a peek inside the fishbowl

28 Aug, 2009

Road trip to Perth and the Port Elmsley Drive In: part 1

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Ottawa for kids|Easy ways to make kids happy|Ottawa|travel talk

Mark and I ran into Ottawa Citizen photographer Bruce Deachman at the Pinecrest Chapters a few weeks ago. He described a recent shoot he did at the Port Elmsley Drive In. He told us about the amazing access he had to the whole place, including a steep climb to the top of the screen. (!)

His photos (and his accompanying article) were published in the Citizen within a couple days of our conversation and they totally reminded me of how much I love (and miss!) the drive-in. It’s sad there aren’t any in the city of Ottawa. It is such a unique experience. I figured Port Elmsley, which is located between Perth and Smiths Falls, could make a sweet little family road trip. So we decided to combine a drive-in movie with an afternoon in Perth.

As we filled our water bottles and strapped on our walking shoes we didn’t realize that this was going to the kind of day that doesn’t go as well as we would have liked …

So learn from our mistakes and TAKE HEED YE FELLOW TRAVELLERS.

Bad: We chose to go to Perth on the hottest day of the whole entire summer. Poor Sarah suffered the worst and swooned with the heat.
Good: We had some great ice cream at White Mountain on Gore Street.
Excellent: We discovered Stewart Park, a gorgeous winding greenspace (largely behind the Perth town hall) which did wonders for our hot and sticky feet and helped restore our spirits.

The Tay River runs right through Stewart Park, which just adds to its cool beauty.

Emma walked around in a daze. She said (and this is a direct quote): “I cannot express in words how pretty this park is.”


Stewart Park in Perth Ontario

I think Emma was right.

Added good stuff: we found some welcome shade in this far corner of the park

Playground in Perth

Good: there are some really cute little shops in Perth which would be worth exploring
Bad: they all seemed to close really early so all we did was window-shop (maybe that’s not so bad after all?)

Good: there is free parking in Perth
Good: they even seem to care about pedestrians (why can’t the City of Ottawa have these kinds of crossings?)!

Perth loves pedestrians!

Bad: our failed attempt at geocaching – which involved a lot of walking in the heat of the day – was going to end in a spot right near a bunch of beer-drinking tough guys. Instead of persevering and trying to find the cache we turned around and went back the way we came. How to explain geocaching to a muggle biker gang?

Bad: we were very hungry by dinnertime and didn’t know where we should go.
Bad: we ended up at Mexicali Rosa’s, which I KNEW FROM PAST EXPERIENCE WOULD NOT BE GOOD
Bad: the food was mediocre at best. I hate paying for food (in this case fajitas) I can make better at home
Bad: the girls received a lunch-sized Jello Pudding cup – in the actual cup – as their dessert. I don’t expect Mexi’s to slave over homemade chocolate pudding but couldn’t they at least scoop it into a dish? How cheap.
Good/interesting: we sat on a non-smoking terrace overlooking water populated by carp the length and width of a man’s thigh. Fellow diners donated their chips for the girls to feed to these crazily obese carp.

Mexicali Rosa's in Perth

After our good/bad afternoon we drove to the drive-in.

Oh, you won’t believe how much we suffered there. Continue reading right here.

10 Responses to "Road trip to Perth and the Port Elmsley Drive In: part 1"

1 | DaniGirl

August 28th, 2009 at 10:53 am


I loved that piece by Bruce Deachman! He’s one of my Citizen faves. You know him? Kewl.

Am very curious for the next post!

2 | porter

August 28th, 2009 at 11:16 am


hmmm? i wonder what happened at the drive in? we have a drive in here and we took the girls last summer…not the best experience of my life but the kids do remember it fondly.

3 | John James

August 28th, 2009 at 11:38 am


Told ya that Stewart Park is amazing. My wife and I did our wedding photos there. Of, and they have this great music festival there as well.

4 | Hellcat13

August 28th, 2009 at 12:29 pm


Oh, I’m SO glad you enjoyed Stewart Park! I have so many fond memories of playing there as a child. I wish I had though to direct you to the Rainbow Bridge – it is a little awkward to find, but so pretty. I also loved crossing the water to the little island on the south-west end of the park. We’d play there for hours. My grandparents lived close by; I’d walk to the park and to the local bookstore and while away the hours.

I’m also sad that you got stuck at Mexi’s. There are some great restaurants – Maximillians has great Eastern European food for a nice sit-down dinner, and there are some lovely pubs like Fiddlehead’s and O’Reilly’s for less formal meals. Peter’s Restauran is unassuming, but has that great diner/family restaurant vibe – hand-packed homemade burgers, thick-cut fries, hot turkey sandwiches with homemade gravy…mmm. Unfortunately, Allen’s Bakery, the best bakery in town, closed its doors a few years ago, but the Sunflower is lovely.

I wish I’d thought of all these things after your original tweet! I’m making myself nostalgic and want to go back to visit.

5 | Erica

August 28th, 2009 at 12:33 pm


Looking forward to hearing about your experience at the drive-in. Mark and I went earlier this season, and we were shocked at how prepared everyone else was – mosquito netting over the windows, windex for the windshield, spots staked out long in advance… I’d had no idea there was such protocol!

6 | Brie

August 28th, 2009 at 1:19 pm


Can’t wait to hear part 2!

7 | lacoop

August 28th, 2009 at 6:42 pm


Great post Andrea. Alas, the bad luck of encountering thugs whilst geocaching! If only we could put phasers on stun. :-)
As for the restaurant experience, it seems only too common. We have come to a new restaurant rule: find a place that will serve good food and pay the price, or just go to a chip wagon. There are just too many places that charge too much for garbage. Can’t wait to hear about the drive-in.

9 | Amanda

August 14th, 2011 at 2:41 pm


Next time in Perth check out Maximillians. Yum food :)Grew up in the area!

10 | Steve Hannah

May 16th, 2015 at 4:09 pm


I was born @ the GWM…Great War Memorial hospital…have lived most of my life in Perth, a very unique
community, fine restaurants & down-to-earth people plus the oldest golf course in Canada.

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (23) and Sarah (21). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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