NOTL is really not far at all from where we live and I’ve always wanted to spend a little more time exploring the area, so we did! Here’s what we did for 48 hours in Niagara-on-the-Lake!
As our schedule has gotten busier over the last little while, I’ve been trying to get better about booking us little breaks for a few days here and there to help us recharge and refocus. As our fall schedule started to fill up in August and September, we realized that we were going to end up with a really long stretch without any kind of break after our trip to BC in the summer if we didn’t book something, so I planned this fun little getaway for Chris and I to Niagara-on-the-Lake for November. I’ve always wanted to explore this area a bit more, but it just never came to be even though it’s really not that far away at all. This seemed like the perfect opportunity. Great hotels, beautiful historic town, wineries, what’s not to love? We missed out on being able to see any live theatre this time around, so I’m thinking we’ll have to fit that in next time. Niagara-on-the-Lake is such a perfect area for a little getaway and we found so many great things to do while we were there. Here’s what we got up to!
Where We Stayed in Niagara-on-the-Lake
At some point I came across a photo of Harbour House in Niagara-on-the-Lake and I just knew I had to stay there some day. I’m not sure that I’ve come across many inns quite as charming as this one. The property itself was just so lovely and homey. I loved the cozy living room with the roaring fire burning to greet us right in the lobby and the welcome wine reception in the afternoon was such a nice touch. The room we stayed in was pretty straightforward but just felt like home from the gas fireplace, to the easy-to-adjust room temperature, to the many lamps and dimmer switches to get the lighting just right, and the comfortable, traditional furnishings. Things I personally just really appreciate. Everything just worked without feeling sterile or cookie cutter.
The breakfast buffet in the conservatory each morning was just so elegantly-done. I just felt right at home the whole time and I was in absolutely no rush to leave. 🙂
I loved that we were a quick five-ish minute walk away from the main touristy road, but also right on the harbour.
One thing that I should note about the hotel is that they do have a shuttle service that can help take you out to your dinner or winery plans for the evening, but they do have a distance limit, so you might find it worthwhile to check if your plans fit into that limit in advance. Our evening plans were a bit further out and we didn’t mind booking our own uber separately, but we just appreciated that the shuttle service was there.
Where We Ate in Niagara-on-the-Lake
Of course, we had our breakfasts each day at the hotel, which were just the right way to start our days. The weather was quite damp and chilly while we were there, which made it the perfect excuse to eat at the most cozy, comforting spots we could find. And we found some good ones!
We had dinner at Aura on the Lake our first night, which serves beautiful, upscale Indian cuisine, our absolute favorite comfort food, but something we don’t often get when we’re with the kids. It was probably the best meal we’ve had in months, honestly. It seems like it might not be the first thing people think of when they’re in NOTL, but it will definitely be our top restaurant priority next time we’re there.
Lunch the second day was at the lounge in the Pillar and Post hotel, and to tell you the truth, I mostly picked this place based on the equestrian themed decor. We were seated right next to the fire and I was just thrilled with the whole vibe. I feel like some of the photos I saw online hinted at the decor, but didn’t do a great job of really capturing it, so this was my attempt from where we were sitting.
Our third cozy dining spot was the Irish Harp Pub for our last dinner there. This seemed to be a super popular spot and one a lot of people listed as their favorite place to eat in town. November in Niagara-on-the-Lake is really quiet in general but this place was packed. Still really warm, welcoming service and surprisingly great food, even for us plant-based eaters.
Coffee at Balzac’s in the morning. The cutest little cafe in an adorable historical building. Would love to come back when it’s warm and snag a seat on their cute patio.
What We Did
Niagara-on-the-Lake is of course known for its wineries and there were a few that were really at the top of my must-visit list, although there are many, many others that we’ll need to go back to discover. We took a wine tour last year in the Kingsville wine country area where we visited four wineries in a day and what I learned from that experience is that I just can’t keep up with that pace, so we did just a few of our choices, and paced ourselves by spreading them out over a couple of days.
Two Sisters Winery
We went to Two Sisters Vineyards on our way into town, which people just absolutely rave about and although I chose it, this winery was hands-down Chris’ favorite. They didn’t have a huge number of wines to choose from, but each one had a real “wow” factor. There were no “meh” wines here. This tasting was done along a beautiful counter in their huge, airy boutique, but I think it would be worthwhile to go back and do an upgraded seated tasted at some point. I loved that they used a different, correct glass for each wine we tasted here. I’m all about the ceremony of the whole tasting experience, so that was a very nice touch that we didn’t see elsewhere.
We actually went to Ravine Vineyard twice in one day. We had tickets to the Great Lake Swimmers concert at night, but I wasn’t really sure of how things were set up there and I didn’t think we’d be able to do a full tasting as well as buy a few bottles during the concert, so I made sure we went earlier in the day and visited their tasting room as well. The tasting room and wine shop is in the most beautiful historical home and it had the coziest tasting room with original wavy glass windows and a beautiful fireplace. I liked that they had lots of little tables with beautiful rustic wood tops in their tasting room so you could really settle in and get comfortable.
We also visited Peller Estates, which is a huge winery, I think mostly known world-wide for their ice wine. They seemed to have a pretty popular tour program there so I just had to check that out and see what it was all about. Well, it was a cold, drizzly November Wednesday when we were there and we actually ended up being the only ones booked in for our tour at that time. So we had a private tour! Our guide was super knowledgeable and we were able to ask all our questions and really get a bit geeky for the whole winemaking process. I loved learning about how their operation is 100% sustainable and they use all kinds of different creative methods to deal with pests and challenges with their grapevines. We got to visit the barrel room and learn all about the barrelling process as well as how they try to reuse the barrels as much as possible for different uses from wine to whisky and beyond. Then we got to visit the ice wine lounge, which is -10 degrees Celsius! There we learned all about making ice wine and all the rules they need to follow for their product to be truly recognized as Canadian ice wine.
The actual downtown area of Niagara-on-the-Lake is maybe one of the most perfect little places I’ve ever seen. Beauty and delight around every corner. I just could not stop being thrilled about my surroundings. Old houses, beautiful, moody trees, seasonal decorations, charming gardens – a little overgrown and leaf-covered now that the season has come to an end. Some people want tropical beaches on vacation, but I’ll take lovely old streets to walk up and down over a tropical destination any day of the week. We did a bit of exploring, but not nearly as much as I would have liked, and then I had to pop into Greaves Jam Shop as well. Jam heaven, really. They had all kinds of jams, jellies, and marmalades, including a few different types of wine jelly of course. They even make their own cranberry sauce there, so I had to buy a jar for Christmas dinner. Very excited about it. 🙂
I have a list about ten pages long of different corners of the town I want to explore, restaurants to eat at, and of course wineries and cider makers (cideries?) that I’d like to visit, but I think we covered quite a bit of ground on this first visit and really got a good feel for what the town is all about, at least at this time of year. I would definitely recommend an itinerary similar to ours if you’re looking for a nice, relaxing visit, but also to see quite a bit of the area. Hope you enjoyed this little recap of our getaway as much as I enjoyed putting it together. 🙂
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Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.