What started as a relief work-project during the Great Depression in the 1930s has evolved over the decades into a bona fide food destination known as Kitchener’s Belmont Village.
The village of St. Jacobs is full of unique retailers that line the main street, and offers many ways to relax with a little entertainment, or to learn about the village’s history (check out Shopping, Learning and Leisure in St. Jacobs). But that’s not all there is to do: it’s time to explore some of St. Jacobs’ other hidden gems.
Part of what makes St. Jacobs so special is its location – perfectly situated in some of the most beautiful countryside in Waterloo Region. That countryside just begs to be explored, whether it’s by walking, hiking or cycling. And, if you work up an appetite or need something to quench your thirst after a busy day exploring, you’ll find lots of great options to choose from in the village.
So lace up your shoes – it’s time to explore the Village of St. Jacobs!
Mill Race Trail:
First, a little history. A ‘millrace’ is a current of fast moving water that, back in the day, would drive water wheels which ran the mills – the industrial life force of many villages in years gone by. In St. Jacobs, the Mill Race Trail runs beside the stretch of the Conestoga River that flows next to the former Snider Flour Mill (now home to several artists’ shops and studios, as well as exhibits depicting the early days of St. Jacobs).
The trail is a very level, hard-packed stone chip trail, making it easy to navigate whether you’re walking, cycling, or pushing a stroller. It’s also home to lots of little creatures – chipmunks, chickadees, and the odd muskrat! Access the trail off Front Street by the old mill silos.
Health Valley Trail:
You can actually feed on to the Health Valley Trail from the far end of the Mill Race Trail, if you want to extend your outing.
The Health Valley Trail was formerly known as the Contestogo River Trail – a route that used to connect the villages of St. Jacobs and Conestogo back in the earlier days of both villages (now the trail ends around University Avenue East in Waterloo). The trail has several surfaces, starting off with stone dust, and switching to a mix of natural footpaths, woodchips and some boardwalks through the wetter sections. The trail winds its way through fields and bushes, providing a look at some of the area’s rural beauty. You can catch the trail off Albert Street in St. Jacobs.
DYK: Both of these trails are also part of the Trans Canada Trail – the world’s longest trail!
Venture Forth Bicycle Tours:
1441 King St. N, St. Jacobs
You can now rent a bicycle to go exploring in and around St. Jacobs! Venture Forth Bicycle Tours is a new business that offers bicycle rentals by the hour or day. Owner Kerri is an avid cyclist herself, and is happy to offer up suggestions of places to visit in and around the village. She can even tell you the best places to stop and enjoy a picnic lunch, and can rent you a picnic backpack too! Open Thursday to Sunday, look for them in the Red Caboose on St. Jacobs’ main street.
EcoCafe Coffee Roasters:
1441 Kings St. N., St. Jacobs
Light roast, dark roast, latte, espresso – whatever brew you’re craving you’ll find it at EcoCafe! They serve up certified Organic, Fair Trade, Direct Trade and Rainforest Alliance coffee beans that are sourced from around the world, and then roasted on site by Dan, EcoCafe’s ‘roasting guru’. Dan also heads up the weekly coffee sampling that happens at EcoCafe every Wednesday morning at 11 a.m.. Coffee lovers can sign up for the cuppings, where they’ll be lead through 3 coffee tastings for just $10. Who knows – you might just discover a new favourite brew!
Block Three Brewing Company:
1430 King St. N., St. Jacobs
This microbrewery has a macro following of locals who love popping in to see what’s on tap. With just 3 core brews (King Street Saison, Fickle Mistress, Beauty & The Belgium), the rest of their beers are rotational or limited edition, so treat yourself to a new flavour every time you visit. Block Three also offers tours of its production area, and sells its products in bottles, cans, pints and growlers.
(DYK: The name, Block Three, is a nod to St. Jacobs’ history. Block Three was a plot of land along the Grand River that is now part of Woolwich Township, and was deeded to one of the first settlers of the area.)
Stone Crock Bakery:
1402 King Street N., St. Jacobs
The scent of freshly baked breads, pies and other sweet treats greets you before you even enter the store. This is home-baking at its best; a lovely place to enjoy a treat after a busy day of hitting the trails in St. Jacobs! The Stone Crock Bakery is part of a trio of food retailers in St. Jacobs that include the Stone Crock Restaurant, and Stone Crock Meats & Cheese. Stop by the bakery early when everything is still warm and fresh from the oven; however, even if you make it your final stop of the day, don’t worry – there’s always a great selection of treats to take home!
1398 King St. N., St. Jacobs
During sunny, summer days, the patio at Jacob’s Grill is a perfect place to relax, enjoy a beverage and meal, and take in St. Jacobs’ beautiful streetscape. Located in the middle of some of the best farmland in the province, Jacob’s Grill works to source local producers to provide ingredients for its menu. It’s a varied menu that includes burgers and wraps, salads, sticky ribs, and desserts that are sure to make you smile (Chocolate Hazelnut Lava Cake anyone?). Jacob’s Grill is a great way to either re-fuel before heading out to do more browsing, or to cap off a fun day exploring in St. Jacobs!
** Have you discovered your own Hidden Gem in St. Jacobs? Share a picture of it on social media: Twitter: @ExploreWR Instagram: explorewaterlooregion Facebook: @explorewaterlooregion Hashtag: #exploreWR
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