In all the ways Niagara Falls is a big, brazen tourist attraction, full of overpriced food and trinkets, Niagara-on-the-Lake is small, cultured and charming, famous especially for its annual Shaw Theatre Festival, its many heritage homes and gardens, and wineries.
Where is Niagara-on-the-Lake
Niagara-on-the-Lake is located on the south shore of Lake Ontario at the mouth of the Niagara River. It is about a 10-minute drive from the U.S./Canada border.
If you are traveling from Niagara Falls to Niagara-on-the-Lake (about 20-minute drive), take the picturesque Niagara Parkway that winds alongside the Niagara Gorge.
The closest border crossing to Niagara-on-the-Lake is Queenston/Lewiston, though others are almost as convenient and you're advised to check the wait times before deciding where to cross.
See our guide on getting to Niagara Falls from Toronto. There's a couple of options and nice stops to make along the way.
Why Visit Niagara-on-the-Lake
The small-town heritage charm and culture of Niagara-on-the-Lake is punctuated because of its close proximity to the busy and brash Niagara Falls.
Niagara-on-the-Lake tends to attract an older type of visitor interested in theatre, gardens, history, architecture, and golf.
If you're visiting Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake makes a lovely contrast, or if crowded and touristy isn't your thing, Niagara-on-the-Lake may be the better destination. Niagara Falls is definitely worth a viewing - just not necessarily a lengthy one.
Things to Do in Niagara-on-the-Lake
- Take in a Show: The Shaw Festival is one of the largest repertory companies in North America and stages productions by Shaw and his contemporaries and about Shaw and his time period from April through December.
- Hit the Links: Boasting more than a dozen golf courses, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a golfer's paradise and one of Ontario's most popular golf destinations.
- Stroll the Streets: Enjoy Niagara-on-the-Lake simply by meandering its beautiful streets. The main strip is beautifully manicured and home to many interesting boutiques, galleries, and shops. But don't be afraid to step away into the residential neighborhoods where homes and gardens have been lovingly gentrified.
- Taste Wine: Tour the local wineries with a guide or on your own by bike, car, or limo.
- Learn the History: Niagara-on-the-Lake was the site of one of the battles of the War of 1812. Today, visitors can tour Fort George or visit the Historical Society Museum.
Where to Stay in Niagara-on-the-Lake
Few chain hotels or large-scale lodgings sully the pretty Niagara-on-the-Lake landscape. Accommodation of choice is more along the lines of heritage B&Bs, vintage inns, and smaller size hotels.
Some of the most popular Niagara-on-the-Lake accommodations include:
- Pillar and Post
- Riverbend Inn
- Prince of Wales Hotel
- Oban Inn & Spa
- Harbour House
- Queen's Landing Inn
About the only chain hotels in Niagara-on-the-Lake—both of them located outside the historic town center—are the Best Western and the Hilton Garden Inn.
Places to Eat in Niagara-on-the-Lake
Like accommodation, when it comes to eating in Niagara-on-the-Lake, you'll find few chains. You have to head to Niagara Falls for fast-food or chain restaurants.
In Niagara-on-the-Lake, much of the best dining can be found at the local inn's and wineries (though the wineries will be a car ride away) offer fine dining featuring local foods. Some of the more popular restaurants in Niagara-on-the-Lake are:
Wine Touring in Niagara-on-the-Lake
Niagara-on-the-Lake is one of several wine-growing communities that comprise the Niagara Wine Region. Talk to your concierge about booking a Niagara Wine Tour.