The end of summer is sadly here, and while some are already gearing up for snowmobile season, I’m determined to get the most out of the motorcycle season that I possibly can. While we might miss those warm and long summer days of riding, let’s not forget that Fall in Ontario offers some of the most beautiful riding that you can possibly find.
For those of you looking for one last epic motorcycle road trip before you put the bikes away for winter, I strongly suggested you give the Lake Erie loop a try. This ride certainly isn’t for the beginner rider. With an approximate length of just over 1000 kilometres, this trip will take you 2-3+ days depending on how ambitious you are and whether you want to take some time to stop and sight-see a bit.
So you want to ride around Lake Erie? My family raised a few eyebrows at me when I mentioned this trip as being at the top of my list. It seems a daunting task with having to ride through four States and one Province, but the concept is much more intimidating than the ride itself. After making the decision to go on this trip, there are a few things to consider that will determine what the course of your trip is going to look like.
1. Riding Buddies
You have to decide whether you want to ride solo, take a passenger or ride in a group. That decision will ultimately affect the rest of your planning. For myself, I am an endurance rider. I like to ride far distances and can handle a long ride in one day. My plan is to find 1-2 friends who also enjoy travelling longer distances to join me on this trip.
2. Type of Bike
Here’s the next question of the day; are you going to rent a bike or ride your own motorcycle? Again, that depends on what type of bike you have, how comfortable it is, how much luggage it can hold, and what your budget for the trip is. For me, I would look into renting a motorcycle because my current bike would not be very comfortable for the longer ride. Depending where you're starting from, you're best bets for rentals are Rocky's Harley-Davidson in London, ON or Mackies H-D in Oshawa. Clare's Harley-Davidson in Niagara-on-the-Lake doesn't rent but has lots of gear and bikes and is a good place to start from.
Next, you will want to determine what type of trip this is going to be. Are we talking the roughing it / camping trip, or the comfy / hotel type of trip? You might have a bike with a trailer or saddlebags that is well equipped for carrying a fair bit of luggage, or you might not have a lot of room. These are things to consider when determining your action plan. Your accommodations will also help determine what route you are going to take (are you going to stick to lakeside B&B’s or head out into the countryside a bit to go camping?). Have a look at the website for Ontario's Southwest for ideas on fun places to stay.
Here are some packing tips for your Lake Erie Loop tour:
- A few changes of clothes (warmer clothing, and cooler clothing)
- Rain Gear
- Maps / GPS
- Extra Gloves
- Clear & tinted sunglasses or visors
- A camera
- Snacks / water
- Passport / NEXUS
- American Money
- CAA / AAA card
- Cell Phone (make sure it works in the United States for emergency purposes)
After figuring out a few key aspects of the trip, it’s time to whip out the map and plan the route you want to take. It’s a good idea to pick a few stops first and then determine either the fastest or most scenic route to take there.
For me, I decided that I wanted to take a bit of the scenic route along Lake Erie – I figured, what point is a Lake Erie loop tour if you don’t have a beautiful view of the Lake along the way? Here is the suggested route that I plan on taking for this adventure:
The Route – Day 1
My route will start in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and will cross right away into the United States at either the Rainbow Bridge or Peace Bridge border crossing. The ride to Erie, Pennsylvania along Lakeshore Road is only two hours from there, so I found a great restaurant to stop along the water called Smugglers Wharf. The food looks pretty good, but it’s the view from their patio of the crystal blue water of Lake Erie that I would be after.
From there, we would cruise along highway 20 & highway 6/Lake Road through Cleveland, Ohio and then to Port Clinton which I think would be a great place to stop for the evening. There are several bed & breakfasts available with waterfront views.
The Route – Day 2
Right off the bat, I want to get on the road and ride to Toledo, OH, where a quick stop at The Docks is warranted to check out the view and maybe grab breakfast or a snack. The Great Lakes Arts & Jazz Festival is on September 19, and a great destination if you love jazz music (also something to consider if you want to avoid the busy parts of the City that weekend).
Riding to Detroit, MI along the water is a must (the road changes names several times from N. Dixie Highway, US Turnpike Road, W. Jefferson Road, etc.) so something to keep an eye on. Crossing the Ambassador Bridge will get you back onto Canadian land, where you can continue cruising along the waterfront. Following Highway 20 will take you along the Detroit River before it opens up into Lake Erie. The Windsor-Essex area is a beautiful place to visit, and a great place to stop for lunch or for another night if time permits. For me, I would stay overnight in the Leamington / Point Pelee area to check out a winery tour or perhaps visit Point Pelee National Park where the falls colours are expected to be just gorgeous at this time of the year.
Point Pelee Fall Colours photo by Thom Evered
The Route – Day 3
The final day would be familiar territory for me, cruising the South Coast of Ontario along highway 3 back through Haldimand County and to the Niagara Region. There are so many great places to stop along the South Coast (Port Stanley, Long Point, Turkey Point) that offer spectacular views. This route should take 4-5 hours, and is a perfect cruise for that final stretch of the trip. Have a look at these routes in Ontario's Southwest for more ideas. Make sure you take lots of pictures during this trip, the views of the water, coastline, and fall colours are something you won’t want to forget!