The communites of Grimsby, Lincoln, West Lincoln, Wainfleet, Pelham, Port Colborne, St. Catharines, Thorold, Welland, Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the- Lake and Fort Erie make up the area known as the Niagara Region.
Located along the Niagara Escarpment, the region is sandwiched between two Great Lakes, Ontario and Erie, connected by the Niagara River, which is impassable because of the famous falls. Boats – both pleasure and lake ships – can manoeuvre between the lakes through the Welland Canal.
The area is rich in history; major battles of the War of 1812 were fought here and the region was the last stop on the Underground Railroad, a place where men and women escaping slavery in the United States could find refuge.
Recorded history in the region dates back to 1604, when Samuel de Champlain visited the area during his exploration of Canada.
Although there are different theories on the origin of the name, Niagara is probably from an Iroquois town called Ongniaahra, meaning “point of land cut in two.”
The region’s housing is comprised predominantly of single-family dwellings – from historical homes dating back 200 years, to new masterplanned communities – although condos are making their inevitable appearance.
There’s something in Niagara for everyone at every price point and every style, from luxury estate homes to modest semis and townhomes. A comprehensive list of new lowrise developments can be found HERE. A comprehensive list of new highrise developments can be found HERE.
The biggest employer is the tourism industry and the single top employer is Brock University with over 4,500 people in its employ. Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort (4,300) and General Motors of Canada (4,000) round out the top three.
There are also vital agricultural enterprises, including viticulture and fruit orchards, which add to the region’s economy. Kraft has a large plant in Niagara-on-the-Lake that cans Niagara fruit.
Public schools are administered by the Niagara District School Board and the Niagara Catholic District School Board. Brock University, Niagara College and the Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture offer advanced learning.
There is a lot to do in the Niagara Region and, of course, a visit to the world-famous falls is at the top of the list. Actually, Niagara Falls is the collective name for three waterfalls — the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. The combined falls form the highest flow rate of any waterfall in the world and has a vertical drop of more than 50 metres (165 feet).
Because of the falls, there are many adventures offered in the area, including jet boating on the Niagara River rapids, boat tours into the base of the falls, walking tours behind the falls, the Skylon Observations Tour, Marineland, the Clifton Hill Skywheel and the Great Canadian Midway.
The quaint village of Niagara-on-the-Lake is home to the Shaw Festival, featuring the works of George Bernard Shaw, his contemporaries, or plays about his era (1856-1950). Here you will also find historic sites such as Fort George, Navy Hall and Butler’s Barracks.
The Niagara Parks’ Botanical Gardens is located on the scenic Niagara Parkway and the Great Gorge, just a 10 minute drive north of the Niagara Falls. This beautiful garden setting is home to the Butterfly Conservatory and serves as the unique outdoor classroom for students attending the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture.
There are over 150 wineries in the region and the Niagara Wine Trail could take you to all of them. Perhaps it would be better to take a coach trip and stay overnight!
Canada’s oldest golf course, Niagara-on-the-Lake, held its first international tournament in 1895. There are many other great courses in the region, including Emerald Pines, Freedom Oaks, Grand Niagara, Legends, Oaklands, Royal Niagara, Thundering Waters, Twenty Valley, Whisky Run, Battlefield, Usher’s Creek and, my personal favourite, Whirlpool. Other festivals in the area include the Festival of Lights, the Niagara Food Festival, the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival, Canal Days, the Niagara Folk Arts Festival, the Welland Fair and the West Niagara Fair. Check them all out HERE.
A stroll down the main street of any of the downtowns in the region will be a delight with any number of boutiques, cafés, art galleries, craft stores and fine dining establishments. Niagara-on-the-Lake, in particular, is a great place to spend the day popping into one unique store after another. There are a number of outlet malls in Niagara, too, offering brand-name shopping at lower-than-retail prices.
The Niagara Health System consists of six sites serving the Niagara Region, including Douglas Memorial in Fort Erie, Greater Niagara General in Niagara Falls, as well as facilities in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Port Colborne, St. Catharines and Welland. The NHS has almost 900 acute care, complex continuing care, mental health, long-term care and addiction treatment beds, plus a wide range of inpatient and outpatient clinics and services. St. Catharines also boasts the Hotel Dieu Shaver Health and Rehabilitation Centre. Niagara Regional Police Services patrols all of the region, while fire service is provided by each township.
Welland, Niagara Falls and St. Catharines each have airports and the area is served by a number of expressways, including Highways 405, 406, 420 and the QEW. Niagara Region Transit moves riders between Welland, Fort Erie, Niagara Falls and St. Catharines. Niagara Falls Transit and the St. Catharines Transit Commission provide local bus service in the two largest communities in the region. GO Transit and VIA Rail provide train and bus service to Niagara Region from the GTA.
Parks & Rec
The Niagara Region has hundreds of kilometres of trails and paths, as well as a multitude of parks. In Niagara Falls, Queen Victoria Park features manicured gardens, platforms with views of the American, Horseshoe and Bridal Veil Falls, as well as underground walkways behind the falls.
The Niagara River Recreational Trails runs 56 kilometres from Fort Erie to Fort George in Niagara-on-the-Lake and includes many historical sites from the War of 1812. The Greater Niagara Circle Route Trail System is 140 kilometres of mostly off-road paved trails for walking, cycling or rollerblading.
Also in the area is the Bruce Trail, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, the Merritt Trail, which passes through many of the old sections of the Welland Canal; the Waterfront Trail, which follows the shore of Lake Ontario from NOTL to Brockville; and the Welland Canada Parkway, which is a ninekilometre paved path along the scenic Welland Canal, linking with NOTL and Port Colbourne.