The Niagara Region: Beyond Niagara Falls
Updated: May 3, 2021
Niagara Falls, Canada is a major tourist destination in Ontario. Of course, if you go there, you must see the falls, and although the Canadian side is more majestic, you really should walk across the bridge and see them from the American side too. But what do you do after that and a short walk along Clifton Hill? There is so much more to the Niagara Region to enjoy. This blog will cover some of my favourite places beyond Niagara Falls on both sides of the border.
Given the travel barriers right now I obviously couldn't get to the Niagara Region for photos so in addition to my own photos I will feature some from Daniel See as he has some fantastic shots. Probably all better than mine, not to mention for some reason mine are almost all taken during the winter months. His were so good I may have over done it on photos but I couldn't pick which ones I liked the best.
A rainbow over the falls and two photos with the Maid of the Mist in them all by D See
Most people end up in Niagara Falls in the summer. However, one of the most spectacular times to see the falls is when they freeze. Most years they are partially frozen, but when they are frozen over it is remarkable to see all that water turned to ice. The major issue with going to Niagara to witness this is usually means it is very cold, and you will need to dress warmly (at least the Ferris Wheel is heated if you end up there during cold times).
Clearly I can’t visit Niagara Falls at the moment so I had to go through old photos and all I could find was ones with snow. However, it is so beautiful that way.
As for staying in Niagara Falls, I am just going to mention a fun restaurant (I have no association with them): The Flying Saucer. It is a 50s style diner and a great place to go for breakfast. It is in the shape of a flying saucer and the interior design is 50s themed, which makes for fun photos and great enjoyment for children. If you are looking for fine dining, this is not your place, expect more of a greasy spoon style meal.
Beyond Niagara Falls what else is there? Just downstream from the falls is Niagara Glen Nature Centre. This park is along the Niagara Parkway, north of Niagara Falls. Considering how busy Niagara Falls is, it is common to find yourself alone in this area (it has been a few years since I have been there so this may have changed). There is a set of stairs to go down the escarpment, but remember you must come back up too. In this park you walk through a preserved part of nature, with beautiful geological and ecological scenery. However, one of the most stunning things to see (and feel) is the movement of the water in the Niagara River. Here you are downstream from the Falls and the whirlpools that form are amazing and send a thundering feeling through you. However, make sure to stay back from the river as it is very fast moving and you could be swept away in an instant.
Another great place to explore is the Queenston Heights Historical Site and the Brock Monument. This is the site of one of Canada’s most famous battles during the War of 1812 against the Americans. Sir Isaac Brock and his army were crucial to the defence of the Niagara area. It is also a beautiful area to hike and is near the beginning of the extensive 900 km Bruce Trail. The Bruce Trail runs along the escarpment from the Niagara River to the tip of the Bruce Peninsula at Georgian Bay. There are so many beautiful geological and ecological features all along the trail, such as waterfalls, fossils, grottos, interesting birds and other wildlife, even orchids at the right time of year.
Lady Slipper Orchids, trout lilies, and trilliums found along the Niagara Escarpment
If you cross the Niagara River at the Lewiston Queenston Bridge and head into the US there is a cute little town called Lewiston, NY. The town itself has a nice shopping area and an interesting art park. However, Lewiston was one of the crossing points for slaves who escaped to Canada in the Underground Railroad System. There is a monument called Freedom Crossing to commemorate them. Considering the strength of the river (which you will have witnessed if you went to the Niagara Glen Nature Centre) this must have been a dangerous crossing for them.
The Lewiston area also tells the American perspective of the War of 1812 between Canada and the US. North of the town is Fort Niagara State Park and Old Fort Niagara which explains the importance of having fortifications at the mouth of the Niagara River at Lake Ontario with regard to access to the Great Lakes.
Back on the Canadian side of the Queenston Lewiston Bridge, head north to Fort George National Historic Site, another historic site on the War of 1812. I find it interesting to wonder through the forts on each side of the border and see the similarities and the differences.
Next head west into the quaint little town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. It has some very high-end restaurants and a nice shopping street (it even has a dedicated Christmas store). As well there is The Shaw Festival Theatre which puts on plays in the spring, summer, and fall. The town also hosts an annual ice wine festival and has a number of art galleries.
You read ice wine and now are thinking about the wine regions of Canada, right? Shocking to me when I moved to the Netherlands was that people are unaware of Canada’s amazing wine industry. Both Ontario and British Columbia make some great wines, yes ice wine, but also a large variety of different wines. The Okanagan Region of BC has a climate much like that of NAPA Valley in California and the Niagara Region, the area along the Canadian side of the Lake Erie coast, and Prince Edward County have climates much like the wine growing areas of Germany.
Ontario Wines, including ice wines by D See
In the Niagara region there are so many ways to see the wineries. Of course, you can drive from winery to winery and do tasting, but then you need to have a designated driver. There are many tourist organizations that will provide drivers and take you to a variety of wineries, some will even pick you up at your hotel and bring you back. You can also rent bikes and bike from winery to winery; however, the area is large, so make sure you pick wineries close to each other. This website is probably the best place to start to determine how you will explore the wineries in the area. There are many more wineries than just the ones on this website though.
Finally there is the The Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve designated by UNESCO. It is 725 km running from the south side of Lake Ontario to the tip of the Bruce Peninsula and the islands just north. Any portion of this reserve is worth a visit including the Brock University campus in St. Catharines (my alma mater), the many waterfalls, the large diversity of plant and animal species, and the beautiful escarpment itself. Using The Bruce Trail as a guide you can explore so many areas around Niagara and beyond.
Of course, right now is not the time to be travelling but in the meantime you can plan for your trip to the Niagara Region when we are able to travel again.
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