Summer Cycling Odyssey
Last summer, Jennifer Krissilas created her own pilgrimage and cycled hundreds of kilometres, from beach to beach, along the shores of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay in Ontario, Canada.
Last summer, still inspired by my solitary walk along the Camino, Spain’s famous pilgrimage route, I pedalled out of Toronto, determined to ride along the eastern shore of Lake Huron up to Tobermory and around Manitoulin Island. Just me, my bike and my tent—and all the Ontario beaches this outdoorsy gal could wish for!
Don’t get me wrong. I love the rush of riding fast and doing centuries (100 kilometre rides), but I’m all about the breaks, so I planned to stop at every lovely beach along the way, luxuriating in lakeside living.
Except, I’m not adept at planning—I only bought a map of southwestern Ontario the night before I left, roughing out a route that hugged the shoreline (a combo of RV-busy Highway 21 and less trafficked side roads).
The only part I’d planned was Guelph Lake. Yup, manmade Guelph Lake—a reservoir in disguise—is where I kicked off my beach-themed bike tour because I had a pass to Hillside, a three-day music festival in Guelph Lake Conservation Area. And, boy, am I glad I spent a few days relaxing there, because from Guelph Lake I rode non-stop to The Pinery, a provincial park south of Grand Bend. That’s 170 kilometres in one day!
’Twas good to get it out of the way. That crazy distance set the leisurely vibe for the rest of my journey.
At The Pinery, I chilled on the beach—a glorious 10-kilometre stretch of shallow water and sand dunes—and hiked the trails, happy to spend a few days in the woods. From there, to allow for more beach time (of course!), I rode north, doing short distances when I could (about 60 kilometres each leg from The Pinery to Goderich, Goderich to Kincardine, and Kincardine to Sauble Beach). When I couldn’t do short distances, I raced centuries across rolling terrain (it’s a looong ride from Sauble Beach to Tobermory, but at least there’s a bike lane).
And all along the way, the beaches beckoned me, from the wide stretches of sand and shallow waters of Grand Bend, Port Elgin, Southampton, Kincardine and Sauble to the smaller, less crowded beaches favoured by locals, like Bruce and Boiler (just south of Kincardine—let that be our little secret).
As luck would have it, I discovered my most beloved beach of all at the end of my trip (after a detour on Manitoulin Island), in Bruce Peninsula National Park. No, not the noisy, crowded Indian Head Cove or the super shallow Singing Sands. As much as I enjoyed the stunning Mediterranean-esque jewel of icy Georgian Bay and its kid-friendly Lake Huron counterpart, I was drawn to the deserted, lukewarm Cyprus Lake, surrounded by solitude and the iconic wind-swept trees of northern Ontario.
That’s what I loved so much about bike touring along Lake Huron: stopping at every beach, big and small, soaking up the natural goodness that is summer in Ontario.