With its rolling hills, bluffs of trees, and bucolic farms, Perth County is one of the most beautiful regions in barnOntario, and St. Marys, with two rivers flowing gently through its heart, is one of the county's jewels. In this regard, the Cottage on the Thames is ideally situated: a five-minute walk down Thomas Street brings you into the open country, where you can ramble for miles along a country road with the Thames on one side and fertile fields on the other. You're sure to see an abundance of flora and fauna, including herons and hawks, and you'll hear innumerable songbirds, and maybe spot some deer. Another nature walk is the Grand Trunk Trail which runs for over a mile between Thames Road and James Street North, and features a heronpanoramic view from the Sarnia Bridge. More advanced hikers might tackle a section of the sixty-mile Avon Trail which starts in St. Marys and runs all the way to Conestogo. Wander down to the old quarry, and you can see fish suspended in its thirty-feet-deep, crystal-clear water. Watch for groundhogs and muskrats, and enjoy the dozens of species of wild flowers.

Nature can be enjoyed in more sedentary ways, too. You can settle yourself into a lawnchair in the backyard, and enjoy the view of the river. If you want, you can even wade into the Thames (designated a Canadian Heritage River in 2000) or, better yet, find a flat rock in the midst of the river to take a snooze on.

Road trips

Shakespeare to the Shoreline maps out seven fantastic self-guided driving tours through Huron and Perth Counties, ranging from 34 km to 264 kms. Niagara Falls is a two-hour drive, and Toronto is just over an hour-and-a-half trip by car, or you can get there by riding the rails. The city of London is about half an hour away by car, and Kitchener, with its famous Oktoberfest, and Waterloo, the centre of Canada's technology industry, are both a mere 45-minute jaunt.