The Oxford County Cheese Trail is a meandering route through Canada's dairy capital that highlight a mix of gourmet delights that you won't find anywhere else. Strong agricultural and farming roots combined with innovation, passion for the highest quality foods, and a collaborative spirit, this region is bursting with gems to discover.
So how do you plan your very own cheese trail weekend itinerary? Well, it's gouda thing you asked because we're going to breakdown everything you need to know about the trail, the best spots you need to go to, and tips for how to make the most of your time here.
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Here's what we're covering:
- What You Need To Know About the Oxford County Cheese Trail
- 2 Day Oxford County Cheese Trail Itinerary
- Where To Stay in Oxford County
- Tips On How To Make The Most Of The Cheese Trail
- Our Oxford County Cheese Trail Experience
- Frequently Asked Questions
What You Need To Know About the Oxford County Cheese Trail
As the dairy capital of Canada, Oxford County has assembled a collection of the region's finest shops that feature local cheese or dairy items. Covering a vast area, the Oxford County Cheese Trail serves as a treasure map to help you plan your legen-dairy adventure.
And yes, the puns are endless here!
Where is Oxford County in Ontario?
Oxford County is a part of Ontario's Southwest and is somewhere you have certainly passed through if you've ever made that drive from Toronto to London.
Another way to position this region is to think of the point where Highway 401 and 403 converge. This is where you'll find Woodstock, the seat of Oxford County, and the start of the Thames River. Other larger cities you might've heard of are Ingersoll and Tillsonburg.
Oxford is only 90 minutes drive from Toronto and just over 2 hours from Detroit.
The bottom line is that Oxford County is one of the best weekend Ontario road trips you need to know about.
How does the Oxford County Cheese Trail work?
The Oxford County Cheese Trail is a self-guided map of the region's best cheese makers, artisans, restaurants, and experiences that all revolve around, you guessed it, cheese!
What you need to know though is that it isn't necessarily an A to B to C type of trail, but instead, better thought of as a choose-your-own-adventure map of how you can taste outstanding dairy products that span all corners of Oxford County. It's fully customizable to your to your fromage tastes.
To qualify for the trail, establishments in the region need to apply and must have at least one permanent item that features a local cheese. This truly helps open up the experience to a wide range of businesses instead of including cheese makers exclusively. Every establishment also has its own Oxford County Cheese Trail sign, complete with QR code to help you navigate the trail.
The trick is assembling a weekend itinerary that logistically makes sense throughout the day to make sure your meals are covered. That's why you'll want to keep reading to get to the 2 day Oxford County Cheese Trail itinerary.
When is the best time to go?
The beauty of the cheese trail is that it's great all year round as the cheese making never stops!
With that said, there are a few special events that happen throughout the year that you can keep an eye on (both are currently on hiatus but will hopefully be back soon!):
- Dairy Capital Cheese Fest – This is a cheese-themed festival in April.
- Big Cheese Days – Two weekend days in May that focuses on promoting the Oxford County Cheese Trail.
Seasonality is also something to consider in both the ingredients that are available in a given part of the year and also the landscapes that you'll see. For instance, new ice cream flavours are created by Habitual Chocolate in the summer, the pick-your-own vegetables and fruits are different throughout the year, and the menu at SixThirtyNine changes roughly 4-5 times a year.
It's a good idea to also check the hours of operations for each location. Some businesses are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. You may also encounter reduced hours on Sundays. That's why Wednesday – Saturday are the best days of the week.
Lastly, cheese isn't always made every day and so if you want to make sure you fill your basket with freshest and squeakiest curds as an example, Gunn's Hill Artisan Cheese does their fresh batch every Friday morning.
Our recommendation: Autumn is fabulous time to go because of the fall harvest and foliage. Late spring and summer are also great times to visit as there are more festivals, markets, and other special events.
Who is the trail for?
Culinary lovers and cheese enthusiasts will love the Oxford County Cheese Trail but honestly anyone looking to discover a new region of Ontario, enjoy good food, meet locals passionate about their craft, and overall awesome getaway.
Families will also enjoy this trail with the farm experiences at Udderly Ridiculous and pick-your-own at Thames River Melons.
Lactose-sensitive? The goat and sheep's milk products along the trail will make sure your stomach stays happy.
As you'll find with the weekend itinerary assembled below, you'll find that there's really something for everyone, and not just those obsessed with cheese.
Here are 5 facts about Oxford County that you probably didn't know about:
- Oxford County is the dairy capital of Canada.
- The region produces 286,000,000 litres of milk a year.
- Speaking of heritage, in the 1800's, there were 98 cheese factories in Oxford.
- There have been 62 cheese awards given to businesses in the region in the past 10 years.
- Over 70 varieties of cheese can be found in Oxford.
2 Day Oxford County Cheese Trail Itinerary
There are an infinite number of ways to do the Oxford County Cheese Trail. To make your life easier, we've put together our version of an itinerary that you can easily do on a weekend or if you're looking for a 2 day getaway.
Stop 1 – Red Dragon Dairy
For your first stop, head to Red Dragon Dairy. Come here to discover artisanal batches of sheep's milk cheeses that you won't find outside of Oxford County including the incredibly snack-friendly sheep-made cheese curds that you can either have as plain, herb and garlic, lemon pepper, jalapeno lime, and chilli flake.
For years, this family-owned cheesemaker ran a wholesale business under the name Quality Sheep Milk but they decided to make the leap into the retail space by opening a brand new farm store to the public.
In addition to the wealth of sheep's milk cheese, you'll also find an impressive array of local meats, produce, Dutch snacks, and other hand-crafted goods such as maple syrup, honey, and also baked goods made by Ellis's wife, Hazel.
Owner, Ellis Morris nicely incorporates his Welsh background to the brand, by making several nods to his heritage. At its entrance, you'll see “croeso” which is “welcome” in Welsh. You'll also notice that the Flag of Wales has the same red dragon that greets you at the entrance.
The connection with United Kingdom is solidified inside with imports of British goods including chocolates, biscuits, curry sauces, canned soups, and soda including bitter shandy that are all quite hard to come by. It's a bit of a hidden secret so make sure to come here to stock up!
Make sure to sample a few of their cheeses. All you have to do is let them know that you're on the cheese trail and they'll put together a sample plate of the ones you'd like to try. This is complimentary and you can have this outdoors on their porch.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Address: 383723 Salford Rd RR#1, Salford, ON N0J 1W0
Hours: Tues – Sat 10AM – 7PM, Sun 12PM-4PM, Closed Monday
Specializes in: Sheep's milk cheese products including curds, yogurt, feta, pecorino romano, manchego, and gouda.
Parking: Plenty of parking in the store's lot in front.
Stop 2 – Brickhouse Brewpub
Oxford County's only craft brewery, Upper Thames Brewing Company, has a fabulous brewpub and bistro called Brickhouse Brewpub.
Located in a converted pumphouse from the early 1900s, this is the best spot to try the staples and seasonal brews combined with a delicious pairing of pub favourites such as tacos, mac & cheese, fish & chips, buttermilk fried chicken, flatbreads, salads, burgers, and a ton of shareable appetizers.
Inside, you'll love the rustic backdrop of the natural wood, string lights, red brick, and ribbed sheet metal which give it a casual and inviting vibe. The space is completed with its to-go shop at the entrance, brewing equipment, the bar that features 25 taps, and wall of decorative growlers and pun-painted stones.
The best spot to hang out though is their outdoor patio at the back, which features giant red sails to provide shade from the sun, long lacquered wooden picnic benches, an outdoor hut where you can make your food and drink orders, and also elevated views of the rolling greens of the adjoined Sally Creek Golf Club.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Address: 190 Fairway Rd, Woodstock, ON N4T 1W3
Hours: Mon – Sat 11AM – 11PM, Sun 11AM – 9PM
Specializes in: Collection of the core brand and special release small-batch brews from Upper Thames Brewing Company.
Parking: There is a shared lot between the golf club and brewpub.
Stop 3 – Udderly Ridiculous Ice Cream
When you drive through Oxford County, the number of large fields, silos, and barns are unmissable but rarely do you get a glimpse of what life is like working in a farm.
That's exactly what you get to do in the Taste of Farm Life. This is a unique hands-on experience that owner, Cheryl Haskett, will personally take you through, to give you an authentic look at farm life.
Along the way, you'll hear the stories of how they built the goat's milk ice cream company, you'll tend to their animals (chicken, alpacas, llamas, goats, and more!), feeding them, gather eggs, have a walk with their goats or alpacas, taste local cheeses, and close off with a flight of their goat ice cream.
In addition to the full farm tour, they also offer a variety of experiences including goat yoga, alpaca walks, goat recess, goat cuddles, and alpaca picnics. There's nothing more therapeutic than spending time with these animals.
Of course, you can't leave without bringing home their award-winning ice cream. Thanks to being made with goat's milk, these are friendly to those that are lactose sensitive while remaining just as rich, creamy, and packed with flavour.
You'll also be able to walk away with a dozen eggs that you helped gather. Don't wait, alpaca your bags!
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Address: 906200 Township Rd 12, Bright, ON N0J 1B0
Hours: Wed – Sat 10:30AM – 7PM, Sun 10:30AM – 5PM, closed Monday and Tuesday
Specializes in: Goat's milk ice cream and fun farm experiences.
Tip: This is authentically a more rural part of the region and so you'll be driving on gravel roads in this part of Bright, Ontario. For most experiences, booking is required in advance. Lastly, if you'd just like to drop by and see the animals, there's no general admission!
Parking: There is plenty of parking in front of the farm.
Stop 4 – SixThirtyNine
I'll let you in on one of the best kept secrets of Oxford County. The farm-to-table dining experience at SixThirtyNine will blow you away.
Opening its doors in 2005, SixThirtyNine has been delivering farm-to-table experiences in Woodstock, Ontario before it was considered “cool”. Focusing on weaving the bounties of local farms, hunting for the highest quality, and finding innovative approaches to excite the senses, every bite is a delight.
The restaurant space both indoors and on the patio has an earthy and grounded atmosphere to it where it feels refined but not pretentious.
Something you should definitely try is the exclusive Chef's Table. Pull up a seat right next to the kitchen and watch the talented chefs bring the dishes to life. You'll be able to interact with the chefs and see how a busy night at the restaurant translates to a surprisingly calm, organized chaos.
A standout dish you have to try is their Five Brother's Cheese Arancini where they creatively combine cheese from Gunn's Hill that you'll visit the next day with the perfect balance of beets, candied walnuts, and arugula that delivers a crisp crunch first bite with a rich and delicate rice and cheese stuffing.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Address: 639 Peel St, Woodstock, ON N4S 1K9
Hours: Thurs – Sat 5PM – 10PM
Specializes in: Contemporary Canadian cuisine in a casual fine dining environment.
Tip: Currently they're only open 3 days a week and for dinner service only. Reservations are highly recommended several weeks in advance.
Parking: There is a small parking lot on premise but you can use the parking lot across the street if full.
Stop 5 – Habitual Chocolate
There's nothing like starting your day with a little chocolate. Make your way to Habitual Chocolate after breakfast at the Elm Hurst Inn & Spa and be greeted by the owner and chocolatier, Philippe Lehner.
Born and raised in Switzerland, you can immediately tell how passionate Philippe is about his chocolate and why the concept of “bean to bar” is so important.
If you have the time, ask him to explain how chocolate is made and to sample a few of their products to see how cocoa bean can influence the flavour profile and how your standard chocolate comes nowhere close to the handcrafted bars.
Something you'll love is how you'll have full view of the lab in the store where the chocolate bars are made. Through the window you'll see all of the bean to bar equipment and if you're lucky, you'll catch him making his next fresh batch.
The connection with the Oxford County Cheese Trail in this itinerary is that they also offer either a special house-made ice cream in the summer or hot chocolate in the winter that combines local milk and cream with their own products.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Address: 389 Dundas St, Woodstock, ON N4S 1B6
Hours: Tues – Sat 10AM – 5PM, closed Sunday and Monday
Specializes in: Bean to bar chocolate.
Tip: They have a clearance basket of chocolate that's great value. Turns out these are there because they don't get a specific type of bean anymore and not because they're expiring. They also have sugar-free chocolate bars!
Parking: This is in downtown Woodstock. There should be street parking but make sure you read the parking signs carefully.
Stop 6 – Early Bird Coffee
At this point in the morning, you might be looking for a refill of coffee so what better way to stay perked up than to head over to Early Bird Coffee.
They are a small batch roaster in Woodstock and one-of-a-kind in the region, sourcing beans from Colombia, Honduras, Brazil, and Ethiopia.
While you can order coffee and baked goods here, I recommend that you book their Roasting Lab experience. Master Roaster, Elio Caporicci will spend an hour with you tasting a selection of pour overs from Early Bird's collection.
Through this educational class, you'll learn about the different roast profiles, regions where beans come from, how climate can affect taste, and the process of getting coffee from berry to cup. The best part is you'll be able to choose the bean you liked the most and Elio will roast fresh ones right in front of you to take home.
Early Bird Coffee is currently in the process of being part of the Oxford County Cheese Trail and they are also opening their second location in Woodstock soon near Habitual Chocolate. That said, the Roasting Lab will be only available at its first shop.
If you're hungry at this point, grab a few more cakes and pastries. Since this itinerary doesn't include an official lunch stop, you can consider adding the Charles Dickens Pub or Finkle Street Tap & Grill in Woodstock.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Address: 815 Juliana Dr, Woodstock, ON N4V 1A2
Hours: Mon-Fri 8AM – 4PM, Sat – Sun 9AM – 3PM
Specializes in: Micro-roastery, fresh coffee, and baked goods.
Tip: Come prepared with all of your coffee questions. Elio will answer anything you throw at him!
Parking: There is a large parking lot here so there won't be any issues with parking.
Stop 7 – Gunn's Hill Artisan Cheese
Of course you can't do an Oxford County Cheese Trail itinerary and not visit one of the iconic cheese makers – Gunn's Hill Artisan Cheese. They specialize in Swiss-style mountain cheese which comes from owner, Shep Ysselstein's, time honing his craft in Handeck, Switzerland.
When you're in the main shop, you'll be immediately drawn to the back windows which give you a glimpse of one of the rooms made to use cheese curds. It's here that you'll be able to buy all of the cheeses they produce including some of the special editions that they produce in limited quantities such as their collaboration with Early Bird Coffee.
Something we highly recommend is to book one of their group tours. Get a behind-the-scenes look at their facility, learn the cheese-making process, and walk through the large aging rooms with racks and racks of cheese wheels.
You'll come a way from this with a grate appreciation for how cheese is made. Of course, a tour wouldn't be complete without a tasting of their most popular cheese included 5 Brothers, Handeck, and Dark Side of the Moo.
If you're here on either a Friday or Saturday, make sure to grab a bag of fresh cheese curds. These are the finest you'll find in Ontario!
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Address: 445172 Gunn's Hill Rd, Woodstock, ON N4S 7V8
Hours: Mon – Sat 9AM – 5PM, closed Sunday
Specializes in: Cow's milk artisan cheese including cheese curds.
Tip: They make fresh curds every Friday morning which makes Friday a great day to come to Gunn's Hill. Currently, the group tours are on pause but check their tour page for the latest updates. If you're not on a tour, cheese tasting plates are $3.
Parking: There is a parking lot next to the main building but there aren't that many spaces.
Stop 8 – Thames River Melons
To round this out before you head home, make your way to Thames River Melons which is a family-owned fruit and vegetable farm.
Udderly family friendly, photogenic, and fun, you'll be able to come away with your own haul of harvest ranging from blueberries, raspberry, strawberries, carrots, pumpkins, zucchini, cabbage, and so much more! They have wagons and baskets available to help you carry everything you pick.
Throughout the year, the available patches will change but you'll always be able to visit their farm market barn which sells an array of fruit and vegetable pre-picked for you to take home. They also have a fine selection of their own food made in-house or by other partners in Oxford County.
If you come in the fall, there's a large pumpkin patch for you to find your perfect one(s) to bring home. There's also a large corn maze as well! The best part is that they don't charge an entrance fee to visit. You just pay for what you buy.
The tie in with the Oxford County Cheese Trail is that they offer an assortment of delicious preserves that pair perfectly with any cheese board. In the barn, you'll find mustards, jams, honeys, and jellies that are all made from ingredients that are found on the farm.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Address: 775530 Blandford Rd, Innerkip, ON N0J 1M0
Hours: May to Halloween – Mon-Sun 8AM – 6PM
Specializes in: Produce market and pick-your-own fruits and vegetables (what's available depends on the season)
Tip: Keep in mind that this is a working farm. Make sure to dress for the weather. Since you'll be entering into the field to pick vegetables and fruit, come prepared with boots if it's muddy, sunscreen, and bug spray. Dogs are also allowed as long as they are leashed.
Parking: Plenty of space in front of the main barn.
Map of 2 Day Oxford County Cheese Trail Itinerary
If you'd like to see visually where all of these Oxford County Cheese Trail spots can be found, take a look at he map below.
Where To Stay in Oxford County
Depending on your budget, here are a few accommodations that we recommend for your weekend itinerary in Oxford County.
Days Inn by Wyndham Woodstock
Located in Woodstock and just one minute from Highway 401, this is the best value stay in the region. As with all Days Inn, a continental breakfast is included with each stay.
Comfort Inn and Suites Ingersoll
If you'd prefer to stay in Ingersoll, this Comfort Inn is located off Highway 401, making it convenient for your Oxford County Cheese Trail exploration. Continental breakfast is inclued and they have an indoor pool.
BEST IN CLASS
Elm Hurst Inn & Spa
Beautiful inn in Ingersoll where guest rooms in this historic property have been recently renovated. Rooms include refrigerator which is key for the cheese trail. They have massage and spa services. All guests can use their fitness centre and hot tub. Breakfast is included.
Chateau la Motte Guest House
This is a historic mansion from 1895 that has been transformed to a charming B&B that retains the Queen Anne Revival style architecture. This is a travel back in time and anyone that's stayed here always rave about their hospitality and superb breakfast.
Tips On How To Make The Most Of The Cheese Trail
These are important advice to read before you embark on your Oxford County Cheese Trail adventure.
- Bring a cooler – You'll want to buy a ton of things along the way including cheese and ice cream. Don't forget the ice either!
- Book in advance – For experiences such as the Roasting Lab and A Taste of Farm Life, you won't be able to drop in so make sure to book at least a week or more in advance.
- Wednesday to Saturday – These are the best days to come as many businesses along the cheese trail may be closed Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.
- Chef's Table at SixThirtyNine – This is extremely popular for locals and visitors so we recommend booking this at least a month in advance.
- Book a hotel with a fridge – Not all hotels in the area are equipped with a fridge so make sure to double check. That's why we recommend Elm Hurst Inn & Spa.
- Gravel roads – There are gravel roads to get to Udderly Ridiculous so don't worry if you encounter them partway through the trip.
Our Oxford County Cheese Trail Experience
The Oxford County Cheese Trail was such a heart-warming surprise. Living and growing up in the Toronto area, you don't often get to appreciate the work that our local farmers do. This trail gives you a chance to meet, thank, and indulge in the best they have to offer.
Spending 2 days in Oxford County gave us a true appreciation for the bounty the land provides, the heart that's poured in to create their products, and how much they've had to innovate.
Above all else, the theme that kept hitting us again and again throughout our trip was just how tight-knit the community of farmers and producers are. Every business not only supports each other but they do a stellar job of incorporating each others products.
The collaborative spirit is strong and that's before even talking about how delicious all of the cheese, chocolate, coffee, dishes, and fresh vegetables we had along the way.
This is my kind of food trail where you're constantly eating all the way through and stuffing your basket with goodies along the way to last you weeks (or maybe only days) when you get home.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, anyone can travel along the cheese trail. You can visit any of the businesses that are part of the trail but they may have a fee for a specific experience, food, or product that you purchase.
Spring to Fall are great times to explore the Oxford County Cheese Trail. Friday and Saturday are the best days during the week.
Yes, any tours and experiences need to be booked before visiting. Reservations at SixThirtyNine are also highly recommended.
No, there are no official routes. Instead, the Oxford County Cheese Trail is meant to allow visitors to mix and match what you'd like to see, do, and eat. This 2 day itinerary is a great place to start.