Imagine this. You have truly marvelled at the grandeur of Niagara Falls. You have observed millions of gallons of clear Canadian water cascade into the rumbling mist. You are ready for some human comforts, but you are weary of chain hotels, formula restaurants and fast highways.
It’s time to follow the signs to NOTL – the local acronym for Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is a picturesque village a mere 20 minute drive from Niagara Falls. After wanting to spend some time in this area for years, SeaChange co-founders Anne & John Millerd had the opportunity in October 2012 to visit for two days. The town offers so much, they would happily have stayed much longer.
For the traveller who has seen one too many Holiday Inn, Niagara-on-the-Lake is an oasis of boutique hotels and B&B’s. Niagara-on-the-Lake offers lots of country style B&Bs, but overstuffed chairs and heavy drapes are anathema to those of us who travel with antihistamines – and so wooden floors was a criterium for the trip.
The Millerds settled on the Aquabella B & B. It was a good choice. The owners, Faith and David, were friendly and helpful without being intrusive. The room was charming, comfortable and private, and the breakfasts were lovely. Bonus: there was no ancient dust-filled upholstery. It was a great home base.
The Millerds enjoyed good “pub grub” at the Irish Harp. This place earned high marks for its delightful old country decor, welcoming staff and lack of television sets. It’s true they had to listen to the Irish Rovers sing about green alligators and long neck geese, but the good Ontario beer put them in a tolerant frame of mind.
The best meal of the trip was at the Pillar and Post. Think grand old CP Hotel crossed with country inn. At the Pillar and Post, you can pretend to be aristocracy for an evening. It’s a country manor with discrete, competent staff and beautiful British country decor. And the food was truly excellent.
Travellers could visit wineries for days in this area. The Millerds were able to visit just a few on this trip, including the Reif Estate Winery. The Reif winery is the real deal, growing all the grapes for the wines it produces on its own estate. The tasting room is large and gracious, which was good because Anne & John were not the only visitors.
For the Millerds, scenic off-road cycling is probably the most enticing offering of this region. It’s quite flat, and there are many kilometres of paved bike paths, graced by long lines of oaks, maples, poplars, walnuts and willows, all of which were changing colour while they were there. Anne & John rented from a bike shop called Zoom.
Of course, you must go to see the world famous and truly spectacular Niagara Falls. You won’t be disappointed. But for a somewhat British taste of Canada, served up with pastoral beauty, comfort and good food, plan to retreat from the roaring Falls to the peaceful and welcoming town of Niagara-on-the-Lake.