We had deliberated for a while whether to drive the detour through Lake Ontario, to see Niagara Falls. After all, it was an extra stretch of at least 500 kilometers. However, after some studying of the travel guide, we found other beautiful things around Lake Ontario and so decided to do it.
The first stop was Thousand Island National Park. A national park that is shared with the United States since the border runs right through it. Suitable places for us to sleep in this area are not many. On this trip we already had found a number of nice places. But we will soon forget the night in Mallorytown Onroute, a rest area along the highway. Somehow truck drivers don’t turn off their engines so all that noise makes it hard to get to sleep.
The islands are easy to see from the scenic Thousand Island Parkway, but getting to the islands themselves is a bit trickier. Renting a kayak did not fit into our budget in terms of rental fees. So we decided to take it easy and did two short hikes. At Landon Bay, we went in search of the osprey nest and found it after a bit of searching. Apparently there were eggs in the nest. The female was sitting on them and the male was flying around and providing food. Below the nest, a number of beavers were swimming around and the mosquitoes also remained loyal to us.
The town of Kingston was our next stop. Lake Ontario Park was our choice for this night. A very nice park with all the trimmings, including well-appointed washrooms with actually lovely showers with hot water that we made good use of! The next morning we had a coffee in Kingston’s Springer Market Square before continuing on the highway along Lake Ontario.
Via Adolphustown and the ferry to Glenora, we arrived on the island of Prince Edward. We had chosen the Sandbanks Provincial Park to have lunch and maybe a swim. This actually short stopover turned into a whole afternoon in the end, because we got talking to Frank and Arlene from Toronto there and before we realized it the time had flown and it was 6 o’clock when we said goodbye to each other. In Cobourg we stayed the night in a parking lot along the shores of Lake Ontario.
After a run along the beach (Eddy) and a dip in the cold waters of Lake Ontario, we went to visit the small town of Cobourg where there was a small farmers market where you could buy local products. We bought some vegetables, local beer and cider. On the further road to the Niagara Peninsula we now had to pass, or rather, go through Toronto. Unfortunately, we encountered a long traffic jam there which extended the total time we needed for the 250 kilometers by more than an hour. Somewhere the almost 3 million inhabitants of the fourth largest city in North America have to stay. After a short bathing stop on the south side of the lake we drove on towards the border with America where we found a quiet overnight stop in Saint Catharines.
What not many people know is that grapes have been grown here since the 1970s. A number of vineyards from this region have regularly won awards since 2000. At the Strewn winery we bought a Canadian oaked Chardonnay and a Cabernet Sauvignon for later.
In the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, we encountered the big tourist flow for the first time. We did not feel quite at home in this colonial village where the Niagara River flows into Lake Ontario. It was only fully restored around 1960 and has since become a tourist attraction in addition to the falls. This place is clearly for the more affluent tourist who can afford an overnight stay at, say, the Prince of Wales hotel. We feasted our eyes on all the colonial buildings along Queen Street. Watching costs nothing.
We wanted to earn our dinner first so we visited the Niagara Glen Nature Reserve which lies along the banks of the Niagara River. This piece of nature that is so close to all the tourist crowds is rarely visited. The more we enjoyed it.
The Niagara is one of the shortest rivers in the world. It connects Lake Eirie and Lake Ontario but is one of the wildest because of the big difference in height on only a short stretch. In the evening at our overnight spot, a couple of deer came to visit on the other side of the fence and just before the sun went down a skunk went to check the garbage cans for something tasty. The next morning it was two foxes wandering past the car and through the woods, it was as if we had slept in the zoo.
We were finally at Niagara Falls and to avoid the biggest tourist flow we decided to get up extra early. We wanted to see the falls but didn’t want to see all the ‘Las Vegas’ around it. We drove to the furthest parking lot, which turned out to be free of charge, and walked the two kilometers along the river back to the falls.
Niagara Falls consists of three different waterfalls. The American Falls, The Bride Veils and the Horseshoe Falls or Canadian Falls called. The latter is responsible for about 90% of all the water that passes through here and therefore is the most impressive one. We were obviously too early in the morning because all the booths and related “Falls attractions” were all still closed. Also the flow of tourists still had to get going a bit. We decided to take a closer look at the American Falls. On the American side there was clearly more going on. Boat after boat filled with people in blue ponchos, sailed toward the horseshoe to get a real close-up.
After an hour and a half, we had seen enough falling water and walked back to the car via the Duffins Islands. And we admit it, it was impressive. Though it lacks the nature that you have in Iguazu, for example, but still….the detour via Lake Ontario had been worth it.