Niagara-on-the-Lake is often referred to as the loveliest town in Ontario, and has a long and distinguished history. Site of the old Neutral Indian village of Onghiara, it was settled at the close of the American Revolution by Loyalists coming to Upper Canada, many of whom had been members of the much feared Butler's Rangers based during the American Revolution at Fort Niagara, then under British control.
The Town has retained its 19th century charm and is a wonderful place to explore with its forts, grand mansions, beautiful gardens and parks, and many locals artists and artisans.
Strategically situated at the mouth of the mighty Niagara River, Niagara-on-the-Lake played a key role in much of the early government, the War of 1812, commerce, and most recently as a centre for tourism and the arts.
In fact, it is said that to understand the history of Niagara-on-the-Lake is to understand the history of early Ontario.
In 1781 the British Government purchased a strip of land 6 miles wide along the western bank of the Niagara River for "300 suits of clothing" from the Mississaugas. By 1782, 16 families had become established and had cleared 236 acres.
In 1792, Newark - as it was named by Governor Simcoe became the first capital of the newly-created colony of Upper Canada. It remained the capital from1791 – 96. Eventually Simcoe moved the capital to York, or what we know today as Toronto.
Because of the town’s close proximity to the Niagara River and Lake Ontario, the town developed into a busy shipping port and shipbuilding centre.
In 1829, with the completion of the Welland Canal which totally bypassed the town, its port trade declined. New industries soon sprang up as railroads also made it accessible to American tourists.
A visit to Niagara- on- the- Lake is like a step back in time. Quaint shops and exceptional dining experiences await the visitor.
The architecture and ambience of the Victorian era has been preserved and because of zoning laws within the town, the original character of the town has been kept intact.
T he town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is a time capsule preserving Canada's links to British history.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is also widely recognized for its lush and productive farmlands, with a temperate climate that promotes the growing of grapes and other tender fruits such as cherries and peaches.
The Niagara- on- the- Lake area possesses some of the most notable wineries in Canada, producing some of North America’s finest quality and internationally award winning wines.
In 1974 Inniskillin received the first estate winery license since Prohibition. This was the beginning of a wine industry that would see unprecedented growth.
Wineries range in size from small family run operations to large state of the art facilities. No where else will a visitor find the combination of experiences found in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Here wine, cuisine and theatre go hand in hand with history.
Wineries offer a number of seasonal festivities including the Icewine Festival in January, Days of Wine and Roses in February and Taste the Season in November.
The Shaw Festival offers an entire summer season of excellent theatre in three theatres downtown. Performances of ten different plays run from April to November and attract 350,000 people annually, making it Canada’s premier theatre event.
There is so much to do in Niagara-on- the- Lake that even the most discerning traveller will find something of interest. Take a horse drawn carriage ride through the Old Town, jet boat up the Niagara River or enjoy a round of golf at Heritage Woods, Peach Trees, Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club or the Royal Niagara.
Relax with a scenic drive along the Niagara River Parkway, which runs along the Niagara River from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie. The Parkway is a 56 km (35 mile) drive.
A recreation trail for biker and hikers which includes picnic areas transverses the length of the parkway. In the 1940’s Sir Winston Churchill, upon visiting the area proclaimed that “it was the prettiest Sunday drive in the world”
For the less adventurous, enjoy exquisite shopping in almost 90 shops in the Heritage District or just enjoy the Lake breezes from the shores of Lake Ontario.
Situated on the south shore of Lake Ontario at the mouth of the Niagara River, Niagara-on-the-Lake is easy to reach via highway from all of Ontario and the northeastern USA.