Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Canada
Reload this Page >

VIA Rail Adventure: Posh Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario Without a Car

VIA Rail Adventure: Posh Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario Without a Car

Old Aug 3rd, 2021, 06:04 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,219
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
VIA Rail Adventure: Posh Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario Without a Car

Hi Fodors!

I decided I needed one last adventure before my semester begins. I wanted to see something new that would be tricky to do from Montreal for just a day trip or weekend trip and the thought came to me to pick somewhere the other side of Toronto from Montreal. At first, I was racking my brain trying to come up with something a full day’s travel west of Toronto, but then I remembered a friend who had raved about Niagara-on-the-Lake years ago and decided that this would be a perfect time to go.

Getting to the historic part of Niagara-on-the-Lake by public transit is doable but not a cakewalk.

This is how I did it:

VIA Rail: Montreal- Toronto Union station
GO Train: Toronto Union Station to Burlington GO
GO Bus: (synchronized with the GO Train) Burlington GO to Niagara College
Uber: $33 Niagara College to my hotel in Historic Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL)

I usually use RometoRio for public transit options. Usually this site is quite good but it didn’t get the Toronto- NOTL journey quite right. They advised either Megabus from Toronto to St Catharines Ontario, then taxi/Uber or take the GO train to Niagara Falls then taxi/Uber. Problem is at most times, the GO train doesn’t go to Niagara Falls and an Uber from either St Catharines or Niagara Falls is a good bit more expensive than catching an Uber from the significantly closer Niagara College GO bus stop. The Megabus option does appear to be a bit faster, although there are far fewer Megabus a day than GO train/bus combos. Note that there are no buses or trains into the historic area of NOTL, something that rather surprises me given what a popular destination I have discovered it to be.

* Coming Up: Exploring Historic Niagara-on-the-Lake, Thoughts on Cycling the Niagara Parkway, NOTL Wineries*.
Daniel_Williams is offline  
Old Aug 4th, 2021, 08:22 AM
  #2  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,219
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
*Historic Niagara On the Lake*.

I stayed at the Best Western on Mary St, situated a 10-15 minute walk from the center of bustle on Queen Street. A friend had described NOTL as being “very pretty”; I concur but I would also add that the town seemed very posh and upscale. Home to the Shaw Festival, Queen Street with an amazingly colourful and abundant display of flowers exuded a 19th century elegance, with restaurants teeming with outdoor diners and the Shaw Cafe & the Prince of Wales hotel especially evoking a bygone era of high society. I made sure to pick up 6 jars of jam at the Greaves store, a local company my friend recommended to me—the NOTL-based Greaves offered out-of-the ordinary varieties whose label and pomp would not have seemed out of place with scones on the Queen Mary. I delighted eating supper & an ice cream from the long-lineupped Cows in Simcoe Park, right adjacent Queen Street, a lovely park with plenty of benches and picnic tables and lovingly tended gardens.

NOTL is also delightfully situated at the meeting point of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario and consequently is also a place of great natural beauty. In the currently forbidden USA, Fort Niagara and Youngstown New York are visible across the river and the skyline of Toronto, despite being a close to 2 hour drive away, is very much discernible across the lake.

*Biking Along the Niagara Parkway*

The absolute highlight for me of this visit was cycling on a path alongside the beautifully blue Niagara River peeking through the trees. All along the path, one can find places to stop, from wineries to Farmer’s stands to picnic tables set up with idyllic river views. I stopped at Walker’s Country Market to pick up lunch. I felt I could also not leave the Niagara Region without visiting a winery and spontaneously opted to do a tasting at Riverview Cellar Winery for $10. The gewürztraminer and Malbec were excellent. An unquestionably special experience.

Other than train rides, bike excursions are up there for things I love in life. Pedalling along the Niagara River is up there for favourite bike journeys ever, and I’ve done quite a few that were stellar in my years (Key West!, the Golden Gate Bridge!, the Kennemerduinen!).

My location a the Best Western probably was most ideal for its being across the street from a bike rental shop. For $25, one can rent a bike for 3 hours with Zoom Rentals and for $35, one can rent a bike for the whole day.

NOTL is a real treat, definitely worth checking out if your life brings you to the Niagara Falls region.

Best wishes & happy travels,

Daniel

Daniel_Williams is offline  
Old Aug 4th, 2021, 09:08 AM
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,219
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts

Prince of Wales Hotel


Fort Niagara across the Niagara River


Beautifully wide and blue Niagara River biking on the Niagara Parkway


Shaw Cafe Queen Street


Two Sisters winery
Daniel_Williams is offline  
Old Aug 4th, 2021, 10:12 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 55,229
Received 5 Likes on 3 Posts
Thanks for your great photos and insights into reaching and touring the NOTL area, Daniel. It's almost 33 years to the day that we stayed there with our almost 1 year old DD at the end of a road trip that had taken us from Toronto to the Thousand Islands, Lake Placid, the White Mountains, Boston, Cape Cod, Connecticut, NOTL, Niagara Falls, and back to Toronto. My recollection is that it was pretty upscale and it seems to have become even more so.
annhig is offline  
Old Aug 4th, 2021, 11:23 AM
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,219
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks Annhig—

That sounds like quite the incredible trip to northeast North America back in 1988. Fascinatingly enough, even though I live in this corner of the continent, there are places that were part of your trip where I’ve never been (Lake Placid, White Mountains, to name two)!

Best wishes,

Daniel
Daniel_Williams is offline  
Old Aug 4th, 2021, 11:32 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 26,442
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
Thanks for the TR! I'm always glad to read about carless trips. It's been thirty years since I visited Niagara Falls (both sides), but I don't remember visiting that town.
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Aug 4th, 2021, 12:27 PM
  #7  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,219
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks thursdaysd—

I had been to Niagara Falls twice, once as a teenager and once in my 30s, but like you, had not made it to Niagara-on-the-Lake. In my 30s when I saw Niagara Falls, I think I was hurrying to get to Toronto, so didn’t even consider going to NOTL. Niagara Falls & NOTL are so close, both worthwhile destinations, but really different experiences.
Daniel_Williams is offline  
Old Aug 4th, 2021, 12:35 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 303
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We're from the Buffalo area and miss visiting NOTL, riding the bike path, and the wineries. We were at Fort Niagara the weekend before last and probably looking at you from across the river. Looks like we may be able to cross over next week if vaccinated and have negative Covid test though!
DaveS is offline  
Old Aug 4th, 2021, 01:28 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 55,229
Received 5 Likes on 3 Posts
<<That sounds like quite the incredible trip to northeast North America back in 1988. Fascinatingly enough, even though I live in this corner of the continent, there are places that were part of your trip where I’ve never been (Lake Placid, White Mountains, to name two)! >>

If I remember rightly, Daniel, we did it in two weeks but I still don't quite believe that that can have been true! Incredibly [to me anyway] when I did a solo trip to N. America 30 years later, not only did I visit some of the same places [Toronto, Niagara, and Cape Cod in particular] but I even ended up taking the ferry across Lake Champlain just as we had 30 years earlier.

And if it's any consolation, there are plenty of places in the UK that I've never been to which most US visitors to these shores seem to have seen at least once.
annhig is offline  
Old Aug 4th, 2021, 01:54 PM
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,219
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
DaveS— I’m curious how the border opening will go on Monday. Hope you’re able to visit the Niagara region again soon.

annhig—Sounds like two excellent trips. Speaking of not doing close-by trips, while I love Lake Champlain and have seen it numerous times, I have yet to take a ferry across!
Daniel_Williams is offline  
Old Aug 5th, 2021, 01:39 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 55,229
Received 5 Likes on 3 Posts
<<annhig—Sounds like two excellent trips. Speaking of not doing close-by trips, while I love Lake Champlain and have seen it numerous times, I have yet to take a ferry across!>>

The first time I'd never even heard of it, but in those days of maps it seemed to us to be the best way to get to where we thought we wanted to be.

The second time it was part of the plan to get from Montreal to NH - after a great deal of searching train, plane and bus schedules, some clever Fodorite suggested taking the Adirondack Line to NYC and getting off at Port Kent to pick up the ferry over to Burlington, VT, where I was met by DFrostNH and VTTraveller. Unfortunately the one train a day doesn't coincide with a convenient ferry, so I had a bit of a wait, but otherwise it worked perfectly. Just the sort of trip to interest you, I'd have thought.
annhig is offline  
Old Aug 5th, 2021, 03:06 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 2,452
Received 17 Likes on 10 Posts
Enjoying your trip report with my breakfast of Premiere Moisson Belgian Sourdough with Greaves Pure Black Currant Jam, (available at Le Panier in Pte-Claire Village)
Last time we were in that area of Canada was in 1972. That time there was an uninterrupted view of Lake Ontario from TO to NOTL.
Apparently now the drive is through canyons of noise barriers.

Thanks for your report, nice way to start the day.




cdnyul is offline  
Old Aug 5th, 2021, 05:39 AM
  #13  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,219
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Annhig—That train-ferry combo does sound like something I might try LOL. (There is a bus (the Boston-bound) by the way that goes from Montreal to Burlington, at least it did pre-CoVid.)
cdnyul—Thanks! It would have been interesting to see in 1972 as indeed, the GO ride from Burlington to Niagara College is pretty industrial these days. There still is the occasional Lake Ontario view but I prefer the VIA trip Montreal-Toronto for more unspoiled lake vistas. Glad to know one can get Greaves jam in Pointe Claire; look forward to trying the different varieties I bought!
Daniel_Williams is offline  
Old Aug 5th, 2021, 09:42 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 55,229
Received 5 Likes on 3 Posts
<<Annhig—That train-ferry combo does sound like something I might try LOL. (There is a bus (the Boston-bound) by the way that goes from Montreal to Burlington, at least it did pre-CoVid.)>>

Yes, Daniel, so I learnt after my trip. Next time??? I'm suspect that the train/ferry combo was more fun though. I felt quite intrepid, getting off the Amtrak train in what looked like the middle of nowhere and then making my way down to the almost deserted ferry terminal. Fortunately the ticket office was manned by a very friendly chap who was kind enough to chat to me for a while so I knew that I was in the right place but I was so early [the train arrives approx 15 mins after the ferry departs] that the waiting room wasn't even open. So I sat and watched the lake for a while until things started to liven up as some cars arrived. As for foot passengers, I think that I was the only one. [there might have been a few cyclists]. And the sail across the lake - about an hour from memory - is lovely.
annhig is offline  
Old Aug 5th, 2021, 10:39 AM
  #15  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,219
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Annhig— Hmmm...that Lake Champlain crossing sounds lovely!

Funny just noticed I wrote Burlington twice in my last post, referring to different places! The Montreal to Boston bus stops in Burlington,Vermont, and the GO bus goes from Burlington, Ontario to the Niagara peninsula.

Speaking of peninsulas, the Niagara region being referred to as such I find interesting, as it is surrounded by water in 3 directions (Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the Niagara River) but one can enter the Niagara Region from both east and west by land, with the river readily crossed by a bridge from the east. Makes it different from most peninsulas I know such as Florida, Nova Scotia, Baja California or the Avalon where there’s one main way in by land with much larger bodies of water surrounding in all but that one direction. Made me wonder if there are other places referred to as peninsulas which are like Niagara with a river on one side. The Niagara region to me feels practically more like an isthmus in a way.
Daniel_Williams is offline  
Related Topics
Thread
Original Poster
Forum
Replies
Last Post
luvctylvng
Canada
5
Aug 13th, 2006 04:42 PM
Lee
United States
7
Jun 13th, 1998 08:13 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 04:59 PM.