Niagara-on-the-Lake was a total surprise to me before our last visit to Canada. I mean, yeah, I’d heard of Niagara Falls but I’d never really heard of the town or things to do within Niagara-on-the-Lake. I mean, this was my biggest mistake if I’m honest and after seeing Niagara Falls, it was one of my best experiences in Ontario for sure.
Truth be told, it’s a relatively small town but it’s packed full of character, charm and history that’ll almost have you swooning as soon as you arrive. I still remember rocking up at our hotel and literally jumping outta the car as quickly as possible to go for a stroll. I swear, If I was a cartoon, my eyes would have done that whole ‘eyes popping outta head scenario’. It’s just so quaint. ✨
Planning a trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake is easy if you’re already in the area. Truth be told, I’d even say it’s one of the must-see places when you’re making the journey to Niagara Falls. Minus a few cars, you’ll literally feel like you’ve popped back to the 19th Century in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Plus, it’s really easy to visit by car, or by booking this incredible tour from Toronto that takes in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Falls. The tour takes about 9-hours and is perfect if you don’t fancy driving.
Anyway, I don’t wanna ramble (I do that far too much), so, take a look at some of the best things to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake. In my opinion, I really feel like it’s one of Canada’s prettiest towns.
Take a look at the best things to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
1.) Explore the Historic Centre
Being the first capital of Upper Canada (now Ontario) in the 18th Century (on the site of a First Nations settlement called Onghiara), Niagara-on-the-Lake is steeped in a huge amount of history.
To be honest, I’m not sure if it’s the British influence in the town or the totally kitsch nature, but the historic centre of Niagara-on-the-Lake is just too stunning to miss.
Best of all, the town is totally walkable and you’ll easily stroll around every inch of the town after a morning of exploring.
One of the thing that struck me was how colourful Niagara-on-the-Lake is, with some of the best streets to stroll around being; Queen Street, Front Street, Prideaux Street and Ricardo Street (right by the harbour). I swear, I must have taken like 1,000 photos… I couldn’t stop snapping!
As you wander around, make sure to see the; Memorial Clock Tower, see the Old Court House and St Vincent de Paul Church.
2.) Indulge at Peller Estates Winery
If you’re a sucker for a good glass of wine, then make sure to pop into the Peller Estate whilst in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Perched just outside the town itself, Peller Estates has some delicious wine tasting options (right in the vineyard itself).
The thing I loved most about Peller Estates is that they’re not only genuinely passionate about a good bottle of wine, they also have a totally delicious Winery Resturant, too. They have the tastiest Cabernet Chocolate Ganache Bar dessert… it’s sooooo good!
When you’re here, make sure to try their Ice Cuvée… it’s one of those sparkling wines that is really fresh (if that makes sense) and perfect for a hot summers day. Also, if you’re into sweeter dessert wines, try their Vidal Ice Wine that has an almost marmalade-like taste.
Now, I know I keep hankering on about Peller Estates but after gorging and a few glasses of wine, head to their chillout ice bar that’s under the estate itself. Once wrapped up warm, you can pop into the 10 below lounge and grab an ice wine for the road. Just make sure to have a designated driver!
3.) Stroll around Queens Royal Park
Just down by the lake itself is the Queens Royal Park and Gazebo that’s perfect for a little relaxing after eating all that grub at Peller Estates. Apparently, I was told that the park itself was the site where the first ever newspaper was published in Upper Canada (in the 18th Century).
Nowadays, the area is a great viewing point to actually look across to Old Fort Niagara in the United States that’s across the border on the other side of the river.
Oh yeah, you might also spot the quaint gazebo whilst you’re there. Now, one of the locals of Niagara-on-the-Lake told me that the gazebo itself was a prop from a film that was shot.
Apparently, once they finished shooting the town asked to keep the gazebo as they liked it so much. Now, I have no idea how true that is, but in any case, it’s a gorgeous little spot to wander and even see the sunrise, too.
4.) Find Niagara Apothecary
Quite unassuming, the Niagara Apothecary is probably one of my favourite spots to visit whilst in Niagara-on-the-Lake. As soon as you step in you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a bygone era where tonics, lotions and little glass vials were the remedies of choice.
Best of all the Niagara Apothecary is totally free to wander around, though a little donation won’t go amiss. It’s a proper intimate little place and a museum like no other. The only thing I’d mention is that I couldn’t see any times when it’s open and closed, so be prepared to just look through the window in the worst-case scenario.
5.) Try ice wines at Inniskillin
If you’ve had your fill from all the delicious wine at Peller Wine Estate, pop over to Inniskillin Wines at their Niagara Estate. It’s a little further from Niagara-on-the-Lake but well worth it if you want to taste some more local wines. Now, Inniskillin Wines have four different types of ice wine to try; Vidal, Reisling, Cabernet Franc and their sparkling ice wine.
One that you have to try is their Cabernet Franc, that’s pretty unique compared to other white ice wines. The deeper colour of this variety comes from when the grapes are picked and harvested. In this case, the earlier it is taken from the vine, the darker the colours and deeper the flavours become.
Book yourself into a 30-minute tour of the estate or just rock up and explore the vineyard area and shop.
6.) Explore the town by horse-drawn carriage
Exploring Niagara-on-the-Lake by horse-drawn carriage was an experience that’s actually one of the fun things to do in the town.
Grab your carriage next to the Prince of Wales Hotel from Sentineal Carriages and trot off on a whistlestop tour of the town. One of the things that made this tour so good was our guide (and the big chunky blanket keeping us warm) – he knew EVERYTHING about the town.
I swear, we learned everything from which houses were haunted, where to get the best steak and a shed load of history on how the town came about. Just remember, if you’re arriving in the summer months, it’s probably best to book your tour before you arrive.
7.) Take a trip to Niagara Falls
Now, I know! Niagara Falls isn’t Niagara-on-the-Lake but let’s be honest you can’t rock up, all the way to the town, and not visit the falls, can you?
The great thing about Niagara Falls being so close (about 25-minutes in the car) is that there’s no need for firm plans when you visit. You can just pop across. Honestly, this is something of great convenience, especially in those busier summer months when other plans like; dinner reservations etc have only certain times available.
Once there, make sure to visit the Journey Behind the Falls (for some views right where the falls are crashing), see the American Falls and Horseshoe Falls from the Skylon Tower, or if you’re feeling extra fly, book yourself an epic helicopter tour over the falls themselves – it’s so much fun!
8.) Stay at 124 on Queen Hotel
One of the best things to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake, when you visit, is to lean into the vibe of the town. It’s the kind of place you arrive and you almost feel like you’re in a charming little bubble. The same goes for hotels in the town.
Whilst here, we stayed at 124 on Queen Hotel and it was incredible. Our room… actually, scratch that, our apartment had a roaring fire, a breakfast basket delivered each morning and the cosiest living area. It’s just got one of those ‘home away from home’ vibes that makes you feel instantly comfortable and warm. And, to be honest, that’s always the most important thing to me in a hotel – to make it feel like your own little refuge.
9.) Gorge at Treadwell Cuisine
After spending around 3 nights here, we got to try quite a few of the restaurants for lunch and dinner and I promise you, there are some gems you’ve gotta visit.
Now, in my opinion, the best restaurant you have to try is Treadwell Cuisine at 114 Queen Street – it’s so delicious! The whole concept behind the restaurant is to work with local producers to provide fresh and seasonal menus every week. The same goes for their wine menu… the wine is grown, picked and eventually poured (into my greedy glass) from the Niagara region itself.
Once you’re there, make sure to try their pan-seared scallops and capers, I swear I could eat this all day!
10.) Explore the little boutiques
Niagara-on-the-Lake is one of those towns that’s filled with little boutiques and places to shop. To be honest, I’m not usually a shopper when on holiday but these shops were so cute. You’ll see what I mean when you arrive. I found confectionery shops selling the biggest toffee apples, a whole shop dedicated to Christmas (no Grinches allowed).
Make sure you visit Il Gelato di Carlotta (for the best ice cream), Just Christmas (for all those Christmas fixes you might need) and Old Town Goodies (for a candy fix).