Growing up so close to the Niagara region meant constant trips to NOTL (even as a kid)! It is such a quaint little area and we will forever want to retire there! It is located in Southern Ontario and known as an old Victorian town. There are so many fun and enjoyable things to do like visiting wineries, walking the beautiful strip, hiking along the river, visiting different farms, the list goes on and on! Here is a guide that covers the best things to do in Niagara on the Lake (which definitely can be modified to be family friendly). Be sure to shop local and support all of the small shops in the area!
Fun Fact: Niagara on the Lake is globally recognized as a major producer of ice wine. Basically wine made from grapes that have been left out to freeze in the Canadian winters. It is VERY sweet and often called a “dessert” wine. Ice wine is rather pricy as the grapes are all hand picked, plus because the grapes are frozen it takes 4-5 times as many grapes to yield juice as regular wine. You can’t go to NOTL without trying an ice wine sample though, especially if you’ve never had it before!
Getting to Niagara on the Lake
Be sure to note that NOTL is NOT Niagara Falls. They are about a 30 minute drive from each other, NOTL being well, near the lake (Lake Ontario). Driving is definitely the best option for getting to Niagara on the Lake. There is a newer train via Go Transit that takes you to the Niagara Falls area, but you would then have to taxi/Uber the rest of the way and it would be a tedious process.
Best Wineries to Visit in Niagara on the Lake
We have been to A LOT of wineries along the lake and let us tell you, there is no bad choice. Each and every winery is so cute and unique in its own way! We love visiting and supporting the smaller ones, as well as drooling over how stunning the large ones are! Bonus is that they are all relatively close to one another, so you definitely can visit multiple in a day! Most tours do 3-4 in a day. As for the wine, it’s delicious everywhere!! If you want a better breakdown of each winery, another post is coming soon, but these are our favourite wineries to visit:
Larger & Popular:
- Two Sisters Vineyards – The grounds are gorgeous & their restaurant is to die for!! Make a reso, it’s always booked! Definitely an elegant spot!
- Konzelmann Estate Winery – Try their peach wine! It’s amazing and not sold anywhere else. Plus they have tastings starting at $10 and lakeside picnic experiences you can book.
- Inniskillin Wines – They have a famous ice wine, and the grounds you can walk around are so pretty. The tour we did here was awesome, it’s one of our favourites! They also have a Grill & Smokehouse for food.
- Jackson Triggs – Over 11 acres of land for wine making! We love their tours! They also have an amphitheatre that does concerts in the summer! So fun!
- Peller Estates – Andrew Peller is known for bringing wine making to Ontario! One of the largest in the area with different food options in the restaurant, winery, & patio. This is the place to try ice wine!! The tour takes you into an igloo-like tasting room where you put on a parka and taste ice wine at -10 degrees Celsius. So cool!
- Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery & Distillery – The greatest hockey player of all time! There is an ice rink out back in the winter months. They have wine, beer, & whisky here. They also have a mixology class with whisky based drinks that was so fun to do!
- Trius Winery – Definitely the most instagrammable winery!! They have events & music festivals too. Plus, if you love sparkling wines, Trius has the largest underground sparkling cellar in the country!
- Stratus – Very sleek & modern looking! They have a gorgeous wedding venue here! We actually really liked their wine.
- Reif Estates – They have a sensory wine bar that pairs wine with chocolate, and a new kitchen that makes wine gelatos and pizzas – so yum!! We’ve done a tour here too and loved it!
- Ravine Vineyard Estates Winery – Award winning kitchen and culinary experiences. They also have a grocery area and honey from their own bees!
- Chateau des Charmes – A stunning property and another beautiful wedding venue! Definitely a fancier place.
- Colanari Estate Winery – This building is actually HUGE. If you go for a tour they tell you the cutest love story that began their winery back in Italy. They have really good wine!
- Kurtz Orchards – Another popular wedding venue with gorgeous grounds! They have a farm on site and make the best fresh jams & sauces!
Smaller & More Intimate
- Caroline Cellars – We actually LOVE their wine! They have a popular one called “Farmer’s White” that you should definitely try! They also have a cute restaurant called “Farmhouse Cafe” that serves delicious foods!
- Sunnybrook Winery – Love this place! They specialize in fruit wines and ciders, mmm!
- Hinterbrook Winery – They have a NOMAD theme to their wines & labels where you can draw on them. Super cute idea and super delicious wine!
- Between the Lines Family Estate Winery – Such a cute family run spot! They have charcuterie and tastings for affordable prices!
- Big Head Wines – These wines are actually sold all over the GTA! An awesome small but mighty team!
- Pondview Estate Winery – They do charcuterie & tastings, and have a pretty outdoor area to walk around.
- Strewn Winery – They have great tastings and an awesome restaurant on site called OLiV!
- Small Talk Vineyards – They have great cider here and such fun wine labels, super cute spot!
- Riverview Cellars – Super affordable and tasty wines!
- Joseph’s Estate Wines – Another super cute family run winery. Check out their tours & tastings.
- Pillitteri Estates Winery – They have a wood oven pizza that you HAVE to get when tasting their wines!
- Cave Spring Vineyards – ONE OF OUR FAVS! Covering over 100 acres of land backing off the Niagara Escarpment you get views for days! You can hike here as well. The wine was to die for & the newly renovated building & tasting room is stunning! A must visit!
- Stoney Ridge Estate – The grounds to this winery are so pretty and they have little bonfire pits at night in the summer months!
Booking a Wine Tour
We LOVE choosing which wineries to go to and planning it out ourselves, but we have done plenty of tours also. If you want a bus taking you around to each and a guide, definitely check out the tours below. If you’re looking to save money, Groupon always has tours available at discounted prices!
Biking Wine Tours
Another thing you can do if you’re looking for something fun & different, is to check out BIKING WINE TOURS!! Yes, you ride a bike around to the different wineries and do tastings. We’ve never had so much fun in our lives haha! Just be careful, tipsy bike riding can be dangerous LOL. The best part is you can still buy wine at each place as the company picks up the wine for you in their car and gives it to you when you return the bike! These are the ones we’ve done, we usually just choose the tour that has the wineries we want to go to in the itinerary:
Fun Things To Do in Niagara on the Lake
Hike at Niagara Glen Nature Centre
Drive 20 minutes to the Niagara Glen Nature Centre (There is free parking). Behind it there is a set of stairs that leads down to a trail to the Niagara Gorge. It’s gorgeous! Here is a map of the trails you can do, there are short and long ones depending on what you’re looking for. Highly recommend this hike, it’s stunning and the water is so blue!
Check out NEOB Niagara (Niagara Essential Oils and Blends) It’s SO cute!! Perfect for photos!
It opens at 10am on Saturdays, so we arrived then, and we were the first ones there! It is SUCH a cute farm. You can either pay $2 each to roam the the fields right now (and you get that money back as a gift card if you buy something in their store). Click here to buy your tickets!
You can also book a tour of the aromatic greenhouse and learn how their essential oils are made! Or book a lavender picnic lunch and then pick your own lavender – this is SO cute! (Unfortunately, it is not offered this season due to COVID-19, but check back for that next year)!
The grounds of this lavender field was so fun to explore too! They have an antique shop you can look through, and a cute boutique that sells all things essential oils (obsessed with lavender oil). The boutique also has lavender water to taste (for free!) and lavender baked goods. Apparently they sell lavender peach ice cream, but their machine was out of order when we went (tear..). We bought some lavender plants for our garden before heading out!
Pillar & Post Inn & Spa
A VERY popular hotel & spa with an award winning restaurant called Cannery. If you can afford this 5-star spot, definitely spend the day at their spa! It also makes for the PERFECT gift for someone if you’re looking to wind down and relax in a fancy Inn.
One weekend we went they were having an event called Artistry by the Lake, which was a craft show with venders that you could walk around and shop. They have different events every weekend in the summer! Obviously COVID has effected this, but check out the calendar before you head down to see whats going on!
Fort George National Historic Site
This site is a reconstructed military landmark from the War of 1812 which is a military post that defended Upper Canada against American attacks. They offers tours & living history demonstrations and if you’re up for a history lesson it’s a great experience!
Admission is $12 for adults and free for kids.
Walk to Strip & Shop!
Type in Queen St. or Prince of Wales Hotel for the location to the strip! There are so many cute local shops to walk around and check out, plus the buildings have such charm, you’ll love it!
Shop Local at:
- Lakeside Pottery – The cutest handmade items
- Lakeshore Antiques & Treasures – Who doesn’t love a good antique store?!
- Quiet Acres – A fresh fruit & vegetable farm/store
- Meyer’s Fruit Farm – Check here to see which produce is in season
Best Restaurants in Niagara on the Lake
If you don’t feel like eating at any of the wineries, head downtown to the beautiful walking strip of NOTL with cute shops and restaurants! We usually park on a side street near Queens Royal Park (map location here) There’s a cute gazebo here for a photo op, and it is right on the Niagara River so has a great view! Perfect spot for a picnic!
If you’re lucky enough to get a bright, sunny day, go to a patio!
- The Epicurean It’s DELICIOUS! Highly recommend. If you walk past the left of the front entrance, they have a nice patio in the back. Shawn had the Chicken Club Pesto Wrap and Steph had the Mediterranean Flatbread (SO GOOD!). We also had their Sangria which was great!
- Pie’za Pizzeria – Such drool worthy pizza!!
- The Irish Harp Pub – This spot has perfecttt pub food! A classic, we love it!
- Treadwell Cuisine – A fine dining, farm to table cuisine with a gorgeous interior
- The Old Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar – Sit on their patio and enjoy the delicious food & drinks
- Benchmark – SUPER unique as culinary students at Niagara College grow, cook, and serve food! (Not located in downtown NOTL)
- Cannery – Fine dining located inside Pillar & Post
You can’t leave without getting some ice cream or gelato! Check out COWS for ice cream! Look at all their flavours! Or head to Il Gelato di Carlotta for some mouth watering gelato! If you’re in the mood for a short drive Avondale Dairy Bar is THE BEST!! Everything is so fresh as the cows are milked on site!
That’s it! If you enjoyed reading this, there are more blogs on Niagara to come! Share it with friends & family and let us know if you go! PLUS this works as an awesome day trip for friends and family! Happy planning!
Steph & Shawn
(Did we miss your favourite winery?! Have any questions? Comment below! Be sure to follow along on Instagram to see more tips & pics! @thethompsontrotters)