3-day Ontario road trip: Wine and culinary delights
Explore Canada’s largest wine region and rural roadways to sought-after dining rooms, wineries and markets.
Let the grape guide you on a gastronomic getaway through some of Ontario’s most bountiful growing regions. Starting in the Niagara Region, you’ll find yourself amid the lush lands of Canada’s largest wine region and soon meandering Waterloo Region’s rural roadways that tell a hundred stories – all while indulging in the delectable delights of some of Ontario’s most sought-after dining rooms, wineries and markets.
Ontario is the world in one province and is the original homelands to many nations of the First Peoples. With the Cree Nation in the North, the Haudenoshaunee in the South, and the Anishinabek Nation all around the Great Lakes, we are pleased to acknowledge and support the First Peoples and First Nations of these lands; the Inuit; and the Metis as we host visitors together.
Niagara-on-the-Lake – Day One
Niagara-on-the-Lake is known as the heart of the Niagara Wine Region. The region enjoys a unique micro-climate ideal for grape growing thanks to the weather-moderating effects of Lake Ontario, the Niagara Escarpment and the region’s southerly reach to the same latitude as Bordeaux and Italy. More than 100 wineries are ripe for exploration, amid the lush backdrop of this mineral-rich, bountiful greenbelt and the well-preserved architecture of this pretty heritage town.
Things to Do
In 1792 Niagara-on-the-Lake became the first capital of Upper Canada (later the Province of Ontario), after being settled by British Loyalists. The town’s 19th century architecture has been carefully preserved and the entire old town, centered around a charming main street complete with cenotaph clock tower, is a designated National Heritage Site.
Get oriented by taking a guided tour. Sentineal Carriages’ horse-drawn carriage tours are led by uniformed guides and are one of the most romantic ways to take in the sights. The compact region is also perfect for exploring by bike with Zoom Leisure Bikes or Vino Velo Boutique Bicycle Tours. Winery Guys Tours offers a Tesla Executive Eco-Tour for small groups of four or less. Walking tours are also available and can be arranged through the Niagara-on-the-Lake Chamber of Commerce and Visitor and Convention Bureau located on the main street.
It’s time to taste! Consult the Wine Country Ontario guide, available online and throughout town for a comprehensive list of VQA wineries. Not to be missed is Inniskillin Wines, which started it all. After winning the coveted Grand Prix d’Honneur at Vin Expo, France in 1991 for their 1989 Vidal Icewine, Inniskillin focused the wine world’s attention on this previously unknown wine region and has never looked back.
Canada’s most famous wine product is undoubtedly Icewine. Ontario produces 90% of Canada’s Icewine and there’s no better winery to sample this luxurious liquid than at Peller Estates in their 10 Below Icewine tasting room. Peller’s elegant dining room is helmed by Executive Chef Jason Parsons, one of Canada’s most prominent chefs.
Ravine Vineyards is a family-owned winery on the fifth-generation family farm. Its charming bistro overlooks the vineyard and serves farm-to-table cuisine using fresh produce from the farm and local producers.
Strewn Winery is also home to the Wine Country Cooking School that offers cooking classes using local Niagara produce for meals uniquely paired with estate wines.
Two Sisters Winery is one of Niagara’s most recent success stories. The stately estate winery is the passion project of sisters Angela Marotta and Melissa Paolicelli and its sumptuous Kitchen 76 restaurant serves Italian classics.
Places to Stay
On a budget: There are hundreds of bed and breakfasts designed in the period style for which Niagara-on-the-Lake is known. For an intimate and truly local experience, consult the Niagara-on-the-Lake Bed and Breakfast Association to find the perfect B&B in all price ranges.
Mid-range: The Harbour House Hotel is a charming property on the Niagara-on-the-Lake waterfront a short walk from the main street and offers free daily breakfast.
High-end: The Victorian Prince of Wales Hotel is a landmark property and located right on the main street.
Family friendly: Hilton Garden Inn Niagara-on-the-Lake is an affordable option on the outskirts of town.
Places to Eat
Treadwell Cuisine: One of the earliest proponents of farm-to-table cuisine, emphasizing the bounty of the Niagara growing region.
Trius Winery Restaurant: The restaurant at Trius Winery has long been renowned as one of the region’s most noted dining rooms. The chef works with local farmers, growers and producers to create fabulous wine country cuisine.
Niagara Oast House Brewers : An award winning BBQ menu from a chef who receiving training across the world, including a Michelin star restaurant in Italy.
Shaw Café: The annual Shaw Festival is a big draw in town and Bernard Shaw’s statue stands watch outside the Shaw Café on the main street. This European style café has the finest selections of Niagara wines, bistro style cuisine and a picturesque location.
Zees Grill: Zees has a popular outdoor patio overlooking the main street and is conveniently located across from the Shaw Festival’s main theatre. Join Zees for breakfast brunch, dinner and deserts at this great bistro and bar.
Queenston Heights Restaurant: Located at the base of the towering Brock’s Monument in Queenston Heights Park, it is a National Historic Site and must-see for history buffs.
Niagara-on-the-Lake – Day Two
Distance to Next Stop: 129 km / 80 mi
The Twenty Valley region along the Niagara Escarpment is a sub-appellation of the Niagara Peninsula wine region. Its many quaint villages are home to mostly family-run boutique wineries and vineyards and worth further exploration. Known as the gateway to the Niagara region, Twenty Valley and the Niagara Escarpment is the largest wine producing region. It is home to more than 50 vineyards, of which most are family run, award winning and located on the beautiful Niagara Escarpment.
Things to Do
New World Wine Tours’ Mackenzie Putici is a CMS-certified Sommelier and has travelled the world tasting wines across Europe, Asia and Africa. He’ll guide you through an expert exploration of this New World wine region. Larger groups will want to hop aboard the Magic Winery Bus in one of its classic double deckers.
Twenty Valley is perfect for a self-guided drive, too. Exit the Queen Elizabeth Way/QEW in St. Catharines, and head to Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery where the Pelham family has been farming the land since the late 18th century and producing premium wines since 1984.
The tiny village of Jordan is brimming with charm and a surprising number of wineries and independent boutiques. Cave Spring Cellars is a mainstay of the village. Enjoy lunch at the delectable Inn on the Twenty Restaurant or Jordan House for elevated pub fare.
Among the area wineries, craft breweries have discovered that Twenty Valley has some of Ontario’s most fertile agricultural land. Visit Bench Brewing Company where the artisanal dedication of the Bench wineries is combined with the craft of traditional brewing.
Nearby in Vineland, Vineland Estates Winery is a wine enthusiast’s dream with an on-site “Top Twenty Winery Restaurant in the World” where you will enjoy pairing estate wines and local cuisine along with accommodations at either the Bed and Breakfast Cottage or Estate Guest House.
Beamsville’s Rosewood Estates Winery & Meadery’s focuses on honest low-intervention wine and innovative mead, which reflect the terroir of the Niagara Escarpment. Rosewood also offers a unique bee experience. The Roman family has more than 85 years of beekeeping experience and today keeps hundreds of bees scattered across the Niagara Escarpment and Greenbelt.
One of the region’s most picturesque wineries is Peninsula Ridge Estate Winery. Located on the rolling lands of the vineyard is a historic Queen Anne Revival Victorian Mansion which houses the estate restaurant. Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery is devoted to producing award winning wines.
Places to Stay
On a budget: Best Western St. Catharines Hotel & Conference Centre is ideally located between Niagara-on-the-Lake and Twenty Valley for easy access to the both regions.
Mid-range: Stay in town at the Inn on the Twenty for a romantic getaway.
High-end: Stay right in the vineyard at Vineland Estates Winery and enjoy your own private cottage at the Estate Guest House. There is no better way to experience a winery than to stay here.
Places to Eat
As food is part of the experience, the places to eat are written above in the Things to Do area.
Cambridge, St. Jacobs, Elora – Day Three
Distance to Next Stop: 85 km / 53 mi
After exploring Niagara, let yourself be tempted by the nearby Waterloo Region. Only an hour’s drive west and you’re in store for some of the most unique culinary and cultural experiences Ontario has to offer, as you explore Cambridge and St. Jacobs and neighbouring Elora.
Things to Do
Cambridge proudly lays claim to Ontario’s only Relais & Châteaux property and one of only 14 in all of Canada. Langdon Hall was originally built as the summer home of Eugene Langdon Wilks. Langdon Hall’s elegant dining room is presided over by Jason Bangerter, one of Canada’s most celebrated chefs and features fresh ingredients from the manicured vegetable garden, where guests are encouraged to tour and discover the source of their forthcoming meal.
The Grand River is a heritage river that runs through the region and the Cambridge Mill, a beautifully restored 19th century mill, has a fine dining room scenically perched at its edge and offering panoramic views.
Nearby, St. Jacobs is a must. Not only is the charming village known for its Mennonite community and culture, it’s also where you’ll find some of the freshest homemade goods around. The St. Jacobs Farmers Market is the place to sample local made products from dozens of unique honey, fresh baked breads, maple syrups of every kind, art, handmade quilts, antiques and much more.
Twenty minutes north (24.8km/15.4 miles) of St. Jacobs, the Elora Mill has been the jewel of Wellington County for more than 175 years. This historic landmark in the pretty village of Elora, 90 minutes west (116km/72miles) of Toronto, is a limestone beauty on the edge of the Grand River’s Elora Gorge. The Elora Mill has undergone an extensive restoration and expansion and now offers 30 unique stay options. The Elora Mill dining room is encased in glass for panoramic views and offers a sophisticated menu that changes weekly based on the harvest of their private farm.
Places to Stay & Eat
On a budget: Best Western Plus Waterloo is near the Village of St. Jacobs and the popular farmers market.
Mid-range: Walper Hotel: The boutique hotel in a historic property dating back to 1893 with spacious contemporary rooms.
High-end: Langdon Hall is located in the Carolian Forest. This is one of only 14 properties in Canada that is recognized by Relais &Chateau. It is a standard of excellence for five-star dining and “exquisite” accommodations.
Elora Mill and Spa: The historic Elora Mill has recently gone through an extensive renovation and expansion and offers one of the most magnificent country experiences in the province.
Things to Know
The St. Jacobs Farmers Market sees large crowds and parking lines by mid-morning. Arrive early to avoid the crowds.
Last updated: February 8, 2023