Travel Back In Time To The 12 Oldest Towns In Canada

Summary

  • Canada’s most historic towns offer a unique and old-world charm with a diverse history and culture.
  • These historic Canadian towns are among the country’s oldest and guarantee unforgettable experiences for history buffs and provide a break from the bustling cities.
  • From Trois-Rivières in Quebec to Lunenburg in Nova Scotia, these old towns in Canada boast rich histories, stunning architecture, and beautiful landscapes.



Canada is home to some of the world’s most beautiful towns that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites in some cases. Vacationers planning for an expedition to the world’s second-largest country can easily be swept away in awe by its magnificent populous cities, and many people limit their visits to the most famous places, like Toronto.

Well, it is agreeable that the gorgeous, paved big towns with towering buildings nearly touching the clouds are just irresistible. However, Canada’s unique and old-world charm lies in the oldest Canadian towns that host a diverse history and culture ranging from British to French to Aboriginal. These oldest, most historic towns in Canada guarantee unforgettable experiences for history buffs.

UPDATE: 2023/11/29 15:33 EST BY NOAH STAATS


Canada’s Oldest Towns Are Home To Endless History

This article has been refreshed with two additional historic towns in Canada that are amongst the country’s oldest, including one that became a part of the greater city of Toronto. Canada has a rich, expansive history dating back hundreds of years, with many towns still feeling like old-world places to live and travel. Have fun, and be safe!


Related: Geography Lesson: What To Know About Canada’s 10 Unique Provinces


12 York, Ontario

Now a part of the greater Toronto area, York is a historic hub long-remembered

Photo by Lianhao Qu on Unsplash

Photo of the lobby at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto, Ontario,

One of Canada’s more interesting old cities was York, which has now been dissolved into the greater city of Toronto. This historic city was first established as a township in 1850, hosting many families and businesses until its dissolution in 1998.

One reason for this dramatic update was that York was confused with New York, and Canadian officials figured Ontario needed extra space anyway. Of course, those living in “York” didn’t see any physical changes to their home, but it changed how they classified where they resided. Although long gone, York still rings through the ears of many Canadian citizens.


  • Year founded: 1850
  • Notable attractions: Yorkdale Shopping Centre, High Park Zoo, Royal Ontario Museum, Ontario Science Centre, Edwards Gardens, Aga Khan Museum

11 Trois-Rivières, Quebec

A quaint and cultured town filled with green spaces and museums awaits in Trois-Rivières

A Park in Trois-Rivières, Quebec
Photo by Claude Laprise on Unsplash
 

A Park in Trois-Rivières, Quebec

Another historic town in Canada worth exploring is Trois-Rivières, originally founded in 1634. With a rich history and endless green spaces to relax and unwind in, this town is nice for a retreat and a history lesson in the Quebec area.


On top of that, Trois-Rivières boasts the riverfront Boréalis museum, tracking the area’s local paper industry, plus the Centre d’exposition Raymond-Lasnier, which showcases beautiful art. Culture runs deep here and in much of Quebec, so Trois-Rivières is a historic and beautiful town to consider adding to the itinerary. There is also an Old Prison, which many visitors enjoy walking through, dating back hundreds of years into the past.

The Forges du Saint-Maurice is another historically significant complex, showcasing artifacts from Canada’s first iron-working community. There’s so much to learn!

  • Year founded: 1634
  • Notable attractions: Parc Laviolette, Forges du Saint-Maurice National Historic Site, Salle J.- Antonio-Thompson, Vieille prison de Trois-Rivières, Moulin seigneurial de Pointe-du-Lac, Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières

10 Waterton, Alberta

Perfectly nestled at the US/Canada border, Waterton is a lakeside historical hub surrounded by mountains


Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada
Shutterstock

Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

Located some distance from the US/Canada border at Waterton Lake National Park, which also serves as an International Peace Park and a World Heritage site, Waterton is one of the most beautiful towns in Alberta (other than Banff). The small village-town boasts a unique location with a captivating landscape and incredible historic sites, including the famous Prince of Wales Hotel.

It is also surrounded by dramatic mountains, which means multiple outdoor adventures for vacationers. Guests can enjoy shopping and dining in the local Waterton’s colorful shops and delicious restaurants for an authentic experience.

  • Year founded: 1904
  • Notable attractions: Waterton Lake National Park, Prince of Wales Hotel


Related: 10 Of Alberta’s Most Beautiful Road Trips Worth Crossing The Border For

9 Trinity, Newfoundland

Ideal for a summer getaway, this filming location and historic fishing station offers old-school charm

Trinity, Newfoundland
Photo by Matt Hanns Schroeter on Unsplash

Houses near a body of water in Trinity, Newfoundland

Trinity is one of the most beautiful small towns in Canada for a summer trip. The 18th-century gem grew out of a harbor town on the Coast of Newfoundland. Its unique and quaint old-school design and style have been a major attraction for tourists and filmmakers, and the famous hit film, The Shipping News, was made in this charming town.

The small town is among the historic places in Canada and has a year-round resident population of only a few people. However, it still attracts numerous tourists who explore the ancient churches, museums, enchanting restored sandbox buildings, and the unique arts along its quaint street walks.


  • Dating back to: the 16th and 17th centuries as a permanent fishing station (it’s been an active settlement since around 1588)
  • Notable attractions: Explore the Bonavista Peninsula, go whale watching, go to the theater

8 The Pas, Manitoba

Deep blue lakes and starry skies; here’s to one of the oldest settlements in Northern Manitoba!

The Pas, Manitoba
Photo by Marlon Nartea on Unsplash

A silhouette image and starry night sky of The Pas, Manitoba

Popularly celebrated among the oldest settlements in Northern Manitoba, the town of Pas is another custodian of Canadian heritage and home to unique natural wonders, including one of the true blue lakes of the world, Clearwater Lake, which lies just minutes from the town.

Established in 1912, the Pas is among the many old Canadian towns, but its age and history are not its sole draw; its natural beauty makes it a year-round tourist destination, even though it may be considered one of the lesser-known places in Canada to visit.


The town also boasts an amazing culture that reveals a unique side of Canada, and vacationers will enjoy attending numerous festivals and unique events. Fishing and hunting are also among the most popular activities to enjoy during a visit to the Pas.

7 St. Andrew’s, New Brunswick

Canada’s oldest seaside resort town boasts over 300 heritage buildings and water activities

A Heritage Building in St. Andrews (also known as St. Andrews By-the-Sea) in New Brunswick, Canada
Shutterstock / JHVEPhoto

A Heritage Building in St. Andrews (also known as St. Andrews By-the-Sea) in New Brunswick, Canada


Located at the Bay of Fundy, St Andrew’s is considered Canada’s oldest seaside resort town. It is among Canada’s largest National Historic Districts, containing over 300 heritage buildings, hosts a population of over 2,000 people, and is home to a rich history and Canadian culture. There are also numerous water sports opportunities in this small town, including canoeing and boating.

Interestingly, St. Andrew’s is located in one of the best kayaking destinations in Canada and will never disappoint, thanks to its excellent water activities. It’s also a premier whale-watching destination. Overall, this enchanting town is a splendid choice for vacationers looking for a relaxed weekend to enjoy marine delicacies, including lobsters and fresh fish.

  • Year established: 1783
  • Notable attractions: Centennial Park, Bertha Day Art & Craft Gallery, and Jarea Art Studio Gallery

6 Sparta, Ontario

Once called ‘Yarmouth Corners,’ this old Canadian Quakers’ town exudes 1800s history


A small building beside a train track through a forest, said to be North America's smallest Union Station, Union, Ontario, Canada, near Sparta
Shutterstock / jrtwynam

A small building beside a train track through a forest, said to be North America’s smallest Union Station, Union, Ontario, Canada, near Sparta

Sparta was traditionally referred to as ‘Yarmouth Corners.’ It is one of the many historic small towns in Canada that houses the Quakers’ culture, style, and heritage, and history buffs will have fun spending time in the incredible Quaker Meeting House, which is operational to date.

This ancient town dates back to the 1800s and boasts a fantastic collection of Spartan-style artifacts from the early days. To see and learn about the unique artifacts, visitors should visit the Anvil Museum house. Other highlights include the historic Sparta House Tea Room and Ye Olde Forge.

  • Dating back to: The 1800s
  • Notable attractions: Historic sites like the Ye Olde Forge and the Sparta House Tea Room


Sparta town, Ontario, is a charming historic gem with much to offer. However, it is also perfect for nature lovers who shouldn’t miss the
Sparta Lavender Farm
during their trip.

Related: 15 Best Campgrounds In Ontario For First-Time Adventurers

5 Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

1770s influence and ancient structures line the way in Mahone Bay

Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia
Photo by Jamie Morrison on Unsplash

Mahone Harbour in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

Founded in the 1700s, the maritime town of Mahone Bay in Nova Scotia is a historic charm and a cultural gem with much to offer. The old town has many ancient buildings, including some of the most photographed sites in Canada. The gorgeous historic churches here boast stunning architectural features that photographers will love to capture for memories.


Mahone Bay town also offers visitors a range of antique shops, art galleries, and restaurants, some of which are housed in 19th-century buildings.

  • Dating back to: the 1700s
  • Notable attractions: Halifax Citadel National Historic Site, Halifax Public Gardens, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site

The small town, the relaxed and laid-back vibe, and the historical charm make Mahone Bay a perfect choice for getaways. However, during a visit to the town, vacationers shouldn’t miss water activities, such as kayaking and canoeing.

4 Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

This historic UNESCO World Heritage town is Canada’s answer to Venice

Sunny summer day view of Lunenburg harborfront, Nova Scotia, Canada, a UNESCO world heritage site
Shutterstock

Sunny summer day view of Lunenburg harborfront, Nova Scotia, Canada, a UNESCO world heritage site


Lunenburg is one of the best old towns in Canada; it was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO and contains stunning historic artifacts. Located on a small hill among waters with old buildings constructed in ancient architectural styles, the small town is occasionally compared to Venice.

It offers visitors a laid-back atmosphere, amazing culture, and a rich heritage – and history lovers will enjoy exploring its ancient treasures. One of the must-visits is the famous Bluenose, a celebrated and iconic racing ship dating back to the 1920s, whose image was engraved onto the Canadian 10 cents coin. The town has sustained its culture of boat-making, which dates back to 1753. Still, Lunenburg is known to impress all visitors, whether history buffs or not.

  • Year Established: 1753
  • Notable attractions: Explore the old town, St. John’s Anglican Church, and the Fisheries Museum Of The Atlantic

3 Kenora, Ontario

Experience Aboriginal culture in Ontario’s historic town of Kenora


Aerial View of Kenora, Ontario, Canada
Shutterstock

Aerial View of Kenora, Ontario, Canada

As Ontario continues to boast many other scenic towns and world heritage cities, the small town of Kenora, Ontario, is a uniquely incredible yet underrated historic town in Canada. The town is the perfect spot to explore the Aboriginal culture and has many iconic attractions.

Its long, fascinating history makes it an interesting destination for vacationers who’d love to travel back in time when the British discovered it. One of the best sights to visit in Kenora is the Lake of the Woods Museum, an award-winning museum where tourists can learn about aboriginal culture.

  • Year founded: Incorporated a Manitoba town in 1882
  • Notable attractions: Lake of the Woods Museum, Rushing River Provincial Park, Tug Boat James McMillan, the Goodwill Geyser


Aboriginal culture and history are among the unique and most important cultural elements of Canadian history. For this reason,
The Lake of the Woods Museum
is a must-visit.

2 Hudson, Quebec

Founded by English, Scottish, and Irish immigrants, Hudson is a historic getaway near Montreal

Finnigan's market, Hudson, Quebec, Canada
Shutterstock / Glass and Nature

Finnigan’s market, Hudson, Quebec, Canada

The charming historic town also finds itself among the oldest places in Canada. It was founded by immigrants from England, Scotland, and Ireland, and it is a significant part of the history of Quebec. It brings about a unique culture and style with a charming, fun English vibe. The town is located 60 km West of the famous city of Montreal and has a residence of about 5000 people.


Hudson, Quebec, is popular for flea markets, where tourists can explore a range of local products and interact with the locals. It is recognized for its world-class cuisines, which travelers can experience in the delicious eateries. It is also home to historic tearooms and a thriving crafts and art industry, which speak volumes about its culture.

  • Year founded: 1865, and became a town in 1969
  • Notable attractions: Hudson Village Theatre, Sandy Beach, Parc Jack Layton, Greenwood Centre for Living History, St James Church Hall, Le Nichoir

Hudson Town is a hub for local and organic cuisines, making it a must-visit destination for foodies.

1 Bay Bulls, Newfoundland

Located near bigger cities, this historic town is a perfect escape from the noise and great for whale watching

Bay Bulls, Newfoundland, Canada
Shutterstock / Reimar

Bay Bulls, Newfoundland, Canada


Located about 30 minutes from the popular and one of the biggest cities in Canada, St John, Bay Bulls Town is yet another important historic village in Newfoundland. This is among the most charming small towns in Canada and houses over 1000 people. It also serves as a major tourist destination, mostly attracting visitors from St John.

Vacationers can enjoy lots of water activities, including whale watching, iceberg viewing, and boat tours. The small town is also known for its fishing activity, having survived the test of time majorly as a fishing village.

  • Year founded: First appeared on a map drawn by Thomas Hood in 1592
  • Notable attractions: The bays of Bay Bulls (aka Bulls Head) and Witless Bay (the best places for whale watching here), Signal Hill National Historic Site, Saints Peter and Paul Church