Filled with historic charm and breathtaking scenery, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a town unlike any other.
In fact, it’s often referred to by locals as the loveliest town in Canada.
After spending a weekend and soaking up the sights in the community, I have to admit… those locals are on to something.
For starters, Niagara-on-the-Lake is less than a 2 hour drive from Toronto and only 20 minutes away from the US border. And unlike the neighbouring town of Niagara Falls, it’s not chalked full of cheesy tourist traps and cheesy attractions.
Instead, Niagara-on-the-Lake is littered with boutique shops, historic homes and on-trend eateries. It’s home to the popular Shaw Festival Theatre and several significant sites from the War of 1812. Outside of town, you will find pristine vineyards, producing some of the best wines in the world.
Oh, and horse-drawn carriages are an actual form of transportation here!
Niagara-on-the-Lake is truly a peaceful oasis. I put together this guide in hopes of helping you plan the perfect weekend getaway. Go and experience it for yourself!
Plan the Perfect Weekend in Niagara-on-the-Lake
Where to Stay in Niagara-on-the-Lake
If you’re planning a Niagara-on-the-Lake getaway, I highly suggest staying at one of their famous bed and breakfasts. There are over 160 of them in town after all!
During my most recent visit, I was fortunate enough to stay at two different B&Bs. I’ll explain the benefits of both places so that you can make an informed decision on where to stay.
Brockamour Manor Bed and Breakfast
One night was spent at the Brockamour Manor Bed and Breakfast, a designated heritage property with modern amenities located in the heart of town. It’s historic, romantic and by-far one of the best bed and breakfasts I’ve ever been to!
From the moment you walk in the door, you will feel totally relaxed and at home. Help yourself to a delicious homemade butter tart before sitting in the cozy common space. In the evening, you can play a game of pool or cozy up by the fireplace with a good book and a glass of sherry!
Each of the rooms are uniquely decorated and named after previous residents or guests of the house. You can expect to find fast Wifi, plenty of outlets, comfortable bedding and luxury bath products in all six rooms. I had the pleasure of staying in the Lady Sophia’s Suite, which is spacious, bright and has a beautiful ensuite with jacuzzi tub and heated tile floors.
Perhaps the best part of the Brockamour Manor Bed and Breakfast are the hosts, Melanie and Matt. They are passionate about the house and do a fantastic job of making sure your experience is a memorable one! We spent hours chatting with them about everything from the property history to search engine optimization. They are such an interesting couple!
In the morning, Melanie whipped up a delicious four-course breakfast that started off with mixed fruits, homemade lemon poppyseed scones and a selection of jellies – including a local ice wine jelly! For the main course, we had a delicious eggs Benedict with Hollandaise sauce and seasoned potatoes. For dessert, a light and refreshing strawberry cream cake!
Somerset Bed and Breakfast
Another night was at the Somerset Bed and Breakfast, a luxury accommodation only steps away from the main shopping district in downtown and the oldest golf course in North America. It also happens to be the only waterfront accommodation in Niagara-on-the-Lake!
The Somerset is a large property offering three spacious suites, all of which offer breathtaking views of Lake Ontario and the surrounding sights. I spent the night in the Master Suite, which lives up to the name! On it’s own the suite is over 1,000 square feet. It offers a full sitting room, dining area, two queen beds and beautiful bathroom – complete with a jacuzzi tub! The view from the private balcony was nothing short of incredible.
We were hosted by a lovely Irish woman named Julie, who is a pleasure to be around! Before and during the stay, she was readily available for recommendations and reservations. In the morning, she served a delicious breakfast consisting of homemade poached pears, poached eggs and banana bread.
Modern and cozy, the Somerset is the perfect place to stay for a luxurious retreat in Niagara-on-the-Lake. During my stay, I also took a peek at their fully-equipped apartments in Niagara-on-the-Lake – which seem like the perfect option for families or those that want more privacy.
Things to Do in Niagara-on-the-Lake
There are plenty of activities in and around Niagara-on-the-Lake to keep you busy during your stay. Although my visit was in early March, I will do my best to list the best things that you can do regardless of the season.
1. Walk Around the Heritage District
With so many great restaurants and shops, the Heritage District in Niagara-on-the-Lake is hands-down the most popular place around town. You can spend hours walking around and enjoying all of the beautiful buildings. Make sure you stop at Just Christmas, a famous year-round Christmas shop. Pop into the Scottish Loft to pick up your favourite British snacks – I couldn’t resist grabbing a Wispa!
I also highly recommend downloading this self-guided walking tour of Niagara-on-the-Lake. I found it in an old visitor’s guide online and just saved the necessary pages for easy access on my phone. It really made walking around town so much more interesting, because we could learn a little bit of history along the way!
2. Visit the Historic Sites
Niagara-on-the-Lake is arguably one of the most historic cities in Canada. It served as the first capital of Upper Canada and was the site of numerous battles in the War of 1812. It’s also home to two of the oldest churches in Ontario and the oldest golf course in North America! So, it’s no surprise that there are some interesting historic sites around town like…
- Fort George – This old military post was the site of several battles in the War of 1812. It’s a great place to walk around and learn more about the area’s history. In the winter, there is a big ice rink outside which looks like a lot of fun!
- Fort Mississauga – Although it looks somewhat abandoned, this old defensive military tower offers a great view of the Niagara River. It’s situated in the back of the old golf course I mentioned earlier and is totally free to visit. If you’re feeling brave, take a walk into the old tunnels!
- McFarland House – This historic home is one of the oldest properties in Niagara-on-the-Lake. You can take a tour of the property, taste freshly baked scones in the Tea Room or go for a short hike around the property.
- Butler’s Barracks – Located right across the street from the Brockamour Manor Bed and Breakfast lies this historic military complex. While there is a fee to enter the buildings, it’s free to just walk around. Which makes the property feel like a giant park!
- Laura Secord Homestead – If you went to school in Canada, you probably know all about Canada’s famous heroine. If not, I highly suggest reading more about her history here. This was her home and the starting point of her journey to warn the British of an American attack.
- Queenston Heights – This is the site of Canada’s most famous battle, where Sir Isaac Brock ultimately sacrificed himself to save his army and the town. It’s hard to miss the huge monument commemorating his leadership! Spend some time walking around to learn more history and enjoy the amazing view of the region!
3. Grab a Bite to Eat
A fun fact about me is that I love eating/trying out new food, but I really dislike the process of going out to eat at a restaurant! If it was socially acceptable, I would just get all of my meals to go and eat them in the comfort of my own home.
But, that’s not what travelling is all about, is it?
Here are my recommendations on the best places to eat in Niagara-on-the-Lake. If possible, I’ve linked directly to their menus!
- The Olde Angel Inn – This traditional English pub serves up some delicious and relatively inexpensive eats. I really enjoyed the fish and chips! If you can, grab a seat by the cozy fireplace.
- Masaki Sushi – Tucked in the basement of the Moffat Inn on Picton Street, this sushi restaurant is home to a world-famous Japanese chef and some amazing seafood!
- The Drawing Room – Travel back in time to the Victorian era by treating yourself to a fancy afternoon tea at the Drawing Room located in the Price of Wales Hotel in downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake. Although I didn’t eat here myself, I walked by and it looked very beautiful!
- Avondale Dairy Bar – This good ol’ fashioned dairy bar has been serving up delicious ice cream since the 1950’s. It’s the perfect place to grab a cone in the summer, they have some delicious flavours.
4. Savour Delicious Wines
Niagara-on-the-Lake has a very unique climate, similar to that of the South of France, which is why it’s home to so many wineries. There are over 90 of them in this region alone! No trip is complete without sampling some of the world-class wines produced just outside of town!
In my opinion, here are the best wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake:
- Chateau des Charmes – Founded by a fifth-generation wine grower in the 1950’s, this is one of the best wineries in the area! They offer tastings and vineyard tours. The property is a beautiful place to walk around, even for non-drinkers!
- Konzelmann Estates – As Niagara’s only waterfront winery, the Konzelmann Estates is at an advantage when it comes to location. They’re also known for providing some of the best tours in the area. For a cool experience, check out their blind tasting tours!
- Silversmith Brewery – If you’re anything like me and prefer a glass of cold beer over wine, head to Silversmith – one of Niagara’s best craft breweries. They have a large beer hall that serves up some great food and they also offer brewery tours.
5. Explore the Area
Niagara-on-the-Lake is a relatively small town. And if you’re staying for a couple days, you might want to take advantage of it’s prime location by checking out one of the many sights nearby. I could probably write an entire blog post about things to do in the Niagara region, but for now, I’ll leave you with just a few ideas instead!
- Niagara Falls – This might seem obvious to some, but Niagara-on-the-Lake is located just 25 minutes away from the world-famous Niagara Falls! If you have the time, make sure you take the scenic route on the Niagara Parkway – the street is lined with the most beautiful houses! And for some inspiration on what to visit in the area, check out the Insider’s Guide to Niagara Falls.
- St. Catherine’s – The closest major city to Niagara-on-the-Lake is home to quite a few interesting stops. Take a walk down St. Paul Street and pop into Beechwood Doughnuts for a gourmet treat – the cookie dough doughnuts are amazing! Head to the Outlet Collection at Niagara, a beautiful outdoor mall and get your shopping on.
- Decew Falls – This is a beautiful, historic property located just outside of St. Catherine’s. You can walk around the old mill, snap some photos of the waterfalls and go for a hike on the Bruce Trail – all for free! Just down the road, you’ll find the old Decew Farmhouse – the final destination of Laura Secord on her journey to warn the British.
Whether you’re looking for a quiet getaway on Lake Ontario or a journey through some of Canada’s oldest sites, Niagara-on-the-Lake has something to offer everyone. And I hope this guide helps you plan the perfect trip!
If you’ve been to Niagara-on-the-Lake before, please share any tips or advice you have for future travellers in the comments below! And feel free to leave any questions you have about an upcoming trip here as well. I will do my best to answer every comment.
Travelling to more places in North America? Check out some of my other guides: