If you are ever in Toronto or Niagara Falls, Canada there are some great areas to take a day trip to! Hamilton, Burlington and nearby drives in the countryside have so much to offer. We had been staying in Toronto for a trip, but wanted to explore more of Ontario Province, so we went to Hamilton for a two (2) night stay and it was so welcoming and fun to see the area.
What you may not realize is that Hamilton is the Waterfall Capital of the World as we will discuss more below. It is also easy to get there by either bus and train via GO Transit (www.gotransit.com) that go there from downtown Toronto, but either way it is a short trip- about an hour away. I must say, the bus/train station in Toronto was so clean and easy to get around.
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We arrived in Hamilton and checked into Homewood Suites by Hilton (@hiltonhotels). After the check in, we headed out to find some food along King William Street, where many local restaurants are located. Since it was late, some were closed, but we ate out at Sagarmatha Curry Palace Restaurant (@sagarmathacurrypalace).
It was great and I really liked the choices of Indian and Nepalese dishes. We ate here and they were quick, we wanted to get back at a reasonable time and prepare for the next day that included exploring more of the area that included fantastic food, hikes, walks and exploring the town. It was great walking around a bit and saw the great HAMILTON lighted sign within a block of our hotel and posed for a picture there.
Homewood Suites by Hilton was a fantastic place to stay. The room was very nice with a separate bedroom, and a kitchen/living area. I loved having the fridge for our drinks and the ability to heat up food, etc. (yes we had some leftover Indian food). The hotel also had a great breakfast and had a bar at night with snacks, etc. It is a great place to stay and very central to everything, and has a pool, if you love to swim. I highly recommend this hotel if you stay in Hamilton.
About Hamilton, Ontario
Hamilton was incorporated in 1846 and is a sizable city with over 579 thousand people. While it is known for its industrial history, they are located on Lake Ontario so there are views of Burlington Bay. While there is so much to do and see there, more and more of the waterfront is being developed so that visitors can enjoy more and more of its waterfront. Some famous folks come from Hamilton including actors Martin Short, Eugene Levy and Rachel McAdams to name a few. Hamilton is also home to McMaster University with over 33 thousand students, thus there are many activities in the area.
Day 1 & 2 Things to do around Hamilton, Ontario
After a great breakfast buffet at the hotel, we went to several places that included hikes, walks, a castle and a rock garden. We were there in Spring, but they had an unusual snowfall, although we still enjoyed the great setting, with snow in some areas.
Hikes to the Falls – Waterfall Capital Of The World
What was quite surprising was the fact that Niagara Falls is not the only falls in the area. Around Hamilton there are various cascading falls that you can venture out to hike and explore. Whether you want a short walk or longer hike there are over 100 waterfalls in the area, part of the greater Niagara Escarpment, which runs primarily east-west from New York through Ontario, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois. The most famous waterfall is the mighty Niagara Falls, however, there are numerous cascading waterfalls in Hamilton. Notably, the escarpment has been designated as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve since 1990. This should help preserve the forests and ecosystem around the falls.
We had the chance to explore several falls in the area, including the Sherman Waterfall, Tiffany Falls, Albion Falls and Felkers Falls. All these are very doable falls to walk. If you like longer trails, try the Dundas Valley Trail. Just note that summer areas do have limited parking since you are in or near some residences, but it was very doable when we visited.
Depending on the weather, travel style and choices, you can take tours with Grand Experiences Adventure Outfitter (on Facebook). They provided the tour we took and explained about all the falls in the area and the escarpment. The company also offers various options to hike, bike, canoe, kayak, and rafting. While the weather while we were there was too cold to kayak, we had a great view of the various falls in the area. We highly recommend this to the outdoor enthusiast.
Dundurn Castle National Historic Site of Canada (@dundurn_castle)
When we went to Canada, we did not think of castles, but there are some in Canada that you don’t want to miss. In Hamilton, you don’t want to miss Dundurn Castle National Historic Site of Canada. This was the mansion of Sir Allen Napier MacNab. He was a railroad magnate, lawyer, and Premier of the United Canadas (1854 – 1856). Their home is well preserved and gives you a great example of how they lived, as well as the servants that ran the mansion.
We were able to experience a tour of the mansion and carriage house that houses the gift store. The main 40 room talian villa was constructed in 1830 on Burlington Heights, the former site of the fortified encampment of the British during the War of 1812. The Coach House that houses the gift shop was built in 1870, and offers various souvenirs and gifts from various shops in the area.
The tour was great to see so many actual furnishings and period pieces to give you a good idea of how the owners that lived above the basement vs. the servants that lived in the basement. While the servants quarters aren’t as grand they did have a good amount of room in their quarters. Either way we loved so many of the rooms, my favorite is the room I call the pink room, since it is so great. I can imagine having tea time here. I highly recommend the tour and seeing the grounds.
Royal Botanical Garden’s Rock Garden (@rbgcanada)
The Royal Botanical Garden is Canada’s largest garden, nature sanctuary and rock garden that spans 2,400 acres through both Hamilton and Burlington. While the weather was cooler, the plants had started to appear since it was Spring.
While there we visited the lovely Rock Garden that had cascading walkways throughout the property and various colorful adirondack chairs to sit and relax with various types of trees and plants throughout. The Rock Garden originally opened in 1932 and is considered the beginning of the grander botanical project. The Rock Garden was reopened in 2016 after extensive renovations and exhibits sustainable garden design with various trails. Before you venture out, you go through the visitor center that has a cafe, gift shop, restrooms, etc. We only had a small glimpse of the property but it is a grand place to visit and I shall return one day. The RBG does have various activities and exhibits depending on when you go.
Where to eat in Hamilton, Ontario
- Lunch at HAMBURGR (@eathamburgr) located at 49 King William Street: For lunch we stopped at the HAMBURGR on William Street, near Sagarmatha where we ate the night before. The hamburgers and the appetizers were so juicy and large! Appetizers included Poutine (a french classic) and massive onion wings. The burgers are so unique and so filling, I had to take some back for later that evening. The desserts and milkshakes were to die for!! We were able to talk with folks that lived in the area for some time to learn more about the area.
- Dinner at MERIT Brewing (@meritbrewing) located at 107 James Street North in Hamilton. After our busy day of hiking, museums, and rock garden, we went to have a bite to eat and try MERIT Brewing. It is a brewery, kitchen and bottle shop offering a unique selection of pub food, beers, etrc. There are various types of unique beers like IPAs, including a low alcohol version, as well no non-alcohol choices like kombucha. The food selection was quite unique with pickled dishes, various sausages, and even a vegan sausage selection.
- The atmosphere is nice and open in a large industrial building cladded in timber. In the back you can see the area where the beer is brewed. It was so enjoyable to relax after a rigorous, yet fun, day.
- Coffee at The Original Tim Hortons (@timhortons) With over 4,900 locations, Tim Hortons was founded in Hamilton in 1964 at the corner of Ottawa Street North and Dunsmure Road. It is named after its hockey player Tim Horton of the Toronto Mapleleafs. I still remember as an American the first one I encountered on my way to Montreal years ago when they still used glass mugs, etc. While that was some time ago, the donuts and coffee are still great. It is a great pilgrimage for coffee lovers like me and don’t forget to try the Timbits, their version of donut holes. #timhortons.
Day 3 Exploring Things To Do Around Burlington, Ontario
Before we left to go back to Toronto we had a jam-packed day exploring native longhouse village, Crawford Lake, a local business, and then went to Burlington for lunch and a stroll along the beautiful waterfront. Burlington is only a short distance from Hamilton, Ontario and known to be a lux escape from Toronto.
Long House Village and Crawford Lake Conservation Area in Milton Ontario.
Crawford Lake Conservation Area is a park of Conservation Halton Parks (@conservationhalton). This is a more rural area, but it was a great way to explore more about the native indigenous people that lived here at one time, as well as take a hike down to the lake that has a great boardwalk to walk with wood sculptures along the way. You can also take various hiking trails. In the winter they have other activities like snow-shoeing. There is an entrance fee and you must make reservations that include the Long House Village.
The Longhouse Village was so unique and includes 3 reconstructed longhouses from the 15th century. There is also the Three Sisters Garden to give you an idea of how they provided food for the people that lived there. The longhouses were very high with different levels to store things, it was quite impressive.
Backed by Bees (@backedbybees): in North Burlington. Backed by Bees is a honey farm offering “honey from flower, to hive, to bottle” This is a newer growing business so check the hours (currently open Wednesday thru Sunday), but it’s well-worth the drive in the countryside and is a great source of natural honey, mead, and clocal food. There are also hive rentals, wholesale supplies, etc. but check their website for offerings (backedbybees.com).
Burlington, Ontario (@dtburlingtonon and @tourismburlington)
Burlington is a cute city outside of Hamilton with a great waterfront, pier, and historic downtown and Village Square. We were fortunate since before we left Canada, the weather warmed up. We were able to have coffee / warm drinks, stroll the historic town center, have lunch on the crystal blue waterfront of Lake Ontario and see one of its beautiful luxury hotels, The Pearle Hotel & Spa, a Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel. It was a great way to top off our visit to this region before heading back.
Restaurant/Coffee Shops in Burlington:
- Bread Bar – (breadbar.ca) When we first arrived, we first got a latte at the Bread Bar, a cafe in The Pearle Hotel & Spa. This was a great start to our walk to the old town center and Village Square after visiting the hotel.
- Lola Choco Bar and Sweet House – (@lolachocobar) This coffee and sweet shop had so many great choices and I loved the hot melted chocolate drink that was delicious. There also were so many great alternatives in this cute pink shop! Such a cheery place.
- The Port House Social Bar & Kitchen – (@theporthouse_burlington) Our last stop before heading back to Hamilton was our lunch at The Port House. This is also a very nice waterfront premium casual restaurant with all types of creative food selections; I found the salmon dish so tasty. It was a stylish place with even a DJ booth likely for night time dining. This was our last stop before finishing our walk on the boardwalk then heading back to Hamilton. What a great day!
Concluding My Visit To The Heart Of Ontario, Canada
What a fantastic few days in Hamilton, Burlington, and neighboring areas! Finally it was time to head back to Toronto and I was so fortunate to experience this unique area of Canada that is an easy day trip or side trip from Toronto, Niagara Falls or even a rather short drive up from Buffalo, New York. It was so impressive and I can’t wait to return one day to experience a longer stay. Notably, while I flew into Toronto Pearson, Swoop Airlines (@flyswoop) also flew into Hamilton (John C. Hamilton International Airport), as well as Toronto Pearson International Airport back to Orlando (Orlando Sanford International Airport). Both Hamilton and the Orlando Sanford airports are much smaller airports and a great option to experience such a great region of Canada.
Did you know that Hamilton is also the first place in Canada to have the phone exchange connected to the British Empire in 1878. This led to Hamilton having the first public telephone in Canada in 1880. What a way to stay connected!
Explore Hamilton, Ontario and Entire Trip Below
Resources For Traveling Hamilton Ontario and Burlington:
@tourismhamilton is the tourism information center for Hamilton and a great resource.
@tourismburlington is the official Burlington Ontario visitor center.
@heartofontario is the instagram for the regional tourism group that represents the cities of Hamilton, Halton, Brant collection of communities in Southern Ontario. Their website has information on the area’s outdoor adventures or cultural offerings.