St Catharines lies on the south shore of Lake Ontario, about midway between Hamilton and Niagara Falls along the western edge of the Welland Canal. The city has 129,000 residents, has the Niagara District Airport just to the east, and is well serviced by retailers and by 3 hospitals.
The city grew up alongside the Queenston-St Paul road along the east bank of Twelve Mile Creek. Later, when the Welland Canal was built, the city expanded to fill the area between the two. Today, the QEW bisects the city diagonally, still crossing the Welland Canal about where the Queenston Road does.
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St. Catharines' Downtown is the financial and administrative centre for the Niagara Region. The Downtown has a variety of new restaurants, bars and student residences contributing to cultural and recreational opportunities. The area has government expressing the potential of residential "intensification".
West St. Catharines, the part of the city west of 12 Mile Creek and Highway 406, has been the most rapidly growing section of St. Catharines. It is an unusual mix of protected agricultural lands, modern suburban residential development and historic industrial and commercial zones. The City is working to protect the area's rural heritage, and develop a "welcoming gateway" along St. Paul Street West (#81).
Merritton lies south of downtown, nestled between Highway 406 and the Welland Canal, with the Niagara Escarpment cutting through the area. This area has industrial areas to the north and in the south (especially the Seaway Authority), providing jobs close to the area's housing. This area has lots of recreational pathways, both along the Welland Canal, and along the route of the Old Welland Canal along the edge of the 405.
Port Dalhousie, centered around Martindale Pond close to the Lake Ontario shoreline, historic 'Old Port', has a village feel with a variety of restaurants, outdoor patio , shops, theatre (many of them tourist-oriented), and easy access to water-based recreation: boating, rowing, swimming, and sailing. The community, one of the oldest in St Catharines, has a wide range of houses from small older cottages to larger recently built homes.
Standard 2 storey houses run $135,000 and executive home are in the $209,000 range.
St Catharines has 48 elementary schools, 3 French elementary schools, 10 private schools, 12 high schools, plus Brock University, Ridley College, Niagara College's two St Catharines campuses, as well as Niagara College in nearby Welland;
St Catharines' shopping is clustered in three areas: with the many quaint shops in the downtown and the shopping malls clustered a short distance from the QEW, as well as along Ontario Street in the west. The region's largest mall, The Pen Centre, is in the south of town, along the #406.
St Catharines has 5 convention/meeting facilties with capacity of 17,000 people, 5 community centres, 4 ice arenas, 11 baseball diamonds, 3 marinas, 3 theatres, and 20 cinema screens, 18 public and 1 private tennis court, and 2 public and 1 private golf course. The city also has 5 pools, 2 wading pools, and three beaches. It is the site of the Annual Royal Canadian Henley rowing regatta.
The city has extensive recreational pathways systems, along the lakeshore between Port Weller and Port Dalhousie, andlong the Old Welland Canal, and alongside the Welland Canal (beside Government Rd). The Bruce Trail, roughly following the crest of the Niagara Escarpment along the city's south edge wanders past the city's southern edge and includes Short Hills Provincial Park, which provides extensive cross coutnry skiing and tobogganning facilties.