A sunny cycle along the newest stretch of trail.
Ontario’s Waterfront Trail just got a whole lot longer with an extension to the next Great Lake—Lake Erie. As of this summer the signed route now goes from the Quebec/Ontario border to the Town of Lakeshore on Lake St. Clair.That’s 1400 km of WOW—Wonderful Ontario Waterfront. And there is no better way to enjoy it than by bike.
To celebrate the extension, 220 cyclists from all over Canada and the United States participated in the Great Waterfront Trail Adventure or GWTA. This is an annual seven-day, fully supported, recreational bike tour along the Waterfront Trail. The 2013 route took us into 27 communities to discover the beauty and hospitality of South West Ontario’s Great Lake coastline.
We cycled anywhere from 60 to 100 km per day on the GWTA, which sounds impressive and intimidating until you remember that you have all day to cycle. Most of us reached a speed of 15 or 20 kph. As well, CAA, a major partner, provided the tour with logistical, shuttle and mechanical support through the Mobile Bike Assist Program.
Since the Trail is a permanent, signed route, anyone could enjoy the sites and experiences we did. Maps and itineraries are available on the Waterfront Trail website. And if you are a CAA member you can access the Mobile Bike Assist support if you run into mechanical difficulties.
I rode with my sister Lorraine, and my 17 year-old daughter Cori. Both are GWTA veterans. Cori began cycle touring at the age of 12 with the first GWTA, which went along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. She, like my sister, fell in love with the physical challenge of a multi-day cycle tour combined with the scenery of the Great Lakes and the charm of the towns and villages along the way. Cycle touring is about much more than just riding a bike. Shopping, swimming, kayaking, stargazing, heritage tours, wine tasting and eating locally grown food are all part of the experience.
Travelling in a car you speed by small towns—taking breaks at the 401 rest stops. However, on a bike, we looked forward to visiting every town along the route. Finding the best ice cream—Port Stanley, the best beer—nothing beat the jug of Growlers brew we enjoyed at Bayside in Erieau and the best Perch—freshly caught in Lake Erie and cooked to perfection—we ate Perch three nights in three different towns and it’s a hands down tie as to who is the best. And then there is the unexpected finds—how about touring a Cold War submarine, HMCS Ojibwa. That’s what you’ll see in Port Burwell. From the outside the vessel is massive but a tour of the interior reveals compact quarters that utilize every inch.
We were struck by how different Lake Erie’s section was from the Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River parts of the Trail. It’s quiet and serene with country roads, quaint cottages, and anglers trying their luck along the waterfront. Fields growing corn, soya, tobacco, fruit. Stately wind turbines and solar farms. Wineries, active fishing ports, beaches and some of the finest campgrounds in Ontario. You hear the rush of the wind, force of the water and in the summer heat the whining song of the cicada.