Updated July, 2021
There are two ways to go biking from Niagara Falls to Niagara-on-the-Lake: as a cyclist, or as a tourist. I’m the second type. I want to see all the things.
The route is called Niagara River Recreation Trail, or Niagara Parkway bike trail, or Niagara-on-the-lake Waterfront Trail. Whatever you call it, a beautiful ride, along the Niagara River, winding in and out of tree-lined bike paths with glimpses of the Niagara gorge and water down below. Many visitors go biking in Niagara-on-the-Lake, around the wineries there. I would encourage you to take the full trip from Niagara Falls. For one thing, there are many historical monuments and lookouts to see for free along the way.
I’ve already written about how to take the special Go Train with dedicated bicycle cars from Toronto to Niagara Falls in a previous blog post. It’s easy and affordable. Sometimes my friends and I ride the whole 20km from Niagara Falls station to Niagara-on-the-Lake (aka, NOTL) and back but we’ve also tossed our bikes on the local bus bike racks for part of the way, to maximize our sightseeing time.
Five free things to see biking in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is the very definition of awesome. It’s actually three falls right between the Canada-US border, including Horseshoe Falls, the most powerful waterfall in North America. But you know that – it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Canada. You can stroll along a wonder of the world for free. And probably catch a rainbow. What’s not to love?
The Falls are right on the Waterfront Trail bike route, albeit a detour from the train station to Niagara-on-the-Lake. I suppose you could skip the falls on this trip, but why?! I’ve done it first, before starting my ride to NOTL, and I’ve done it at the end (if you take the last train home you can catch the illuminated falls, or sometimes fireworks). Whichever you choose, just don’t miss it.
Confession: whenever I stop here, I sing Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round” in my head. The Niagara Whirlpool is a natural phenomenon down in the Niagara Gorge that spins counter-clockwise. Quite forcefully, I might add.
The attraction marks a natural place to stop, at the top of the part of your ride in the bike lane alongside the parkway traffic, just before the actual bike trail begins. There’s a retro red Aero Car that will take you over it on a moving cable – riders actually cross the US/Canada border, which splits this part of the river. You don’t have to pay to enjoy the viewing station. There’s a souvenir shop with cold drinks.
The Power Plant
The internet tells me it’s called Robert Moses Niagara Hydroelectric Power Station. That it was built in 1961, has 13 turbines, and helps produce affordable electricity. I know it as the massive power plant on the American side of the Niagara River you can see while biking the Niagara River Recreational Trail. I can’t be the only one impressed, since they’ve created spots to stop and take photos safely.
It’s a marvellous sight if you like big machines and grand architectural projects. But also when you think about where we are right now in international relations, knowing that the USA and Canada continue to work together to manage the important asset that is the water from these falls feels pretty good.
The Indigenous War Memorial
There’s a lovely park along the route at Queenston Heights, the site of a War of 1812 battle and now designated a National Historic Site. The Brock Monument gets all the attention here. But I found this other public artwork to be the best reason to stop.
Called the Landscape of Nations Commemorative Memorial, it honours the Six Nations and allies who fought in the war, and the historic peace and reconciliation ceremony of 1815.
The first thing I noticed was the life-size statues of two Indigenous men, John Norton and John Brant, standing as sentries. These drew my attention to the spiral pathway, to a sunburst of Memory Stones representing different nations. The piece ends at a great white pine tree. It’s very much worth a detour for some quiet contemplation and to learn more about our history.
The Farmer’s Market
Just because I don’t ride fast doesn’t mean I don’t get hungry. There’s no need to carry your lunch if you can make to Walker’s Country Market. You’ll see plenty of signs for other local produce markets as you near NOTK but hold out because this one has those perfect peaches plus the best egg salad sandwiches I’ve ever had.
OK, so this entry on my top 5 is not free. But there’s also a tiny white chapel on the grounds that you can enter or take a photo with for free. It’s called The Living Water Wayside Chapel and locals claim it holds the The Guinness Book of World Records for smallest chapel in the world. This may or may not be true.
Sadly, they won’t let you marry one of the Walker’s buttertarts (I tried.)
So those are some of my reasons to take the slower route biking in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Falls. I do plan to go back often so if you know something I’ve missed, do tell in the comments below!