Lake Erie has been a big part of my life since I was a kid. Now as an adult, it’s been interesting to take in the fresh, crisp smell of the blue water anew on my frequent motorcycle trips along the lake. Dozens of times, I’ve ridden part of the Lake Erie route (from East to West) but only to make it halfway before turning back. This time, I decided to challenge myself and ride from West to East. This is an excellent route for anyone riding from Michigan into Ontario to experience the wide world of motorcycling in the province.
For those of you who have seen the Cruise the Coast website, or chatted with these folks at motorcycle events throughout the season, you likely know that the route is a beautiful tour along the western portion of the waterfront trail with lots of great stops along the way. So how do you even begin to plan this trip? Well, this is where I come in to tell you everything you need to know about the Lake Erie route.
On a Kawasaki Versys 1000, I packed my luggage in the spacious side cases and booted up to Windsor via the highway to meet up with some friends on a Friday evening. I decided to take the coast back the next day as an alternative to that long, straight, boring 401 ride.
Thinking about cruising the coast? Read this first:
1 – This is one long ride
There’s no denying it, the Cruise the Coast ride along Lake Erie is one long ride. At 350 km (217 miles), it takes an estimated 7.5 hours to ride the entire route. When I started in Windsor around noon, I clearly underestimated the amount of time it would take me to ride home. If you are determined to ride the entire route in one trip, I strongly recommend booking overnight accommodations along the way so you can break up the trip, give yourself some rest, and enjoy the different towns and stops along the way.
2 – Prepare ahead of time
Grab your Cruise the Coast waterproof map, make sure you pack water and snacks, and have an idea of where you might stop for gas and sightseeing. At times, the route is remote, so you shouldn’t rely on there always being a place to stop if needed. I suggest picking two or three solid stops along the route where you might expect to stop and spend an hour or so. Need some ideas on where to stop? Keep reading…
3 – Figure out what you want out of this trip
For this tour, there are a few different types of trips you can take. I’m not suggesting that everyone fits into one of these categories, I’m simply throwing these out to give you some ideas on how different you can make this trip depending on your lifestyle, budget and priorities:
The Cruising Couple
Perhaps you and your "partner in moto" or a small group want to go cruising at a leisurely pace, while stopping overnight along the way before continuing along for a two- to three-day trip. You’ve been saving up or have some extra money in your pocket to burn. Your expectations are balanced between enjoying the ride and exploring a few towns along the way.
For this trip, your priorities are not necessarily quantity or completing as many kilometres as possible in a day, but rather your focus is on the overall quality of the trip and stops. You might be a foodie, a wine connoisseur, a history buff, a lover of antiques, or someone who is on a solid vacation. Give these riding destinations a try:
Wher to Stay: The Windjammer Inn
Things to Do: Port Stanley Terminal Rail
Where to Stay: Grey Gables
Where to Eat: The Lighthouse
The Penny-Pinching Hipster
Maybe you’re cruising on an old 1973 Honda CB500 and you’ve decided to fit in as many rides and stops this season as you possibly can. Whether you’ve got the summer off, or are on a pivotal life journey to find yourself along the Shores of Lake Erie before you decide to settle down, I recommend for you to go camping at one of the many cool campgrounds along this route:
Leamington / Wheatley
Where to Stay: Campers Cove
Things to Do: Hillman Marsh Conversation Area
Where to Eat: The Pogue Irish Pub
Port Rowan / Long Point
Where to Stay: Provincial Park camping
Things to Do: Beach & Swim
Where to Eat: Uncles Country Coffee
The Day Tripper
You only have a Saturday or Sunday available, so you want to make it count. You want to explore the shoreline, but don’t have hours upon hours to cruise and sight-see. Your buddies may have called you up last minute to go for an afternoon ride and so you figured, why not? In that case, you probably don’t have time to ride the entire Cruise the Coast route; however, that’s OK, because there are still great destinations to ride to that won’t take you an the whole day (depending on where you are riding from):
Things to Do: Live Music at The Norfolk Tavern
Where to Eat: Callahan’s Beach House
Things to Do: Swim/Beach
Where to Eat: Ice-Cream at The Chill Shack
4 - Wine Country and Point Pelee
Depending on your agenda, time, and budget, I definitely recommend heading to Point Pelee for an overnight trip if you can. As a Niagara girl, I have on occasion dabbled in some wine tasting and enjoyed the various wineries and vineyards that the Niagara region has to offer. So it’s no surprise that as I cruised along the coast, and towards Point Pelee Island, I had a strong urge to stop and explore the wineries there.
On my trip, time didn’t permit me to do this, and I hadn’t made accommodations, so sampling was out of the question that day. But I encourage you to book a hotel, B&B, or campsite in this area and head to the island for an afternoon of tasting.
Where to Eat: Freddy’s Cocktail Lounge
5 - Pick a Port & Pick a Point
First of all, try saying that title five times fast. Second of all, listen to my advice. You can’t possibly visit every single port and point along the "Cruise the Coast tour," regardless of whether you are a cruising couple, penny-pinching hipster or a day tripper, unless you take a week to do the trip (which is totally a possibility). In my case, I figured it was best to pick one place out of each category and spend a bit of time there to learn more about the area. Next time I make the trip, I’ll switch it up and check out some of the places I didn’t get to.
Port Stanley, Port Burwell, Port Alma, Port Dover—with so many ports, how do you choose? After attending Friday the 13th so many times in Port Dover, I decided to pick a different place to stop this time. Towards the end of my ride, I cruised into Port Burwell, and took some time to play tourist. It was easy to find parking for my bike, and I felt safe as I wandered around checking out the old submarine and lighthouse, and sitting down for some homemade ice-cream before getting back on the road.
Next was the point I had chosen ahead of time, specifically Turkey Point. With Long Point, Point Pelee, Point Abino and more, there’s no shortage of points, lighthouses, and epic views, and while I wanted to stop at every one I quickly realized that wasn’t going to happen. Turkey Point is a great place to visit, but make Google your friend, and do your own research to figure out which stop suits you best.
6 - Waterfront trail doesn’t mean waterfront the entire time
So here’s the deal: the waterfront trail stretches over 2,100 km across Ontario, spanning across communities, parks, and nature preserves, and the trail itself is a combination of paths, neighbourhood streets and rural roads. The sign waterfront does not mean you are on the edge of the water the entire time, but that’s OK, because when the road does bring you to the shoreline, it’s completely worth the wait. The soft waves, combined with fresh water small, and a slight breeze were enough to cool me down and widen my eyes at the beautiful sight before me.
7 - The Fish! Get the Fish!
Finally, I can’t stress enough how you need to stop for some fish along your tour. Perch is in season throughout the summer, and it is as fresh as it gets. So when you sit down on the patio after a long day of riding, please don’t order a salad; rather, get the fish. You won’t be disappointed. These restaurants take pride in their location and proximity to the lake, and when they tell you the fish is fresh, it’s fresh.
And with that, I’ve told you everything you need to know about the Lake Erie tour. It’s pretty simple when you think about it: plan ahead of time, figure out what you want, explore the island, pick a point and eat fish. You’re welcome, and enjoy!