This text is part of the special book Plaisirs
Wide open spaces, historic villages and sweet gastronomy guarantee an exceptional cycling holiday!
The confinement linked to COVID-19 may have left its mark on our bodies, as soon as spring comes, the calf becomes insistent. And the call of two wheels, rain or shine, is heard.
This year, far from airports and their vagaries, it is to the west, towards the immense Lake Huron and its Georgian Bay, that we set sail. Vélo Québec is organizing a one-week trip there, with hotel reservations, luggage transport and guide included, to explore the shores of this giant Lake Huron, lined with long sandy beaches that often resemble those of the American east coast, less added value of the American dollar.
According to the grading of Vélo Québec, this trip is rated two bikes out of six, that is to say that it is an easy route, most often on the flat, with, all in all, a single memorable day of climbing, between Owen Sound and Collingwood.
The trip therefore proposes a meeting in Midland, Ontario, where participants go by their own means. As this destination is located 1 hour 45 minutes from Toronto, but more than 6 hours 30 minutes from Montreal, via Toronto, it may be worth spending a night or two in the Queen City on the way, to refuel of urbanity before tackling the Ontario countryside.
Variation of course
But it is in Port Elgin, where Vélo Québec takes us by bus, that the real journey begins. From there and until the end of the trip, it is on two wheels that we will move from one destination and from one hotel to another. Throughout the trip, when the route of the road allows it, we will pass by this immense expanse of water that is Lake Huron, with waters alternately icy and welcoming, sometimes of a turquoise blue comparable to that of the Mediterranean Sea.
This coast is particularly the refuge of Torontonians, from the less wealthy to the very wealthy, who own the chalets forming strings along the banks. The atmosphere is therefore one of relaxed vacationing, as opposed to the intensive tourism that haunts the beaches of the American coast. Moreover, the pretty villages of Southampton or Collingwood, with their small businesses or their community life, have absolutely nothing to envy to those around Kennebunkport or Cape Cod.
If the bike paths do not systematically run along the beaches of the lake, they have several public access points to the beaches, where you can swim or relax between two pedal strokes.
First called the Sweet Sea by French Canadians, Lake Huron was once referred to as Karegnondi, which simply means lake, by the Tionontati Aboriginals of the region, one of the Aboriginal peoples who, along with the Huron-Wendat, inhabited this territory when the Europeans arrived. Like the other great Canadian lakes, it owes its water to the melting of the great continental glaciers.
Each day, Vélo Québec offers a variety of different routes, to be chosen according to the ambition and level of the participants.
On day 2, departing from Port Elgin, a first loop, one of the most pleasant of the trip, is offered to us. Early in the morning, we ride our cars to Southampton. There, a pretty beach, bordered by an iconic island and lighthouse, awaits cyclists who dare to slip into the cold waters of Lake Huron. On the way back, we will brave the strong winds that shake the lake, on the cycle path that runs along the banks, to return to the fold.
We are here on the west coast of the Bruce Peninsula, this long stretch of land that juts out into Lake Huron. At the very end of this peninsula, you can take a boat to reach Manitoulin Island, the largest lake island in the world, on which is located Lake Manitou, itself known to be the largest lake in the world on an island. . But let’s not stray and get back to our pedals and our route. This detour will be for another time.
An effort worth the effort
Day 3, we pack up in the early morning and ride our bikes to Owen Sound, a small town located in the hollow of a bay on the eastern side of the Bruce Peninsula. So here we are on the east coast of Georgian Bay, which sometimes guarantees a higher temperature to the blue waters of Lake Huron. Day 4 will explore the cliffs along Georgian Bay, called the Georgian Bluffs, to Big Bay, a small village where we will stop for a few minutes to look at the horizon, on a pebble beach. , before resuming service.
The 73 kilometers of the day 5 circuit, between Owen Sound and Collingwood, are undoubtedly the most demanding of the route, given the unavoidable hills to climb to get to your destination. But, all cyclists know, each effort will be worth the candle, and the intoxication that wins us after sweating our last drops on a drop will inevitably be part of the lasting memories of the journey.
A pretty, plush and festive village, Collingwood also allows you to reach the famous Wasaga Beach in a single day, which is also offered by Vélo Québec for the next day. Overly touristy, with its rows of fast food and arcades, Wasaga Beach also offers 22 kilometers of white sand beach overlooking Lake Huron and bordered by the very pleasant provincial park, where it is good to pedal on the bike path, in the shade tall pines, between two dips in the fresh water of the lake.
This is also a path that we will take to overtake it on day 7, as we leave Collingwood to find Midland. This will be an opportunity to see the extent of the beaches of Georgian Bay, where the waters are at a temperature conducive to swimming.
Our journey ends at Midland, our meeting point on the first day. At 8e day, the circuit offers a very pretty ride on the bike path that runs along the lake, behind the chalets and opulent houses of Midland. A little further along the route, you will reach the Sainte-Marie-au-pays-des-Hurons sanctuary, where the Jesuits Jean de Brébeuf and Gabriel Lalemant tried, in vain, to establish a mission.
Vélo Québec offers several stays in Georgian Bay during summer 2023.
This special content was produced by the Special Publications team of the Duty, pertaining to marketing. The drafting of Duty did not take part.