Hamilton Ontario – Hub of the Golden Horseshoe region

The "Hammer" is one of Ontario's true hidden gems for visitors


Hamilton Ontario is located approximately halfway between Toronto and Niagara Falls. The city is mainly viewed by visitors to the province as they cross the huge Skyway Bridge that links these two popular tourist destinations. The first impression they get of the city is not very flattering as the view from the lofty heights of the bridge is of the industrial harbor that drove the city’s economy for decades.

Yet for those willing to pull off the highway and see what the city has to offer they are usually surprised at the natural and historic beauty that lies behind those billowing smokestacks.

I myself am very familiar with Hamilton as it has been my home for over 50 years. While I must admit that there are quite a few less desirable neighborhoods and the city has suffered from a long decline over the last few decades it is still a place that provides many unique and interesting subjects for the lens of my camera.

Sitting at the head of Lake Ontario: “The Hammer” or “Steeltown” as it’s known to locals because it produces 60% of Canada’s steel, is at the centre of the Golden Horseshoe region and lies roughly halfway between the cities on Toronto and Buffalo, New York.

Long settled by native aboriginals they called the waters of Hamilton harbor: “Macassa” which translates to “beautiful waters” and before becoming severely polluted by the heavy industry that lies along its shores this was one of the premier sport fishing destinations within the Great Lakes. I myself remember heading down to the harbor as a child during the frigid winter months and skating on the huge natural frozen rink while multitudes of ice-boats skimmed along its surface.


Location of Hamilton Ontario:

How to get to Hamilton:

By Car:

From Toronto:

Take the QEW highway to Hamilton. In Burlington the highway splits and you have two options:

  • Highway 403 West leads to downtown Hamilton
  • QEW Niagara leads over the Skyway Bridge to the eastern part of the city

From Northern and Eastern Ontario:

  • Take Highway 401 West
  • Just past Pearson International Airport in Mississauga take Highway 403 towards Hamilton
  • In Oakville Highway 403 merges with the QEW Hamilton
  • Follow QEW Hamilton until it splits in Burlington at which time you can
    • take Highway 403 West leading to downtown Hamilton
    • Take QEW Niagara leads over the Skyway Bridge to the eastern part of the city

From Western Ontario:

  • Take Highway 401 East
  • Just past Woodstock Take Highway 403 towards Hamilton

By Public Transport

By Bus:

Hamilton is a major destination and thus is services by most larger bus companies and is very easy to get to. It is also a regular stop on Ontario’s commuter transport service Go Transit.

By Rail:

Regular service occurs on Ontario’s commuter rail service between Hamilton and Toronto. For more information visit:


At one time Hamilton was a regular stop on Canada’s passenger rail service Via Rail. Over the years dwindling traffic resulted in the service being discontinued. You can still reach Hamilton by rail from most parts of Canada by doing the following:

  • 1) Take Via Rail to their Aldershot station in Burlington
  • 2) Take either the Go train or Go Bus into downtown Hamilton

By Air:

Hamilton Ontario does have an airport: the “John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport” and while it is an international airport in reality it is mainly a cargo and freight airport with little passenger services.

International travelers for the most part will fly into Toronto and even those traveling within the province will most likely fly into Toronto’s Pearson International Airport and then make their way to Hamilton via one of the public transport options listed above. For that matter Toronto and Hamilton as so close that you can hire a taxi or limousine at the airport for a relatively inexpensive and short trip.

Insider Tip:Please note that the main highway between Toronto and Hamilton is the QEW (Queen Elizabeth Way), one of the busiest roads in the country. During rush hours the normal 45-minute ride can easily turn into a 2-hour journey.


Hamilton Ontario was founded by George Hamilton in 1816 and became a city in 1846. It is one of the oldest communities in Ontario and today remains the fifth largest community in the province with almost 520,000 inhabitants.

One of the city’s unique defining characteristics is that it is actually comprised of two distinct parts as it is bisected by the Niagara Escarpment. The older original part of the city lies below the escarpment while the newer developed areas lie above the escarpment which locales lovingly refer to as “the mountain”.

The Niagara Escarpment is a protected area and gives rise to another distinctive characteristic of the greater Hamilton area, a huge preponderance of waterfalls. This has led to some people calling the city the “waterfall capital of the world”. Most of these cascades are minor and insignificant but a few such as Webster’s Falls and Albion Falls are definitely worthy of a visit. More information on Hamilton’s waterfalls can be found at: www.cityofwaterfalls.ca

The view from the top of the escarpment over the city is breathtaking and depending on your vantage point on a clear day the skyscrapers of Toronto can be seen off in the distance.

Once in Hamilton Ontario you will find that the city is actually comprised of a collection of historic communities each with their own distinct and unique characteristics. These communities were merged to form the present Municipality of Hamilton.

These formerly independent communities are:


Hamilton Ontario Attractions:

Located just down the Queen Elizabeth Highway (QEW) from Toronto for visitors, Hamilton provides a multitude of destinations that while maybe not “world class” are still interesting in their own right and well worth a visit.

If you do make the visit to the hidden gem that is the Hamilton Ontario area there is quite a few destinations and activities to partake in including:

Stoney Creek

This eastern suburb of Hamilton is a bedroom community most famous for the Battle of Stoney Creek that occurred between the Britsh and Americans during the War of 1812. The Battle of Stoney Creek Re-enactment occurs annually on the anniversary of the original skirmish. The site is a National Historic Site of Canada and has a number of historically significant sites in its general vicinity. Visit my Stoney Creek page for more information.

Dundurn Castle

Since 1835 this has been Hamilton’s premier tourist attraction. When completed by Canada’s richest man, this was the largest private residence in the country and had all the modern conveniences we take for granted today. Visit my Dundurn Castle page for more information.

Royal Botanical Gardens

Just down the road from Dundurn Castle this beautiful manicured gardens and nature sanctuary is the largest of its kind in Canada. With such highlights as the largest lilac collection in the world it makes for a nice stop over for those willing to spend a day or two in the overlooked Hamilton area. Visit my Royal Botanical Gardens page for more information as to what you can see at the RBG.


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