Given the jaw-dropping natural beauty of Canada’s Niagara Region and the stunningly beautiful produce grown here, it’s a downright shame to spend a moment longer indoors than absolutely necessary. That’s why dining al fresco is the best way to enjoy all that this verdant part of the world has to offer. Even better, make it a picnic with help from some of the area’s most delectable homegrown offerings. Not sure where to go? The 35-mile-long Niagara Parkway, one of the most pristine roads in Ontario and a direct route to Niagara Falls, features some of the most picturesque spots to chill out with a snack. Come with us on a quick tour of the most scenic of those spots, and all the tasty treats you can find along the way.
Head directly to Walker’s Country Market to stock up on supplies. Family-owned since the 1930s, this neighborhood staple has everything you need for a day’s worth of picnicking. We’re partial to the sandwiches stuffed with fillings like oven-roasted turkey breast with cranberry-orange sauce and ham glazed with maple syrup-spiked mustard, not to mention local produce like ruby-red strawberries, juicy nectarines, and freestone peaches. Just make sure you also save room for Walker’s top-notch dessert options. The colorful, fresh-baked pies come in two sizes—large and mini—and are crammed with juicy fillings like peach, strawberry rhubarb, peach blueberry, grape, cherry, and more. We have a hard time playing it cool around the brittle candy display, though. There are also more varieties here than you can imagine, chock-full of almonds, chipotle-spiced peanuts, sea-salt-flecked peanuts, coconut flakes, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and more. Then there’s everything maple-flavored: maple syrup, maple cream cookies, maple sugar, maple syrup candy pops, maple butter, and maple candies. (This is Canada, after all.) Want more options? Adorable farm stands and marketplaces abound in Niagara—try nearby outfits Parkway Orchards and Kurtz Orchards Farm & Marketplace.
Toss your picnic basket in the car and drive half a mile down the road to Reif Estate Winery for your first picnicking stop. Established by one of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s oldest wine families, Reif specializes in Niagara wines inspired by the founders’ native Germany. Chief among them is ice wine, which has earned the operation a bevy of awards going back to the 1980s. Make sure to snag a glass or two in the main building—the look is German-villa-meets-Victorian-mansion—before selecting a spot to hunker down. We like the picnic tables in the gazebo area, which overlook a maze of grapevines, and the outdoor Sensory Garden, which is tucked behind an 1870s-era coach house. The latter, framed by overarching trellises covered in gnarled vines and lush foliage, is a patchwork of flowers, fruit-bearing plants, and herbs meant to convey the flavors, aromas, and hues of Niagara’s most famous wines. Supplement your BYO-picnic with treats from Reif’s outdoor kitchen, which include hearty fare like sausages, burgers, thin-crust pizza, and a light-and-easy cheese and charcuterie plate.
Heading south, find a spot outside the Laura Secord Homestead, where you can experience history through the eyes of a Canadian heroine, and also enjoy delicious chocolates made by a company named in her honor. Afterward, stop by Niagara’s famous Floral Clock, which is recreated twice a year with up to 16,000 carpet bedding plants. Once you’ve finished your picnic, head onward to the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens, which comprise 99 meticulously maintained acres jam-packed with perennials, rhododendrons, azaleas, herbs, and vegetables. There are endless places to explore here, but standouts include the world-famous rose garden, which features more than 2,400 fragrant blooms, and the carefully manicured “parterre” garden.
Farther south still, it’s time to pull on your hiking boots and leave your car behind. Two-and-a-half miles of winding paths through forest, boulders, and prehistoric geological formations take you deep into the Niagara Gorge, where you’ll find epic picnic spots at practically every turn. Primo lunchtime real estate include spots along the Glen Gorge, plus the area around the entrance to the park. After you’re done, head down to the the riverside platforms along the White Water Walk, where you can scope out the Class 6 white-water rapids below from a safe distance, and hike to the awe-inspiring Niagara Whirlpool, which was carved roughly 10,000 years ago by the mighty Niagara River.
After all that hiking, you deserve a rest. Finish out your day on the Dufferin Islands, a peaceful nature preserve spread out over 10 acres just half a mile from Niagara Falls. Quiet and secluded, the area’s many small islands are connected by a series of stone bridges and footpaths, making it a slam dunk for picnickers. A great destination year-round, it’s also featured during the Winter Festival of Lights when it’s transformed into a winter wonderland from November to January.
At this point, peek into your picnic basket. If it’s empty, it’s safe to call your day a success! If not, loop back up to Niagara-on-the-Lake and camp out in the gazebo in Queen’s Royal Park, where the mighty Niagara River meets Lake Ontario. By sunset, this beautiful stretch of green is bathed in red-orange light, making it perfect for a picnic supper.
Hungry for more exploring in the Niagara Region? Visit Niagara has the deets on more must-visit hotspots.
Sponsored Content from the Tourism Partnership of Niagara
The Shaw is pleased to be able to reproduce a series of five articles as seen in Bon Appétit on wining and dining in the beautiful Niagara Region.