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Niagara Falls is easily one of the most beautiful natural wonders on the planet, and draws thousands upon thousands of tourists every year. Many of these people are honeymooners, drawn to the dreamlike, romantic quality that the Falls engender. Some of them are repeat visitors who have come to Niagara Falls over and over again. No matter whether it’s your first time or fiftieth, there’s still so much to see and do in the surrounding area that will enhance your Falls experience!
Speaking of waterfalls, the city of Hamilton is known as the “City of Waterfalls.” This is because of the vast number of waterfalls – nearly 100! – in the area. Nearly 10,000 acres of the Hamilton area have been declared parkland, much of which is at an altitude that gives you an incredible view of the cities at the end of Lake Ontario. With all this to offer, Hamilton makes a great spot to start your drive through this part of Ontario.
Leaving Hamilton, head north on Highway 403 for 9 miles, then take the eastbound Provincial Route 8 for 13 miles into the city of Cambridge. This is a charming town with a 19th-century flavor, offering plenty of shopping and fine dining opportunities, as well as a wealth of ways to enjoy the great outdoors. Nature preserves, conservation areas, and arboretums abound, all near the Grand River. Cambridge is also the home of the African Lion Safari, a wildlife adventure park with more than 1,000 animals consisting of 100 different species, including birds, elephants, reptiles, and of course lions! The park has been instrumental in helping species that are considered endangered, so this is a great place to go to get a rare glimpse at some truly magnificent creatures. Since it’s a drive-thru park, just make sure to keep your hands inside the car. The animals are well-fed, but they might not mind a between-meals snack!
Kitchener awaits you a mere 5 miles further west on the PR-8, and is the host city for the annual Oktoberfest, which draws visitors from all over for the multi-day celebration of all things Bavarian! The rest of the time, this peaceful community provides its guests with plenty of museums and galleries for the art lover, and for the wine connoisseur there are some excellent vineyards that offer tours and wine-tastings.
Heading west on the PR-8, a twenty-seven mile drive brings you into Stratford, which honors its namesake city, England’s Stratford-on-Avon, in the form of the Theater Festival, which draws hundreds of thousands of admirers each year to experience plays by Shakespeare and a host of other noted playwrights. Stratford is also the home of the Avon River, a pristine stream which is lined with well-manicured parks on either side of its banks. Check out the flock of swans, famed for their beauty and grace, which call the Avon River their home.
The town of Thamesford is just a short 24-mile drive on the southbound Highway 119. Thamesford has some of the best golf courses in all Ontario, such as Cobble Hills – which is a great place to ski if you plan your trip for the winter – and there’s no shortage of wineries, if you care to go on a tasting tour. This area is known as the “Napa of Ontario” due to its large number of vineyards.
Continuing west, take the PR-2 for 14 miles into the city of London, which is chock full of dining and shopping opportunities, but for the lover of the outdoors, you’re in for a treat. This is known as the Forest City, and it’s not hard to see why – there are dozens of parks and wetlands, including the Medway Valley Heritage Forest and Westminster Ponds. Any of these areas serves as a perfect spot to pull over and enjoy some quiet time alone among the trees.
The route to the town of Forest takes you westbound down the PR-22 for 14 miles, whereupon you’ll merge with the PR-402, then 21 miles later you’ll take the PR-21 for the final 7 miles. There are plenty of sights to see in Forest, and the Forest Golf Club is a great place to play the links for a while. But just a few miles north up Rawlins Road, Ipperwash Beach awaits you. Ipperwash is on the shores of Lake Huron, and is a quiet, less-populated area, with shallow waters offshore that are perfect for wading in the summer months. The nearby Provincial Park is a great place to enjoy a day or two of canoeing, biking, or just kicking back and relaxing, and there’s a wide selection of restaurants nearby for a fine dinner before turning in for the night.
The final destination of Sarnia lies to the south, best accessed by the southbound PR-21. After 9 miles or so, you’ll see the turnout for the westbound Highway 7, which takes you 20 miles into Sarnia, which is known as Blue Water Country. Lake Huron and the St. Clair River have some of the bluest waters you’ll ever see this side of the Caribbean, which you can enjoy either from the sandy beaches or from the deck of one of the many boats that offer bay cruises. In the event that you get tired of such beautiful scenery – highly unlikely – there are several casinos in the area for your pleasure, along with an eclectic shopping district where you’re sure to find something to your liking.
As you can see, Niagara Falls is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to water-related fun in this part of Ontario. The great thing is that even when you’ve seen all of it, there’s so much more waiting for you in the next trip!
Other Area Sponsors in Ontario:
Quinte's Isle Campark
Wildwood Golf & RV Resort