Come explore Stratford's hidden gem & enjoy a Guided Walking Tour through 2 kilometers of our man-made trails that surround our 30-acre property.
Each Tour is approximately 2 hours long and involves an in-depth explanation of the history of the land, lake, owners, railway company, and the ever-so-popular swans of Stratford.
The flora & fauna, birds, fish, and mammal species on the property will be identified and explained throughout the tour by your guide, and there will be multiple trail markers on the property that distinguish the types of tree or plant species.
These trail markers each have individual QR codes that can be scanned for additional photos and information of the species, so make sure to bring your phones!
We highly recommend bringing a camera, as there are many picturesque moments throughout the tour!
Fun for all ages!
The tour is equipped for all ages! We provide adult and/or children scavenger hunts that can be used as the tour commences, and we recommend bringing binoculars, microscopes if you have them to get a close-up look at the land.
Lunch will be served at the beginning or the end of the tour, depending on the tour time. Dietary preferences and accessibility needs can be accommodated with prior notification.
Come explore our property & see why it's known as Stratford's hidden gem! Registration for the tours are done through phone or e-mail only. We currently don't have an online booking system for our tours.
Book A Tour With Us! Our office is open 7 days a week from 8am-8pm.
Address: 2941 Forest Rd, Stratford ON, N5A 6S5
If you want to learn about some behind the scenes of how these tours started, what was done, and the background of creating them, check out our blog post coming within the next few days!
For more detailed information on the tours, click the PDF below.
The Forest Motel and Woodland Retreat lies in a stunning natural setting on Lake McCarthy. Lake McCarthy is the largest of the four lakes found on the eastern edge of the City of Stratford known as the Little Lakes complex.
Spring fed, McCarthy Lake is the start of the Upper Thames River watershed, and its waters flow through Stratford, and down to Lake St. Clair near Detroit. A portion of McCarthy Lake and Forest Motel property is designated as a protected environment by the government of Ontario.
From time to time, stories of murder, adultery, death and infanticide grip the Stratford newspapers, as locals follow the saga of the Stratford swans. These swans, and the exemplary program by the City of Stratford (in cooperation with Environment Canada) to manage their welfare, have become an important part of the local heritage - and Forest Motel plays a part in all this.
The Avon River in Stratford boasts a healthy and diverse herd of swans which traces its lineage, in part, to a pair of Royal Mute Swans given as a centennial gift to the Prime Minister of Canada in 1967.
Every swan on the Avon is registered with Environment Canada and wears an identifying leg band. Each winter, Stratford's Park Management shelters the swans in their Winter Quarters. In the spring the swans are paraded to the river accompanied by the Perth County Pipe Band and attended by the press and hundreds of onlookers.
On the edge of town, the Forest Motel and Woodland Retreat welcome a pair of nesting swans each spring as part of the program to provide the swans with an adequate territory to raise their young. This year we have had Napolean and Josephine and their young with us. We invite you to discover the story of their ancestry and of Napolean's mother and father, Mickey and Minnie, who were lifelong residents of Forest Motel and Woodland Retreat.
The ongoing saga of the swans, and the colourful skirmishes between them, can be found on the documentary video, Swans on the Avon, and also in the history and information binder, our guests find in each of our rooms upon arrival.
The present site of the Forest Motel once belonged to the Grand Trunk Railway Co. In 1871 the Grand Trunk Railroad moved all of its repair shops from Toronto to Stratford. Steam engines made pit stops at our own Lake McCarthy to fill up with water, and a pipe line was built from the lake to the repair shops in Stratford to supply water for the steam engines there.
After a time, pumping water to Stratford was abandoned, and in 1919 William E. (Bill) McCarthy and his wife Edith bought the property from the railroad. Bill was related to one of Stratford's most illustrious pioneers and first police chief of the village of Stratford, John Augustus McCarthy. Bill owned a bicycle shop in Stratford until the age of 85. He made history himself as one of Stratford's most famous creators - of bicycle racing records. A full history of Bill McCarthy and the motel property is found in your motel room upon arrival.