Historic and picturesque, Niagara on the Lake is bursting boutiques, galleries, cafes and wine bars. The charming town on the shores of Lake Ontario is easily one of Canada’s most beautiful towns. The historic hamlet’s heritage buildings are mostly 19th-century originals while the town itself was the first capital of Upper Canada (before Canada became the nation it is today).
Located on the shore of Lake Ontario, a 30-minute drive from Niagara Falls, Niagara on the Lake is perfect for visitors who prefer to stay away from the high-rise hotels and casinos. However, you’ll be surprised at the variety of things to do in Niagara on the Lake even though it’s quite a contrast to Niagara Falls.
Niagara on the Lake is a favourite weekend getaway for Torontonians, who are drawn to a romantic weekend in one of the charming Niagara on the Lake hotels, indulge in fine food and wine at the best Niagara on the Lake restaurants and fantastic Niagara wineries or to rejuvenate at a spa. Here are the best things to do in Niagara on the Lake for a fabulous getaway.
- 20 Things to do in Niagara on the Lake
- 1- Visit Niagara Falls
- 2- Taste Icewine in the 10Below Icewine Lounge
- 3- Sip wine in the vineyards
- 4- Go shopping on Queen Street
- 5- Step back in time at the Apothecary
- 6- Watch a show at the Shaw Festival Theatre
- 7- Have a picnic in the park
- 8- Take High Tea at the Prince of Wales
- 9- Spend the day at the beach
- 10- Relax in a spa
- 11- Explore Fort George National Historic Site
- 12- Visit Queenston Heights National Historic Site
- 13- Learn about the history of Willowbank
- 14- Visit Laura Secord Homestead
- 15- Cycle Niagara River Parkway
- 16- Go hunting for ghosts
- 17- Have fun at the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival
- 18- Play a round of golf
- 19- Eat a peach
- 20- Take a horse and buggy ride
- Where is Niagara on the Lake?
- Where to stay in Niagara on the Lake
- Where to eat at Niagara on the Lake
20 Things to do in Niagara on the Lake
As Niagara on the Lake is only a half-hour drive from the world-famous waterfall, you can’t go to Niagara without seeing this famous Canadian landmark at least once.
Although there many things to do in Niagara Falls and a multitude of ways to see and experience the Falls, just getting up close to feel the power of this gushing body of water is an incredible experience.
Niagara Falls straddles the border of the USA and Canada.
Canada’s Horseshoe Falls is the most impressive, with six million cubic feet of water flowing over every minute.
How to visit Niagara Falls from Niagara on the Lake
- If you prefer not to drive, you can take the shuttle between Fort George and the Floral Clock (CAD$14 CAD both ways) in Niagara Falls and connect with the WEGO bus to get to most Niagara Falls attractions (a 24-hour pass costs $9 CAD).
- A memorable way to visit Niagara Falls from Niagara on the Lake is to take an exciting 30-minute flight in a fixed-wing aircraft for a bird’s-eye view over the region and Bridal Veil Falls on the American side as well as the stunning Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian Side.
2- Taste Icewine in the 10Below Icewine Lounge
The Niagara region is famous for its icewine, which is a sweet wine that originated from Germany and Austria.
Icewine is made from grapes that are left on the vine through winter and handpicked when frozen at -8C.
These frozen grapes are quickly picked and pressed so that the juice made is very high in sugar, which is then made into wine, which is luscious and sweet.
Many of the region’s wineries produce excellent icewine, however, an experience you won’t forget is rugging up in an Arctic down jacket for a tasting experience in the 10Below Icewine Lounge at Peller Estate.
Peller Estate is a European-style château with a large and busy tasting room.
The Andrew Peller Signature Series Oak Aged Vidal Icewine 2017 by Pellar Estates won a gold medal at the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards.
Other wineries that produce excellent icewine are Inniskillin, Ice House Winery and Pillitteri Estates Winery.
Experience the 10Below Icewine Lounge on the Greatest Winery Tour ($35).
3- Sip wine in the vineyards
Lake Ontario is cooling in summer and warming in winter, making it a good place for vineyards to thrive.
The climate in Niagara on the Lake is perfect for growing red grapes but the region also produces excellent white varietals as well.
Warm days and cool nights create an environment where the wines have a balance of ripe fruit and acidity.
There are 37 wineries and 27 restaurants in Niagara on the Lake.
Many offer winery tours all year round, including Canada’s oldest winery, Inniskillin Wines.
Inniskillin’s 1989 Vidal Icewine put Canada on the winemaking map when it won the prestigious Grand Prix d’Honneur at Vinexpo in France bac in 1991 and has since won many more international awards.
Relax at Two Sisters vineyards (pictured above) with a glass of Cabernet Franc, a rich Cabernet Sauvignon or a fruity Merlot.
4- Go shopping on Queen Street
Niagara on the Lake’s main shopping street is Queen Street, which is packed with gift shops and boutiques selling a range of shoes, clothes and accessories.
There are bakeries, cafes, ice cream and candy shops such as the Olde Tyme Candy Shoppe, which specialises in nostalgic candy that will take you back to your youth and stocks brands that you might be surprised to find.
For local flavour, Kurtz Culinary Creations is a shop owned by local third-generation orchard farmers.
5- Step back in time at the Apothecary
While exploring Queen Street, visit the Niagara Apothecary, which is a museum that retains the atmosphere of an 1869 pharmacy.
Its walnut cabinets and shelves displaying porcelain jars of tonics and drugs is a portal to the past.
6- Watch a show at the Shaw Festival Theatre
Shaw Festival Theatre was named after irish playwright George Bernard Shaw and offers a programme of musicals, comedies and damas.
For a theatre in a small region, the quality of the production is impressively high and is as good as the productions in major cities.
When I visited, I saw Brigadoon and thoroughly enjoyed it.
There’s a lovely garden area where you can have a drink at intermission.
Four theatres host to a series of plays either by Shaw himself, his contemporaries or by playwrights in the Shaw tradition.
The 2020 program will include a Shaw play The Devil’s Disciple as well as popular plays Sherlock Holmes and the Raven’s Curse, Prince Caspian, Gypsy and Mahabharata, a
contemporary take on a Sanskrit epic.
7- Have a picnic in the park
You don’t have to go to a garden to see flowers in Niagara on the Lake as the sidewalks are planted with rows of healty Cana lilies and flower boxes cascading with petunias and other colourful flowers.
Niagara on the Lake has beautiful gardens and parks, with colourful garden beds where you can relax or have a picnic on a sunny day.
Queens Royal Park has lovely water views and Simcoe Park is a popular park for families and pets with benches under the old oak trees.
At the end of Queen Street, where the road takes a sharp left turn, there are benches with a view of Lake Ontario.
8- Take High Tea at the Prince of Wales
Step back in time with an elegant afternoon tea in The Drawing Room at the Prince of Wales Hotel.
Enjoy the Victorian elegance of polished silver, frilly lace and lovely roses as you partake in the traditional tea ritual.
Enjoy dainty sandwiches and scones served with decadent Devonshire clotted cream and jam.
The Prince of Wales Hotel is a Niagara on the Lake landmark that has been in existence since 1864. The name of the hotel reflects the visit of the 1901 visit of the Duke and Duchess of York (who later became King George V and Queen Mary).
The traditional afternoon tea at the Prince of Wales is excellent value for money (CAD$36).
9- Spend the day at the beach
The beach at Queens Royal Park is a popular local spot to feel the sand between your toes.
10- Relax in a spa
This picture-book town is the place to relax and rejuvenate with a spa treatment. Here are our picks:
124 on Queen Hotel and Spa
Signature treatments include the Caliente Hot Chocolate Wrap, a body mask that combines the benefits of Hungarian hot peppers and chocolate, and the Coconut Body Bliss.
Shaw Club Hotel and Spa
Try the Divine facial, anti-oxidant vine skincare from France with bio-organic ingredients.
Secret Garden Spa at Prince of Wales Hotel
Try the Head to Toe Tea Taster, which offers a taste of three signature treatments: the Beau-Tea Facial, Beau-Tea Body Wrap and Green Tea Pedicure.
11- Explore Fort George National Historic Site
Fort George was a British garrison and where you can brush up on 19th-century military history.
The fort was constructed to defend Upper Canada and is located by the river’s edge with a view of the United States.
It housed soldiers and was the headquarters of military officers.
Inside the fort, you can watch re-enactments, learn about Canadian history before Confederation and take part in educational activities.
The War of 1812 solidified the future of Upper Canada amd Niagara on the Lake became the first capital of Upper Canada.
12- Visit Queenston Heights National Historic Site
Queenston Heights is a green escape on the Niagara Escarpment with walking trails and stunning vistas.
One of the things to do in Niagara on the Lake is to climb the corkscrew staircase at Brock’s Monument to gaze at the view from the top.
The monument was erected in honour of Major General Sir Isaac Brock, Commander at Fort George who lost his life defending the region.
It is one of the best British hero monuments in Canada and is a significant monument representing the War of 1812, which was an Anglo-American conflict that lasted from 1812 to 1815.
13- Learn about the history of Willowbank
Willowbank was a Greek Revival palatial of Alexander Hamilton, the son of Robert Hamilton, Queenston’s first mayor and a founding father of Upper Canada.
The national historic site houses the School of Restoration Arts.
Festivals are regularly scheduled and the historic space is available for event rentals.
14- Visit Laura Secord Homestead
Laura Secord was the wife of a United Empire Loyalist (an American loyal to the British Crown who moved to Canada) and a Canadian legend.
After overhearing plans of an American military invasion, when three American officers billeted to stay at her home boasted about how they would demolish the Canadian military outposts, Secord embarked on a 32-km journey to warn the British commander.
Armed with a cow and a milking pail to disguise her mission, she hiked through brambles and swampland to deliver the message to the Lieutenant.
Today, visitors can see the humble abode of the Canadian heroine Laura Secord.
Guided tours are available and chocolate lovers will want to purchase some famous Laura Secord chocolates.
15- Cycle Niagara River Parkway
Cycle along the Niagara River Parkway,m which snakes along the mighty Niagara River. past monuments that are reminders of Canada’s early history.
The leafy river trail called the Niagara River Recreation Trail is perfect for cycling.
It passed through Carolinian forests, vineyards, with plenty of things to see along the way including a collection of heritage plaques.
These stones are chiselled with intriguing stories of the past, including tales from Irish poet Thomas Moore, who illustrated the region to the Irish who settled here.
Another fabulous plaque tells the story of the McFarland House, which is open to the public, and was used during the War of 1812 as a hospital by British and American forces.
16- Go hunting for ghosts
The region’s rich history makes it a perfect place to go on a ghost walk, where you can listen to ghost stories about haunted places such as the Angel Inn, where you might encounter the ghost of an angry soldier.
It’s also a great way to get a different perspective of Niagara on the Lake’s historic attractions such as the Courthouse, Royal George Theatre, Apothecary and Prince of Wales Hotel.
Another thing to do when visiting Niagara on the Lake is to go on a ghost tour of Fort George (May to September), which is especially fun around Halloween.
17- Have fun at the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival
Harvest is celebrated in Niagara with a huge programme of events during the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival (September), which is a wonderful time to visit the region’s wineries.
The region is at its most vibrant as the festival has over 100 events, such as themed tours, culinary events, live music, food stalls, markets and a festive street parade.
18- Play a round of golf
With several golf courses to choose from, Niagara on the Lake is a great spot for a golfing vacation.
What’s more, it’s home to the oldest golf course in North America, which is located on grounds involving the War of 1812.
Niagara on the Lake Golf Club
Niagara on the Lake Golf Club dates back to 1875 and is the oldest in North America.
Open to the public, the nine-hole course is on the shore of Lake Ontario. and has a restaurant.
Royal Niagara Golf Club
Royal Niagara Golf Club has 27 holes with picturesque undulating greens, sculpted fairways, bunkers and water.
The stunning Ted Baker-designed championship course consists of three 9-hole courses located in a scenic spot between the Bruce Trail, the Niagara Escarpment and the historic Welland Canal.
19- Eat a peach
Sink your teeth into a juicy peach and try plums, pears, prunes, strawberries and cherries.
Niagara on the Lake is the biggest peach-growing region in Ontario (95% of Ontario’s peach crop is grown here).
July and August is the best time of the year to eat peaches. Here are some markets and farms to visit:
- Market at the Village is a gathering place at the corner of Niagara Stone Road and Niven Road that attracts producers from around the region that grow sweet juicy fruit we all love.
- Walkers Country Market is at 15796 Niagara Pkwy, Niagara-on-the-Lake.
- Kurtz Orchards is at 16006 Niagara Pkwy, Niagara-on-the-Lake.
- Harvest Barn is at 1822 Niagara Stone Rd, Niagara-on-the-Lake.
20- Take a horse and buggy ride
Where is Niagara on the Lake?
Niagara-on-the-lake (NOTL) is 22km (27 minutes) from Niagara Falls.
There’s a shuttle between Niagara on the Lake and Niagara Falls from April to September which runs once an hour and costs $14 CAD (£9) return.
Where to stay in Niagara on the Lake
Prince of Wales Hotel
Vintage Hotels Collection has a trio of luxury boutique hotels – the historic Prince of Wales Hotel, Pillar and Post, and Queen’s Landing – with complimentary shuttles between properties so guests at any of the three hotels can enjoy the outdoor hot springs, saunas and hot tubs at the Pillar and Post or dine at any of these hotels.
124 on Queens Street Hotel & Spa
A luxury boutique hotel conveniently located in the heart of Niagara on the Lake’s Queen Street amidst the shops, galleries and cafes.
Where to eat at Niagara on the Lake
Kitchen 76 at Two Sisters Vineyard
Kitchen 76 at Two Sisters Vineyard has a large indoor dining room and a lovely outdoor patio dining area with vineyard views.
The Italian-inspired menu will fulfill your cravings for pasta, pizza and meat dishes that can be paired with a selection of wine.
The Winery Restaurant at Peller Estate
The Winery Restaurant has a grand restaurant with an impressive menu (mains from CAD$24) where ingredients are sourced from Canadian suppliers and at least half are from Ontario.
Innisklilin Market Grill & Smokehouse
Inniskillin Market Grill & Smokehouse is a top spot for a casual lunch paired with excellent wines in an outdoor setting. Try the Canadian smokehouse poutine and house-cut fries.
At Zee’s Grill is across from the Shaw Festival Theatre and the bistro is packed with quirky statues. The seasoned beef tenderloin triple-A in a whisky shallot jus with caramelised onion potato mash is heavenly.