Taking a trip to Niagara Falls was one of the top things on my bucket list, so while we were staying in Toronto we allocated a day to visit the natural wonder. The Niagara district is located around an hour and twenty minute drive from Toronto so we decided the best way to visit Niagara Falls would be to take a guided trip from the city. As we were short on time this was the perfect decision.
There are countless tour operators in Toronto that run tours to Niagara, after scouring through countless reviews on Trip Advisor we opted for NiagaraDayTour. We chose this company because instead of using a large coach, like many of the other companies, they use a smaller bus which gives the tour a more personal feel but also allowed for a visit to a charming town called Niagara on the Lake, which larger buses are unable to park in. Along with this perk, the driver also made multiple stops along the way at different interesting locations. The total price of this tour was $99.
We were picked up at the Strathcona Hotel, a very central location in downtown Toronto, just outside Union Station. This pick up point also entitled us to a $10 discount. Bonus! The driver greeted us and explained the itinerary for the day. The first stop we made was at Niagara on the Lake, the drive here was fairly pleasant and entertaining as our driver told us interesting facts about Toronto along the way. The town was lovely, with an array of 19th century buildings along the main street you felt as through you had been transported back in time. We had a great time browsing the different shops and window displays that the town had on offer, this was also really relaxing because the town was not swamped with people. The Prince of Wales Hotel, displayed in the picture below, is where Queen Elizabeth stays while visiting the town. While we were here, we also took this opportunity to take a stroll down to the lake, where the border between Canada and the United States lies. It was pretty cool, looking across the water onto New York State.
The next stop that we made in Niagara was at world’s smallest chapel. The Living Water Wayside Chapel is truly tiny, it has even made its way into the Guinness Book of World Records. Our guide explained that weddings sometimes take place here, the bride certainly wouldn’t have far to walk. Located next to the chapel is a farmhouse, type of shop selling lots of delicious fruits and local produce such as maple syrup. They also have plenty of samples on offer, so you can try before you buy. I recommend the garlic and chilli jelly!
A very short drive away, we then stopped at Reif Estate Winery to do some wine tasting, which was included in the price of the tour. I was really looking forward to this, as it is something I had not done before. We were taken into a separate room in the winery and given an explanation and short history of the winery production in Ontario. Along with instructions on how to properly smell and taste the wine in order to get the best experience. We tasted three different wines, a fruity white wine, a rich red wine and my favourite, ice wine. Ice wine is very popular in Ontario, the grapes are harvested in late winter when they are frozen, which gives the wine its name but also an incredibly unique and sweet taste.
We then made two further short stops before we reached the falls, the drive was lovely and the sun was shining. The guide explained that Winston Churchill said that the drive along the Niagara River was “the prettiest Sunday afternoon drive in the world.” The first stop was at the Floral Clock, which is basically a large clock with a variety of colourful flowers decorating the face. It was really busy here as this is a popular tourist attraction. The second stop was at a view point overlooking the Hydro-Electric power stations that are on the Niagara River which diverts water from the river into Lake Ontario.
Finally, we made our way to the pinnacle stop on our tour, Niagara Falls. We had an option to go on a helicopter ride over the falls for an additional cost. However, we decided not to do this but I can only imagine that the view of the falls from above would be very special. The driver parked up and told us we had three hours to explore the area. He gave us plenty of suggestions on things to do and gave us our tickets for the Hornblower Niagara Cruise, previously known as the Maid of the Mist. The tickets for the boat ride was also included in the price of the tour. We made our way towards the queue for the boat as it was quite short when we arrived, there we were given red ponchos to keep us dry from the spray of the falls. Once everyone had boarded the boat, it began to make its way towards the smaller waterfall first. Initially, I thought that this part of the waterfall was not that big but we still got absolutely soaked. I couldn’t believe the amount of spray that comes off the water. Next we made our way towards the larger falls, they were spectacular. If I thought we got soaked before, we were now absolutely drenched. The ponchos are an essential item while you are on the boat. It was an incredible experience, looking at the water crashing down to the bottom at such force and speed. Thankfully, I had my GoPro to capture some photos because my phone wouldn’t have been much use with the amount of water. I think doing the boat trip at Niagara Falls is an absolute must.
After we left the boat we decided to grab some lunch along the one of the main streets, Clifton Hill. However, I would describe this more of a strip that resembled Disneyland, abundant with casinos, games and fast food restaurants. I was quite disappointed with the main area around the waterfall. I felt that it had turned a natural wonder into an extremely commercial area, which I hadn’t expected. I guess that is what happens when an attraction becomes extremely popular though. After lunch, we walked to Table Rock to get another view of the falls that allows you to see the river, from which the water runs from. It was a beautiful perspective of the waterfall and a rainbow even emerged while we were there. I was surprised that, even from this distance you felt a slight spray of the water. There is plenty of activities to keep you occupied here, ranging from trips behind the falls, zip lining, you can even walk over the border to the US. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to do anything else. Perhaps, it would be worth spending a night here, this would also have the advantage of seeing the waterfall lit up in the dark.
I thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Niagara Falls, all the stops we made along the way were also fantastic and definitely added to the experience. I would highly recommend doing the tour that we did if you are short on time in Toronto, but simply do not want to miss out on Niagara.