I didn’t know a lot about Hamilton until a road trip in May. Growing up, Hamilton was a destination for Christmas Eve dinner at my aunt’s and it was one of the many cities in Southern Ontario that we would play hockey in.
It was time to explore Hamilton and the best way to do that was to hop in and go on a road trip with others, thanks to a pre-TBEX trip. We met the Tourism Hamilton staff, Andy and Dana, and set off on the highway with Tim Horton donuts from their first location on Ottawa Street.
Hamilton is between Toronto and Niagara Falls, from Toronto it takes about an hour or a bit longer if you hit traffic. You also have the option of taking the GO train. If you grew up in Southern Ontario and haven’t been back for a while, Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, Glanbrook, Stoney Creek and Hamilton amalgamated in 2001 to become a mega city, Hamilton. The 10th largest city in Canada as of 2011. Hamilton has changed for the better over the years and the most noticeable differences is the down-core with entertainment and food options that weren’t widely available before.
On our trip, we only got to see a small fraction of what is available to do, you could easily spend more time exploring the area. Our first stop was Webster Fall’s where we had some time to walk around and view the falls. You could easily spend more time there, bring a picnic and explore more of the trails. However, even with our quick visit it was a peaceful site with a generous flow of water. I wish we had more time to explore the area as I love walking around and being close to water.
Our next stop was to Weir’s Lane Lavender & Apiary, which was a lovely surprise. The farm is owned by Kevin Beagle who left the corporate world to pursue his passion, lavender. The smell of lavender on my hands as we squeezed the plants, the sweetness of lavender honey on my tongue and fresh baked lavender goods are some of my fondness memories. His passion for lavender shows and you can tell he truly loves what he does. Kevin sells multiple homemade and local products in his store, everything from dried lavender, plants, lotions and more. If you are in the area, see if Farm Crawl Hamilton is going on, which allows you to explore different farms, music and food. It’s a stop I would visit again to stock up on products and enjoy the farm.
By the time noon came around, we were starving. We ended up heading to downtown Dundas to Detour Cafe. It was difficult choosing from all the options which led to the trick of running my finger down the menu with my eyes closed and stopping randomly. It meant that I ordered a deluxe B.L.T. with local raised bacon, delicious along with house made soda. We sampled some quinoa salad and got to taste “Ontario’s Best Butter Tart” according to CBC Radio’s Fresh Air program. It was delicious but I highly recommend splitting it or taking half of it home. The butter tart is a generous serving. The Detour Cafe roasts their own coffee and purchase many of their ingredients locally. I enjoy restaurants that support other small businesses in their area and it reflects in the taste of the food, local is the way to go whenever possible.
After lunch, we couldn’t resist stopping in Beanermunky Chocolate for dessert where I purchased some yummy treats including some lavender chocolate (which uses Weir’s Lavender). We got to sample their other chocolate including chili chocolate. It’s a great place to pick up some treats before continuing on with your road trip and the owner couldn’t have been sweeter.
After being fully stuffed, we headed to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum where we flew in a DC-3 Dakota! It was an incredible experience that I wrote about here. A great museum to check out, whether you are young or old. I highly recommend that you spend the extra money and experience flying in a warplane. They have both affordable and expensive options.
I think we were all a bit exhausted after the flight and rested on our drive to Ridge Road Winery. Owner, Jayne Douglas talked about her family and her history of owning the winery and their success and learning experiences. After enjoying many samples, I picked up a sparkling wine for a family gathering we were having. The wine was a hit, but this meant I only got to enjoy half a glass before it was gone. An excuse to return!
For dinner, we headed to the Ancaster Mill. The Ancaster Mill has lovely surroundings and we were all drawn to the waterfall and waterfall-fed creek before heading into dinner. The restaurant focuses on earth to table and works with local farmers and suppliers (as much as they can) to give guests a memorable meal and support their local community. I got to try a local quail egg, my first one, which was yummy. I was really happy with the dinner and the conversations we had as we got to get to know each other better and learn more about this region. It was one of the best meals on my trip back to Ontario and would love to go back and sample more of their creations. After visiting, I can see why Ancaster Mill is a popular place for weddings.
There is an abundance of things to do in Hamilton and I was only able to scratch the surface. I recommend spending at least a couple of days visiting the places that interest you. For more ideas, check out the Tourism Hamilton website or app. The region of Hamilton, Halton and Brant, referred to as the Heart of Ontario, also has more places to discover. I want to come back and do the Bruce Trail Waterfall walk along with other adventures. The Hamilton area has changed for the better in the past decade and it would be a shame to miss their gems. I’ll be back on my next trip back to Ontario.