Check Out These Awesome Things to Do in Niagara on the Lake!
Looking to explore the Niagara Region of Ontario? Great idea! You can see both Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake if you head to this area of southern Ontario. That said, Niagara on the Lake is such a pretty region to explore – and the historic old town is also worth a wander!
We really liked our visit to the region on our Ontario getaway. We saw Niagara Falls first and then spent time in the Niagara on the Lake wine region and the old town itself. You can do it as a day trip from Toronto – but there is a lot to see and do if you are into nature, food, wine, and history!
In this guide, we cover the top things to do in Niagara on the Lake that we loved as well as a few things we ran out of time to see but will do next time. From wineries, attractions, and heritage buildings to restaurants and more – let’s explore this famous region!
If you’re heading down to Niagara on the Lake (and/or Niagara Falls), check out these other posts:
- Where to Stay in Niagara on the Lake – Our Accommodation Guide
- Our Favourite Wineries in Niagara on the Lake
- Niagara on the Lake Wine Tours (We Did a Great One!)
- 25 Things to Do in Niagara Falls, Canada
- Where to Stay in Niagara Falls – Hotels and Areas Guide
- How to Get to Niagara Falls/Niagara on the Lake from Toronto
Things to Consider When Planning a Visit to Niagara on the Lake
Before you head out to explore all the things to do and see in the region, we need to make something clear. There are two “Niagara on the Lake”: one is the historic town of Niagara on the Lake located on the shores of Lake Ontario. The other Niagara on the Lake is the greater wine region bordered by the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, and the Niagara Escarpment.
This post on things to do and see in Niagara on the Lake focuses on the attractions in the town and then things around the region, too!
Also, for those wondering how far it is between Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake – it’s about a 25-minute drive. This distance is measured from the heart of Niagara Falls (the city and waterfalls) to Niagara on the Lake (the town at the northernmost tip of the region. It’s basically one road (the Niagara Parkway) along the Niagara River and it’s a lovely drive!
Best Time to Visit Niagara on the Lake
The best time to visit Niagara on the Lake greatly depends on what you are going there for. The most popular time to visit would be April through to the end of fall (in October) – with the summer and fall being the busiest of times.
If you are going for wine, fall is harvest time so that’s definitely an exciting time to visit. That said, there will be no shortage of wine at any time of year. Summer in the region means the best chance at the hot sun. That’s the perfect time to spend some hours at the water, too. However, this summer heat also means that the region is packed with visitors to both the wine country and the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
You can certainly visit in the winter month, too. Many of the top wineries in the region have grand indoor spaces available for tastings all year round. Also, the region is known worldwide for producing ice wine (sweet dessert wine) and there’s a big Ice Wine Festival in January/February to check out!
Getting Around Niagara on the Lake
When talking about the historic town, you can easily walk around the small town of Niagara on the Lake (located in the northeast of the Niagara on the Lake region). Additionally, there is a small shuttle that does loops around the region and main town. It’s also wheelchair accessible. You can learn more about Niagara on the Lake Transit here.
As for getting around the greater region, that will take some planning. If you want to get around to the wineries and along the river, you need to drive (you can rent a car), get on a shuttle bus, do a wine tour, or rent a bike.
You can also hike using the extensive trails (check out the Heritage Trail) that snake along the River area. The region is pretty big so it’s not always possible to simply walk from one winery to another. That said, please plan ahead and don’t drink and drive if you are doing tastings.
Another option is the WEGO. The WEGO shuttle is for the Niagara Fall region BUT they extend service into the Niagara on the Lake region from around April to October (the busy season). So, you can get around the region – from the Floral Clock to Fort George (near downtown Niagara on the Lake) on this WEGO shuttle. You can check out the shuttle times, stops, and prices here.
Where To Stay In Niagara on the Lake
If you are planning to stay overnight (or for longer) in Niagara on the Lake, there are lots of great options for accommodations. We actually wrote a detailed guide on this topic which you can find linked at the top of this post. If you want to get started looking:
In short, there are a number of guesthouses, inns, cottages, and bed and breakfasts in the region – but not too many hotels. The Prince of Wales Hotel is very centrally located in the town of Niagara on the Lake while the Riverbend Inn & Vineyard is grand with private vineyard. Eric has also stayed at the Pillar and Post Hotel & Spa which is a short walk to the town centre and it was really nice!
You might also be interested in a waterfront cottage which you can also find. For example, check out Somerset right on the water. Just be sure to book ahead of time since the area is popular and can fill up in the summer and fall seasons!
Things to Do in Niagara on the Lake
Now that we have covered a few of the basics, here are a number of things that you can do, see, and eat in Niagara on the Lake (both the region and the town itself). As per usual in these posts, we generally start in the heart of the action and work our way geographically further out.
You should also keep in mind that technically some of these attractions are located in a very small town called Queenston which is very much in the great Niagara on the Lake region itself. We drove through Queenston because of all the historic attractions and it’s not too far from wineries and downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Explore Historic Downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake
One of the first things you should do when you arrive in the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is to explore it! The historic town – said to be the prettiest in Canada – is full of things to see.
A good starting point is to snap a photo of the Memorial Clock Tower of Niagara-on-the-Lake. This cenotaph is a key fixture in the heart of “downtown” and is surrounded by shops, pubs, restaurants, accommodations, and more. It can get busy wandering down Queen Street in the warm season but it’s still lovely to stretch your legs and do a bit of window shopping.
If you get thirsty, you can also go for a pint or traditional pub food at the oldest inn in the town – The Olde Angel Inn. You can even stay there, too!
Location: Where Picton Street and Queen Street meet
Here are a number of other things to check out in just downtown Niagara on the Lake.
Visit the Royal George Theatre
If you are looking for theatre, you have come to the right place. Niagara-on-the-Lake is home to a number of performance venues that have rotating theatre, comedy, and other performances. The historic Royal George is one such place to go and watch!
The other theatre to check out is the very popular SHAW Festival Theatre. This much bigger place renowned for its live theatre is located just behind the intersection of Queen Street and Picton Street very close to where the tour buses drop people off. You can check out the website for the Shaw Festival Theatre here.
Address: 85 Queen St, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON
Eat Ice Cream at COWS
We had heard about there being good ice cream in Niagara-on-the-Lake and COWS was the spot to find it. Yes, there was a bit of a lineup but we would say that it was worth it. There are numerous flavours to choose from and loads of staff working to get people moving relatively quickly. If you want good ice cream, go to COWS. You can scan their site for flavours here.
Address: 44 Queen St, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON
Explore the Niagara Apothecary
On the main drag, you’ll pass by the old Niagara Apothecary. This actual Canadian Confederation-era pharmacy from 1869 is now a restored and super-detailed museum. Inside, it showcases what a pharmacy would have looked like “back in the day” from the fine wood paneling to the products used and sold.
We always find this kind of thing super interesting. We visited the German Pharmacy Museum in Heidelberg, Germany and it was fascinating, too. The Apothecary is a neat way to jump into history right on the main street and get a glimpse of this industry (and the town) in the past. You can learn more about visiting here on the website.
Address: 5 Queen St, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON
Visit the Wineries and/or Go on a Wine Tour
Of course, one of the top reasons to visit Niagara on the Lake is for the wineries. The good news is there are MANY to choose from. The bad news is that you have to choose which ones you want to see since they aren’t that close to downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake.
We aren’t going to go too in-depth into the wineries here in this post since we have a whole post on some of the great wineries in Niagara on the Lake. That said, we have a few we really liked visiting like Peller Estates, Stratus, Ravine, Reif Estate Winery, and Inniskillin. There is a huge mix of larger operations and smaller, more family-run wineries so you can get a good mix when you visit.
It’s typical to drive to the wineries since they are generally spread far apart but you can also rent a bike if you want. There are also private shuttles or tours offered by different accommodations and providers if that interests you. We did a classic wine tour of the region and – in our opinion – it was the best way to get around (see below).
A great way to check out a number of them and not have to worry about navigating is to go on a Niagara on the Lake wine tour. Again, we did a whole Niagara on the Lake wine tour that visited four wineries, a chocolate place (listed below), and included a stop for lunch in the town of Niagara on the Lake. It was a great experience!
- Niagara on the Lake Wine Tour with Charcuterie! – Pair wine with food on this full-day tour around the region!
As you can see above, there are multiple wine tours you can choose from. Some even make a point of stopping at breweries, too.
Visit a Brewery or Distillery
For all the publicity the region gets for the wineries, you can’t forget about the number of breweries and distillery popping up all over the place, too. We like wine but Eric is also a whiskey and beer fan so these kinds of places also call to him, too!
For breweries in the Niagara on the Lake region, check out The Exchange Brewery right on the main street in the town or the unmissable red barn at Niagara Oast House Brewers for another popular brewery.
Address for The Exchange: 7 Queen St, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON
If harder spirits are more your thing, then you should visit Wayne Gretzky Estates serving up wine but also a popular whiskey No99 which is pretty good! They make a mean cocktail onsite at the Whisky Bar Patio!
Address: 1003 Niagara Stone Rd, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON
We’re including this because it looks hilarious – but you can also do the Pedal Pub tour. We’ve never done this but Eric saw it last summer and wants to do it the next time we visit. Perfect for a fun day out and a little tour of the region! You can learn more about Pedal Pub NOTL and book a ride here.
Discover Fort George National Historic Site
As you will continue to see in this post, you can’t come to the region without being tempted to learn a little bit of Canadian history. As such, one of the most popular historic sites to check out is Fort George. Originally it was built in the very late 1700s and played a significant role in the War of 1812.
Today, it’s a living museum meaning you can do a tour of the grounds as costumed people play their roles and re-enact various parts of life in the restored grounds and buildings. They have programs for kids and the grounds are large and green making it lovely to just enjoy on a walk. You can read more information about visiting Fort George here.
If you are interested in experiencing the Fort’s spookier side, you can do a Ghost Tour of Fort George. We didn’t do one but they are well-rated and so we want to do one the next time we visit the town. You can learn more about these specialty tours here.
Address: 51 Queen’s Parade, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON
Wander Butler’s Barracks National Historic Site
Once you’re done exploring Fort George, you can stay within the topic of “military history” by exploring the nearby Butler’s Barracks. Named after Colonel John Butler, they were built by the British to replace destroyed ones after the War of 1812.
Today, the remaining buildings (and the area surrounding them) are of great historical importance because they offer a unique glimpse into military life during this critical period in this critical location: the Niagara on the Lake area was of vital strategic importance! So go have a wander around – you’ll get transported back in time (again). If you want to learn more, you can visit the website here.
Address: 440 King St, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON
Go on a Haunted Ghost Walk in Niagara-on-the-Lake
Sticking with the theme of history, such a place with a rich backstory and a few battles isn’t without a number of ghost stories to follow it up.
That’s why – if you are interested in exploring the spooky (and even dark) past of the town- you can head out on a tour with The Ghost Walks. Their building is located right on the main street in Niagara on the Lake so they are easy to find. We’re told that they have passionate tour guides who do an amazing job so we’re keen to go on a walk the next time we visit! You can check them out at their main website here.
Address: 126 Queen St, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON
See Fort Mississauga National Historic Site
Another historic site in Niagara-on-the-Lake (because there are just so many…) is Fort Mississauga. Located basically within the grounds of what is now the Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club, this brick defensive tower was built between 1814-1816 to counter the American Fort Niagara on the other side of the river (shown below in this post).
Today, you can visit the site which is known for its square tower located inside a star-shaped ground fortification. This is unique (even by the military standards of back then) and so it’s been deemed historically important! It’s right on the shoreline so you get great views across the water. You can learn a bit more here.
Address: 223 Queen St, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON
Relax in the Queen’s Royal Park
If you are looking to relax by the waterfront of Lake Ontario, a great place to do it is in the Queen’s Royal Park. Located right at the water just a short walk from “downtown” Niagara-on-the-Lake, this little green space is beautiful and perfect for a rest or a picnic.
There’s a cute little gazebo which is famous for some reason – it’s pretty photogenic which is likely why. You also get great views of New York State across the river and can see out over the lake towards Toronto on a clear day.
Address: 16 Front St, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON
Explore the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum
Of course, no stop to Niagara-on-the-Lake – especially if you came for the history of the area – would be complete without a stop at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum. Opened back in 1907, this museum has thousands of objects, books, photos, and more that tell the story of the town – as far back as 9000 years!
Of course, most of the history is centered around more recent times and the obvious linkages to Canadian/British military history. Nevertheless, the collection is housed in a heritage building that has been largely unchanged (except expanded) since the early 1900s.
The museum also does a number of interactive sessions if you are visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake with kids as well as fairs and live events (like walking tours) so be sure to check the website before you visit if you are interested in their events!
Address: 43 Castlereagh St, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON
Visit the Laura Secord Homestead
One more hugely important historic site that you can visit in the small town of Queenston is the Laura Secord Homestead. If you don’t know the story of Laura Secord, she is an original heroine in Canadian history for walking a great distance (like 20 miles/32 kilometres) to warn the British of an American attack.
Today, you can visit the home where she lived between 1803-1835 and where this story begins. There are character actors that take you on a guided experience of the grounds and the buildings so you get the full experience when you visit. You can even buy the famous chocolate brand named after her onsite. Learn more about visiting here.
Address: 29 Queenston St, Queenston, ON
Check Out the Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Museum
Does thinking about paper and printing presses make you fall asleep? Well, a visit to the Mackenzie Printery and Museum might change that! Stored in an old restored house belonging to William Lyon Mackenzie, this museum is dedicated to centuries of printing!
The museum is located in Queenston (very close to the Laura Secord Homestead) and you can actually play with the very old presses (under guidance, of course). They even have the Louis Roy Press – which is one of less than 10 wooden presses still remaining in the world. The gift shop sells prints that come from the actual working machines so that’s also neat! You can plan your visit and learn more here.
Address: 1 Queenston St, Queenston, ON
Visit the RiverBrink Art Museum
If art is your thing, then you can head to the RiverBrink Art Museum. To be fair, there are a number of smaller galleries, art shops, and stores in the town as well as scattered throughout the area that you can explore.
However, RiverBrink is one of the more established ones with over 1,000 works by international and Canadian artists – like The Group of Seven! They have a number of rotating exhibitions for you to check out as well. You can learn all about visiting here.
Address: 116 Queenston St, Queenston, ON
Go on a Niagara Sunset Cruise
There’s no better way to end a long adventure in the region than with a sunset cruise down the Niagara River. For this, hop in the “Niagara Belle” – an old three-level paddlewheel ship – and set sail for great views from the water.
The boat leaves from the pier in Queenston – so a little outside the town of Niagara on the Lake but it’s still easy to find. They even serve food on-board! They run seasonally so you have to check the website for dates, times, and prices.
Address: 55 River Frontage Road, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON (they leave in Queenston)
Enjoy the McFarland House
Yet another historic site in the Niagara on the Lake region is the McFarland House. Built back in 1800 by John McFarland, this Georgian-style house is significant because it played a role in the War of 1812 as both a hospital and military headquarter.
It ALSO didn’t get burned down by the retreating Americans in 1813 – and was one of very few buildings to not be burnt. This makes it one of the oldest original structures in the whole region!
Today, you can visit the house and do a tour. Similar to other places, there are costumed actors that make the history of the place come alive so you get the most out of your visit. They even do scones and tea in the Conservatory Tea Room!
Address: 15927 Niagara Parkway Recreational Trail, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON
Stop at Walker’s Country Market
If you are looking to embrace that Ontario farmer’s market feel, then you should definitely visit Walker’s Country Market. Located right off the Niagara Parkway close to the tiny chapel (see below), this classic country market has everything from fresh produce to takeaway food and products like jams and baked goods.
We had a wander through as we were driving by and the place was packed! It’s been family-run since 1930 and they have fruit that is farm-grown right in the region so it’s no wonder it’s a popular stop. They also have unique gifts if you want to bring something else home!
They usually close for the winter season but you can definitely visit in the warmer months! See their website for more details.
Address: 15796 Niagara Pkwy, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON
Visit the Living Water Wayside Chapel
Even if you aren’t religious, it’s kind of funny to step inside a very tiny chapel! Located right beside the Walker’s Country Market (we parked and walked between the two), this tiny chapel was built in 1964 and serves as a place of worship for tourist and locals alike.
We actually stepped inside – there’s room for about 6 people which makes it pretty silly but a fun experience nonetheless. You can also sign a guestbook and/or say a prayer before getting on your way.
Address: 15796 Niagara Pkwy, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON
Relax at Queenston Heights Park w/ Brock’s Monument
If you want a bit of green space to sit back and relax – or even have a bite to eat – then you should head for Queenston Heights Park. Located in the southern end of the region (technically in Queenston), this massive park is full of things to explore and also great for a bit of a relaxing walk and some views.
From one vantage point, you can see over the mighty Niagara River as it snakes into the Niagara on the Lake region towards Lake Ontario. Behind this point, you will see Brock’s Monument towering towards the sky. Built-in the 1850s, this monument was erected to commemorate Major General Sir Isaac Brock for his role in fighting for Canada in the War of 1812!
Today, you can pop inside to find costumed men ready to tell you tales. You can also climb the over 200 steps to the top for views of the surrounding area! If heights are not your thing, you can just wander the grounds – and even grab a bite to eat at the Queenston Heights Restaurant. They are known for their seasonal patio and brunch so check them out here!
Overall, we loved visiting the park. There was loads of parking, washrooms available, and picnic tables for groups everywhere. What’s not to like?
Address: 14184 Niagara Pkwy, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON
Check Out NEOB Lavender Boutique
If you have a thing for lavender, there is a must-see stop right in the heart of the region: NEOB Lavender! It’s ocated off the main street that cuts the region in half heading for the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. You can walk through the lavender fields and even pick your own (when the season is right).
They also have lots of other products on hand like essential oils, lotions, crafts, and other eco-friendly products to take home! So if this sounds like it’s for you, stop by and show this local business your support. They even do tours of their greenhouse and more!
Address: 758 Niagara Stone Rd, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON
Indulge at Chocolate F/X
If you have a sweet tooth, then you need to check out Chocolate F/X! Located in the south end of the region (close to Ravine Winery), this artisan chocolate-making facility/tasting room is packed with all things chocolate. Opened back in 2005, they have a way of basically trying to coat anything in chocolate – hence the wild (but delicious) combinations you can find there!
The best part is that they offer free samples of most of their chocolates so you can sample a few before grabbing a bag (or three) to check out. They also offer FREE guided tours multiple times per day of their chocolate making facilities onsite (usually give them a heads up, though). You can have a look at the website here.
Address: 335 Four Mile Creek Rd, St. Davids, ON
Get Wet on a Jet Boat River Rapids Tour
If you want to get wild while in Niagara-on-the-Lake and you’re looking to get out on the water, then you should definitely look into booking one of the river rapid jet boat tours. These powerful boats take you up the Niagara River to play in the water and get an experience you just can’t get while on land.
These boats head for the Niagara River and enter the Devil’s Hole – or Class Five Rapids! This tour is also in an open-top boat so you should bring a change of clothes and a towel if you know you want to go!
There are other whirlpool rapid boat tours that have glass tops and leave from a number of places in the region (with a pick-up near the Floral Clock) but you can get on this rapids tour at the waterfront in Niagara-on-the-Lake! You can get your NOTL Jet Boat tickets here for the one that leaves from the harbour in Niagara on the Lake.
Address of the Office (near the launch): 61 Melville St, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON
Check Out the Floral Clock
We’re not going to show you a photo because you can find the Floral Clock mentioned in our massive guide in things to do in Niagara Falls post (linked at the very top of this post). That said, it’s a massive clock made of thousands of flowers and the design changes each year so it’s neat to see.
While we’re mentioning the Floral Clock (which is located in the very south of the Niagara on the Lake Region) we can also mention other top attractions that come up, too.
A few minutes drive south of the Clock you will find the Butterfly Conservatory and the Botanical Gardens which are popular to visit. However, for the purposes of this article, these attractions are now closer to Niagara Falls and not Niagara on the Lake so we left them out of this list.
Address: 14004 Niagara Pkwy, Queenston, ON
BONUS: Visit Old Fort Niagara in New York
If you are standing in Queen’s Royal Park, you’ll see another historic fort on the opposite shore. This is Old Fort Niagara located in Fort Niagara State Park in New York State, USA. You certainly could visit the Fort – but you will need to cross into the USA to do so. The closest bridge (if you are driving) is the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge across the Niagara River near the Floral Clock.
If you do plan to visit, just be sure to bring your identification (passport) and check if you need a visa to enter the USA, depending on your citizenship. The Fort is a great place to dive into history – especially if you want to learn about the American side of the conflicts in and around 1812! You can learn more at the Old Fort Niagara website here.
Address: 102 Morrow Plaza, Youngstown, NY 14174, United States
And there you have it – a variety of the great things to do in Niagara on the Lake! Of course, this isn’t everything to do and see – but this list comprises most of the top attractions and then some. We loved exploring the historic region and we look forward to returning soon!
As always, Keep Exploring, eh?
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