Nestled at the mouth of the Niagara River on the shores of Lake Ontario, Niagara-on-the-Lake charms with its beauty, history and culture. This small town, with a population of about 17,000, is unlike any other in Canada, due in part to its geographic location, unique climate, and its especially fertile land.

The Niagara Peninsula is home to over 88 different wineries, over 25 of which, are in Niagara-on-the Lake itself. And, thanks to significant regional growth in the last decade and a tourism boost, several craft breweries have sprouted up too - making it the ultimate destination for wine and beer aficionados alike. 

So how can you make the most of out of a trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake’s many vineyards and taprooms? Get ready to pedal.

Given Niagara-on-the Lake’s small size, cycling is the best way to hop between the different taprooms and vineyards. There are several bike rental shops where visitors can opt for a full-day bike rental ($30 for 24 hours), a half-day ($20 for 3 hours), or even join a cycling tour, which leads you to different hotspots in the region.

With so many great places to try, arm yourself with a map of the region and head out on your own. To help you get started, here are my top picks for wineries and breweries that should be on everyone’s list. 

         

The Exchange Brewery

The Exchange BreweryThe Exchange Brewery

Start your day in the heart of Niagara-on-the-Lake, on the Old Town’s historic and flower-filled Queen St. at The Exchange Brewery. Although Exchange Brewery is the new kid on the block, having opened its doors to the public in January 2016, the quality of its craft beers would have you believe it’s been around much longer.

The Exchange BreweryThe Exchange Brewery

The brewery and tasting room are housed in a heritage building, once the site of Niagara’s first telephone exchange. Thirsty patrons can imbibe a variety of funky Belgian ales or sample the unique offerings served up on The Exchange's continuously rotating taps. In summer, that might taste like a seasonal Thai Basil Saison; in winter it might be a Peppercorn Rye Saison. Check out their Facebook page to see what's fresh. 

 

Oast House Brewers

Oast House BrewersOast House Brewers

Like many of the wineries, Niagara’s Oast House Brewers sits amid Niagara-on-the-Lake’s farmland. Although surrounded by its neighbours’ vineyards, Oast House Brewers’ iconic big red barn can’t be missed. While its barn was raised in the 1800s, the brewery’s history is much more recent having been founded in 2011. Since then, Oast has made a name for itself with its delicious variety of beers, especially its signature farmhouse ales, which are made from on-site well water and bottle-conditioned yeasts harvested from the property.

Oast House BrewersOast House Brewers

This brewery is proudly local, drawing on the Niagara region’s natural bounty to produce a rotation of seasonal brews, including its Strawberry Rhubarb Ale, Oak-aged Peach Hefeweizen, and of course, the ever-popular Barnraiser Country Ale.

 

Stratus Vineyards

Stratus VineyardsStratus Vineyards

Good news for thirsty cyclists: right next to Oast House is Stratus Vineyards. Minimal, sleek, and modern is how this winery’s sampling room has been designed, but perhaps that’s a subtle hint that the focus here isn’t on aesthetics, but the wine itself.

Stratus VineyardsStratus Vineyards

Established in 2000, this winery - thanks to the creativity of its master winemaker J.L. Groux - has become a darling of the Niagara region. Groux’s best known for combining several grape varieties to produce complex and critically-acclaimed wines, like the Stratus Red and Stratus White.

 

Château des Charmes

Château des CharmesChâteau des Charmes

Founded in 1978 by fifth-generation French winegrower, Paul Bosc, Château des Charmes is certain to charm any visitor with its beautiful estate and of course, its wines. This winery is housed on a beautiful vineyard, featuring a stunning French-style ‘chateau’ enveloped by its vineyard.

Château des CharmesChâteau des Charmes

If you’re looking to learn more about the winemaking process, there’s no better place to take a winery tour, but if you’ve just come to sample the wine, be sure to have a taste of its Vidal Icewine. It's a distinctly sweet dessert wine and a specialty of Niagara’s winemakers thanks to the region’s subzero winter temperatures.

 

Have you cycled your way
through Niagara-on-the-Lake? 
Which tasting rooms did you visit? 
Comment below! 

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