St. Catharines is a city of 133,000 people (2016) in the Niagara Region. It has the Welland Canal, a dry-dock for ships, and automotive plants. Two World Rowing Championships have been held here: first in 1970, and the most recent being in 1999. The smaller city of Thorold is on the south edge of St. Catharines.
It is a shame that St. Catharines is overlooked by most tourists visiting Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake as it has a lot to offer. St. Catharines offers better value and quality for food and accommodation than the nearby tourist destinations which are only about 10-20 minutes away.
Manufacturing is the city's dominant industry, as noted by the motto, "Industry and Liberality". General Motors of Canada, the Canadian subsidiary of General Motors, used to be the city's largest employer, a distinction now held by the District School Board of Niagara. St. Catharines lies on one of the main telecommunications backbones between Canada and the United States, and as a result a number of call centres operate in the city.
The city was settled by Loyalists in the 1780s. The Crown granted land in compensation for services and for losses in the United States. Secondary to water routes, Native trails provided transportation networks, resulting in the present-day radial road pattern from the City centre. The surrounding land was surveyed and townships created between 1787 and 1789.
Loyalists troops from New York State and settled the area in 1784, the Crown distributed free Government supplies for 2 years to the resettled Loyalists. Merchant Robert Hamilton of Queenston then took over the distribution, and became wealthy by expropriating lands from subsistence Loyalist settlers who were incapable of settling their debts.
The first Welland Canal was constructed from 1824 to 1833 behind what is now known as St. Paul Street, using Twelve Mile and Dick's Creek. The canal established St. Catharines as the hub of commerce and industry for the Niagara Peninsula.
Incorporated as a village in 1845, St. Catharines had a population of about 3500 in 1846. The primary industry was flour milling. Other industry included ship repairs, four grist mills, a brewery, three distilleries, a tannery, a foundry, a machine and pump factory.
William Hamilton Merritt, a Loyalists from New York State, played a role in making St. Catharines a centre of abolitionist activity. In 1855, the British Methodist Episcopal Church, Salem Chapel was established at the corner of Geneva and North streets, on land granted to the congregation by Merritt in the early 1840s. The area became known to refugee slaves from the United States as a place of "refuge and rest"; it was a destination, one of the final stops in Canada on the Underground Railroad for refugee African-American slaves. During this time, abolitionist Harriet Tubman lived in St. Catharines. By the mid-1850s, the town's population was about 6,000, 800 of whom were of African descent. St. Catharines remains an important place in Black Canadian history.
St. Catharines' has a unique micro-climate because of the moderating influence of Lake Ontario/Lake Erie and the sheltering effect of the Niagara Escarpment to the south; these allow wineries to flourish. As a result, the city records numerous frost-free days and frequent thaws in the winter, although it sometimes receives heavy lake-effect snow during certain wind conditions, and micro-cooling lakeside on some spring afternoons. The summer season is predominantly warm, and sometimes hot, with an average high temperature of 27 °C (81 °F) in July. Summer thunderstorms are commonplace but generally less prevalent and less severe than further west in southern Ontario due to the diminishing effect of the surrounding lakes.
The Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) highway (which runs from Toronto to the Fort Erie-Buffalo border crossing) runs right through the city.
- 1 St. Catharines Bus Terminal, 62-66 Carlisle St. Greyhound and Megabus (Coach Canada) operate bus services to Toronto and Niagara Falls. Niagara Region Transit operates a shuttle service from Niagara Falls (route 40). The terminal also serves local operator St. Catharines Transit.
- 2 Fairview Mall bus stop (Fairview Mall GO), YMCA Dr (just before YMCA Drive bends north to west). From this stop, GO Transit route 12 services east to Niagara Falls, and west to the Burlington GO Station connecting with GO Transit trains to Toronto. There are nearby connections to St. Catherines Transit buses.
St. Catharines is served by the Maple Leaf train, operated jointly by Amtrak and VIA Rail. The train runs daily between Toronto and New York City via Oakville, Niagara Falls, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, and various smaller cities. Also, GO Transit provides an limited commuter service with the once-daily train between Toronto and Niagara Falls calling here. On weekends year-round, GO Transit offers the Niagara Weekend GO Train Service which stops in St. Catharines. Both the Maple Leaf and commuter trains can accommodate bikes.
- 3 St. Catharines railway station, 5 Great Western Street. Located southeast of the city centre, just off St Paul West St. Free parkering is available as well as limited public transport nearby.
St. Catharines Transit Commission buses serve most of the city. Maps and schedules can be viewed online. As of November 2019, the cash fare is $3 per ride including a transfer. A weekend one-day family pass can be purchased from the driver on the bus for $8/day. You can view maps, schedules, and purchase passes at the St. Catharines Bus Terminal. Tickets for multiple rides can also be purchased at the Pen Centre shopping mall.
Central Taxi provides 24-hour service in the Niagara Region.
- Welland Canal. The Welland Canal runs along the east side of the city. From late March to Christmas, ships travel between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario bypassing Niagara Falls using the series of locks that constitute the canal. Visitors can see the ships at several locations. The best locations are the Welland Canals Centre at Lock 3, and the Lock 7 Viewing Complex in Thorold. Sections of the canal are drained between New Year's and mid-March for maintenance.
- 1 St. Catharines Museum & Welland Canals Centre, 1932 Welland Canals Pkwy (at Lock 3), ☏ , toll-free: . Daily 9AM to 5PM. The Welland Canals Centre houses a tourist information centre, gift shop, the St. Catharines Museum and the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame. The raised observation deck (elevator available) allows visitors to see the process as ships are raised or lowered in Lock 3. Ships pass through the locks from late March to the end of December. There is a picnic area and children's playground just north of the building. Canals Centre is free. Museum is by donation (suggested donation is $4 per person).
- 2 Lock 7 Viewing Centre, 50 Chapel Street South, Thorold, ☏ , toll-free: . This is a good location to watch ships being raised or lowered in Lock 7. A short walk leads to the head of Lock 7 for a very close look.
- Kissing Rock, 50 Chapel Street South, Thorold (at the Lock 7 Viewing Centre). Legend has it that couples who kiss here enjoy luck and happiness.
- 3 Montebello Park, 64 Ontario St (bordered by Ontario, Lake, Queen & Midland streets). This heritage park was started in 1887. It has a rose garden with over 1,300 bushes in 25 varieties. The park also has an ornamental fountain, a band shell and pavillion.
- 4 Art Alley, Art Alley (between James St and Garden Park). A graffiti alley apparently encouraged by the City.
- 5 Old Lincoln County Court House, 105 King St (at James St). Constructed 1848-1849, the building was modelled after the town hall in Perugia, Italy. It features a quaint tower with a three-face clock under an octagonal cupola.
- 6 Salem Chapel British Methodist Episcopal Church, 92 Geneva St (at North St), ☏ . Call ahead for tours. Built in 1855, BME Church was a terminus for the Underground Railroad. Harriet Tubman was a church member and one of the conductors leading escaped slaves to this church.
- 7 Morningstar Mill, 2714 Decew Rd. Late May to mid October, Tu Th 9AM-1PM, Sa Su 10AM-3PM. Located near Lake Gibson, this 19th-century gristmill operated from 1883 to 1933 and is still in working order. The site also has a picnic area.
- 8 Shorthills Provincial Park, Pelham Rd, Thorold. Fantastic scenery can be enjoyed in Shorthills Provincial Park] which is within minutes of the downtown core. The main entrance is surrounded by vineyards and forests while the trails themselves wind up and down the escarpment. All trails are suitable for hiking. There are some fantastic mountain biking trails, and trails for horseback riding. In the winter, snowshoeing and cross country skiing are also popular activities. There is no shortage of wildlife, a couple of waterfalls, rivers, valleys, and cliffs. There is great scenery on every trail all waiting to be explored. Dogs are welcome.
The Merritt Trail [dead link] follows a narrow river that was once part of the First and Second Welland Canals. The 11-kilometre trail runs from Martindale Road south to Bradley Street passing near downtown St. Catherines. There are a few gaps in the trail, and a map is advised. Some early industrial ruins are along the trail.
- 9 Canal Valley, Merritt Trail (along Oakdale Ave south of Westchester Cres). Remnants of the First and Second Canals including lock walls can still be seen.
- 10 Knifeworks Historical Site, 1 Carson Ct (opposite Carson Ct & Oakdale Ave on Merritt Trail). The site has ruins of an 1870 knife factory that was closed about 1921. The original stone foundations remain.
- 11 Lock structure, Disher St W (along Merritt Trail).
- 12 Lock structure (Moffatt St & Merritt Trail). Nice view from a narrow pedestrian bridge over the lock.
- 13 Mountain Locks Park, 107 Merrit St (across the river from the Merrit Trail). M-F 8:30AM–4:30PM. A staircase of stone locks remain from the second Welland Canal. The ruins of several industrial buildings are nearby.
Port Dalhousie (pronounced Da-loo-zee) is at the mouth of Twelve Mile Creek on Lake Ontario which was once the entrance to older versions of the Welland Canal. Port Dalhousie has a small town centre, basically one square block, but it hosts more than 10 bars, almost all of which have patio areas. Adjacent to the town centre is Lakeside Park, made famous by the Rush song of the same name, and is a very popular place for locals and tourists in the summer time; it features an antique wooden carousel. Not far away is the Henley Rowing course.
- 14 Lakeside Park, 1 Lakeport Rd. Features a beach, picnic areas and a carousel.
- Lakeside Park Carousel. One popular attraction of Lakeside Park is its old-fashioned, wooden carousel, carved between 1898 and 1905; it still costs only 5 cents a ride.
- 15 Rear Range Lighthouse, 57-61 Lighthouse Rd (across the harbour from Lakeside Park). The lighthouse is a wooden, octagonal tower with a 12-sided lantern at the top. It was built in 1898 to serve the now-defunct third Welland Canal which passed through Port Dalhousie. Today, the lantern is not used.
- 1 FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, 250 St. Paul St, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ email@example.com.
- 2 In the Corner Billiards & Lounge, 448 Welland Ave. A pool hall with 12 billiards tables, 2 snooker, food, beer and fun. All ages welcome.
- 3 Meridian Centre, 1 IceDogs Way, ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Home of the Niagara IceDogs (hockey) and the Niagara River Lions (basketball).
- 4 White Meadow Farms, 2519 Effingham St, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Store: daily 9AM-5PM. Although a working farm with cattle and other crops, the big attraction is the Sugarbush. The Sugarbush Adventure runs weekends in February and March.
- Royal Canadian Henley Regatta. One of the world's best rowing courses is home to the annual Canadian Henley Regatta, named after the original regatta in Henley-on-Thames. The event is held in early August.
- 1 Brock University, 1812 Sir Isaac Brock Way,. Named after Sir Issac Brock who was responsible for defending Upper Canada against the United States during the War of 1812, Brock University offers undergraduate and graduate programs, with the well-known sports management program being the only university offered in Canada.
- 1 Downtown St. Catharines. A wide variety of stores and services are available in the downtown area, located mainly along St. Paul Street between Ontario and Geneva streets.
- 2 Fairview Mall, 285 Geneva St. M-F 10AM-9PM, Sa 9:30AM-5:30PM, Su noon-5PM. Major stores include Chapters, IKEA, Mark's Work Wearhouse, Sport Chek, Winners, and Zehrs. Nearby large stores include Costco, Home Depot, and Staples. There is a food court in the mall. Harvey's and Swiss Chalet restaurants are in the parking lot.
- 3 Outlet Collection at Niagara, 330 Taylor Rd, Niagara-on-the-Lake (west of the QEW on Glendale Rd), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Although closer to St. Catharines, this open-air outlet mall is part of Niagara-on-the-Lake. The first phase opened May 15, 2014. The main anchor is Bass Pro Shops.
- 4 Pen Centre, 221 Glendale Ave (Hwy. 406 & Glendale Ave.), ☏ , toll-free: . M–F 10AM–9PM, Sa 9AM–6PM, Su 11AM–6PM. A shopping mall. You can get almost anything. Large stores include Dollarama, H&M, Homesense, Hudson's Bay, Old Navy, SportChek, Winners, Walmart, and Zehrs. Services include Passport Canada. There is a food court inside the mall. A&W, Boston Pizza, and Kelsey's restaurants are in the parking lot.
- 5 St. Catharines Farmers' Market, 91 King St (corner of King and James streets). Tu,Th,Sa 6AM-2PM year round.
Typical Canadian chain restaurants can be found around town. McDonald's, and Tim Hortons are probably the most common. St Pauls Street near the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre has an ever-changing variety of restaurants.
- 1 Amakara Japan, 19 Geneva St, ☏ . M-Sa 11:15AM to 10PM, closed Sunday except for major holidays. This is a Japanese restaurant. The owner is Japanese, so you can enjoy real Japanese food: sushi, teriyaki beef/chicken, tempura and so on.
- 2 Cat's Caboose, 224 Glenridge Ave, ☏ . M-Th 11:30AM-midnight, F-Sa 11:30AM-2AM, Su 11AM-11PM. Well-liked St Catharines restaurant. Entertainment usually on Friday & Saturday nights.
- 3 Chang Noi, 225 Queenston St, ☏ . Authentic Thai food, slow service and a language barrier that results in a high probability that you will not get what you ordered. Most often they will correct it if you are willing to put up with a longer wait. But it is worth it and if you aren't picky any meal they put in front of you will be very delicious. They have a good vegetarian and vegan selection and the prices are reasonable. They also have the coldest beer in town served to you in an ice-frosted mug. Despite the slow service and frequent mix-ups, regulars keep coming back to this restaurant. $10-15.
- 4 Duru, 220 Welland Ave, ☏ . M W-Sa 11:30AM-10PM, Su noon-10PM. Korean restaurant. “Cook-it-yourself” on their electronic grill table. Features five different types of barbecues.
- 5 Fabio's Pizza, 530 Scott St, ☏ .
- 6 The Feathery Pub, 420 Vansickle Rd, ☏ . British style pub.
- 7 The Merchant Ale House, 98 St. Paul St. The food is almost as good as their beers. It is made from scratch and fantastic value. Great budget pub food. The chicken wings are the best in the area and they have some very hot and even some usual sauces you can try. Try the shoestring fries as well but just about anything on the menu is as good as it sounds. For details on beers see the drink section below. $5-10.
- 8 Papa Vince Pizza, 2A Sullivan Ave, Thorold (corner of Front and Sullivan), ☏ . 4PM to 11PM. Papa Vince has great pizza and wings, but where it really stands out is with their steak sub. Everyone should try a fatty!
- 9 Romby's Tavern & Smokehouse, 488 Lake St, ☏ . Restaurant & tavern.
- 10 Sahla Thai, 270 St. Paul St (downtown), ☏ . M-F 11AM–10PM, Sa 5PM–10PM, Su 5PM–9PM. Thai restaurant.
- 11 U Need A Pita, 116 St. Paul St (downtown), ☏ . This place has much better value, flavour, and selection than the other pita places downtown. They also have burgers, fresh cut fries, smoothies, frozen yogurt, sliders and other goodies prepared fresh. A popular take-out lunch destination as well. Also at 343 Glendale Ave and 100 Martindale Rd (inside Nonna's Kitchen) in St Catharines, and 30 Rice Rd in Welland. Each location has different hours. $3-5.
There are two primary bar areas in the city: Port Dalhousie and downtown. Generally, Port Dalhousie is the active bar scene during the warm summer months, and downtown is the prime location for nightlife in the winter. The downtown area also has its fill of bars, likely more than twenty. Everything from small pubs to large dance clubs fill the area, although almost every bar has a laid-back feel (with matching laid-back clothing requirements.) There has been a bit of an upscale trend lately, with the addition of a few martini bars. It's a bigger area to cover than up in Port, but even still it's quite easy to walk from a bar at one end of downtown to another at the opposite end.
- 1 The Merchant Ale House, 98 St. Paul St, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Daily 11AM to 2AM (kitchen closes at 11PM). Possibly the best hang out pub in the city. Most of the beer is brewed on premises and is home to their famous Drunken Monkey Oatmeal Stout. Some other honorable mentions go to the blueberry wheat, strawberry blonde, IPA, Hockey Ale, and their seasonal pumpkin ale and holiday skullcrusher. There is some interesting live music most Saturdays. The type of music never seems to be the same. This is a pub for all ages and is thankfully not frequented by immature college crowds. $9-15.
There are world class vineyards to the west of urban St. Catharines. Tours can be arranged and there is much available for tasting at every stop. As one of the principal Wine Regions of Ontario, its wineries produce some fantastic white wines, some excellent reds, and, of course, the ice wines for which the region is internationally known.
- 2 Henry of Pelham Estate Winery, 1469 Pelham Rd, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 11AM–5PM. The Pelham family has been growing grapes here for six generations.
- 3 Hernder Estate Wines, 1607 Eighth Avenue Louth, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Daily 10AM-5PM. $1 per sample, $2.50 for icewine.
- 4 Creekside Estate Winery, 2170 Fourth Avenue, Jordan Station, ☏ . Daily 11AM-5PM. Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah are the signature wines. Its Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon and Syrah have their fans too. On-site restaurant.
- 5 Di Profio Estate Wines, 4055 Nineteenth Street, Jordan, ☏ . M-Th 11AM-4PM, F-Su 11AM-8PM. Small batch wines, mostly from grapes hand-picked in their own vineyards. On-site restaurant and B&B accommodation.
- 6 Harbour Estates Winery, 4362 Jordan Road, Jordan Station, ☏ . Daily noon-5PM. A focus on Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. The property is on the Jordan Harbour, and there is a walking trail along the Harbour. On-site restaurant.
- 7 Honsberger Estate, 4060 Jordan Road, Jordan. Patio: W-Su 11:30AM-8PM, bottle shop W Th 11AM-4PM, F-Su 11AM-6PM. Focused on Cabernet Franc and Riesling. On-site restaurant.
- 8 Ridgepoint Wines, 3900 Cherry Avenue, Vineland, ☏ . Daily 11AM-5PM. A focus on red wines made according to Italian traditions. On-site restaurant.
- 9 Vineland Estates Winery, 3620 Moyer Road, Vineland, toll-free: . Daily 11AM-4PM. On-site restaurant.
- 1 Capri Inn, 391 Ontario St, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Complimentary breakfast of hot drinks, juice, muffins and other pastries, free Hi Speed Wireless Internet, 100% non- smoking rooms, in-room safe and fridge. From $100.
- 2 Stone Mill Inn, 271 Merritt St, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Complimentary Wi-Fi, cable television, mini fridge, coffee maker. From $116.
- 3 Cedar Suite Bed & Breakfast, 11 Dorothy St, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. From $120.
- 4 Brock University Residence, 1812 Sir Isaac Brock Way, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Campus residence. Available to travellers from May to August.
- 5 Holiday Inn & Suites St. Catharines Conference Centre, 327 Ontario St, ☏ . About 2.5 km (1.6 mi) from Downtown St. Catherines. From $105.
- 6 Best Western St Catharines Hotel & Conference Centre, 2 N Service Rd (near Lake St & QEW), ☏ . From $164.
- 7 Hampton Inn by Hilton St. Catharines Niagara, 89 Meadowvale Dr (near Lake St & QEW), ☏ . From $91.
Interesting places nearby include:
- Niagara Falls (Ontario) - for the Falls, of course
- Niagara-on-the-Lake - quaint, historic town with great little shops, restaurants, and (in the summer) the Shaw theatre festival
|Routes through St. Catharines|
|Toronto ← Grimsby ←||W E||→ Niagara Falls (Ontario) → → Niagara Falls (New York)|
|Hamilton ← Lincoln ←||W E||→ Niagara-on-the-Lake → Niagara Falls|
|Hamilton ← Lincoln ←||W E||→ Niagara-on-the-Lake → END|
|Toronto ← Hamilton ←||N S||→ Niagara Falls → END|