Explore Niagara: Hidden Gems

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Discover the wonders of Niagara by uncovering some of its hidden gems that have yet to be fully appreciated. The following rundown merely scratches the surface of the many intriguing locations waiting to be explored during the Summer and into the Fall season. So get ready to embark on a journey of discovery and add these noteworthy sites to your itinerary.

1. Oakes Garden Theatre

5825 River Rd, Niagara Falls, ON L2G 3K9

Located at the bottom of Clifton Hill between Falls Avenue and the Niagara Parkway is the beautifully maintained Oakes Garden Theatre. This is the perfect spot for a superb panoramic view of the American and Horseshoe Falls. It includes a distinctive pergola wall, lush gardens and beautiful, colourful flowers. A quaint little bridge that leads to a lily pond adds a little serenity and magic to a park that was welcomed to the Niagara Falls Arts & Culture Wall of Fame in 2011.

2. Dufferin Islands

6345 Dufferin Isle Rd, Niagara Falls, ON L0S 1A0

One of Niagara’s most beautiful hidden treasures in located just south of the Horseshoe Falls along the Niagara Parkway. Dufferin Islands offers 10 acres of protected land — a secluded park which contains several small islands bound together by bridges and footpaths. It’s quiet, and the perfect spot for a Summertime picnic. Its natural beauty is maintained by the Niagara Parks Commission.

3. White Water Walk

4330 River Rd, Niagara Falls, ON L2G 6T2

It’s one of Niagara’s most little known treasures! The White Water Walk is a boardwalk situated on the very edge of Niagara’s whitewater. This attraction is wheelchair accessible as it takes you down 70 metres in an elevator, through a tunnel, and then out onto the boardwalk. The boardwalk runs for 1000 feet and contains two areas to witness the rapids at full speed at the very edge of the river. Experience the awe-inspiring natural wonder of the rapids!

4. Niagara Glen

3050 Niagara Pkwy, Niagara Falls, ON

As one of Niagara’s favourite picnic spots, Niagara Glen boasts natural trails, rock climbing and access to the Niagara River. Direct access to the Niagara Glen trails is found at the highest part of the gorge, where a metal staircase sits at the edge of the cliff. The Glen overlooks the Niagara River Gorge Whirlpool, and you can expect four kilometres of hiking trails, untouched Carolinian Forest and incredible rock formations.

5. Mount Carmel Spiritual Centre

7020 Stanley Ave, Niagara Falls, ON L2G 7B7

Home to the Carmelites, the Monastery serves the community in a variety of ways and forms of worship. Here, they offer spiritual guidance and many religious retreats and workshops. The beautiful 140 year-old structure is situated on a 10 acre property, and it is a place of calm reflection and meditation. There is wide open spaces and gardens overlooking the world-famous Niagara Falls.Mount Carmel is home to the Canadian National Shrine to Saint Therese, and has both an indoor and outdoor shrine. The shrine can be visited during the week, please visit their official website for details:  https://www.carmelniagara.com

6. DeCew Falls

2710 Decew Road, St. Catharines, Ontario L2R 6P7

St.Catharines is home to two stunning waterfalls known as the Upper DeCew Falls (a large 22 metre plunge waterfall) and the Lower DeCew Falls (a smaller 25 foot waterfall). The water flows down from the upper reaches of the Twelve Mile Creek. Next to the falls is the Morningstar Mill, which features a working grist mill built in 1872, a turbine shed, a sawmill, a blacksmith and a carpentry shop. At the bottom of the gorge is the Lower DeCew Falls. Whether you wish to simply relax and unwind taking photos along the way, or you are feeling adventurous and ready for a hike, DeCew Falls is worth checking out.

*Please use extreme caution as the gorge is very steep and can be quite slippery in areas. 

7. Happy Rolph’s Animal Farm

650 Read Rd, St. Catharines, ON L2R 7K6

Also in St.Catharines is a welcome place for all ages! Happy Rolph’s Animal Farm is a free setting to experience a variety of animals with benches adjacent to two ponds on site to sit and relax. Kids will love being able to interact and feed the animals (with the food provided), and afterwards there is a playground and a picnic area (including a pavilion) for some downtime.

The animals are at Happy Rolph’s from Victoria Day weekend until Thanksgiving weekend.

8. Jordan Village

3769 Main St, Jordan Station, ON L0R 1S0, Canada

Unless you are from the Niagara region, you may have never heard of this quaint shopping area. Jordan Village is situated among the vineyards of Niagara’s Wine Country, along the edge of the Twenty Mile Creek valley. It features delicious dining, galleries, boutiques, antiques, award-winning wineries, a spa, and accommodations.

9. Avondale Dairy Bar

461 Stewart Rd, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0

Located in Niagara-on-the-Lake this is an ice cream heaven on earth that has been a staple to new and old generations (since 1955). What makes Avondale Dairy Bar so unique is that it is made right on the premise. It is a working dairy farm with about 90 Holstein cows, cornfields, and vineyards. They have so many different flavours, cakes, pies, milkshakes and sundaes. They are open late during the Summer and have picnic benches and playgrounds outside so you can enjoy the outdoors while eating your favourite creamy dessert.

10. St. Johns Conservation Area

3101 Barron Rd, Fonthill, ON L0S 1E6

Off the beaten path is another little paradise located on the border of Fonthill and Thorold. St. Johns Conservation Area provides a tranquil setting for wildlife and visitors. Families line up around the pond which is surrounded by benches, bridges and viewing areas. During the Summer, kids love to go there to feed the geese, look for frogs & turtles and explore the forest. Hiking is a popular family pastime here with trails that are easy to navigate. The conservation area is off Pelham St. N. at the intersection with Hollow and Barron Rds.

11. Balls Falls

3292 Sixth Ave, Lincoln, ON L0R 1S0

Ball’s Falls, also known as Balls Mills, Louthe Mills, and Glen Elgin, is a historical ghost town in what is now Jordan, Ontario, Canada, that dates back to the early nineteenth century.

Twenty Mile Creek water plunges 27 metres into the gorge below from the top of the main Lower Falls. The Upper Falls have an 11-meter drop. The saw and wool mills previously kept the area busy, and today it is a lovely place to visit and go trekking.

12. Queenston Heights Park

14184 Niagara Pkwy, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0

Queenston was the site of the historic “Battle of Queenston Heights” during the War of 1812. The famous “Brock’s Monument” is located on the grounds here. This is where Sir General Brock died heroically in a fight of valour and strength. Visitors can tour the battlefield and climb the monument for an incredible view of the surrounding area and Niagara river. This monument is 56 metres tall. After being bombed by a terrorist in 1840, it was rebuilt in 1853. With memorials, Queenston Heights Park honours both Sir Isaac Brock and Laura Secord for their roles in the War of 1812. There’s a splash pad for the kids, a band shell, tennis courts, and a snack bar here, so bring a picnic.

13. Short Hills Provincial Park

2876 Wiley Rd, Thorold, ON L0S 1E6 (PARKING LOT C)

Tucked away in the city of St.Catharines, Short Hills Provincial Park is 735 hectares in size and is the largest park in the Niagara Region. It’s part of an environmentally significant area known as the “Fonthill Kame Moraine.” A kame is an irregular hill of sand, gravel and silt which accumulates in a depression on a retreating glacier, and is then deposited on the land surface as the glacier melts. The name “Short Hills” comes from the result of erosion. More than 12,000 years ago, glacial meltwater carved out many steep valleys and also created the valley of the Twelve Mile Creek. Within the Short Hills Provincial Park, there are seven trails designated as multi-use or hiking only. A path called the “Paleozoic Trail” will lead you to gorgeous views of Swayze Falls. The park has three sanctioned entrances, all with parking available.

14. Wainfleet Bog

20389 Erie Peat Rd, Port Colborne, ON L3K 5V4

In the rural township in southern Niagara, lies the town of Wainfleet, known for the Wainfleet Bog Conservation Area. It is the only bog wetland in the Niagara Peninsula. It was formed between 12,000 and 5,000 years ago as the glaciers from the last Ice Age melted and retreated. Water ponded in the low, flat land behind the adjacent Onondaga Escarpment, which prevented surface water from draining south to Lake Erie. Over time, this open water area filled in as plants died and provided a habitat for unique flora and fauna able to withstand the acidic and low nutrient site conditions. There are trails and boardwalks that twist and turn through the 1980 acres allowing you to truly explore Niagara. Bog plants, butterflies, migrating songbirds and the very rare “Massasauga Rattlesnake” make their homes here.

15. Comfort Maple Conservation Area

636 Metler Rd, Fenwick, ON L0S 1C0

The Town of Pelham has something truly special and untouched. Within the Comfort Maple Conservation Area stands a tree that is 530 year old and towers approximately 80 feet at its crown with a trunk circumference of 6 meters (20 feet). It symbolizes Canada’s strength and tradition and is widely believed to be the oldest sugar maple tree in all of Canada. The site it stands on makes for amazing photographs; whether just for nature lovers or for those that wish to capture a moment in time under the tree with the family or for an engagement/wedding.

16. Rockway Conservation Area

1742 St Paul St W, St. Catharines, ON L2R 6P7

The Rockway Conservation Area offers an oasis within a remote setting. Hike the trail into the Fifteen Mile Creek valley and then experience history! It has a salt spring dating back to 1792, and it habits two waterfalls. The larger of the two plunges from a height of nearly 20 metres while the smaller waterfall cascades down from a height of 12 metres.

This site is located near St.Catharines and Jordan in Vineland.

17. Merritt Island

Welland Canal Trail, Welland, ON

Merritt Island is located in the downtown core of Welland. It is sandwiched between the Welland Recreational Waterway and the Welland River. It is home to a beautiful 4.2 km tree-lined path perfect for walking, jogging, hiking, biking, rollerblading, or even picnicking. There is also a playground for children, a scenic canal trail, and wood carvings by local artist JP Gauthier. Merritt Island is perfect for families, friends and outdoor enthusiasts and History enthusiasts would really enjoy viewing many of the old sections of the once active second Welland Canal.

*Please take proper caution and keep a look out when entering any trail for ticks. They are generally found in forested areas or areas with long grass. They attach themselves to humans and animals passing by. Click here for details on some preventative measures, how to remove them, and the ticks to look out for within Niagara.*

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