Planning a trip to Wellington County and need somewhere to stay? I have the coolest Airbnb in Fergus Ontario for you! I had the pleasure of staying there for 3 nights (during an epic thundersnow, no less!) and it was the perfect amount of time to enjoy the converted church and explore the town. The natural light from the endless windows, especially during the winter months, was energizing. I also could have stared at the stained-glass windows all day – not only are they original to the century-old building, but they are in outstanding condition for their age.
One of the best parts of my stay was the ability to walk everywhere. The Airbnb is downtown and all the cafés, shopping, pubs, walking trails, and community spaces are located within a few minutes of each other. If you turn right out of the church, heading away from downtown, your nose will lead you through your neighbour’s delicious door – but don’t worry, you’re allowed to enter, and I’d encourage you to. Continuing past the enticing aromas, you’ll find yourself in a peaceful residential area, with historic homes sprinkled throughout the neighbourhood. Keep your eyes peeled for the plaques to learn more about previous residents. For a sneak peek of what a day in downtown Fergus looks like, check out my Instagram reel.
Another thing I loved in the Airbnb was all the cozy places to sit and read throughout each of the 3 floors. I was there for work; however, everyone needs to take a break and I made sure to squeeze in a little bit of recharging time. Plus, I had found 3 fantastic new books, including one about the history of Wellington County, at The Bookery that I couldn’t wait to dive into. There’s something about reading a book in the location that it’s set in that makes me smile every time!
About Fergus, Ontario
Those familiar with Fergus are aware of the town’s Scottish heritage thanks to its world-renowned Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games. However, for thousands of years people from all walks of life have roamed, lived, farmed, and known these lands. From the Mississaugas & the Six Nations (Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas, & later the Tuscaroras), to the freed enslaved people like Richard Pierpoint who established Pierpoint Settlement, to the Scottish settlers, and the countless other individuals of different backgrounds since then, Fergus’ history flows deeper than the 1800s.
In 1953, the Scottish settlement named Little Falls became the Town of Fergus. At the turn of the 21st century, it became a part of the township of Centre Wellington, which is comprised of the Town of Fergus and its neighbour the Village of Elora, as well as the Townships of Nichol, Pilkington, West Garafraxa and part of Eramosa.
Welcome to the Coolest Airbnb in Fergus Ontario: The Old Church Riverside Guesthouse
If the walls could talk at the Old Church Riverside Guesthouse, their stories might surprise you! Built in 1903 in Fordwich, the church lay dormant for many years until Pastor George Hunt and his congregation purchased it and all the contents inside for $100 in 1941. They also bought the older church next door for $25 so that they could dismantle, re-purpose, and sell some of the materials to offset costs. There was one stipulation for the sale to take place: the building had to be called the Bethel Baptist Church and could only ever be used as a church. Let’s hope the ghosts of one of Ontario’s most haunted towns don’t mind all the changes that have occurred since then!
Once the buildings and a new lot on St. Andrew Street East (where the guesthouse is today) were purchased, the men and women got to work bringing it home. Why move the church in the first place? Guelph’s missionary-focused York Road Baptist Church had wanted to establish a Baptist missionary in the Elora-Salem area. The men disassembled the church piece by piece before loading it up and trucking it down to Fergus. Everyone pitched in, with muscle, tools, and a variety of skills to complete the job. Because their labour and resources were free, they greatly reduced the cost of the community’s new gathering space and truly made it their own. The women contributed quite a bit as well, adding farm duties to their already busy childrearing and household chores. Many hands make light work, indeed.
The rebuild took 3 months, from September 1941 to Christmas Eve of the same year when the roof was completed, and the first service was held on Good Friday the following year. It took another 2 years before the Bethel Baptist Church was accepted into The Fellowship of Independent Baptist Churches of Canada and 3 years after that milestone, the congregation held what can only be assumed was a triumphant mortgage-burning ceremony.
Bethel Baptist Church was a happening place in its heyday, sometimes with overflowing pews when a popular pastor was in town. Church and family were everything to the members, and their social calendars reflected the importance of faith and community. There was Friday evening Bible Club, children attended Sunday School, and youth joined programs like the Pilgrim Girls (ages 8-11) & the Boys’ Brigade (12-16). In 1964, the youngest child’s name in the congregation was Robbie Burns (pictured below turning the sod). Tell me that’s not hilarious!
It was only 20 years after the community moved the church from Fordwich to Fergus before they outgrew it. For a 2nd time, the congregation co-purchased a new lot to build on, this time across the river. In 1967 they finished construction and celebrated their history with the publication of a souvenir booklet for the 25th anniversary. Once more, the church fell empty with little more than echoes to fill the pews.
The 1970s gave the former Bethel Baptist Church a new lease on life when it became The Blue Door Restaurant and Tavern. Remember the one stipulation of the 1st purchase in 1941? Yeah, that was thrown out the window during the renovations. Instead of faithful singers, the choir loft filled up with billiard tables. The main floor of the former church converted into the restaurant dining area. A deck was added off the back, allowing for a beautiful view of the Grand River. For reasons I could not find in my research, the restaurant closed.
1997 – 2022
In 1997, Chris & Alexandra “Sandy” Crysler-Wiggins purchased the closed restaurant, christening it with a new name, “Nimiri”. The former church and restaurant welcomed its new residents – 2 humans, 2 dogs, and 4 cats. Sandy was a retired creative teacher and Chris was a banker who saw the light and became an award-winning actor and writer when he moved from England to Canada in the 1950s.
Some of the changes to the church-restaurant-home included adding 2 large windows on either side of the fireplace and converting the gazebo spa into a “multi-level outdoor playground”. The stunning stained-glass windows remained. When you stay in the Airbnb there’s a fun article with photos from the Ottawa Citizen about the building’s time as a home. From the entrance way, head down the stairs on the right and you’ll see the article, along with other old photos.
Plan Your Visit: What to Expect at the Airbnb
The owners of the Old Church Riverside Guesthouse have thought of everything to make your stay relaxing and enjoyable. With a blend of local antiques and modern amenities, the aesthetics of the old church come to life while maintaining the comfort you would hope for on a relaxing getaway.
The guesthouse is perfect for a family gathering or friends’ getaway, with 3 bedrooms, 2 full-sized bathrooms, and 1 half bathroom. It was also quite lovely to enjoy the quiet calm of the space on my own. The main bedroom is situated in the former choir loft above the living, dining, and kitchen area. Needless to say, the views from above are fantastic. There is a full bathroom upstairs, with the cutest “Harry Potter”-like toilet room. Rest assured, as a 6-foot human, I fit in there with room to spare! The shower has a waterfall shower head as well as a removable spout, and if you’ve forgotten any of your toiletries, you’ll find a stash of toothpaste, toothbrushes, breath mints, makeup remover, feminine hygiene products, floss, etc… in the vanity drawers.
On the main floor, walk past the living room and dining room and take in the size of the living room. Though it’s a gigantic space, it’s well-laid out with the spiral staircase, chandelier, and epic moose art piece as different focal points. There are 2 separate seating areas and plenty of space to roam around between them. The main sitting area features a comfortable L-shaped couch and 2 chairs facing the fireplace. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with how quickly the tiny heat source fills the massive room. The second seating area, pictured below, has 2 other chairs and a couch, with the TV or your fellow humans as the main attraction.
The remaining 2 bedrooms, the Blue and the Yellow Rooms, and the other full bathroom are located on the basement floor. The canopy in the Yellow Room feels simple and luxurious while the ambient lamp transports you to Morocco in your mind. Each bedroom has a generous closet with hangers, as well as fresh towels and extra blankets. All the laundry is washed with either no-scent or low-scent detergent. The bottom bathroom has a tub, with bubble bath provided, and a shower. Not only are the hosts thoughtful, but they’ve got a great “scents of humour” with another helpful toiletry, Poo-Pourri, on the shelves if you’re travelling with a group and want to be discrete.
Downstairs, there is another sitting and games room with access to the patio, BBQ area, and riverfront access. There’s a stash of board games, a tv, and a fireplace, making it an excellent spot for the kids to play while the adults make dinner, or for guests to spread out and enjoy everything the guesthouse has to offer. In addition to the bedrooms, bathroom, and games room, there is a full laundry room (washer, dryer, iron, drying racks, and a second fridge) accessible to you during your stay.
The kitchen is a vibe, surrounded by colourful antique glass lining the exposed original brick wall and with light streaming in through more stained-glass windows. It’s quite sizeable and is fully stocked with every pot, pan, dish, and bowl that you could possibly want or need. With a huge fridge, gas stove and oven, the Airbnb is well-equipped for your culinary escapades. There is more counter space than I’ve ever seen in an Airbnb, with a gigantic island to boot. You’ll also find a toaster and matching tea kettle, as well as an Instant Pot. Coffee lovers can start their mornings at the coffee bar and Keurig machine, and tea sippers will ease into their evenings with their pick of several different teas.
Beneath the sink there are labelled composting, recycling, and garbage receptacles to help with sorting. If you’re staying for a longer period, there are larger bins in the bathroom/hallway area adjacent to the kitchen. There are also paper towels, extra cleaning supplies, a first aid kit, flashlight, dog poop bags, and many other items you might need during your stay. Clean-up after a meal is made easy with a dish washer or double sink, whichever you prefer.
There are even dog bowls for the furry family members. Please note that the Airbnb is not set up for pets and you’ll need to inquire with the owners ahead of time if it’s okay to bring them along.
The dining room is perfect for a family meal, lively discussion, or game of cards. Peep inside the antique cabinets for colourful old glassware. If you’re feeling fancy and want to host a little celebration, feel free to use it. Please take care of the items and enjoy the trip back in time!
Last, but not least, is the property’s upper-level exterior amenities: a giant deck off the living room. My first thought was it would be a dreamy spot for an intimate wedding ceremony, with the trees and the babbling river for a grand natural backdrop. It could also just be a great spot to soak up some rays, read a book, eat a meal, or watch the river meander by. Speaking of the Grand River, the guesthouse has waterfront access where you’re able to dip your toes in or fish from the banks in the warmer weather. The water is not accessible for your safety during the winter months. Enjoy the use of the BBQ to maximize your cooking and eating options.
Not Your Average Airbnb
It’s safe to say that the Old Church Riverside Guesthouse is not your average Airbnb. You can see why I dubbed it the coolest Airbnb in Fergus Ontario! From the moment you walk through the entranceway, you can tell it’s a special place. Each of its owners over the past century have taken such good care of the building, preserving and enhancing its impressive features. While I can confidently say it’s not haunted after spending 3 nights there alone, I would encourage you to learn more about the other buildings in town through the spooky Fergus Ghost Walks. For a full run-down of each restaurant, shop, festival, and outdoor activity to enjoy while in Fergus, have a read through the Travel Guide I created for the guesthouse, found on the lectern (wooden stand on the left in the photo).
How to Get to Fergus, Ontario
The easiest way to get to Fergus is to drive, though if you’re feeling adventurous you could also hop on a bike, depending on which route you take.
- Gardiner Expressway W
- Take Hwy 427 N to Ontario 401 W Express
- Hwy 401 W to Guelph
- Take exit 312 for Halton Regional Rd 1 N/Guelph Line N
- Turn left onto Hwy 7 W
- Turn right onto Wellington County Rd 29
- Turn left onto Wellington County Rd 18
- Turn right onto Orangeville Rd
- Turn right onto Scotland St, which turns into Gartshore St
- Turn left onto St Andrew St E
Plan Your Visit: Everything to Do, See, Eat, & Explore in Fergus Ontario
As mentioned above, this one-of-a-kind guesthouse is in Fergus, Ontario, a 25-minute drive northwest of Guelph or 1.5 hours west of Toronto. It may be a small town, but Fergus is full of delicious restaurants and cafés, cultural events, outdoor trails, and close by to some spectacular swimming and camping spots, such as the Elora Gorge Conservation Area and the Elora Quarry Conservation Area. Some places of note include a mystical used bookstore and Celtic shoppe called The Bookery, Local Pieces Gallery where the youngest talented artist is in high school, the long yet cozy One and Only Handmade Marketplace, and String Theory Yarn Shop where they not only sell crafting supplies, but they also host community knitting circles that anyone is welcome to join – even visitors like you! If you prefer to grocery shop and make your meals at the Airbnb in Fergus, then pop next door to Fergies Fine Foods where they offer an array of prepared meals (celiac- and vegan-friendly too), fresh baked sweets, and gourmet snacks, or head to Fraberts Fresh Food for local eggs, produce, coffee, and the most genuine service you’ve ever had in a grocery store. If you’ve got a healthy addiction to chocolate, like I do, I Love Chocolate! is a very short 10-minute walk from the guesthouse. They make their own truffles, fudge, and more. Ooooh my!
For outdoor activities, there are numerous trails, including the scenic downtown Riverwalk Loop along the Grand River. Care for a longer jaunt? The River Loop connects Fergus and Elora in a 11.3 km cycling and pedestrian stretch. Be careful though, as you’ll be sharing the road with motorists travelling up to 60 km/hr. For the best views in the area, hop onto the pedestrian-only Upper Grand Gorge Trail. Looking to venture outside of Fergus? Try the Belwood Lake Conservation Area Trails, the rugged Cumnoch Tract, the Wallace Cumming Park Trail in Alma, or the extensive 47 km Elora Cataract Trail that follows the former Canadian Pacific railroad tracks. If you really love your trails, check out this massive guide to over 40 trails throughout Wellington County.
Throughout the year you’re bound to find a festival you’ll want to attend in Fergus and Elora. From the traditional events like the Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games (August) or the heavenly Elora Festival (summer), to the brand new Meadows Music Festival (June) and the newly unveiled Cogs and Clockwork Steampunk Festival (September), to the quirky and fantastical Monster Month (October), and the festive Late Night Sip and Shop, there’s something happening nearly every month.
Add the map below to your phone to help you get around Fergus & Elora!
Want to Explore More Unique Places in Ontario?
Without intentionally setting out to visit record breaking tiny spaces, I’ve been to the World’s Smallest Cinema in Stratford, Canada’s Smallest Bar in Guelph, and the most cryptic gravestone in the province..
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Disclaimer: I partnered with the owners of the Airbnb in Fergus Ontario to write a blog post, however all experiences and opinions expressed here are my own.