Established as a military settlement in 1816, Perth-upon-Tay was settled initially by military veterans of the War of 1812 as the seat of Lanark County. The Scottish, Irish and European stonemasons who constructed the Rideau Canal (opened 1832, Kingston to Ottawa) built many local historic stone buildings which have been preserved in their original condition or carefully restored.
The seven "Marks Brothers", Canadian kings of theatrical repertoire who toured North America from the 1870s-1920s. originally hailed from Christie Lake just outside of Perth. The Balderson Theatre building at 12 Gore Street East (still standing, now a furniture store) was the largest theatre between Montreal and Toronto in its time; the brothers were called (Maclean’s Magazine, 1958) "the most remarkable theatrical family in Canadian history. The dazzling Marks Brothers were the greatest impresario performers of our small town stage in the era before the nickelodeon."
The two century-old downtown huddles around the Tay Basin, the end point of the Tay Canal that connects Perth into the Rideau Canal system. Large boats arriving from the Rideau via the Tay Canal will get no further than the Last Duel Campground due to very low bridges between the campground and the Tay Basin but smaller boats, canoes and kayaks should be able to navigate under these bridges to the Tay Basin in downtown Perth.
Local arts and crafts can be found throughout the town. Paintings, prints and art cards of Nostalgic Realism artist Craig Campbell (available at many downtown stores) are internationally known for their nostalgic portrayal of the steam train era.
The town is named for Perth (Scotland), one of its two sister cities, which is built on a Tay River. County Lanark is also named for a Scottish town Lanark (from the Cumbric Lanerc meaning "clear space, glade") in the former Lanarkshire.
- By car
- From Ottawa (and the mainline Trans-Canada Highway), Perth is 83km (52 miles) west on Highway 7. Exit on Wilson Street and follow the "business section" signs.
- From Kingston and Highway 401, take County Road 10 north through Westport.
- By boat
- The Tay River branches from the Rideau Canal between Smiths Falls and Newboro. There are two locks (#33 Lower Beveridges, #34 Upper Beveridges) which bypass the river to join Perth to the main canal. Parks Canada operates the canal seasonally, late May to Thanksgiving.
- By bus
- 1 Greyhound, Ultramar (Four Seasons Car Wash), 89 Dufferin St, ☏ . Toronto-Peterborough-Perth-Ottawa bus via Highway 7.
The downtown core, situated on a few square blocks, is easily toured on foot. Parking in downtown lots is $4/day; one may park on-street for free for no more than two hours in any five-hour period. Portable wheelchair ramps have been retrofitted to some of the older-style stores.
The "big box" stores, strip mall, fast food and motels are out on Highway #7 and best accessed by motor car.
Local taxis are provided by K+K Cab (+1 613-264-4001), Access Taxi (+1 613-264-1212) and Charlie's Taxi (+1 613-267-3757).
- 1 Perth Museum, 11 Gore St. E, ☏ , fax: . 10AM-5PM weekdays, 1-5PM weekends, year-round. Matheson House, c. 1840, was home to well-to-do Scottish merchant Hon. Roderick Matheson and his family for over 90 years. Four rooms of the nationally-designated historic stone dwelling are restored to the 19th-century era; two galleries display changing exhibitions on topics including the last fatal duel fought in Canada, the Mammoth Cheese, and the famous Marks Brothers theatrical family (not to be confused with the American Marx Brothers). By donation.
- 2 Mammoth Cheese. As a promotional stunt for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, twelve Lanark County cheesemakers used the equivalent of a day's milk from ten thousand cows to make the 'World's Largest Cheese', 8.5 metres (28 feet) in diameter and two metres (six feet) tall. It drew crowds at every stop on the trip via Toronto to Chicago by rail; its ten tonne (22,000 lbs) weight crashed through an exhibition hall floor when first unloaded. A modern full-scale replica stands at the Tay Basin beside the Crystal Palace, an earlier replica (from the 50th anniversary) is near the original assembly point on the CP Rail line (end of Herriott Street. near the Perth Soap Factory).
- Perth Town Crier. Official Town Crier Brent McLaren represents the town at civic ceremonies, festivals, special community functions and Town Crier competitions.
- 3 Round Garden, 99 Sunset Blvd. (99 Christie Lake Rd). Constructed in 1983 as a special garden for the blind which features smells, sounds and taste with a round walkway leading from raised bed to raised bed. Signs in English, French and Braille describe various garden plots. Garden fountains and surrounding woods add to the sounds, with plenty of seating areas around the garden to enjoy the various senses.
- 4 Hall of Remembrance, 26 Beckwith St. East, ☏ . Military veterans' museum covering two world wars, the Korean war and peacekeeping missions.
- 1 [dead link] Conlon Farm Recreation Complex, 6 Conlon Dr. (at Smith Dr, off Rogers Rd), ☏ . 53-acre public park south of Perth with six ball diamonds, three soccer pitches, two basketball courts, a beach volleyball court, four tennis courts, a playground area, toboggan hill, skateboard park and outdoor rink in winter, cross-country skiing. Teams may schedule a sports field in advance. Home of Perth Tay Tennis Club. Perth United Soccer Club, Perth and District Little League, Perth Mixed Lob ball and Recreational Lob ball.
- 2 Christie Lake Cottages & Marina, 203 Christie Lake Lane 32, Perth, ☏ . Paddle boats, canoes, kayaks, kids' programme (3-13's), beach with play area, swimming, fishing. Off-grid cottages, 1600 acres, marina with wi-fi.
- 3 Links O'Tay, 141 Peter St, ☏ , fax: . Canada's oldest continuously operating golf course, founded 1890.
- 4 Maple Key Day Camp, 103 Miller Bay Rd, ☏ . 9AM-4PM. Day camp for 4-14 year olds on 14 acres with workshop, cabins, boating on Otty Lake. Campers choose their own activities in a community-based environment. $255/week (plus lunch).
- 5 Perth Studio Theatre, 63 Gore Street E., ☏ . Live theatre, April-October.
- Tay River Trail. Series of navigational markers and information plaques follow historic portage and walking pathways upstream and downstream from Tay Basin.
- 6 Port Elmsley Drive-In, 333 Port Elmsley Road, Port Elmsley, ☏ . Cinema open weekends late-April to Thanksgiving, daily in July-August, rain or shine. Grill and snack bar.
- 7 Stewart Park, behind town hall. Cool downtown oasis along Tay River with gardens and maple trees. Perth Citizen's Band, the oldest operating citizens band in Canada (established 1852), performs Thursday evenings at the band shell behind the town hall. The park also hosts weddings and Sunday night church services.
- 8 Code's Park. Across the Tay River from Stewart Park. A life-size bronze statue across from Code's Mill commemorates Olympic equestrian horse "Big Ben" (1976–1999) and his rider Ian Millar of Millar Brooke Farm.
- 9 Last Duel Park. Last Fatal Duel in Upper Canada. On June 13, 1833, law student John Wilson shot and killed Robert Lyon because of Lyon's remarks disparaging local schoolteacher Elizabeth Hughes. Wilson and his second were charged with murder, but were acquitted. Wilson moved to London (Ontario), married Miss Hughes, became a Member of Parliament and eventually a judge. Robert Lyon's body lies in the Old Burying Grounds on Cole Street.
- 10 Murphy's Point Provincial Park, 2243 Elm Grove Road, Big Rideau Lake (RR#5 Perth), ☏ . Camping, water sport and day use.
- Perth Polar Bear Plunge, Tay River, next to the Perth Legion. New Year's Day.
- Festival of the Maples. Late April, at end of maple sugar season. Maple syrup and street festival, live entertainment, pancake breakfast, taffy on snow, classic cars, rides and children's entertainment, market fair with commercial vendors and product awards. Various locations including main street and arena.
- Stewart Park Festival. July. Three days of free music in Stewart Park behind city hall.
- Perth Garlic Festival. August. "It's Chic to reek."
- 11 Perth Fair, 50 Arthur St., ☏ . September (Labour Day weekend) agricultural fall fair. $10 teen/adult, $2 kids + $1.75 midway rides.
- Perth Autumn Studio Tour. October. Showcase for contemporary fine crafts.
- One Act Play Festival. November. Eastern Ontario Drama League annual event, a competition between various theatrical groups from Kingston to Ottawa. The venue changes each year: Perth Studio Theatre was host in 2011 and again in 2016. $15 per session (3 plays).
- Festival of Good Cheer. November. Experience a shopping trip back to 1840. A festival of lights is held on (usually) the third Friday of November by the downtown business association at Crystal Palace and Tay Basin; this starts at 6pm with music and a bonfire, followed by fireworks at 6:30pm and then a mass lighting of Community Christmas Trees in the Crystal Palace. The festival of good cheer, held later the same weekend, includes entertainment by carollers and music groups.
- Perth 200. The 200th Anniversary of the Perth Military Settlement, in 2016, is to be commemorated with 200 events and the publication of a local cookbook.
- 1 Crystal Palace Market (Under Glass Building), Tay Basin, across from City Hall. Saturdays, May-Oct. Town marketplace built from remnants of glass street enclosures that once covered Rideau Street in Ottawa. Perth Farmers' Market, local artisans and craftspeople, local produce.
- 2 Balderson Village Cheese, 1410 Highway 511, Balderson, ☏ , toll-free: , fax: . 9AM-5:30PM daily. Founded 1881 by local dairy farmers collective to produce Cheddar cheese in the tiny village of Balderson, north of Perth. Various domestic and imported cheeses, confections and condiments, baskets for special occasions.
- Canada's oldest drugstore, 57 Foster St.. Now expanded as member of Pharmasave chain, entrances on Foster and North streets.
- Downtown Heritage Perth. Historic commercial district with over eighty local merchants, including twenty downtown restaurants.
- Hoffman Gore St. Flea Market, 147 Gore St. E., ☏ . 9:30AM-5PM daily. Forty-five vendors of everything from junk to antiquities.
- Riverguild Fine Crafts, 51 Gore St E, ☏ . 10AM-5PM daily, noon-5PM Sun. Artist's co-operative offers pottery, woodcarving, etchings, paintings, jewellery, fibre art, hand-blown glass, sheepskin slippers, leather work, ironwork, children's games and toys, representing over 75 local and Canadian artists.
Various farms around Perth/Lanark (locally) and around Delta (north of Brockville) produce maple sugar and maple syrup seasonally; sap normally starts flowing at the beginning of the spring thaw (late March-early April) while the last of the winter snow is still on the ground.
- 3 Ennis' Maple Syrup, 848 Ennis Road, Balderson, ☏ . North of Perth on Bennett Lake.
- 4 Farrell's Finest Maple, 4262 Narrows Lock Rd, Perth, ☏ .
- 5 Temple's Sugar Bush, 1700 Ferguson’s Falls Road (County Rd #15), Lanark, ☏ . Pancake House restaurant, wedding and event space.
- 6 Wheeler's Maple Products, 1001 Highland Line, McDonalds Corners, ☏ . 9AM-3PM daily, year-round. Lanark Highlands pancake house and maple sugar camp. Maple heritage museum, trails, barn, playground, chainsaw/logging display and blacksmith shop.
- 1 Coutts Coffee, 17 Wilson St. E (Code's Mill on the Park), ☏ . Coffee and pastry. One of multiple storefronts in the historic Code's Mill building, which also includes a pub, retail and banquet/event space. Seasonal patio overlooking Stewart Park.
- 2 Maximilian's, 99 Gore St. East, ☏ . 11:30am-2pm and 5pm-9pm daily, 4-8pm Sun, closed Mon (except summer). European. Weinerschnitzel, Hungarian goulash, beef fillet, desserts. $10-20.
- 3 Me and Mrs. Jones, 110 Gore St E., ☏ . Family restaurant.
- 4 Mex & Co, 55 Gore Street East, ☏ . Mexican-Californian. Riverfront patio.
- 5 The Stone Cellar, 71 Gore St. E., ☏ , fax: . European $20-37 (dinner).
- 1 Fiddleheads Bar and Grill, 53 Herriott St. (in Code's Mill on the Park), ☏ , fax: . 11:30AM-1AM daily, 11:30AM-8PM Sun/Mon, 11:30AM-11PM Tue, closed holidays. Sunday brunch, kids and dessert menus.
- 2 Imperial Tavern, 27 Wilson St. W., ☏ . No-frills dive bar with a few pool tables, shuffleboard, beer on tap and in bottles/tall cans.
- 3 O'Reilly's Ale House, 43 Gore St. E., ☏ . Pub in former apothecary shop, lunch specials, 12 draught beers on tap, wi-fi.
- 4 Shark & Bull, 41A North St., ☏ . Pool Hall and nightclub, hot soup and chili, crèpes, sandwiches freshly made to order.
- 1 [dead link] Drummond House, 30 Drummond St. E., ☏ , toll-free: . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. Three-room bed and breakfast in historic 1830 stone house beside Tay River Turning Basin, private baths, outdoor pool, hot tub, a/c, wi-fi, free long-distance calls. $170-190.
- 2 Parkside Inn and Spa (Code's Mill Inn & Spa), 82 Peter Street, ☏ , toll-free: . Aveda Spa, therapeutic mineral pool, steam room, fitness centre, and Hair Artistry salon. Best Western Plus hotel with suites and conference rooms, beside Stewart Park. $160+.
- 3 Perth Manor, 23 Drummond St. W.. Six-suite boutique hotel and reception facility in "Thurreson Place", built 1878 as a merchant's £12000 family home. Wi-fi, full breakfast, en-suite bath.
- 4 Tay Inn, 125 Dufferin Street (Hwy #7), ☏ , toll-free: . Highway 7 motel with wi-fi, a/c, refrigerators, outdoor pool. No pets.