Location, location, location! St. Catharines, on the southwest shore of Lake Ontario, is situated on Lock 3 of the historic Welland Canal, at the foot of Niagara Escarpment’s Bruce Trail—and in the heart of Niagara wine country. Its easily accessible location, 112 km south of Toronto and 22 km north of Niagara Falls, makes the city a must-see destination for history buffs, outdoor enthusiasts and culinary connoisseurs.
Nicknamed the “Garden City,” St. Catharines boasts 1,000 acres of parkland and nature trails, as a complement to picturesque Victorian architecture and the landmark Port Dalhousie lighthouse. More than 100 designated parks and green spaces brightened with seasonal floral displays help the city live up to its horticultural moniker.
One of St. Catharines’ top outdoor attractions is Bruce Trail, Canada’s oldest and longest hiking path. The trail opened in 1967 and follows the Niagara Escarpment, a geological ridge that spans 850 km from Niagara to Tobermory, at the shore of Lake Huron. The Niagara Escarpment is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Hikers can enter the trail in St. Catharines near Brock University on Glenridge Avenue, south of downtown. Other outdoor activities include salmon fishing on Lake Ontario from April to September and fishing on the Niagara River from October to March.
One of the city’s main historic attractions is the indoor/outdoor St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre, located on the waterfront, east of downtown. Tourists can explore the city’s history as it relates to this important 42-km shipping route that connects Lake Ontario to Lake Erie. The museum’s Discovery Park annex takes St. Catharines visitors outdoors to see ships pass through the locks and learn how modern engineering has transformed the original Welland Canal waterway.
The museum also invites American Civil War buffs to its Underground Railroad exhibit, which recounts the tales of fugitive slaves as they fled to freedom in Canada. Also on site is the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame and Museum, an interactive exhibit that highlights the history of Canada’s national sport and recognises the province's best lacrosse players.
Visitors to St. Catharines will find themselves in Niagara's grape-growing country, so vineyard tours and wine tastings top the list of things to do. The region is known worldwide for its award-winning ice wines, made from frozen grapes harvested on cold winter nights, then pressed to produce a nectar-like dessert wine.
St. Catharines wineries offer complimentary tastings and context for learning about and enjoying their beverages. Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery pairs samples of award-winning wines with Canadian artisanal cheeses. Rockaway Vineyards offers tours of its Canadian Wine Museum and also boasts an 18-hole golf course. Harvest Estate and Hernder Estate wineries both offer tastings, tours and shopping boutiques.
With so much good wine around, great food is never far behind. Local dining options range from Canadian standards like The Keg Steakhouse to Thai tapas and Italian specialities. Beacon Harbourside Restaurant offers regional cuisine and wine pairings enhanced by views of Lake Ontario and the Toronto skyline.