Switch gears this fall with an invigorating cycling trip in Ontario’s countryside. Autumn is the best time of year to push off on a cycling adventure. Make a day of it or book an overnight stay. What better way to explore the magic of nature as the lush greenery gives way to fall’s vibrant tones of yellow, orange and red, and the sunshine and crisp fresh air keep things comfortable while you peddle.
Cobourg in Northumberland County is only one hour east of Toronto, on Lake Ontario. It boasts some of the best cycling trails in Ontario, including routes on the Waterfront Trail, the Trans Canada Trail and the Rice Lake Ramble. From the rolling Northumberland hills to the flatter terrain of an abandoned CN rail line, there’s a path for everyone to enjoy.
The Greenbelt Route is the newest trail, which cuts through the countryside stretching from Queenston on the Niagara River to the south shore of Rice Lake in the Kawarthas. The inaugural launch of the 475 Kilometre route kicked off in August with the Great Waterfront Trail Adventure 2015, a six-day cycling trek along the newly marked route.
Getting There: Take your bike on the VIA train to Cobourg, affectionately dubbed Ontario’s “feel good” town. Bikes are easily stored in a baggage car for $25 each way. There is only one bike train daily from Toronto and it arrives in Cobourg at 1pm. From the train station it’s a quick 5-minute ride into town to access shops and restaurants, and stock up on energy drinks before hitting the trails. If you take your bike it will be an overnight trip, unless you plan on riding your bike back to the city. The bike train leaves Cobourg daily at 2:21pm for Toronto. Alternatively, take your bike on the Go Train to Oshawa and access the trails from there if you’re up for more distance.
Renting a bike: Green Canoe Outfitters is easy to find at 90 King Street West in Cobourg, a quick 15-minute walk from the Via station.
You’ll soon discover why cycling in this area is so appealing. The Waterfront Trail takes you along scenic rural concession roads past apple orchards and farms. A quick detour will lead you to the Nawautin Nature Sanctuary south of Grafton, with access to a quiet hidden stretch of the beach. This 13-acre wetland is a must-see stop for birders and nature lovers, and an opportunity to dip your tired cycling toes into Lake Ontario. Deer and rabbit sightings are not unusual.
Above Photos by Jean Simard – Cobourg, Ontario
Moore Orchards: Northumberland has loads of pick your own fruit and flowers farms to invade. Pluck some juicy crunchy apples straight from the tree at Moore Orchards, #12 on the “55 Farm Fresh Destinations” map. There’s plenty of pies, pumpkins, preserves and apple cider for Thanksgiving dinner. But why wait?
Lang Pioneer Village: Explore this outdoor living museum and replica of a 19th century hamlet. The authentic rural experience showcases over 25 buildings including the Keene Hotel where you can visit for tea and snacks. Fall guided tours and historic literary walks are on through mid September.
Westben Arts Festival Theatre: See concerts and live theatre in the outdoor venue, The Barn, and the new Clock Tower Cultural Centre, both in Campbellford.
Ron Windebanks Outdoor Art: Artist Ron Windebanks does a lot of paintings on barn board and displays his outdoor botanical art at his farm in Warkworth. Step inside his barns, converted into a rustic creative space for his art gallery, and explore the country garden, which has more whimsical pieces on display.
Kokimo Candleland: If you’re crazy for candles, stop into the solar powered Kokimo Candleland factory outlet in Castleton. Here you can buy the original handmade candy scented candle and a selection of other scents and accessories.
Cross Wind Farm: This dairy goat farm in Keene, Ontario, is a short detour off the Lang Hastings Trail, part of the Trans Canada Trail. It’s the spot to stock up on artisan goat products such as milk, yogourt, cheese and soap.
Banjo’s Grill: While in Hastings stop in for homestyle comfort food at Banjo’s Grill, overlooking the Trent Severn Waterway at Lock 18.
World’s Finest Chocolate Factory Outlet: Follow your nose. This diversion in Campbellford will ensure your chocolate cravings don’t get the best of you. Besides, this little cocoa bean from heaven will give you energy to keep the spokes spinning.
Wicklow Way Farm: This organic farm in Colbourne sells every vegetable under the sun. A specialty organic sourdough bread is available from June to September. Pumpkin bread with toasted pumpkin seeds, honey raisin bran, and beet bread are a few of the flavours straight from the brick oven.
Places to Stay:
Hastings House B&B: Gear it up, Ontario! offers an array of themed guided cycling tours. The Hastings House B&B bike tour is a 33 kilometre flat terrain ride from Peterborough to Hastings on the Lang Hastings trail, formerly the CN rail line, and is part of the Trans Canada Trail. The package includes an overnight stay at the charming Hastings House B&B, once a blacksmith shop built in the 19th century, steps away from the Trent Severn Waterway. Dinner and breakfast is included for only $120.
Ste. Anne’s Spa: Once known as “Grafton Castle”, Canada’s leading destination spa on 400 acres is a luxury getaway worth every nickel. The seasonal Pumpkin Spice Paradise body treatment sounds like the perfect fall “apres cycle” tonic for tired legs and road-weary wanderers. Then head over to the guilt free and gluten free Ste. Anne’s Bakery for a hot drink and a syrupy butter tart, as it’s recently been added to Kawartha’s popular Northumberland Butter Tart Tour. Don’t miss the Kawarthas Northumberland Butter Tart Taste-off, at the Peterborough Farmers’ Market on Saturday, September 24th.
After spending time exploring undiscovered country trails, visiting farms and sampling the produce in Northumberland’s towns and villages, one might say, “It’s all downhill from here.” And cyclists know that this is indeed a very good thing.
(Originally published Oct. 1, 2015)