It’s the season for local excursions in Ontario, as we make the most out of the last half of summer and plan for fall adventures. When it comes to a memorable road trip, the journey matters just as much as the final destination. So, we opted for the tech-packed Cadillac XT4 on a recent road trip to the picture-perfect Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL).
The easy-on-the-eyes SUV offers a smooth ride out of the city confines, across the highway, and through the postcard-worthy country roads of NOTL’s pristine wine region.
Appreciated road trip features include Apple CarPlay, which mimics your phone screen on the eight-inch-diagonal colour touchscreen; a dual-pane power sunroof that let in all of the light and air as we cruised along wine country; ventilated seats to keep cool while the air conditioning kicks in; SiriusXM stations to stream our favourite throwback ’90s songs and listen to podcasts, and a power liftgate to help when our hands were full of shopping bags after hitting the nearby outlet mall (naturally).
Once the car was unpacked, we wasted no time packing all the wining, dining, and shopping we could into a few days. Of course, we also left room for a few scenic Sunday drives in the gorgeous part of the province (the car drives like a dream, after all). If you’re in the market for a well-rounded NOTL getaway, here are some of our favourite spots to hit along the way.
The Niagara Parkway
Don’t leave the region without taking a drive along the Niagara Parkway. Part of the Greater Niagara Circle Route, the soothing stretch of road takes drivers from NOTL to Fort Eerie, alongside the dramatic Niagara River. Your cruise along the charming landscape includes scenic vineyards, historical sites, stunning homes, gardens, and the famous Niagara Falls.
Silversmith Brewing Company
Housed in an old church built in 1894, Silversmith Brewing Company – located just outside town in Virgil –is home to the famed multi-award-winning Black Lager. In addition to a variety of quality local brews, guests can enjoy a gourmet grub-like assortment of fully loaded hot dog and fried chicken sandwiches at this talking point-filled spot. Find more info here.
Sitting on prime Niagara Escarpment benchland, small-batch premium winery Kacaba Vineyards is a family-owned spot that’s been a go-to for in-the-know wine enthusiasts for over two decades. The environmentally sustainable and award-winning winery is known for its range of whites and reds and offers a well-curated patio menu – which includes everything from watermelon and feta salad to butter chicken nachos) to complement the smooth wines. Tastings are held Friday through Sunday. Find more information here.
The charming family-owned and operated Greaves Jams offers locally sourced gourmet groceries and jams, making it a perfect spot to shop to bring some of the region’s tasty goodness home with you. A NOTL staple since 1927, the storied company continues the time-honoured tradition of hand-stirring each batch of jams in open stainless-steel kettles to produce 35 jam and jelly preserves. Find more info here.
While there are dozens of pristine wineries in NOTL, one of our favourites to visit for a five-star, the multifaceted wine tasting experience is Jackson-Triggs. The indoor or outdoor tastings of the award-winning wines are best accompanied by the spot’s hyper-local snacks and dishes (the truffle mac and cheese with bacon is well worth the indulgence). The sprawling property boasts a breezy amphitheatre in the summer months for live musical performances. Find more information here.
Kitchen76 at Two Sisters Vineyard
For fresh and comforting Italian fare, Kitchen76 at Two Sisters Vineyard offers some of the best pizza, pasta, and cheeses in the region. The restaurant’s rustic Italian menu showcases the local flavours of the season – including produce grown on-site – and is specifically created to complement the vineyard’s award-winning wines. Find more information here.
Niagara Home Bakery
Jam-packed with comforting baked goods of all varieties and hard-to-find British sweets, the long-time Niagara Home Bakery – sitting on prime Queen Street real estate – offers some of the region’s best butter tarts, shortbread cookies, traditional English scones, and cinnamon buns (to name a few). The spot also serves up savoury options, like sausage rolls, meat pies, baklava, and patties. Find more information here.
Budapest Bake Shop
For a completely satisfying grab-and-go lunch, stop at Budapest Bakeshop. This spot – a 2019 addition to NOTL’s downtown area – offers up an assortment of savoury and sweet Hungarian chimney cakes (more like sandwiches) that you can’t get anywhere else. The family-run business offers a comforting aroma, as every single chimney cake is prepared, hand-rolled, and baked from scratch throughout the day. Find more info here.
For fresher than fresh farm-to-table fare, make a reservation at the celebrated Treadwell Cuisine. Emphasizing the best artisan producers from the Niagara region and surrounding areas, the indoor/outdoor restaurant serves up seasonal fare, with menus that change regularly. Diners can expect a well-rounded menu that includes things like perfect filets of Ontario beef, pan-roasted halibut, and seared scallops. Find more information here.
The Irish Harp Pub
For a well-rounded NOTL trip, make sure to stop into The Irish Harp Pub for a nightcap and regularly scheduled live music – complete with bands that take requests. Located right downtown (so you can easily walk there from any downtown NOTL hotel), the relaxed, yet high-energy, the Irish pub is a go-to for those looking to let loose the way you just can’t in a vineyard. Find more information here. Find more information here.
The Grove Niagara Farm Shop
On the way back home to the city, stop at the Grove Niagara Farm Shop to stock up on elevated grocery staples and healthy grab-and-go items. Owned by a young couple (who are great for friendly conversation and in-the-know local insight), the refined country store sources its items from local farms (including its own), makes its own baked goods and meals in-house, and curates a selection of Ontario products (like the crowd-pleasing Kozlik’s mustard, for example). Find more information here.
The peaceful Inniskillin Winery – known for its ice wine – offers a perfect spot to sip and swirl outdoors in the summer and fall months (but is as welcoming indoors in the winter). Wine tastings are held here daily, and you’ll also want to stick around for a meal at the winery’s 1st & 43rd Grill, which serves up a hyper-local menu of everything from cheese boards and Canadian oysters to salads elevated poutine. Find more information here.
Lakeshore Road – which traverses along the Great Lakes – offers another worthwhile scenic drive in the NOTL region. Especially in the summer and fall (but it’s nice around the holidays too, when the Christmas lights decorate the homes), this dreamy route is full of picturesque wineries, lush green landscape, stately houses, farmers’ markets, and fruit and veggie stands.
Featured Image: Cadillac