Dating back over 200 years, Perth carries a rich military and social history. Named after the Scottish town and river, the Town of Perth was established as a military settlement in 1816, shortly after the War of 1812. Many of the European settlers were military veterans, and a wave of Scottish and Irish immigrants quickly followed. Several Scottish were stonemasons, and their work can be seen in many area buildings and in the locks of the Rideau Canal. The restored heritage buildings are a testament to the town’s efforts to honour the past in everyday life.

The Tay River splits into two main channels for much of its course through Perth. Much of downtown Perth, including the town hall, is on the island formed by the two channels. During the summer and fall of 2015, the fork in the river was modified to reduce erosion and flooding downstream.

The heritage downtown core of today's Perth consists of boutiques, specialty shops, cafés and restaurants, including crafts, antiques and flea markets, and summer Farmers' and Craft Markets. Most of these operate out of the century-old stone buildings in town. Code's Mill began as a tannery in the 1840s and then produced socks and felts until the mid-1900s. It was renovated in 1998 and now features a restaurant, boutique shops and a wedding hall. The Perth Museum, situated downtown at the Matheson House, is a historic house constructed in 1840 and is designated as a National Historic Site of Canada.

The Festival of Maples is held annually every spring since 1974 and marks the end of the maple syrup harvest, of which Lanark County is known for producing and is dubbed the 'Maple Syrup Capital of Ontario'. The downtown festival features numerous shops and vendors, maple syrup producers and displays, children's entertainment, an antique car show and a pancake breakfast.

Hockey is very popular in Perth as it has been home to senior and junior teams. Currently, Perth is represented by the Blue Wings in the Eastern Ontario Junior "B" Hockey League. Minor hockey combines Perth and Lanark children with practices and games shared between the Perth and Lanark arenas. Perth was home to a professional baseball team for two years (1936–37) as part of the Canadian–American League. The Perth & District Indoor Pool is home to the Perth Stingrays Aquatic Club which offers a masters program as well. The Perth United Soccer Club also provides recreational and competitive soccer programs for all ages.

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