a cup to go along with your fry-pie.
Lil Fry Pie Shoppe
32 Main St, N
Across the road (no sign but its obvious) is Guenther’s Bakery. They have been in business for over 100 years. If you don’t see the baked goods you are hoping to purchase on their shelves, be sure to ask them. You’ll luck out if their cream puffs are available. Cash only.
39 Main Street N
Down the street is Mennomex Mexican Variety and Take Out. This is a fantastic place to purchase salsas, hot sauce, unique candies, tortillas and hard to find Mexican ingredients.
Mennomex Mexican Variety and Take Out
55 Main St S
By now you’ll probably be very hungry. Set your GPS to Wellesley, the home of Schmidtsville Restaurant. Place your order before leaving Milverton and by the time you arrive in Wellesley (20 minutes) it will be ready for you. As you enter you’ll see a desk where you will pay for your order – you’ll then continue into the next room for pick up. They offer regular portion specials for $13.99 – includes meat/potato/hot vegetable/slice of homemade pie (recommend the Hawaiian) and soda. There is a town park across the road with picnic tables.
3685 Nafziger Road
519-656-2430 (extension 3 for ordering)
If fish n chips are more to your liking, continue to Scran and Dram, Scottish Public House in New Hamburg, ON. Take-out is available from 11am.
Scan and Dram Scottish Public House
338 Waterloo Street
While in the beautiful town of New Hamburg be sure to stop by, “The Garden Stand” and tell my friend, Chef Adam Brenner that I sent you. His freshly grown garlic is now available. During this time 2 customers are allowed in his store at a time but to keep distanced you can call, place your order and they will bring it to your car. If Adams Strawberry/Lavender cold soup is available grab it – its more delicious than a milkshake. All his made from scratch soups taste superb but so does his hummus, coleslaw, salad dressings…..
The Garden Stand
90 Wilmot Street, Unit B
Once you depart the Garden Stand you are just a couple minutes from Highway 7/8 – 20 minutes to Kitchener.
You might consider a detour towards the town of Tavistock in order to visit with Brian and Cindy Larson at Quehl’s Restaurant (official caterer at the Walters Theatre). If you are lucky they may be selling fresh Strawberry Cream Puffs and Peach Hand Pies. On Friday’s for $11.99 you can select from local favourites – Pigtails, Rolled Ribs (highly recommend) or Cabbage Rolls. Call in advance to pre-order.
33 Woodstock St S
Of course you can take in these countryside views without making a stop.
At the end of many farm driveways, locals place coolers filled with water/soda – sold for $1.00. Freshly picked flowers from their picture-perfect gardens are available too – only $2.00 for a bouquet of Sweet Williams.
Trust me – once you visit a bakery along this route, you’ll want to stop at all of them. By the time you head home your trunk will be filled with tasty goodies.