Perched along the Niagara Escarpment, Hamilton is known as the waterfall capital of Southern Ontario, with literally dozens to choose from. Hamilton has traditionally gotten a bad rap from Torontoites, who can’t see beyond the steel plants that greet you as you drive across the QEW bridge past the industrial area. But perhaps thanks to covid, more and more people have been discovering the true beauty of Hamilton’s long list of conservation areas, hiking trails, beaches and waterfalls.
A dear old friend of mine is born and bred in “The Hammer”, but as is often the case, when you live somewhere you don’t go out and explore it until a visitor comes. I was happy to be that visitor and give her a good excuse to go out and chase some of Hamilton’s most famous waterfalls, some of which she hadn’t been to since she was a kid.
It was hard to decide which ones to hit up – there are so many! – but we eventually decided on two of the more famous ones – Albion Falls and the Devil’s Punch Bowl.
We began by parking at the Red Hill Trail south lot and walking along the edge of the escarpment to Albion Falls, a very impressive 20 metre high cascading waterfall with some rock pools at the base. As one of Hamilton’s most popular falls, there are parking lots closer to the falls’ lookout point, but by starting on the Red Hill Trail you get to see the falls from all sides. They have built some very nice observation decks and viewing platforms at the falls.
From Albion Falls it was a quick drive over to our second spot, the Devil’s Punch Bowl. This is by far the most famous waterfall in Hamilton and one that is instantly recognizable, thanks to its distinctive layers of differently coloured rock, with shades of grey, pink, red and green.
Sadly there was no water running that day, which was a bit disappointing. According to a friendly guy passing by who volunteered entirely too much information, the rivers upstream had been diverted and dammed, so you often don’t see any water at this waterfall anymore. The picture doesn’t really show how high up we were and next time I’d like to do the hike which takes you into the punch bowl itself. But that’s an adventure for another day.
The Devil’s Punch Bowl Conservation Area has a small paid parking lot which leads you to an incredible lookout point with panoramic views of all of Hamilton, Burlington, Mississauga and Toronto. That day was just a perfect blue sky and the visibility was incredible. You could see the twisty curves of the “Marilyn Monroe” towers in Mississauga and the spindle of the CN Tower, almost 80km away. From the car park you should walk the short path to the lookout first, and then finish at the Punch Bowl.
From the Punch Bowl we took a little walk over to the charming Punch Bowl Market and Bakery. Beware – everything in there smells like it was baked in heaven and you’ll want to buy EVERYTHING and immediately shove it into your face. I managed to control myself and spare my wallet but did enjoy a pecan butter tart. Don’t miss out on this little market when you visit the Punch Bowl.
The fun didn’t stop there – next on our list was Hamilton’s Fifty Point Conservation Area for a lovely lunch at the Marina and an afternoon chilling on the beach. The marina has a gorgeous waterfront restaurant called Limani with a huge patio overlooking the boats. The mix of Greek and Italian food at Limani was delicious and the plates were absolutely humungous; neither of us could finish the meal. I have to admit, seeing people cruising by and out into the lake made me sort of want to buy a boat!
After cooling down at Limani, we drove through the conservation area to Fifty Point Beach. There’s plenty of room to park, but according to my friend and tour guide Lisa, thanks to covid and people fleeing the restrictions of the city, on weekends it gets crowded. We were there in the middle of the week so we had no problem choosing a spot in the sand. It was a great beach and I regretted not bringing a bathing suit to take a dip in Lake Ontario.
Hamilton proved to be a wonderful day trip destination with no shortage of beautiful places to see. According to Lisa – and a group of chatty people at the Devil’s Punch Bowl who sold in Toronto and bought in the Hammer – lots of people have moved into Hamilton in the past 12 months and are enjoying all that this city has to offer. I will definitely go back to visit some more waterfalls and beaches (and maybe a butter tart or two).