The best things in life come in small packages – tiny homes, Polly Pockets, individually wrapped Lindor, newborn babies, smart cars. The list goes on. Stratford, Ontario is the poster child of a small town with a lot to offer. Most people understandably associate it with world-renowned thespians, cozy B&Bs, swans, and fine dining, however there is even more to discover. Stratford is home to the Guinness Book of World Records Smallest Cinema and 2 delicious treasures – the Bacon and Ale Trail and the Stratford Chocolate Trail.
It is no secret that I’m a chocoholic. From sneaking it as a kid to shouting out my addiction to the world, it’s been a constant thread in my life. The sweet treat is a go-to option, regardless of the time of day (yes, that includes breakfast in Belgium where it is absolutely divine). I’ve made it my mission to visit chocolate factories, museums, and artisan shoppes around the world throughout my travels. I even packed nearly 20 giant Whittaker chocolate bars in my suitcase when I moved home from New Zealand. Some people love coffee, some love beer, and I love chocolate. It’s a wonder it’s taken me years to hop onto this tasty trail considering it’s practically in my backyard, but here we are, so let’s dive in!
This post is brought to you from a hosted Chocolate Trail experience with Destination Stratford. Everything you read here is my own personal experience and opinion.
Where is Stratford, Ontario?
Stratford, Ontario is situated on the Avon River in southwestern Ontario, Canada. If you’re driving from Kitchener, it’s 45 minutes west of there (or 1 hour and 45 minutes west of Toronto) along Highway 8. If you’re coming from the opposite direction, it’s 45 minutes east of the popular beach destination, Grand Bend.
What is the Stratford Chocolate Trail?
The Stratford Chocolate Trail is a self-guided full-sensory adventure. It’s a visual delight to walk through town and pass by old homes, buildings, and the B&Bs Stratford is so well-known for. In addition to the map you’ll receive with your vouchers, Destination Stratford also provides an online audio guide with tidbits about each of the 21 featured businesses. Tempting aromas waft through open shop doors and lure you in. They’re guaranteed to entice you to bring a few extra goodies home! Along the Avon River is a lovely spot to sit and enjoy some of the day’s delicacies while watching swans float by and hearing people laugh and enjoy the outdoors.
Launched in 2010, the Stratford Chocolate Trail has been a staple attraction for the past 12 years. Originally a part of an annual printed culinary guide to Stratford, it was the first of their year-round foodie adventures. With 3 local chocolatiers, Stratford tested out a paid tour to highlight these and other sweet shops. It was a hit. Since then, the Pumpkin and Maple (now closed) and Bacon and Ale Trails have also been added.
The Stratford Chocolate Trail is an excellent way for first time visitors of all ages to get a feel for the vibe, the incredible food, and the artistic shops in downtown. Even if you get pulled “off the trail” as you discover the rest of Stratford, it’s easy to hop back on. Since it is a self-guided tour, the Chocolate Trail is a flexible way to travel. You can visit all the stops, only the ones you want a treat from, or even spread out the adventure over multiple trips like I did. The online and printed map is easy to read. Besides getting to taste your way through the quaint downtown, it’s a fun opportunity to learn about local products, small business owners, and local history.
How Does it Work?
If you’ve ever spent time in Stratford, you’ll know that it’s a wonderfully walkable place. Everything is either a couple of minutes by foot or a very short drive away. Heck, you might even want to run from place to place with all the excitement and sugar highs. Between the Stratford Country Club and To Bean or Not To Bean, the distance is an easy 5k, however the majority of the stops are on and around Ontario and Downie Street. If you’re coming in to town from the east, make a pit stop at The British Touch on Highway 8. If you’re coming up from London, or from west of Stratford, visit Snapping Turtle Coffee Roasters in St. Mary’s.
To access the Chocolate Trail, purchase a package of 6 vouchers for $30 + HST from Destination Stratford (tourism office), Bradshaws, Small-Mart, or Werk Shop. The vouchers are good to use year-round, don’t expire, and can be used over multiple days. I love that there’s not a rush to try it all at once, especially if businesses are closed or hours are reduced due to the pandemic or holidays. There’s always next time to enjoy some more! Use your vouchers to redeem for a special chocolate offer at any 6 of the 21 shops of your choosing. 1 voucher may be used per shop.
If you’d like to gift this experience to someone else, you can do that with a Gift Certificate. The recipient can use it on the date of their choice and must exchange the certificate for the vouchers at any of the locations mentioned in the paragraph above. If you must choose only 6 places to visit in 1 day, never fear! I cover each of them below, and the Stratford Chocolate Trail audio guide is another informative tool to help you decide.
Where Can I Find All of This Delicious Chocolate?!
Who knew that you could find so many amazing confectioners and bakers in a small Ontario town – but you can! Here’s a short breakdown on the 21 different Stratford Chocolate Trail stops. Enjoy and happy planning!
Black Angus Bakery & Catering
Located in a tiny plaza just outside of downtown, Black Angus Bakery & Catering doesn’t look much from the outside – but don’t let that fool you. When you open the door and see the huge kitchen behind the counter, you know you’re in good hands with these skilled bakers. Known for their shortbread and traditional family recipes, owners Trevor and Susan have built a reputation for their homebaked smiles-to-go. They offer everything from pies, scones, muffins, cookies, bread, to tarts and cakes, including gluten free options. If you pack a cooler, you can also purchase ready-to-eat meals to enjoy at home.
Stratford Chocolate Trail Voucher: 8-piece sample package (2 pieces of 4 different kinds) of chocolate squares
Black Swan Brewing Company
Black Swan Brewing Company is the culmination of 2 Stratford teachers’ love of beer. Bruce Pepper and Ryan Stokes have been brewing beer for ages and they know how to craft a tasty quality brew. Located in downtown Stratford near the Avon Theatre, the microbrewery and taproom loves experimenting with new flavours. I’ve never been a beer drinker, but if I was I’d try the Road Trip (light ale) and Wild Child (Berliner Weisse / German sour beer). They also have 3 classic options on tap: an English Pale Ale, a Porter with hints of chocolate, and an India Pale Ale.
Stratford Chocolate Trail Voucher: Cold glass of their Porter or a can to bring home
Blowes Cards & Gifts
Blowes Cards & Gifts has everything from cards and gift ideas to art and office supplies. The exterior is a beautiful dark green with yellow and red trim – you won’t miss it as you’re walking around town.
Stratford Chocolate Trail Voucher: 4 packages of Gourmet Village Hot Chocolate
Boar’s Head Pub
The Boar’s Head Pub is located beside the 160+ year-old Queen’s Inn on Ontario Street. The historic hotel, originally known as the Queen’s Arms, was establised only 18 years after Stratford became an official settlement. Imagine the stories the walls could share! Today it is a family-run business with 32 guest rooms and is walking distance from the 4 Stratford Festival Theatres. The Boar’s Head Pub is adjacent in a younger building, although I’m sure those walls would also have a few tales to tell. The menu offers traditional pub fare with gluten-free options available too. If you’re needing some sustenance for your day, the pub’s claim to fame is the largest wings in Perth County.
Stratford Chocolate Trail Voucher: Gluten-free flourless chocolate brownie, served warm with fresh fudge sauce, berries, and French Vanilla ice cream
Bradshaws is a long-owned Canadian family business – all the way back to 1895! They have all sorts of home decor and high-quality kitchen items available in-store and online. Planning a wedding? They’ve got a bridal registry to help set up your forever home.
Stratford Chocolate Trail Voucher: Stonewall Kitchen Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Sauce
Buzz Stop has coffee from all over the world, from Colombia to Ethiopia to Indonesia to Kenya. The 1-pound bags are easy to order online and are delivered to your home. The store also has Cuban and domestic cigars, and pipe tobacco and accessories.
Stratford Chocolate Trail Voucher: 1/4 pound bag of Bavarian Chocolate Coffee freshly roasted coffee beans
Did you know that there are tea sommeliers and it can take up to 1.5 years to earn the designation? I had no idea until I learned more about Distinctly Tea (the owner, Dianne is a tea sommelier)! I missed visiting this shop on my last 2 trips but it’s high on my list as I love tea and it would be neat to learn more. They’ve got teas from around the world, hot chocolate, sweets, tea pots, mugs, and other accessories for enjoying a warm cuppa.
Stratford Chocolate Trail Voucher: 50-gram bag of either a Rooibos, Yerba Mate, or Black chocolate tea
Jenn & Larry’s Ice Cream Shoppe
I’m really looking forward to checking out Jenn & Larry’s Ice Cream Shoppe when it’s hotter outside. This colourful award-winning ice cream parlour has been making cold treats since 1967. With a menu that includes Sandies, Tubbies (to go), peanut brittle, ice cream cakes, ice cream pies, and more, you best come with an appetite. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to start with dessert and follow it up with lunch or dinner. Did I mention that their Malted Shake has been named one of Ontario’s best? I’ve got my eye on their Campfire Ice Cream Cake and Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie.
Stratford Chocolate Trail Voucher: Hot fudge sundae with crushed chocolate covered brittle
Junction 56 Distillery
Junction 56 Distillery is located in an industrial building a short walk from downtown core. It began in 2015 when the owner, Mike Heisz, was attending a whisky tasting with friends and thought he’d try his hand at it. Fast forward 7 years and the distillery is now making Canadian Whisky, vodka, gin, and moonshine. Did you know that in order to be called Canadian Whisky, it has to be aged a minimum of 3 years, otherwise it’s considered moonshine? In fact, while waiting for their first batch of whisky to age, the distillery sold moonshine to keep the business going. Always looking for how to make the best spirits, the corn and wheat come from Mike’s cousin’s farm and Junction 56 distills their vodka 16 times for a crisp smooth taste. After having sampled a few flavours I can confirm just how smooth they are. Junction 56 offers tasting tours for groups of up to 6 on Saturdays by appointment. It costs only $10 and a taste test of each of their liquors! The Chocolate Trail options are Mint Smoothie vodka or Chocolate vodka, both of which have been infused with Rheo Thompson chocolate. I don’t usually enjoy vodka and was surprised to find myself saying I’d drink this straight or on the rocks! Very very tasty.
Stratford Chocolate Trail Voucher: 50ml bottle of Chocolate Liqueur, made with Rheo Thompson Candies
Lady Glaze Doughnuts
If you’re from KW, Cambridge, or Guelph, you may already be familiar with Lady Glaze Doughnuts‘ creative confections. If not, well lucky you because you can try them in multiple cities! I don’t know what would be more fun, to come up with all of the funky flavours or to be the taste-tester. If you visit their website or social media, you’ll see what I mean. It’s like the Google artists – would it be more fun to make the daily Google drawings or is it more enjoyable to discover them each day when we hop online? Lady Glaze Doughnuts also offer vegan and gluten-free options.
Stratford Chocolate Trail Voucher: Any doughnut and a coffee
MacLeods Scottish Shop
MacLeods Scottish Shop has a bright bold exterior that beckons you in. Once inside you’ll think you’ve been transported across the pond. There are tartans, old man hats (I don’t know the real name and like this moniker anyhow), jewellery, housewares, books, and kilts. They also have an in-house genealogy centre and you don’t even have to be of Scottish origin to search your family history.
Stratford Chocolate Trail Voucher: Box of slow-baked pure butter shortbread with generous portions of luxury Belgian chocolate chunks, imported directly from the Scottish Highlands
Olive Your Favourites
Olive Your Favourites is where all of the foodies stock up their kitchens. Similar to Junction 56 Distillery, the inspiration struck when the owner, Michelle Hern, visited an experiential venue. Today they stock a wide variety of EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil), flavoured and specialty oils, and vinegars from all over the world. In addition to selling specialty products, Olive Your Favourites educates customers online and in-store. You have the option to taste-test before purchasing and knowledgeable staff happily answer questions.
Stratford Chocolate Trail Voucher: 60ml bottle of the “Aged Dark Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar” from Modena, Italy
Extra Deal = 10% off any EVOO and balsamic vinegars when using a trail voucher in-store
Rheo Thompson Candies
Southwestern Ontario families who’ve had to fundraise are likely familiar with Rheo Thompson Candies. Since 1969 they’ve perfected their chocolate mint squares, and now the dark green packaging is synonymous with school trips and extra-curricular activities. Not only do they help local communities achieve their goals, but they support sustainable cocoa production as well. Rheo Thompson ship throughout North America and have a large shop in Stratford for in-person browsing. Whether you’d like to gift or taste their signature mint chocolate, hard candies, seasonal treats, fudge, nuts, or other chocolate treats, I’m betting you’ll leave with a smile on your face.
Stratford Chocolate Trail Voucher: Choose 4 handmade creams, caramels, barks, and specialty chocolates (either 45% cocoa or 60% cocoa chocolate) or a Mint Smoothie
Rocky Mountain Chocolate
Rocky Mountain Chocolate is a popular tourist chocolate shop found at many of Canada’s well-travelled destinations. The second you open the door, the tsunami aroma of chocolate pulls you inside. Around the store are display cases of goodies teasing you to take them home. It’s the open chocolate-making station, however, that will mesmerize your children. Between the colourful designs, endless options, and live chocolate production, good luck getting your kids back outside! Parents may go haywire too, though I doubt for the same reasons.
Stratford Chocolate Trail Voucher: A set of classic milk chocolate Theatre Masks (one solid piece of chocolate)
Extra Deal = Chocolate “Bomb” of your choice with any $25+ purchase
Small-Mart General Mercantile
Quirky, kitschy, and packed with fun neatly sums up the novelty store, Small-Mart General Mercantile. The last time I visited, every single person who walked in the door chuckled, thanks to a cheeky covid sign comparing the ineffectiveness of mask-wearers with uncovered noses to free-flapping males’ netherparts. You’ve got to love a store that pointedly tackles today’s issues with humour. Small-Mart carries big Canadian brands, smaller local artisans, and many unique items that will either make you nostalgic, laugh, or groan and smile.
Stratford Chocolate Trail Voucher: Choose 2 retro chocolate bars
Snapping Turtle Coffee Roasters
This family-run downtown St. Mary’s micro-roaster and coffee shop is 1 of 2 Stratford Chocolate Trail stops that require a car. Located downtown, Snapping Turtle Coffee Roasters sells responsibly sourced coffee and artisan merch.
Stratford Chocolate Trail Voucher: Mocha Latte
Stratford Country Club
The Stratford Country Club is an 18-hole golf course along the Avon River. It’s also a popular wedding and event venue. In the winter you can bundle up and head onto the ice to curl. In addition to the restaurant, they have a bi-weekly SCC Market on Saturdays where you can find fresh and frozen food that is prepared in-house by the chef. The restaurant is open to golfers and the public for dine-in or takeout and they are partners with the Friendlier Company, a sustainable takeout service.
Stratford Chocolate Trail Voucher: Oversized Nanaimo Bar (pre-order for takeout)
The British Touch
Brit, Chris Hodgson, opened The British Touch in 2002 in Tavistock and later relocated it to Shakespeare, Ontario. If you’re craving or curious for a taste of the UK, they carry food and gift items from England, Scotland, Wales, as well as (presumably Northern) Ireland. There’s a great blog-like section of their website entitled, “Ivor’s Insights” which is a great read for any historians or travellers in the crowd. There’s also a trivia game, recipes, and an online store.
Stratford Chocolate Trail Voucher: 5 (yes, 5!) 8” bars of Cadburys Curly Wurly
The Livery Yard
The Livery Yard is an espresso bar & café in the heart of downtown Stratford on Downie Street. The bright and airy café has live music on Saturdays, author events, and a cozy fireplace. It also appears that they love a fun cup doodle. This is another spot on my To Visit list in the future.
Stratford Chocolate Trail Voucher: Chocolate Mocha drink, hot or iced
To Bean or Not to Bean
To Bean or Not to Bean roasts small batches Fair Trade Organic and Direct Trade beans. They are well-integrated into the community after 8 years in business, with their coffee served in several local restaurants and cafés.
Stratford Chocolate Trail Voucher: 1/4 lb of fresh roasted Ethiopian coffee beans OR a 12oz coffee paired with an energy bar
Treasures is a local shop that supports and sells handmade items from over 200 artisans and makers from all over Canada! It has a cozy atmosphere with nooks and crannies sprinkled throughout the store. They’ve got pottery, scented soy candles (that smell amazing), knitted children’s clothing, wall art, jams and other preserves, and even handmade Raggedy Anne and Andy dolls!
Stratford Chocolate Trail Voucher: Dark cocoa creamed honey
Extra Deal = 10% off any purchase when you redeem your voucher
My Review of the Stratford Chocolate Trail
One of the best parts of Stratford Chocolate Trail is the variety of chocolate products to sample and take home. I purposefully picked a mix of unfamiliar food items, such as the chocolate vodka, dark cocoa creamed honey, and the retro chocolate bars, as well as classics like the baking from Angus Bakery. Another aspect of the Stratford Chocolate Trail that I love is that you don’t feel rushed because you don’t have to do it all at once. I visited the Chocolate Trail on 2 separate occasions and have 1 more trip to make in the summer. The first time I was in town to interview Leigh and Carla about the amazing Little Prince Micro-Cinema and Lounge and to check out the award-winning Lights On Festival. Due to covid restrictions (re: reduced hours) and some lively conversation, I only made it to a few chocolate stops before many of them closed for the day. The second trip was a beautiful bright March day, perfect for meandering around the town. I visited several Chocolate Trail stops, had a delicious lunch at El Cactus Taco Shop, chatted with local shop owners, and thoroughly enjoyed the day. I decided to reserve my last voucher for warmer months so that I can cool off with a Jenn and Larry’s hot Fudge sundae with crushed chocolate covered brittle. Mmmmm mm! The Stratford Chocolate Trail is a lovely way to get in your steps and enjoy sugar spikes sprinkled throughout the day.
See and Do Even More in Stratford:
The Stratford Bacon & Ale Trail
Have you got more of a savoury tooth? Stratford’s Bacon and Ale Trail might be exactly the tour you didn’t know you’re looking for! This year-round self-guided treasure hunt is similar to the Stratford Chocolate Trail, but for the beer-lovers and bacon fanatics. For the same price of $30 + HST you’ll receive 5 vouchers to taste your way through 16 different adventures. Learn a little about the local pork and brewing industries, try new foods, and bring something delicious home for later.
The Little Prince Micro-Cinema and Lounge
This Guinness World Record holder for the smallest cinema is an absolute gem. The Little Prince Micro-Cine-Lounge is a 13-seat cinema with over 600 titles to choose from on their website (and thousands more to come). They make over 60 different types of cotton candy and their popcorn is freshly-popped in house. Did I mention there’s also a mini retro arcade, among other surprises?