For a relatively small town, particularly one that has such famous neighbours, Niagara-on-the-Lake has a very rich history. West Niagara, as it was then known, was a British military base which provided shelter for Loyalists following the American Revolution. Renamed Newark in the late 1700s, it then became the capital of Upper Canada (present-day Ontario) and was the location of a fierce battle between the British and Americans during the War of 1812. Today it’s a bustling settlement where visitors can step back into Victorian Canada, tour local vineyards and sample the world-class produce grown on the Niagara Peninsula.
In Downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake (commonly referred to as NotL) you can discover the relics of this fascinating past at various National Historic Sites such as the Battlefield of Fort George, the remains of Fort George itself and Butler’s Barracks. Wander through the beautiful historic district, where tree-lined thoroughfares such as Queen Street are lined with Neoclassical, Georgian and Victorian architecture now home to independent cafés, shops, bars and restaurants. Buildings of note include the Niagara Apothecary with its striking interior, St Mark’s Church – a place of worship that wouldn’t look out of place in an English village – and The Court House. On a sunny day, head to Queen’s Royal Park and enjoy the views out over the mouth of Niagara River and Lake Ontario beyond. Look north on a clear day and you should be able to make out the Toronto skyline.
Most of NotL’s visitors are here for the wine. There are a hundred or so vineyards on the fertile plains of the Niagara Peninsula. During the incredibly cold winter months, you would be forgiven for thinking the region has a similar latitude to the far north of Europe or Siberia, but it is actually much closer to the south of France. Because of the challenges created by the chilly winters and humid summers, wine production in the region hasn’t been easy; however, many have persevered and created some award-winning wines. Alongside these, more traditional varieties include the regional speciality icewine, a sweet and tasty dessert wine made from frozen grapes.
If you visit in January, don’t miss the Niagara Icewine Festival. This celebration of the area’s signature produce takes place over three weekends in the depths of winter, which is prime harvesting time. If you’re more a fan of the warmer summer and autumn months, there are two other events focused on the area’s most famous produce – the Niagara New Vintage Festival in June and the Niagara Wine Festival, which takes place over three weekends in September. As well as wine, Niagara-on-the-Lake is known for its many cultural festivals – in particular, The Shaw which is an unmissable experience for theatre fans. Between April and October a number of plays, either written by George Bernard Shaw or inspired by his work, are staged at four different venues around town.
We can hardly talk about NotL without mentioning Niagara Falls, as many people choose to base themselves in the town rather than by the falls themselves. Reached in just 20 minutes by road, this incredible natural wonder is an absolute must see, either from the adjacent viewing platform, a helicopter, a boat or from behind on the “Journey Behind the Falls” experience. You can even travel by jet boat from NotL along the Niagara River to the base of the Horseshoe Falls, but be prepared to get a soaking!
For a small town, there’s a relatively wide selection of accommodation options, including waterfront residences and host of charming inns and hotels. When travelling by private aircraft, Niagara-on-the-Lake can be accessed easily from Niagara District Airport which is located just a 15-minute drive from the centre of town. Alternatives include Hamilton Airport and Toronto Pearson International Airport in Canada or Niagara Falls International Airport over the border in the USA. Just contact one of our team and we can arrange everything you need to charter a private jet to Niagara-on-the-Lake.