If your idea of a relaxing vacation includes blending authentic culture and cuisine with unique lodging and smooth, easy cycling, Northern Ontario is packed with everything you crave. From the French Creole music of Hearst to exploring mysterious islands drifting off the waterfront of North Bay, there is plenty to do when you’re not pedalling.
Here are five of our favourite easy cycling holidays. Plus, check out Ontario By Bike for more vacation inspiration.
North Bay Cycling Holiday
Downtown North Bay is a network of paved bike paths, linked to a treasure trove of amenities and exciting excursions. The Kate Pace Way (named for a local Olympic ski hero) and Kinsmen Trail are multi-use paths that connect to traverse North Bay from one end to the other. For a 21-km ride with spectacular views of Lake Nipissing, start at Airport Road and follow Chippewa Creek to the lake, then head south to the village of Callander. Fancy a longer ride? Continue on into the town of Corbeil and loop back to North Bay for a 45-km circle tour.
Stay at the centrally located Sunset Inn on Lake Nipissing. The views are wonderful, and it’s also a good jumping-off point for a cruise aboard the Chief Commanda II to the Manitou Islands, which seem to float on the water’s surface about 10 km offshore. The islands are shrouded in myth and legend—it’s said you can hear the voices of ghosts who haunt the archipelago.
Later, dine at The Portage, a North Bay institution serving up delicious comfort food—try the spicy wings and haddock.
Waterfront Trail Cycling Holiday
From Sault Ste. Marie to Sudbury, the North Channel extension of Ontario’s Great Lakes Waterfront Trail follows the shores of Lake Huron—sample a section of the trail on an easy day trip, or enjoy the entire 380-km route on a weeklong cycle tour.
“Cyclists enjoy visiting three First Nations that are part of the route—Garden River, Mississauga and Serpent River,” says Marlaine Koehler, the executive director of the Waterfront Regeneration Trust. Take a break at one of these communities, where Indigenous elders greet visitors and share stories of their heritage, describe traditional medicines and explain the role of Pow Wows.
Consider basing yourself in culturally rich Sault Ste. Marie. Sit in the cockpit of an authentic bushplane at the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre, the only facility of its kind in North America dedicated to these planes. Just up the street, The Art Gallery of Algoma exhibits the work of acclaimed Canadian artists, including the Group of Seven, and also features an excellent café and gift shop.
“The Soo” is full of mouthwatering options for international cuisine, but after a long ride it’s hard to beat the house-made slaw, divine mac and cheese, and slow-cooked ribs at Low & Slow Smoked Fusion BBQ.
St. Joseph Island Cycling Holiday
Life is slow when your boundaries are only 30 km by 20 km. A former British naval base, today St. Joseph Island is a laidback cycling Nirvana. Pedal around the island (70 km) and stop for visits at lighthouses and beaches, or treats at Camille’s Island Café in the hamlet of Richards Landing. At the southern tip of the island, it’s well worth making the detour to cycle the trails and explore the ruins at Fort St. Joseph National Historic Site. Discover more island rides here.
For a unique experience, feast on a classic Canadian maple syrup pancake breakfast and tour an organic maple syrup orchard during the island’s Maple Syrup Festival in April. Or go in the fall during the St. Joseph Island Country Road Open House Tour, when local hosts welcome cyclists to their farms and studios, and spectacular fall colours adorn the island. Take home a taste of island life from Salamander Ridge Farms, makers of delicious rhubarb chutney.
For overnight stays, don’t expect big box hotels. Instead, you’ll find cozy bed and breakfasts in Hilton Beach and Richards Landing, including Stonefield House tucked amongst forest, meadows and apple orchards. Most of the island’s restaurants are conveniently located in these two communities as well. In Richards Landing, grab a bite of Italian at La Terrazza Franzisi or a scrumptious grilled cheese sandwich at Oh Sweet Cheese’Us.
Northern Ontario’s own version of Stonehenge, The Screaming Heads of Midlothian outdoor art installation, featuring a surreal landscape of giant cast-concrete sculptures, is a mystery only the artist can unravel. Visitors are invited to walk the trails throughout artist Peter Camani’s 310-acre property and view his “castle” home, adorned with a two-headed dragon and warrior princess. Weird? You have to see it to believe it. Ride the Screaming Heads Loop (48 km) and be sure to include a refreshing swim in the Magnetawan River en route.
For more European flair, Burk’s Falls serves up authentic Polish favourites at Best Pierogi. Dine on classics such as borscht, cabbage rolls and, of course, homemade pierogis in just about every flavour you can imagine.
Base your holiday out of the Fern Glen Inn, an 1880 farmhouse turned four-season country B&B nestled on 120 forested acres just a few minutes south of Burk’s Falls. The owners of this relaxing retreat are full of cycling suggestions and more fantastic day trip ideas that are easily accessible from the inn.
Hearst Cycling Holiday
An award-winning spirits distillery, a vibrant art gallery and long, rolling stretches of riding make Hearst an unexpected home base for a cycling vacation. Plus, 10 km of bike lanes and dedicated paths make it easy to get around town or enjoy a lazy afternoon along the Mattawishkwia River.
Local riders can suggest some nice, flat loops for an easy day trip, including a 35-km ride that begins on the east end of town and takes in two lovely lakes. Follow Route 583 north to Lac Ste. Thérèse, then head west to Veilleux Camping & Marina on Lac Pivabiska before returning south on Cloutier Road (view a map here). En route, stop in at Rheault Distillery and bring home a taste of the north—this one-of-a-kind distillery crafts small batch whiskey, sweet-smelling vodka, and fruit liqueurs such as raspberry and cherry.
Back in Hearst, check out Art Gallery 815—a garage-turned-gallery where you can view the work of local landscape artists and enjoy events celebrating the town’s French Creole and Indigenous music. Choose from a variety of comfortable hotel or motel options in Hearst. Or opt for a more rustic stay outside of town at Veilleux Camping or nearby Fushimi Lake Provincial Park—both locations offer canoe, kayak and paddleboard rentals so you can explore these clean and clear northern lakes after your ride.
EXPLORE ONTARIO BY BIKE
Discover adventure, culture and cuisine along these fun-filled cycling routes. Find more bicycle-friendly places to eat and stay.