Driving Solo Across Canada: Rochester to Grand Rapids

Brianna Taylor Way in Grands Rapids

Crossing Borders: From Rochester to Buffalo and Into Canada

We’re finally on the last leg of our drive across America to visit family. We are on our way to our new home in the Quad Cities. And today, I am driving from Rochester to Buffalo and across Canada to Grand Rapids, Michigan. The drive covers most of southern Ontario, and between today and tomorrow, the drive will take me past 4 of the five great lakes. Today, the drive straddles parts of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Lake Superior is the only lake I won’t see on this road trip because it is the northernmost and westernmost of the Great Lakes of North America. The Peace Bridge is located near downtown Buffalo, New York, and Fort Erie, Ontario, separated by the Niagara River. It was one of the most scenic bridge crossings I’ve ever done.

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The-Peace-Bridge-NY-to-Canada-519x692 Driving Solo Across Canada: Rochester to Grand Rapids

The Border Crossing

The Peace Bridge

The views of the cliffs seen from the drive from Rochester to Grand Rapids are stunning. Fortunately, crossing into Canada was uneventful. It was early morning, so the traffic was light on the bridge. After handing over my passport, the agent asked a few basic questions:

  • Where are you going?
  • Are you planning to stop in Canada? And for how long?
  • Do you have any drugs or weapons in the car?

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Note– The bridge crossing fee is $5 USD / $6.50 CAN per car, which can be paid to the agent in cash or credit. The bridge is short. However, once you cross over, there is a lot of construction on the Canadian side of the border that includes a slight detour but nothing too terribly inconvenient.


The Drive from Rochester to Grand Rapids

We could drive the entire way below Lake Erie from Rochester, through Pennsylvania, Ohio to Michigan, but it’s longer (8.5 hours) and could be more exciting. So we opted to drive above Lake Erie, across Canada because it was shorter (7 hours). I’ve never driven that way before, and it took us a little closer to some water views. That turned out to be a great choice.

I use “we” because even though I was driving my car, Steven was also accompanying me in his car. We had decided to reunite in Grand Rapids if I came across something I wanted to do, as he prefers not to make stops. Unfortunately, it was raining, and the activities I had in mind were outdoors, so I decided to save them for another time.

St. Catharines

The first city after Niagara Falls is St. Catharines, the first town you’ll come across as you drive into Canada. Strip malls dominate the view from the driver’s side window. However, St. Catharines to Hamilton is also the closest landmass offering views of Lake Ontario. The lake is so close that you can almost reach out and touch it from the car. I also realized I had lost my cell phone and car Wi-Fi connection. The car continued to navigate, but I could no longer listen to the YouTube political shows I had been tuning into.

Niagara-on-the-Lake-Wineries-519x389 Driving Solo Across Canada: Rochester to Grand Rapids
Signs on a post point the direction to various wines at a vineyard in Niagara on the Lake in Ontario Canada.


Niagara-on-the-Lake is a sweet little village beyond Niagara Falls that takes you back in time with old-world charm. Referred to by locals as NOTL, this village is surrounded by waterfront on both sides. It features streets flanked by arbors and lined with lush boulevard gardens. The plan was to stroll through the Heritage District and explore the whimsical boutiques, captivating antique shops, and delightful bistros. You might even spot a horse-drawn carriage or two. It’s such a cute town in Canada– well worth the drive.

In addition to the enchanting old town, the region boasts numerous wineries, breweries, and distilleries, all conveniently positioned just 20 kilometers from the Horseshoe Falls. There were so many wineries along the waterfront that it was impossible to count. However, my plan did not involve an overnight stay since I was the driver, so the wineries would have to wait. Nonetheless, the sight of endless rows of grapevines created a picturesque scene, with occasional glimpses of the lake beyond the vineyards, resembling scenes from a flipbook. So I would like to know more about those later.

Albion (Hamilton) Falls


Autumn is a great time to hike to the Albion (Hamilton) Falls and the other waterfalls in the area, many of which don’t include Niagara Falls. The pictures of the falls are stunning, making it a perfect day trip destination for exploring Hamilton’s nature. Unfortunately, accessing the bottom of these magnificent waterfalls is no longer possible, as they are fenced off with a hefty $10,000 fine for trespassing. However, the alternative viewpoint offers a gorgeous perspective of the falls.

The Drive from Grand Rapids to Rock Island Arsenal

The following day, we drove from Grand Rapids to our new residence at Rock Island Arsenal. Before setting off, we indulged in a leisurely breakfast at the Residence Inn in downtown Grand Rapids. We also savored some coffee at Madcap Cafe, a charming establishment on Brianna Taylor Way. The cafe boasts a welcoming ambiance with ample natural light streaming through numerous windows. To our surprise, it was a brisk morning, and we were not anticipating the sight of snow flurries before embarking on our journey.


Where We Stayed in Grand Rapids

The Residence Inn Grand Rapids Downtown is a fabulous all-suite hotel surrounded by shops, cafes, and breweries. It’s not your run-of-the-mill building; it has a unique triangular design that kinda reminds me of the famous Flatiron Building in New York City. The lobby is on the 2nd floor, the gym, and the breakfast area. The gym is on the level above. I loved that there was also a ramp from the lobby to the parking garage. Parking is expensive at $30 dollars per night (per car), but it is well-lit, and the staff only charged us for one car.

During my stay, I stayed in a corner room that had a fantastic view, a full kitchen, and a cozy seating area. The room was huge and spacious, making it super comfy. Plus, it’s right across the street from the police department, and there are some incredible murals nearby that you can check out on foot.

Website | Map

Pind Indian Cuisine

I ordered Indian food from Pind Indian Cuisine and had it delivered using Uber Eats. It was the best Indian food we had in a long time. We ordered the tandoori sampler and lamb biryani, which was a little spicy. It came with a container of yogurt dip (raita) that helped turn the heat down.

On a side note, you can earn 6 points per dollar when you order food or grocery orders for delivery with Uber Eats while staying at a Marriott hotel.

Website | Map

St. Joseph, Michigan

We stopped one final time before reaching Moline. St. Joseph is one of the cutest waterside towns on the map. I picked it because it had a really sweet market with several coffee, dessert, and sandwich shops. I ordered a delicious turkey and cheese sandwich with smoked aioli with a bubble tea.

Despite the chilly weather, I enjoyed my stroll along the cobblestone streets of downtown St. Joseph. It’s a charming holiday beach town located in southwest Michigan along the breathtaking shores of Lake Michigan. This city’s highlight– the pretty waterfront, highlighted by Silver Beach, two lighthouses, and the St. Joseph’s River that winds its way through the town. This sandy shoreline is adorned with picturesque rolling dunes. It features a beautifully restored antique carousel and the historic 2 North Pier lighthouses, both of which boast a storied past dating back to the early 1900s. St. Joseph was a highlight of the drive across Canada. I’d definitely love to explore the area more in the future. You should, too.

Website | Map

The Market

The market is an adorable collaboration of several small vendors. Infusco Coffee was the initial cafe I wanted to visit, but we visited a couple of the other shops in the market. Some other shops included a deli, a brewery, a wine shop, a cheese shop, a farmers market, and a tea shop—plenty of seating in the middle, free WI-FI, and a friendly vibe. There is also free parking to the side and rear of the building. For an adrenaline rush, cross the street and check out downtown St. Joseph’s before leaving. But be aware it is on a busy street with no stop light in front of the shop, so it felt a little like a real-life frogger game.

We ordered a yummy turkey sandwich with roasted aioli, cheesecake-topped carrot cake from Dad’s Farm, and bubble tea from the Tea Annex. Steven got an iced Americano and apple pastry from Infusco Coffee. Everything was perfect, and I was glad to have found the collaborative because is the small businesses we all need to support.

The Market is open seven days a week, generally from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; however, some businesses may vary.


Website | Map

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While fall offers a beautiful drive along the Great Lakes in Canada and America, I’m really excited about summer and spring. I’d love to visit St. Catharines, Ontario, by the lake and explore the pretty beach towns like St. Joseph’s. The warmer weather will allow me to better enjoy the wines, waterfalls, and waterfronts along the lakeshores.

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