When the sun is out and the weather is warm (or at least not too cold!), my wife and I often like to get out with our two dogs, Oscar and Pippin, and go for a walk. I mentioned paths and trails before but there are also lots of beaches and parks that are worth visiting in the Niagara-on-the-Lake area.
In Port Dalhousie, about 15 minutes from home, we love to park the car just behind the main street, by the marina, and walk along the quay past all the boats. I am always looking as I would like to buy a boat but my wife has other ideas! So far, no boat.
Anyway, you can walk all the way to the end of the pier where, on a clear day, you get great views of Toronto across the lake – about 25 miles away by boat. Retrace your steps a little and cut across to Lakeside Park Beach. Dogs are not always allowed so pick your dates according to the rules!
This longish, gently curving stretch of beach is very popular in the summer with Volley Ball courts that are always in use, families with picnics, boaters in and out of the marina, jet skis buzzing around the bay and in the distance, the music from the Lakeside Carousel. This carousel, built between 1898-1905 in Brooklyn New York, was moved here in 1921 and to this day, it still only costs 5 cents to ride it.
Also in Port Dalhousie, there is another great walk. Leaving the car in the same place and walking the other direction past the Tim Hortons, Rennie Park runs alongside the Henley. This is the location for the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta. It is great fun to come here and watch the competitive rowing take place. As you walk to the end of the park, a new footbridge was built a few years ago.
This long bridge is a great view point for the rowing. I must admit that the gaps between the planks, although pretty small, seems to upset one of my dogs. The further along it he walks, he slows down and goes almost flat. In the end, I usually have to carry him for the second half of the crossing. But it also takes you across the water to Royal Henley Park which runs into Jaycee Gardens Park.
This is a great park with a kids play area and some walking paths. It is also the location of several failed attempts at the building of the original Welland Canal.
Just a few short miles up the road from here is Charles Daley Park. This great little park has lots of parking and is divided into two halves. The left half rises up a steep slope and is a popular picnic and bbq area with nice views out to the lake. A selection of picnic tables and large shady trees makes this a perfect spot to spend a hot afternoon.
The other side of the park has a boardwalk running along the edge of Lake Ontario. There is a washroom building, food preparation/covered picnic area and a bandstand here. In the summer, there is often live music in the afternoons.
Along the boardwalk is a small pond area and a sandy spit that runs between the pond and the lake. Retracing your steps to the beginning of the boardwalk, there is a short path to another, larger beach and picnic area.
Another great area on the edge of St Catharines by Port Weller and the Welland Canal is Sunset Beach. Again, there is easy, free parking here and a surprisingly long, wide stretch of sandy beach with woods to the rear. It is surprising as it is so close to a residential area, it is almost a secret that only the locals know about.
There are many other great parks and beaches that can be reached from NOTL by car in less than half an hour and we have been to many but there are still ones yet to be expored.