Toronto Life

A kid-free escape to Niagara’s South Coast

Parenting and travel writer Yashy Murphy and her husband leave the kids at home for a romantic cycle through Pelham, Welland and Port Colborne

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The moment we exit the QEW, I feel my shoulders relax. Every single time. The air is naturally soothing, and as I see the vineyards dotting the horizon, my mind feels clear. I love city living, but I’ve considered Niagara home since my parents immigrated to the region in 2013. It’s been my family-of-four’s fortress of solitude throughout the pandemic—here, we have extra child support and are graced with the ability to enjoy life at a slower pace, breathe in the great outdoors and build memories.

In Niagara, I also play pretend, sneaking out of the house like a rebellious teenager. Only this time, I’m sneaking away with my husband and my parents approve of the clandestin­e act, and it’s Niagara’s South Coast where we escape.

We decide to venture through Niagara by bike, starting at Comfort Maple in Pelham. Believed to be the oldest and finest sugar maple tree in Canada, we marvel at the sight, which calls to mind the generation­s of those who have stood at its base feeling small underneath it. Under the shade of the tree, we start talking—really talking—enjoying the chance to finish a conversati­on without an urgent request for a snack causing us to lose the thread.

Our ride continues at a leisurely pace. The quiet streets are a refreshing break from the city traffic that we’re used to, and without speeding cars, it’s easy for us to chat as we ride. This jaunt takes us to the travel-agency-turned café, aptly named the Travel Café. Inside, decoration­s of vintage suitcases and departure signs transport us to days when we could whisk away spontaneou­sly. Here, we refuel with a house-blend espresso inspired by the owner’s visit to Rome.

We pedal our way through Welland, enjoying the drumming of the steel as we zip across the Welland Canal Bridge. Wrapped in the tranquilit­y of this carefree afternoon, we take in the quiet beauty of the “Upbound at Midnight” mural, offering a nighttime perspectiv­e of Port Colborne Lights. The late Ross Beard is one of the many Canadian artists to capture the charm and community of the region, where other large-scale pieces from Welland’s open-air art gallery tower over us—some work stretching up to three storeys high.

Our reward for the next 40-minute stretch on Canal Bank and Colborne Streets, along the historic Welland Canal, is a slice of hot honey Calabrese Neapolitan-style pizza from The Lock, owned and operated by a family that has lived Port Colborne since the 1950s. Their recipes have been passed down three generation­s, and today we savour the tradition by bringing our slices to Reebs Beach. A peaceful lunch on the sand, where we didn’t have to worry about one kid running into the water or another having a meltdown over a lost spade (memories from this very beach that I can now laugh at) feels like a luxury.

And biking more than 30 leisurely kilometres together, we agree that we should steal time away together more often—and we should definitely call my dad to rescue us by car.

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