The Niagara Peninsula – Canada

Peter Morrell discovers the natural beauty, good food and excellent wines that are an added bonus to the spectacular and unmissable Falls

The Niagara Falls on the US side of the border

The Niagara Falls on the US side of the border

The Horseshoe Falls at Niagara 1

The Horseshoe Falls at Niagara

Balcony next to the Niagara Falls

Balcony next to the Niagara Falls

The Maid of the Mist approaching The Falls

The Maid of the Mist approaching The Falls

Niagara Parkway (c)Jeff Speed

Niagara Parkway ©Jeff Speed

Inniskillin Visitor Centre

Inniskillin Visitor Centre

Wine Tasting at Inniskillin

Wine Tasting at Inniskillin

Shops in Niagara on the Lake ©Ontario Travel

Shops in Niagara on the Lake ©Ontario Travel

A Niagara Helicopter

A Niagara Helicopter

The Rapids and the Whirlpool

The Rapids and the Whirlpool

The Horseshoe Falls from the air

The Horseshoe Falls from the air

Seeing one of the great natural wonders of the world is always awe-inspiring. However the Niagara Falls is different, it engages all the senses. The cold spray bathes your face, the noise rings in your ears and the feeling of the physical force created by 20 per cent of the world’s fresh water trying to escape from the Great Lakes is a totally unique experience.

I was on a tour of Canada, and the Niagara Peninsula where The Falls are, was only part of the area’s overall attraction. After a comfortable direct flight and overnight stay in Toronto I was in Niagara at 9:00am after a relaxed 90-minute drive down the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) from the city. The reason for my early arrival was to take a flight over The Falls with Niagara Helicopters. However low clouds thwarted my mission but the good news was that it gave me more time to explore.

Niagara Falls

Driving to The Falls from the heliport I stopped at a vantage point to see the rapids and whirlpool, a vortex of water created where the river makes a sharp turn right. Continuing on, a large cloud of mist rising into the air announced the closeness of this natural phenomenon.

Donning a plastic poncho my first look was behind The Falls. At the bottom of a lift a tunnel, hacked out of solid rock, has portals that give you a very close-up view. There is also an outside balcony right next to the thundering downpour, but beware, you will get wet.

The Falls are split into two distinct sections, a straight smaller cascade on the U.S. side and the much larger horseshoe shaped torrent that straddles the border between the U.S. and Canada. The best views are from the Canadian side.

Maid of the Mist

For an even closer look I pulled on another poncho and boarded ‘Maid of the Mist’ a boat that gets you up close and personal with both Falls. It’s extreme and exciting, approaching the base of the horseshoe the roaring sound, drenching shower, stiff wind and water that looks like the top of a boiling cauldron all create an unforgettable thrill ride.

With slightly shaky legs I went to the Visitor Centre to take a look at Fury. This is a new adventure ride that tells the story of The Falls creation. It’s good fun but has got a lot of competition from outside. Lunch was in the Centre’s beautifully positioned Elements restaurant where good family food is served against the backdrop of a panoramic Falls view.

After seeing The Falls from every angle except above, the drive to my hotel was along the Niagara Parkway, and this started to reveal some of the other attractions of the area. The houses and gardens along the way are chocolate box pretty and they are interspersed with fruit farms and neat rows of vines which produce some of Canada’s most impressive wines.

The Inniskillin Winery

I stopped off at the Inniskillin winery, who pioneered the production of ice wine in 1984. This is made by allowing the grapes to stay on the vine until early winter when they freeze, this concentrates their very essence into a tiny amount of juice. Harvesting is done at night and the grapes are pressed in unheated barns. The end result is an intensely flavoured wine that, as I discovered in a tasting, elegantly pairs with both puddings and cheese.

The Inniskillin Visitor Centre is an attractive place, offering wine tours and tastings. I had only been familiar with ice wine made with the Vidal grape but they also use Riesling and Cabernet Franc and there is a very lively sparkling variety. My guide Don, originally from Wales, was an excellent taste tutor as we matched the complex tastes with both sweet and savoury food.

A couple of miles from the winery along the Niagara River is Fort George, part of the area’s rich history, and played a significant role in the War of 1812 between the U.S. and Great Britain. Time didn’t permit me to stop so it was on to my home for the night, the luxurious Queens Landing Hotel. This is a beautiful white pillared, red brick property with sumptuously appointed rooms and, as I found out the next day, serves a delicious buffet breakfast.

Niagara-on-the-Lake

The hotel is perfect situated for a stroll in to Niagara-on-the-Lake, a town so pretty that even the term picture perfect doesn’t quite do it justice. Along the main street are boutiques, art galleries, cafes and restaurants serving good food with locally sourced ingredients and of course, great wines.

Each summer a George Bernard Shaw Festival is held there and I took the opportunity to see Peace in our Time, an adaptation of Shaw’s play Geneva which was both amusing and thought provoking.

The Helicopter Flight

Next morning it was time to go back to Toronto and, as there was a clear blue sky, I made quick call to the heliport and within an hour was airborne. Flying over The Falls was a truly memorable experience. I started over the whirlpool before flying up the river, circling both sets of Falls, the views were breathtaking and for any visitor it’s a ‘must do’.

Although only in the area for a day it had been a very rewarding trip. Not only seeing The Falls, which is now a ticked item on my bucket list, but the wealth of memorable tastes, sights and attractions on the peninsula as a whole.

Useful Links

Peter Morrell flew Air Transat to Toronto with Canadian Affair
To book go to www.canadianaffair.com

For information about Ontario go to
www.ontariotravel.net/uk

For information about travel to Canada go to
http://uk-keepexploring.canada.travel/

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