Less than an hour and a half from downtown Toronto, Niagara falls is a must-do day trip. As we didn’t have our own car in Toronto, we choose to book a day trip through a tour company. There’s various day trips on offer to Niagara falls, but we booked the full day Niagara Falls tour with Niagara and Toronto Tours. It included a tasting session at a Niagara Winery, a photo stop at Niagara Gorge and 3 hours free time at Niagara falls, including admission onto the Hornblower cruise, which is the boat which takes you right into the falls.
We don’t often take organised tours as we prefer to explore at our own pace and schedule, however the tour group was small and the stops were timed really well, so we didn’t feel that we had too long or too little at each place.
Stops on the way to the falls
The first stop was at the winery – we arrived around 11am, which was quite early for wine tasting, but hey, I wasn’t going to opt out! We tasted a few wines as well as an ice wine, which if you’ve not tried it before, is an acquired taste and is very sweet!
The next stop was at the Floral clock. It’s a popular tourist spot, but to be honest, I couldn’t see what the fascination was. Yes, it is pretty but really, it’s just a large clock which had flowers planted in a pattern – maybe I’m just spoilt with the large flower displays we have in Britain, in gardens and public places (even roundabouts!), but I wouldn’t make a special stop if I had the choice.
Enjoying my morning wine tasting before stopping at the Floral Clock
The last stop before the falls was at Niagara Gorge – the views from here were so good and you could definitely tell from the swirling water that the falls were close by!
Niagara Gorge Viewpoint
Exploring Niagara Falls
Finally arriving at the Falls, the first thing that I noticed was the volume of them. They were so loud, thundering even above all the tourist noise. It is a very busy tourist spot, and unlike most other waterfalls we’ve visited, it wasn’t busy with hikers, but instead, it’s full of mini-buses, coaches, food stalls, and all the bright lights, restaurants and attractions of Clifton Hill, just opposite the falls.
The Hornblower Cruise
Our first stop was on the Hornblower cruise – this was included in the price of our day trip and it was actually really fun!
When you leave the dock, you’ll first see the American and Bridal Veils falls before the famous Canadian Horseshoe falls. Here the boat takes you as close as possible to the base of the falls and you can really feel how powerful they are when you hear the boat’s engine revving so hard to fight against the water to stay in position! It was amazing to see the falls so close – just prepare to get quite wet!
The American – Canadian border lies in the middle of the Niagara River and from the boat, you get a clearer view of the American side. We were told that the best views are from the Canadian side and it did appear to be that way, with most of the attractions on the Canadian side also.
Getting close to the raging falls on the Hornblower cruise
Journey behind the falls
During our free time at the falls, we paid extra to walk behind the Horseshoe falls. The visit takes 30-45 minutes and you start by descending 125 feet down through bedrock, before navigating tunnels and pathways to the Cataract Portal and Great falls Portal. From these portals you are standing in the rock, directly behind the thundering water as it comes crashing down. The power of the water is amazing!
From inside the rock, you will then walk out onto the Upper and Lower observation decks at the base of the falls, getting a side on view. You’ll get quite wet here again from all the spray, but it feels so thrilling to be so close to the waterfalls. Note that the outside observation decks are only open in the summer months.
We walked through tunnels behind the falls before coming out onto the observation decks right beside the falls.
Niagara Falls viewpoint
Just opposite the Table Rock welcome centre is the official Niagara Falls viewpoint. A stroll along the promenade here is perfect, we found a great quiet spot on the wall and just watched the falls for a bit before it was time to leave. You also get to view the falls from above, and see the water drop down from the river here.
Viewing the falls from above
Niagara falls attractions and Clifton Hill
Around Niagara Falls and Clifton Hill, there’s so many attractions, such as Ripley’s museum, a mirror maze, mini golf, bowling, Niagara fun zone, theatres and much more. Closer to the falls, you could take a trip on the skywheel overlooking the falls or zip line your way to the feet of the falls. Personally, it felt a bit of a shame that such a natural spectacle had been turned into a theme park attraction. But, for some, this amusement centre is part of the fun. We just ignored the more commercial attractions and stuck to exploring the falls themselves.
Clifton Hill and the Skywheel
The greater Niagara Falls region
There’s so much more to Niagara Falls as a destination than just the area around the actual falls, but as we were on a trip we were not able to experience it. If you have your own vehicle then you could spend a couple of days in this area, visiting the wineries, hiking through Niagara Glen nature reserve, cycling along the Niagara River recreation trail or visiting the pretty town of Niagara-on-the-lake.
My Two week Canadian road trip
Two weeks is not a lot of time to see Canada but I managed to squeeze in three main destinations in my two week road trip. See my itinerary for two weeks in Canada, travelling from Toronto to Banff and then onto Vancouver.
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