NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE TO FORT ERIE
It’s impossible to be in a hurry when you’re on the Niagara Parkway. Hugging the Niagara River as it stretches from Niagara-on-the-Lake in the North to Fort Erie in the South, this scenic road compels travellers to slow down and take in the view. And what a view it is. In 1943, Sir Winston Churchill described it as “the prettiest Sunday afternoon drive in the world.” The nice thing is, at only 55 km in length, there’s plenty of time for exploring along the way.
Begin at historic Fort George, headquarters of the Centre Division of the British Army during the War of 1812. There’s year-round musket demonstrations, or, if you’re here during the summer, you can button into a redcoat and fire one for yourself. You might also be lucky enough to catch the 41st Regiment of Foot Fife and Drum Corps play centuries-old military music that will rekindle your national pride…and have you checking your posture. For more history, step into the McFarland House, a 140-year-old Georgian mansion that once served as a war hospital, or stop in at the Laura Secord Homestead and learn how this Canadian heroine helped stop an American surprise attack in June of 1813.
Next, climb the Escarpment and be sure to take a moment to snap a few pics at the Niagara Scenic lookout spot just North of Queenston Heights….then head to the Butterfly Conservatory, where you’ll be welcomed by over 2,000 fluttering friends. This magical attraction features over 45 species of tropical butterflies, floating freely among lush paths and feasting on exotic blossoms. The space is located on the grounds of the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens, showcasing 40 hectares (99 acres) of beautifully-maintained gardens, including over 2,400 roses.
When you need a break to refresh, a short drive will soon have you at the Whirlpool Aero Car, where you can soar high above the Great Gorge in an antique cable car. Or, if you dare to get closer (and perhaps wetter), continue along to the White Water Walk, and marvel at how the trillions of gallons of water that created the Gorge are still barrelling through the divide today at speeds of up to 48 km/hr, creating rare Class 6 Whirlpool Rapids.
At this point in your journey, you’re just minutes away from the great Horseshoe Falls themselves, so prepare to park your car, grab a bite, and take in all the sights. If you’re in a “picnicky” mood, Queen Victoria Park offers plenty of park benches and green grass with an unbeatable view of the Falls – so you can get your fill of them while you fuel up. Then, put on your rain ponchos and ride to the heart of the Falls on the Hornblower Cruise, or get your fun on at attraction-filled Clifton Hill.
Once you’re back in the car, don’t get too comfortable, because you’ll want to hop out again at the many scenic points, parks and hiking opportunities that lie ahead. For instance, Dufferin Islands offers 10 acres of secluded parkland, accommodating several small islands connected by charming bridges and footpaths. Or, for families seeking essential playground time, Kingsbridge Park, boasts generous picnic pavilions and a water play area. Continue your journey all the way to historic Fort Erie, where you can finish your day with a musket demonstration and military march.
There’s a lot to take in, which is why the Niagara Parkway is so much more than just a beautiful road. In fact, you might say it’s a one-of-a-kind destination in itself.