If you’ve ever taken a road trip within Ontario, you might have passed one of its many quirky and unusual roadside attractions.
From the famous Big Apple off Highway 401 between Toronto and Kingston to a 15-foot-tall fibreglass bull known as “Big Bruce,” TVO even casts public votes to determine the best of the best roadside attractions in the province.
However, one family-owned and operated business in the small town of Port Hope has grown into a local landmark, attracting visitors from far and wide. More than just a retail store, Primitive Designs is a one-of-a-kind art shop that will blow your mind.
Upon approach, Primitive Designs’ larger-than-life 26-foot tall transformer and menacing upcycled dinosaurs in the parking lot are crazy cool in their own right, but there’s so much more to explore on the two-acre property.
Owned by Port Hope locals Ron Dacey, his wife Rhonda Cook, and their son, Maximus, Primitive Designs was born out of the couple’s shared love of travelling. Ron and Rhonda have been importing unique arts and crafts from around the world for over 19 years, and everything in the gallery is handmade and hand-selected by them.
Furthermore, the couple travels during the off-season to meet directly with their suppliers, resulting in a constantly-evolving stock, so visitors will never have the same experience twice.
Primitive Designs features treasures from all over, including Bali, India, Vietnam, Mexico, Indonesia, Thailand, Morocco and many other countries.
The gigantic sculptures out front are primarily made of used car parts and scrap metal, collected and built overseas. You also can’t miss the tropical tiki huts, which are available for purchase if you’d like to add some flair to your yard (squeezing one into your downtown condo might be a bit tight, but I won’t blame you for trying).
Inside, you’ll find everything from beautifully handcrafted acacia tables to huge ceramics. There are endless shelves of knick-knacks, and even colourful jewelry.
Primitive Designs is now open for the season and will be until Christmas Eve. While it is free to visit, the shop has donation buckets if you’d like to contribute to support the couple’s charity work efforts in Belize.
While you’re in the area, stop by Port Hope’s charming downtown to grab a bite to eat, or check out some of the town’s iconic settings you might recognize from famous films and TV shows.