The Niagara Region is home to so many gems we don’t even realize are right under our noses! We have so many unique things to see outdoors in our area, all year round!
While these pandemic restrictions have taken a lot away from us, we’ve been really fortunate to have our incredible outdoor spaces around us! We live in an outdoor lover’s paradise – truly! If you’re ever feeling bored, all you need to do is take to the great outdoors around us!
If you’re looking for outdoor activities in Niagara, here are some unique and fun spots to check out!
Living Wayside Chapel, Niagara-on-the-Lake
This adorable chapel is only a few minutes’ drive from downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake, right next to Walker’s Country Market, and is worth a stop for a photo! This tiny chapel only seats 6 people – and yes – you can get married here too!
Local guides claim this Living Water Wayside Chapel holds the title for the Guinness Book of World Records for smallest chapel, but I couldn’t find anything official for that. But at 78 square feet, it definitely seems plausible!
Built in 1964, it was meant to serve as a place of worship for passing tourists. There are two bibles and a guest book inside!
Comfort Maple, Fenwick
The Comfort Maple is believed to be the oldest sugar maple tree in Canada and is estimated to be over 500 years old!
You wouldn’t know it’s here unless you were looking for it. It’s located down a tiny alley in Pelham and can be tricky to find!
Designated a heritage tree in 2000, it towers at roughly 80 feet above and 20 feet in circumference! Its sheer size is breathtaking as is the regal look of its canopy.
The Comfort Maple is sitting on an area of land that was once hardwood forest, and the size and shape suggest that the forest around it was cleared when the tree was young, probably for agricultural purposes.
This small piece of land was purchased by the Comfort family in 1816 and later entrusted to the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority to preserve this old growth tree.
Sadly, the tree is held together with ropes, cables, and concrete due to its age (and after it was struck by lightning in 2019). If you want to see the oldest maple around, I suggest going as soon as you’re able and it is well worth the trip.
Address: 636 Metler Rd, Fenwick
The Painted Ladies, Grimsby
It’s as though you’ve stepped into a children’s fairy tale; these colourful gingerbread cottages at Historic Grimsby Beach will leave you speechless!
This Victorian-era style community is pulled straight from a story book. Each house is unique and painted so colourfully, you’ll be in awe. There is nothing quite like it around here and it’s a photographer’s dream.
Often referred to as “The Painted Ladies of Grimsby Beach”, these buildings date back to the 1800s when they were once used as summer cottages!
Grand Old White Oak Tree Stand, Grimsby
Tucked away beside Grand Ave School and behind the community center is the first natural feature to be recognized as a site of cultural heritage value by the Town of Grimsby.
The tree stand towers over you and is estimated to have been a sapling between 1700-1750. This area was once Carolinian forest before it transitioned to a Methodist campground, and over the years continued to turn into a summer retreat with cottages, railway stop, pier, midway and more.
The park is used for educational purposes to remember this landmark in the community. This living, breathing monument to Grimsby’s natural and cultural past is something we can all learn from!
La Grande Hermine, Jordan
This is one of Niagara’s most prominent landmarks and if you’ve been on the QEW heading towards Niagara Falls you surely would’ve seen it.
La Grande Hermine was originally built in 1914, and was once a ferry, a cargo ship, and a floating restaurant.
In the 1990s, it was given a makeover to resemble a 16th Century ship, and is a replica of one of the three ships that Jacques Cartier used when exploring the St. Lawrence River back in 1535.
In the early 2000s, La Grande Hermine was victim to arson, now giving it a more rustic look and is often referred to as the Pirate Ship or Ghost Ship.
Update December 2021: the masts are no longer on La Grande Hermine, as it posed a safety risk. This iconic piece of Niagara isn’t quite the same, but you can still see the hull of the ship in Joran Harbour.
Beamsville Mural, Beamsville
Have you been to downtown Beamsville lately?
This huge mural covers the alley between Sassafras Coastal Kitchen & Bar and Action Print – and really livens up our downtown! There are tons of interesting things to see and it represents Beamsville perfectly.
Designed and painted by Thorold-based Dan Kozina, it took over 160 hours to complete!
It is absolutely amazing – go check it out!
Cave Springs Carving, Lincoln
Finding hidden gems like this throughout Niagara never ceases to amaze me. This unique rock carving is a treasure that no one seems to know where it came from, or by whom.
Cave Springs Conservation Area is a rocky piece of land along the Niagara Escarpment. The terrain is wild through here, with large boulders jutting up from the earth, lush vegetation, and towering trees above you.
There are numerous tales here, some of which involve soldiers seizing payroll during the War of 1812 and hiding it here. During WW1, German spies were discovered here, and more prominently, in 1948, a large carving of a head was discovered along one of the rocks, with “protohistoric” features. This area is said to have once had its very own witch, Margaret Reed, who told school children she was over 300 years old!
Welland Locks, Welland
If you’ve never seen the canal locks up close like this, put this on your list of things to do!
The Welland Canal was constructed in 1829 as a way to link Lake Ontario to Lake Erie, with a safe detour around Niagara Falls.
It’s astounding to see these massive ships being lifted in the canal in under 20 minutes at the St. Catharines Museum & Welland Canals Centre.
Save this idea for when we’re able to go!
You can learn all about the canal’s history inside the museum (admission by donation, $5 per person recommended).
Book your time by calling 905-984-8880. Just an FYI, you are only given 90 minutes, so if you get distracted with the locks, you may have to breeze through the museum (or go back!), but well worth a look through!
The locks close in December for the winter, but you are able to access the museum year round.
Port Colborne Historical and Marine Museum
Tucked away in Port Colborne is a hidden gem: the heritage village at the Historical and Marine Museum!
This outdoor museum has over 150 years of history sitting on the property and includes things like an anchor from 1871, a wheelhouse from 1946, and various buildings like a log cabin, carriage house and school!
The grounds are free to access and parking is also free. Be sure to return when it’s feasible for the actual museum and Arabella’s Tea Room – where tea and scones are just $5!
The Incredible Shrinking Mill, Port Colborne
This optical illusion in Port Colborne must be seen! It sounds so bizarre, and it really is, but it’s really awesome to see this mill get smaller as you drive closer to it!
How to see it: Drive along Cement Plant Rd and take a left on Lakeshore Rd. You’ll see the mill in the distance, and watch as it shrinks the closer you get to it!
Árpád Park Display, Niagara Falls
If you are driving down Lyons Creek Rd in Niagara Falls, you’ll notice a huge wooden structure at Árpád Park Hungarian Hall resembling a flag with a maple leaf in the center of it.
From the front, there’s an outline of the Hungarian flag with a hole cut out, and an outline of a maple leaf through the tunnel at the other end.
During the Hungarian revolution (1956), the Community coat of arms in the middle of the flag was removed. That flag with the cutout became a symbol of revolution.
This structure is a symbol of migration and is made up of 37,565 pieces, representing each Hungarian who came to Canada after the uprising.
The Niagara Scow, Niagara Falls
Did you know Niagara Falls has its very own shipwreck that’s been there for over 100 years?
The Niagara Scow, or also commonly referred to as the Iron Scow or the Old Scow, sits on top of the Niagara River just before the Horseshoe Falls (only about 200 meters from shore and only a few hundred meters from the brink of the falls!).
It’s been sitting there since 1918 and there’s a wild story to go with it!
You can get great views from our (Canadian) side, and a different perspective of Niagara Falls, too!
Niagara Glen, Niagara Falls
Niagara Glen one of those natural wonders that must be seen. It’s a whole other world once you descend the metal staircase into the Niagara Gorge.
There are 9 well marked trails covering just over 4 km, with lots of elevation changes and interesting things to look at as you meander your way through tens of thousands of years of geological history.
You’ll be in awe of the rapids. The bright green-blue water can reach speeds up to 48 km/hr!
Parking is only $2.50 an hour!
*I definitely recommend sturdy footwear and KNOW your limits. If you feel unsafe at any time, retrace your footsteps. Even my hiking boots didn’t quite hold up to the task!
Heartland Forest, Niagara Falls
This adorable park is full of wheelchair-accessible trails, boardwalks, observation platforms, playground, adorable things to see (I won’t spoil the surprise!) and much more! It’s a unique nature experience in the sense that it offers education about conservation while making nature accessible to everyone!
This is a free outdoor space to visit, but donations are welcome and appreciated!
Location: 8215 Heartland Forest Rd.
Laura Secord Homestead, Queenston
When you mention Laura Secord, most people think of the chocolates. Did you know she’s one of Ontario’s top heroines?
In the quaint village of Queenston is Laura Secord’s home.
During the War of 1812, Laura trekked 20 miles through arduous and dangerous terrain to warn Canadian troops about an impending attack by the Americans.
Her home has been restored as a memorial to her act of patriotism. It’s usually open, but because of Covid, tours have been cancelled. It’s still such a pretty area to walk around in.
You can even walk the same trail she did – it’s called the Laura Secord Legacy Trail, and you can follow in the same footsteps that she took.
Find out more about this historic site and other interesting things to see and do at Queenston Heights!
Muddy the Mudcat, Dunnville
This isn’t in Niagara per se, but it’s just really unique so I had to include it!
If you drive into Dunnville you may come across a huge plaster model of a mudcat fish, the town’s mascot. Standing almost 30 feet high and 50 feet long, it’s been the site of numerous road trip stops, and every time I’ve driven by there is someone taking a photo with it.
Handcrafted by one of Dunnville’s own artists, Muddy the Mudcat is the pride of Dunnville and has long been associated with the town through its sports teams and proximity to prime fishing on the Grand River.
It’s one of those ridiculously endearing things you can’t help but look at!
There is also a beautiful butterfly garden on site and picnic tables too, so if you visit during the warmer months you may catch a glimpse of some while you’re enjoying your road trip stop snack!
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