Thursday, 5 August 2010

Niagara on the Lake

The Niagara river

We are staying in Toronto and having already made the trip to see Niagara Falls, we planned a second trip to see Niagara on the Lake and to try the Niagara Valley Leisure Trail. We found our way to Niagara on the Lake and parked on Front St near to Queen's Royal Park, overlooking Lake Ontario and with a view across the mouth of the Niagara River towards Fort Niagara on the American side.

We tried, without success, to find a way round the corner to walk along beside the river and instead headed into the town centre, passing as we did so the handsome old apothecary's shop.

Further along Queen St (the main street) we came to the the clock tower Cenotaph...

... and, opposite, the Old Courthouse, which now houses the tourist office, tucked away in the basement.

We obtained a very good guide to the town from which we learned that the town was the first capital of Ontario and the place where the first anti-slavery legislation was passed. There was also a very well-described heritage trail which we carried on following.

The immediate effect of this was that unlike 95% of the other visitors we left Queen St and walked along the parallel Johnson Street to see a quieter and less commercialised part of the town. There are some lovely old houses here and we especially admired the Vanderlip-Marcy house of 1816.

We now turned right onto Victoria St which brought us back to Queen St. More nice houses here too. We found this one (the Rogers-Harrison house of 1823), with its recessed arches, especially attractive.

A bit further along Queen St we turned right along Simcoe St, in the direction of the lake, with houses on the right and the golf course on the left. At the end we made a detour left to visit Fort Mississauga.

The brick fort was built between 1814 and 1816 during the War of 1812 to replace nearby Fort George. Sally-ports remain visible in the earthwork defences.

There is a lovely view across the lake/river mouth to Fort Niagara.

From here it was a short stroll back to the road and along Front Street back to the car park.

We felt a bit cheated about not seeing the river, and we wanted to see the Niagara River Leisure Trail so we drove a short distance past Fort George to where the Leisure Trail started. We walked along it for a while and initially enjoyed the tarmac path through mature trees, catching just glimpses of the river to our right.

As we progressed we began to realise that there were parking areas and picnic tables every few hundred yards and it felt increasingly like walking in an urban park.

After a while we saw a rough track leading down to the river. A sign board indicated that this was where a historic assault on Fort Niagara had been launched. We went down to investigate, jesting that it would probably lead to a cafe and marina. It didn't mercifully, but there was a boat club and a jetty where numerous boats were moored. The river however was lovely (see photo at the head of this post).

A little further on, the path converged with the road and as we established later on basically stayed right beside it at least until after Niagara Falls. We turned round, a bit disappointed, at a large oak where Henry James used to write.

Distance: about 3 miles.

Conditions: hot, sunny.

Rating: four stars.


The walk back along the Leisure Trail was enlivened by the sighting of this groundhog.

And on marigolds in a flowerbed in Queen St I saw this lovely American Lady (vanessa virginiensis).

Later in the walk I was tormented by fleeting sightings of a large orange butterfly.


This is probably a bit smug, but it was very noticeable how few tourists strayed away from the shops on Queen St. There was nobody in the tourist office collecting the excellent guide, hardly anyone on the side streets and only us and an Asian family at the Fort. Why aren't people more enquiring about the places they go to? Surely, the more you know about what you are seeing, the more you get out of it?

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