A short 15-minute drive, or a 20-minute bus ride, from iconic Niagara Falls is the small hamlet of Queenston, Ontario, part of the Niagara on the Lake Township. It includes beautiful natural trails and interesting historical sites in a quiet and less-touristy atmosphere.
The area was first settled by Indigenous people over 11,000 years ago. Originally hunters and gatherers, eventually settlements became more permanent as crop cultivation became common. These are the traditional lands first of the Neutral Nation and later the Iroquois, the Seneca, and the Mississauga Nations.
The first European residents were fur traders and mainly British colonial settlers. Later, Loyalists from the USA settled here. A new portage around Niagara Falls in the late 1700s attracted businesses around the new wharves and storehouses. By the early 1800s, the village had a population of about 300 and was named Queenstown and was home to some of the most significant names in Canadian pre-Confederation history including Rebel Leader and publisher, William Lyon MacKenzie, and pioneer heroine, Laura Secord.
A lot of action during the War of 1812 happened in Queenstown (later renamed as Queenston). Americans invaded the colony of Upper Canada, crossing the river and then climbing the escarpment cliffs to confront to British troops on the plateau.
For visitors to Queenston, the first place to stop is Queenston Heights Park, a large green space on top of the Niagara escarpment. Not only are there many picturesque hiking trails, picnic areas, tennis courts, and a kid's splash park, but it is also the home of two important monuments, a First Nations memorial, and is also the southern terminus of Canada's oldest and longest footpath, the Bruce Trail.
I am always happy to wander and Queenston Heights Park is a great place to do that. The main green area of the park is dominated by the gigantic Brock Monument which marks the location of the battle in the War of 1812.
The monument was built in 1853 and features a 5m (16ft) statue of Sir Isaac Brock, a British commander killed in the Battle of Queenston during the War. Fans of colonial history consider him to be a founding hero of Upper Canada, one of the British colonies which eventually became part of the country of Canada.
The Landscape of Nations: Six Nations and Native Allies Commemorative Memorial is the best recognition of Indigenous contributions to Canadian society that I have ever seen. This memorial is dedicated to the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations) Confederacy and other Indigenous Allies of the War of 1812. Each nation in the Confederacy is represented. The Abenakis, Delaware, and northern nations are also included as Allies.
The second monument is the Laura Secord Homestead. Laura Second is kinda the Canadian Paul Revere ( and the name of a much beloved chocolate and ice cream shop). There is a trail leading from the top of the plateau down to the area where Laura Secord and her husband lived.
When the Americans arrived, they took over Laura’s home. She overheard the Americans talking about their plans. She walked about 30km, in winter, to inform the British commander.
Laura's simple home was refurbished and renovated in the 1970s and welcomes visitors. The gift shop includes a great assortment of Laura Secord brand treats and chocolates.
The toll of the war was hard on the area and when the Welland Canal opened in the mid-1800s, Queenston was no longer the most efficient trade route and lost its importance to the region.
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