The reviews look mixed. What causes it to be rated less than the harbour house?
The reviews look mixed. What causes it to be rated less than the harbour house?
Both properties are members of Ontario's Finest Inns www.ontariosfinest.ca so in that regard alone they offer excellent accomodations.
I think that the difference in Reviews may be partially to two things:
1 - If you pull up GOOGLE MAPS, and plot out both Inns you'll see that Niagara-on-the-Lake "main drag" Queen Street is about 8 blocks long (Queens Parade to Mississauga). Both Inns are at either extreme away from the "core" (say the area around the Clock Tower / Prince of Wales Hotel... Queen & King)... The Charles being at one end next to the NOTL Golf Club, and the Harbour House about 4 Blocks from Queen on Melville near the Marina.
I think that perhaps the Harbour House has the edge over the Charles Inn on location because (a) it is "perceived" to be closer to the Lake, and (b) it is closer to two of NOTL's biggest attractions The Shaw Festival Main Theatre (10 Queens Parade) and Old Fort George. Just like in real estate it comes down to Location, Location, Location.
2 - Of course the other reason is just numbers... the Charles Inn has just 12 rooms while the Harbour House has 31, probably why there would be more "traffic" on their TA Pages (208 Reviews vs 54).
Although I haven't stayed at either, I do like the setting of the Charles Inn... with its lovely gardens and the Golf Course next door it truly looks like it sits in one big beautiful lush park. Harbour House is close to the Marina, but it truly is on the Niagara River whereas the Charles is right near the mouth of the Niagara and Lake Ontario.
I think either would be a good choice (it is difficult to make a bad choice in NOTL when it comes to accomodations... so many lovely properties).
PS... Do let us know which one you choose, and come back after your visit and let us know how it all turned out.
Here is a link to a recent comment about Harbour House tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g154999-i270-k2757…
You could certainly contact MarilynJoy9 by Private Message (PM) - just click on her User Name in that link, or go to MY TRIPADVISOR and compose a message to her... I'm sure she'd be happy to share her opinion.
I suddenly realized I might not have explained that well enough...
MY TRIPADVISOR link appears at the top of each TA Page when you are logged in... it will take you to your own PROFILE Page where you have the option of contacting other TA Users by sending a Private Message.
The nice thing about PMs are they are linked in with e-mail, so that even if someone is off line and away from TA for an extended amount of time, they get an e-mail letting them know that someone on TA is trying to reach them (all this while maintaining your anonimity).
Ah yes...location..I should have known but I haven't really mapped anything out yet. How long is the main drag? Specifically how many minute walk is it from one hotel to the other? We do have Shaw Tickets..to see the King charles? something like that. We don't mind a walk...unless it is raining lol!
I think what drew us to the Charles is that I like the look of the place..reminds me of a B&B but have been put out about the breakfast that I have been hearing about. I don't mind spending more for breakfast usually but we did upgrade and decide to stay in their Poppy room which looks really nice.
BTW..I tried looking for vacancy at about the top 10 rated b&b's last night and they were all booked. I jumped at the Charles room because I was afraid nothing would be left.
Thank you for your help! Could I ask you one more question? My husband and I love red wines..pinot's, cabs, Merlot...and of course Ice WIne! So do you have any recommendations for what windery's would suit us?
The whole main drag of Queen Street thru to Queens Parade is about 8 or 10 blocks... according to GOOGLE MAPS the distance from the Charles Inn to the Shaw Festival Theatre (10 Queens Parade) is 1.1 Km (or a 1 Minute Drive). The Harbour House is 0.6 Km from the Festival Theatre (4 or 5 blocks) again about a 1 minute drive.
GOOGLE MAPS also has a handy "walking" feature, it estimates the same distances by walking as 13 Minutes from the Charles, and 6 from Harbour House (so less than 20 minutes from Inn to Inn).
As for wine...
The larger "corporate" wineries in NOTL source their grapes from a variety of vineyards (growers) they also have a lot more money invested in R&D so you'll find they have success with some great reds... check out Hillebrand, Peller and Jackson-Triggs. The region is best known for Meritage (kind of like the France's Heritage which is trade-marked) Merlot, some Cab Franc and Pinot Noir.
Farther up on "the bench" (Jordan-Vineland-Beamsville) you'll find better quality reds overall. But they won't all be coming out of one Winery... because the wineries are smaller (Medium, Small or Family Run) they don't have access to BIG Corp money so they specialize in making small batches (sort of hit & miss). Some of the Wineries here though that are making a name are Henry of Pelham (Pinot Noir, Merlot and Baco Noir), Flat Rock (Pinot Noir) and EastDell (Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as some blends.... Black Cab & Red Cab).
Almost everyone makes some sort of Ice Wine... the most common is made from Vidal Grapes (very very sweet)... if you see ice wine made from other vintages (Cab Franc, Merlot, etc) check them out as they are much more complex. The worlds best Ice Wine comes from Royal DeMaria, lucky you if you can arrange a tour... the Winemaker needs to be called in advance.
And don't forget to tour Hillebrand's "Champagne Cellar" it is a real treat... they are one of the few spots making a champagne quality Sparkling Wine.
Thank you so much! How are the featherstone and strewn wineries? Also Stonechurch? I thought they did some reds..but my eyes are pretty bleary right now from all the fast paced browsing:)
Ok I came across a B & B..called Three Forty Gate. I did see the reviews..not many..do you have some inside info? It does have availability for the weekend I need.
Also is there a driving service that will allow us to pick the wineries we want to go and stay with us for however long it takes to do it? We don't want a meal schedualed with it..and most say 3-4 wineries...
What about one of the many private vacation rental properties in town instead, you can view them on the chamber of commerce website at www.niagaraonthelake.com my wife and i have stayed at one several times called By the Vines www.bythevines.com and we love it, i could not imagine staying at a hotel or B&B when the vacation rental properties have so much to offer at great rates!
I find the ratings puzzling too. To me the Harbour House is a pretty ordinary hotel. The Charles Inn has tons of character and would without hesitation be my choice between the two.
Thanks for the link for the house! I bookmarked it because we will probably bring the kids here with us another time..since it is only hubby and I we want a different ambiance:) \
Glad to hear that you like the Charles better than the Harbor! I am still torn regarding the Charles and that B&B..will look into it more thoroughly tomorrow!
Does anyone have an answer regarding the wineries I mentioned and a service that will bring us to any of the wineries we choose without a stop for food?
The wineries you have mentioned are all well-known, the “problem” (if indeed be a problem) with the Wineries in the Niagara Region is there are just so many… well over a 100 now (and more opening every season)… and due to the “terroir” and ideal climate, everyone produces one if not many fine wines… so the problem comes down to numbers… how many can one see on a wine trip. I myself visit annually, and todate I have probably only seen about half… it is an ongoing “problem” (LOL, albeit a good one to have).
Featherstone (in Vineland) – Is a small family run winery. They make several good wines… we favour their Riesling and Gewurtztraminer. If there is one thing that makes this winery stand out from the others is that it is family run, and has a comfy country feel to it. They are a popular spot for lunch… you sit on their big veranda on the white clapboard farmhouse, right amongst the vineyard… I’ve even enjoyed sitting there in a light rain… the food is made on sight and features an assortment of sandwiches and salads… light fare but all big servings (so keep that in mind). Rather than a glass of wine to sip with, they are known for their pitchers of sangria… a great way to spend a summer’s afternoon. www.featherstonewinery.ca
Stonechurch (NOTL) – Haven’t been to this one personally, but I understand it is a small winery, and one of their best features is a self-guided trail that winds thru their vineyard. Winemakers choice here is Riesling. www.stonechurch.com
Strewn (NOTL) – They are a medium sized winery. And make a variety of good wines in small batches. They have a casual fine dining restaurant on site, and are home to a Cooking School. Personally, although I am a fan of Strewn Wines I cannot say the same about their winery. On my last visit I did not find it a welcoming place… although we are quite wine knowledgeable (which is always obvious with our conversations with the staff) something that most wineries pick up on right away… and knowing full well that wine lovers will purchase (and usually quite a bit… and are easy to up-sell to) we are usually well courted. However Strewn seemed indifferent in engaging with us… they seemed far more concerned about charging per pour (a practice that some wineries have) I didn’t have an issue with being charged, I did however have an issue with them not waving the pouring charges against purchase. For example, those wineries that do charge, typically charge between $ 5 and $ 10 per person (3 pours). In this case, after being charged (lets say it was $ 10 for the two of us) then when we were quite prepared to spend over $ 50 in wine they refused to credit even one of those tasting amounts $ 5…. ridiculous… everywhere else gives you credit for the pours (thereby making them complimentary) if you are serious enough to buy. This charging for pours practice is only meant to discourage all the college kids (who wish to drink for FREE) and tourists who come by the bus load with no intention to buy (sounds weird, but there are indeed lots of them). In the end, we said fine, and walked out leaving the wine on the counter… and it wasn’t just us, there were other serious wine lovers there who we also saw do the same. As I said it wasn't just the being charged it was the whole "snobby attitude". Although Strewn indeed has some good wines, they are not “exceptional” and quite frankly with over 100 wineries in the region, not the only game in town… I personally would prefer to spend my money somewhere that wants my business. www.strewnwinery.com
As for Wine Tours… most companies that do organized tours do them for groups… and most groups consist of average joes with little or no wine knowledge. Hence the set packages (touring and lunch). Real wine lovers tend to like to organize their own day (and choose their own wineries). We travel with another couple, and the Hubby isn’t a wine drinker, so he is our DD. It works out well for us. If I was to do a tour, like you I’d want to organize it myself (although that would mean it would be more expensive).
The big three touring companies that I know of are:
Niagara Classic Cabs = www.niagaraclassiccabs.com
I haven't used any of them personally, but know of both friends who have (Crush) and other Travellers like yourself (Classic Cabs). I can't say that I've heard of someone having a bad experience with a touring company.
You will have to contact them with your wishes… and see what they can do for you (some may not be as flexible as you wish).
The Niagara Wine Region spans a little more than 50 Kms (NOTL thru to Winona). If you can swing it you’ll want to see a bit of both the more established NOTL area (where wine first made a name in Niagara) thru to higher up “the bench” where the grapes grow in an smaller area bounded by Lake Ontario and the Niagara Escarpment (ridge). Although the BIG names in wine are to be found around NOTL, some of the most exciting wine these days are coming off “the bench” (particularly so for Reds).
We typically see 5 or 6 wineries in a day, plus lunch. Although we don’t do an organized winery tour at each one (that can certainly take up a fair bit of time). At this stage in the game (having done this for several years) we don’t always spend a lot of time in each spot… sometimes we just have a taste or two and leave (depends on what we are interested in that particular day or trip)… I recommend that you get a mix of wineries… BIG Corp – Medium – Small – Family Run and expect to see probably 4 maybe 5 on a day without lunch (say 10 AM to 4 PM). Although, I do think you are missing out by not having some sort of lunch built into your itinerary… Lunch in wine country is an event onto itself be it Formal, Casual, Vineyard or Picnic… some of the most memorable meals I’ve had with my partner have been while visiting wine country.
Definitely plan on doing a Winery Tour at the BIG Corp that you choose… Jackson-Triggs and Hillebrand are two of my favourites (Hillebrand winning out slightly because of the “Champagne Cellar”). Infact, I recommend that you begin your wine tour in NOTL as that is where it all began.
Also do a winery tour at anywhere that is using different progressive techniques (Flat Rock – Gravity Fed comes to mind), or a place that is purely organic. It is also interesting to see a New Winery or a Family Run one. In every winery the Winemaker has a different vision, and that translates in how the Winery is run and what winemaking techniques are used.
Try to mix it up and make a blend of the different items – BIG, Medium, Small, Family Run, Gravity Fed, Organic, Green, New Winery, Celebrity, etc… Remembering that sometimes a Winery can fulfill more than one criteria (ie.. Flat Rock is a Medium – Gravity Fed – Green) – (Mike Wier is Medium – Celebrity – Charitable).
Once you get a Touring Company who is willing to work with you and a flexible schedule vs an Organized Tour, they may very well be helpful in choosing Wineries or have a sort of “set route”… along as there is some variety between parts of the Niagara Peninsula and size of the wineries, you should be fine.
Also make sure you check out the Wineries of Ontario Website... www.winesofontario.ca online (lots of great stuff) and pick up a copy of their Guide Book at any Winery or LCBO when you are in Niagara (it will give you tons of info).