A couple of times a week, I try to get out on my mountain bike along the top of the Niagara Escarpment.
I can’t get enough of the scenario presented in front of me. The sunshine is slicing through the trees with a heavy dark orange. These beams of light, representing the remaining 20 minutes of sun for the day, are polka-dotting and painting the forest. It is a sight to behold, and it happens every evening on the Niagara Escarpment from 7:30 to 9 p.m.
Cost of admission? Free.
I have guided some hikes during those hours, and I marvel at how people seem to romanticize sunsets. You can see it in their faces and body language. I feel it too. We’re relaxed, focused on something other than the day we’ve just had, and contemplative during sunset time. I am sure humans have been drawn to the inherent beauty of sunsets since our existence.
This inspired me to recommend some locations for romantic evenings in Niagara-on-the-Lake, for locals or visitors. These are mere suggestions. I am a biologist, not a dating coach or speaking from experience.
Let’s start with the Niagara Escarpment, namely, the entrance of the Bruce Trail into the forest at Queenston Heights. If you want to share a “wow” experience, this is where you want to go for an evening stroll after 8 p.m. this summer. It’s a well-marked and worn hiking path that affords access into stunning old growth forests. When the sun gets low in the west and begins beaming oranges and reds at the Niagara Escarpment, the light show becomes too good to be true. The surreal light patterns and massive trees will welcome you to pause and take in the scenery. You can guarantee this experience, providing the sun isn’t obscured by clouds during its final descent to the horizon.
At any point in the day, this next spot is truly tranquil. However, we’re going to stick to the sunset theme for romance sake, as it is also the best time of day to visit this piece of shoreline.
So, you’ve had your scrumptious meal at the Sandtrap or Corks, and now it’s time to walk off the deliciousness of it all. At the west end of Queen Street, there is a row of benches facing outward over Lake Ontario. Some people come to relax here in the morning, but in the evening, you’ve got all the classic ingredients. There’s a beautiful sunset over the water, shoreline birds are flying by, and waves are lapping at the waterfront. It’s an audio-visual masterpiece put on by nature for you to enjoy, especially once traffic dies down in the evening. Every time I drive by on summer nights, I see couples enjoying the spot.
This reminds me of a Lake Ontario romance moment gone wrong, and it is a story of a friend of a friend. Two party-goers walked down to the shore through the peach tree orchard. As they stumbled out onto the beach, they were rewarded with a lowering sun, the first stars, and an expanse of placid water. He sees the CN Tower and other skyscrapers across the lake, and tells her, “I love seeing Buffalo at night.” She wasn’t impressed in that moment.
Another peaceful spot for some life chats and, “hey, look at how beautiful my hometown is,” would be the Queenston docks. As the sun lowers, it lights up the American side of the gorge and riverbanks while the Canadians sit in a cool, shaded alcove. The contrast is really something to take in. The only other folks down there are usually simply enjoying the view, or hoping for a lucky strike on the fishing lure. There are people who sit in lawn chairs at the magic sunset hour to absorb the experience.
Thanks to the inevitable fact that the sun sets in the west every time, you can think about what places on the escarpment or on the lakeshore you can go out for a memorable walk. Humans have always been captivated by the biological and religious implication of the sun. It’s no wonder you’ve got to go to where the sun is for the perfect evening out in NOTL.