Are you looking for a smaller town in Southwestern Ontario? A town close enough to London, Ontario to be convenient, but not too close to the hustle and bustle of a bigger city? Then this handy guide to Dorchester, Ontario should help you get familiar with this quaint town and its flourishing amenities.
Where is Dorchester, Ontario? How big is Dorchester?
Dorchester was first settled in the 1790s, when the governor of Upper Canada, John Graves Simcoe was distributing land to help populate Ontario and resettle British Loyalists after the American Revolution. Back then, the region around the Thames River and Dorchester in particular was known for its lumber. The cedar and white pine trees which grew in the area were sent down the river to construct the city of Detroit. To this day, Dorchester is complimented by a rich ecosystem and natural growth all around it, though the town has progressed a lot since those early days.
Now sporting a population of 3911, Dorchester is the core of the Thames Centre municipality in Middlesex County, formed in 2001. Dorchester is located about 20km East of London, Ontario, making it a decent daily commute or day-trip away.
What are the Education Options in Dorchester?
Dorchester, like most Southwestern Ontario towns, is included in the Thames Valley District School Board and the London District Catholic School Board. In the regular board, students attend River Heights Public School from JK to Grade 3, then Northdale Central Public School from Grades 4 to 8.
In the Catholic Board, students attend St. David’s Catholic School from JK to Grade 8. The only high school in the area is the Lord Dorchester Secondary School for Grades 9 to 12. However, the boundaries of several elementary and secondary schools in London, Ontario extend to provide French Immersion programs to Dorchester as well.
Step Outside: Dorchester and Eco-Tourism
The forest surrounding Dorchester is actually of unique importance for the biodiversity of Southwestern Ontario. Luckily, the Thames Centre municipality has introduced many ways to safely enjoy the natural wonders around Dorchester.
Dorchester offers 9 local trails in a range of settings for the enjoyment of visitors. Certain trails, like the Community Park Trail, are located closer to the urban elements of Dorchester, while others like the Lions Trail on the Thames River and the Mill Pond trail take hikers into a pocket of natural beauty.
In addition to being a 3.5km hiking trail, the Mill Pond Eco-Trail is also a fantastic spot to enjoy other outdoor hobbies such as photography, picnicking, canoeing, fishing, and snowshoeing in the winter. The trail wraps around the outside of the pond and while following it, visitors can see the wildlife that makes this area special. Raspberry bushes, turtles, deer, and water lilies are just some of the species native to the Dorchester Mill Pond. You might even see a beaver working on a dam in the otherwise still waters of the pond.
While not as picturesque-sounding as the pond, the Dorchester Swamp is equally rich with nature. The 1354 acre swamp was designated a Class 1 Provincially Significant Wetland because it is home to a thriving sample of flora from all over Canada. In fact, in 1997, the community planned and executed the Dorchester Swamp Management Strategy to preserve the ecosystem and the heritage of the area despite it being divided by the 401 and Highway 73.
Dorchester Fairgrounds, Community and County Festivities
What do fairs, demo derbies, and jousts have in common? They can all take advantage of the spacious land offered by the Dorchester Fairgrounds!
The Fairgrounds yearly schedule is headlined by two unforgettable events: the Oxford Renaissance Festival in June and the Dorchester Fall Fair in October.
For 1 evening and 2 days in June (plus an extra “Educational Day” for school students), the Oxford Renaissance Festival rewinds the clock, taking visitors back to a time of knights, ladies, and swordplay. The entertainment lined up for the festival includes performances from a jester, a magician, and a pirate, jousting competitions with period-appropriate equipment, and charming musical acts. Taking a break from the spectacle, the festival also educates visitors on siege equipment, medieval combat, falconry, and Vikings. Whether it's the shows, the food, or the history, a Renaissance Festival is a timeless source of entertainment available right in Dorchester, Ontario.
Moving into the Fall, the Dorchester Fair takes up residence in the Fairgrounds for Thanksgiving Weekend. With 164 years of tradition behind it, the North Dorchester Agricultural Society invites attendees to join in the celebration of the town’s heritage. For the long weekend, a Midway is set up alongside agricultural displays, a parade, and stage entertainment - there is even a demolition derby! This festival also highlights the community with no less than 24 competitions ranging from a pet show, a pumpkin carving contest, youth and adult culinary contests, and many more. There is a lot of family fun to be thankful for at the Dorchester Fair.
Services and Activities In and Around Dorchester
Not every day can be a fair or festival, but there are plenty of outing options to make the average day in Dorchester special. In this section, you can find some information on local restaurants, recreational programs, and great sites for leisure activities.
Eat Out at the Best Restaurants in Dorchester
Need somewhere to be for breakfast or lunch?
TC Brewing Company
Stop in to TC Brewing Company between 8am and 2pm for a local coffee house experience. On top of fantastic coffee - regular and specialty for those latte-lovers, TC Brewing Company also serves super healthy soups, salads, and sandwiches with a special aioli pairing.
What about late-night dining?
Mill Pond Tap & Grill
The Mill Pond Tap & Grill is the choice local pub for a cozy meal and refreshing drinks. Open for lunch, dinner, and later, Mill Pond offers burgers, wings, beer, and friendly service. They also have an open-mic night, live band music on Saturdays, and a different special every other night of the week to draw in the local crowds.
Moving on to family restaurants, Dorchester has an excellent one for your consideration:
In the mood for Italian? Come to Fat Olive for authentic Italian pasta, panini, and flatbreads. Delicious specials, portion, and plating sets this restaurant apart from the rest. If you are after the whole ‘wine-and-dine’ experience, then Fat Olive provides a selection of Italian wines and craft beer to go with the food. Even if you don’t have room, stay for dessert too, they have gelato.
Recreation in Dorchester
Sometimes going on a day-trip doesn’t always work out. When the weather gets in the way of a hike, picnic, or a round of golf, it is always nice to have places in the community you can visit.
Weather isn’t an issue when it comes to the Flight Exec Centre in Dorchester. This recreational facility services the community with a huge selection of indoor fun. They have an indoor walking track, fitness centre, gymnasium, and two rinks which have public skating starting in the fall as well as other team ice sports throughout the year. The Flight Exec Centre is also the home arena of the Provincial Junior Hockey League team, the Dorchester Dolphins.
When the weather does cooperate, you can visit the Dorchester Community Pool for a public swim, wading pool, or splash pad to endure that Summer heat.
Even more indoor fun can be found at the Dorchester Public Library which amps up its programming during the Summer to include daily creative and literacy activities. During the school year, the library continues to run a “Play and Learn” program for pre-school aged children as well.
There is a lot of love about a town like Dorchester, Ontario. While attractions like the Fall Fair and the Renaissance Festival draw in the big crowds to this little town, the quiet comforts of a friendly, hometown atmosphere are enjoyed by residents every other day of the year.
Dorchester Real Estate
Thanks to some new developments, the size of the housing market is increasing. Dorchester’s overall real estate market is still relatively small compared to its neighbours. The current average listing in Dorchester is about $645,000. Within that average is a low of over $400,000 and a high of over 1 million. Homes for sale in Dorchester are usually detached, single-family houses in a bungalow or 2-story styles with at least 2 bedrooms and 2 baths.