The natural wonders of Canada run the gamut from the spectacular display of the aurora borealis that light up the northern skies in swirling colors, to the Bay of Fundy with its immense tides as high as a five-story building that recede at low tide exposing three miles (five kilometers) of ocean floor. But perhaps chief among Canada’s breathtaking wonders is Niagara Falls.
You’ve heard of it, of course, though maybe you only know Niagara Falls as the self-proclaimed Honeymoon Capital of the World. But if that’s all you know about it, you’ve got a surprise coming.
Created 12,000 years ago as water flowed into the Niagara River from the North American Great Lakes, Niagara Falls is not one but three astounding waterfalls that form the hub of a sightseeing and recreational area with enough outdoor and indoor activities to comfortably fill a week or overpack a weekend.
Niagara Falls is also two cities with the same name, divided by the international border between the United States and Canada. The American part is in the state of New York, and the Canadian part is in the province of Ontario, sharing the beautiful river between them.
Most hotels near Niagara Falls, Canada range from luxury accommodations to affordable options including bed and breakfast inns, campgrounds and RV parks, some with resort amenities. You don’t need a car to get around, either, because Niagara Falls offers WEGO, a hop-on, hop-off bus system that connects visitor accommodations with all of the Niagara Parks attractions.
If you are interested in natural beauty but not necessarily the overdeveloped tourism of Niagara Falls, here’s a guide for you:
Visit the Falls, of Course
For the full experience, board the Maid of the Mist for a cruise from the Canadian docks right into the basin of the magnificent Horseshoe Falls. You’re going to get a little wet, but that’s the fun of it. In operation since 1846, and the oldest tourist attraction in North America, the Maid of the Mist operates on a weather-dependent schedule from late Spring until mid-Fall every year. This year, it will be open through November 4th.
For a different perspective, continue to the Journey Behind the Falls and take an elevator 150 feet down to a series of tunnels that open your view to the astonishing wall of water crashing down from the top to the basin of the Horseshoe Falls. It’s open all year except on Christmas Day.
Hit the Trails
Put on your running shoes and head to the Niagara River Recreation Trail where you’ll find a stairway that takes you down to Niagara Glen for a two-and-a-half-mile run through prehistoric geological formations in a pocket of pristinely preserved Carolinian forest. If you’re not up for running, there’s also a guided hiking tour.
The region has more than 200 trails catering to riders of every level. Niagara Parkway has been named one of the top 10 cycling routes in the world, stretching 58 kilometerss along the Canadian side of the Niagara River. For even more serious cyclists, the Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail stretches 780 kilometers, following the shores of Lake Ontario from Niagara-on-the-Lake to the Quebec border.
Take It to the Extreme
For a higher level of adventure, take a thrilling kayak trip, go all out on the challenging Niagara Glen Bouldering Trail or buckle up for a breathtaking zipline to the falls.
Tour the Wineries
The Niagara Region is known for its award-winning wines, including unique ice wine, made from grapes harvested in the winter when temperatures are way below freezing and sugar content is highest. The Niagara Wine Route on the Canadian side and the Niagara Wine Trail on the American side feature dozens of wineries with tasting rooms set amid acres of gorgeous vineyards.
Take in the Night Life
If you’ve still got some energy after sunset, visit one of the two action-packed casinos offering blackjack, roulette, poker, slots and sports gaming along with comedy shows and live entertainment with headline stars. Though this isn’t necessarily natural wonder, the glitz and glamor is magnificent to behold.