Notice regarding our Niagara Falls tour from Toronto – unfortunately the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake has instated bylaws that prevent tour groups from stopping in the town. This makes it impossible to schedule a visit with the right amount of time during a 1-day tour. This is because it will take excessive amounts of time commuting to the town via shuttle buses, which would result in a shorter stay in Niagara Falls. Guests interested in seeing Niagara-on-the-Lake can consider scheduling a private Niagara Falls tour instead.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is a quaint town located in the Niagara Region of Ontario, Canada. Its population is just shy of 20,000 people. This is one of the most beautiful, old-fashioned towns in Ontario. There are quite a few landmarks, activities and historical museums well suited for tourists. Plus – this is where you can find great restaurants, wine tasting tours and yummy gelato.
History of Niagara-on-the-Lake
The lands of Niagara-on-the-Lake were first settled by indigenous tribes over 11,000 years ago. The first tribe known to live here was the Neutral Nation, until their defeat by the Iroquois in the mid-1600s. The Seneca Nation started moving into the lands in the late 17th century, followed by the Mississauga Nation in the 18th century.
By 1781, British settlers had arrived and founded the settlement with the name Butlersburg, after John Butler, the Commander of Butler’s Rangers (a loyalist military unit fighting for the British Empire during the American Revolution). Shortly after, it was renamed West Niagara to distinguish it from Fort Niagara. The settlement became a safe haven for British loyalists who fled the American colonies during and after the American Revolution. These loyalists left behind their homes and possessions to reestablish life in British North America.
In 1792, the town was renamed Newark and became the first capital of Upper Canada. The town’s brief stint as the capital ended in 1797 due to growing fears of an American invasion, with York (present-day Toronto) becoming the new capital. Then in 1798, our little town that has had so many name changes has yet another – this time being called Niagara.
The famous Fort George was built in 1799. Fears of an invasion were realized on June 18, 1812. Niagara became a battleground and the Americans conquered Niagara during the Battle of Fort George, after heavy bombardment. The invading forces razed most of the city to the ground. Several months later, the British recaptured the town and rebuilt it.
Since the War of 1812, the town has enjoyed periods of stability and mild growth. The current name, Niagara-on-the-Lake, was adopted in 1880. Today, it is routinely recognized as one of the prettiest towns in Canada.
Things to do at Niagara-on-the-Lake
This town offers an awesome opportunity to take photos with quaint architecture and local shops. Even more than that, you’ll find some really great restaurants, shops and activities. This town is rich in history and you could make a full day out of the trip.
These are some of the top things you should consider doing when visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake
- Do a self-guided walking tour of historical locations: Queen St, Queen’s Royal Park and Fort George
- Get a tour of the town on a horse carriage with Sentinel Carriages
- Shop at the Modella women’s clothing store at 3995 Victoria Ave, Vineland (if you have a car)
- Eat at one of the delicious restaurants and dessert spots (see below)
- Hang out at a local pub on Queen St.
- Visit a winery! We recommend Lakeview Wine Co. but there are a ton of options so you can actually make a day of wine sampling around different vineyards
Where to eat at Niagara-on-the-Lake
There are tons of great food spots in the village and in the periphery. If you’re looking for a casual meal you won’t need a reservation and can walk down Queen St and Picton St to find many options. When the weather is nice you’ll find lots of patio seating as well. If you’re looking for a fancier meal you can check out the Clubhouse Restaurant and Bar which is at the golf club, not too far from the main strip on Queen St. You should make a reservation if you’re looking for an upscale lunch. Aside from meals, you can find the most delicious gelato at Il Gelato di Carlotta or Nina Gelateria right on Queen St.
Wine Tasting Near Niagara-on-the-Lake
Niagara Falls is known for its wine, and there are tons of options to try wine around Niagara-on-the-Lake. Pay special attention to the local icewine, a special dessert wine that you can only find in a few other parts of the world. There are many wineries you could research and visit on your own – below is a quick list to get you started.
- Plan a wine tour with Niagara Vintage Wine Tours
- If you’re staying in Niagara Falls, arrange for hotel pick-up with Winery Tours of Niagara
- Tight on time? Schedule a quick wine tasting experience with Lakeview Wine Co
Getting to Niagara-on-the-Lake
Niagara-on-the-Lake is a 30-minute drive from the main Niagara Falls strip and about 1.5 to 2 hours from Toronto. Transit isn’t very developed in this area and Ubers are expensive, so it is best to either Uber here if you’re planning for a quick visit, or rent a car if you want to explore different wineries and neighbourhoods.
Getting to Niagara-on-the-Lake from Toronto
You’ve got a few options of getting to Niagara-on-the-Lake from Toronto. For a full summary check out our guide of how to get to Niagara Falls from Toronto by Bus, GO Train, Uber or tour. Most tour companies don’t stop at Niagara-on-the-Lake given the town bylaws about tour groups, but you can extend your trip after the tour and take an Uber from Niagara Falls. You can purchase a bus ticket from Megabus afterwards to return to Toronto, for about $30. If you’re planning to go to Niagara-on-the-Lake and go winery hopping, you might be better off just renting a car for a day or two – it will get very expensive Ubering from each location. You can also book a private bus charter to Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake from Toronto.
Getting to Niagara-on-the-Lake from Niagara Falls
If you’re already in Niagara Falls for a few days or longer, your best bet to see Niagara-on-the-Lake is by either driving there or taking an Uber/taxi into town. There isn’t currently public transit available for this trip, though it’s only a half-hour drive. You could even consider staying the night in the town, as there are plenty of activities, especially if you’re interested in a wine tour.
Other things to do in Toronto and Niagara Falls
When you’re planning your trip, you might consider some of our guides for the best things to do.
- Find our guide for the best things to do in Toronto in the winter
- See our guide for planning a 3 day trip to Toronto
- If you’re travelling as a couple, you’ll enjoy this guide of the best date ideas in Toronto