By: Mike Jacobs
There are so many killer motorcycle routes in Ontario, it’s hard to know which ones to start with—but some of us have to cram our riding into the two days between Friday and Monday. So we’ve put together a list of rides that can be crammed into a weekend. You won’t be stopping to smell the roses, but we guarantee you a good time.
First for a reason, the Temiskaming Loop starts and ends in North Bay, a mere three hours from Toronto. Fly up Friday night after work, and stay overnight before setting out on a big day’s ride. Have lunch in Temiskaming Shores, then settle in at La Bannik on the Quebec side of the border—the view from the restaurant is incredible. Ride down through Mattawa and some truly lush rides over the Ottawa River, before circling back into North Bay and down to Toronto.
The roads throughout are incredible, with the first section up through Ontario a winding delight of sweepers, hills, and valleys through dozens of lakes and rivers on a lightly travelled section of the Trans Canada. And while the Quebec side’s highway isn’t as well paved, it’s totally fine and the scenery is pretty great there too. The final leg into Mattawa is a rock and roller of a road, so go slow.
Known far and wide as the twistiest backroads in the province, Ride the Highlands is just far enough from Toronto to make a true weekend ride a challenge. However, one of their routes is close enough that it can be done—check out Dynamite Alley. It’s 500 kilometres, and takes you through the area just south of Algonquin Park. If you’re a Toronto rider, it’s likely you know just how beautiful this section of the world is—people come from all over just to experience Algonquin.
The only downside is that during cottage season, these roads can be a bit busy—so be prepared to go for a slow cruise and enjoy the scenery. There are plenty of small towns along the way to stop for a bite or an ice cream. We recommend heading out Friday night, staying in Peterborough, then setting out for the counter-clockwise ride the next day. You’ll be passing through Algonquin Park, so consider getting that ice cream at Lake of Two Rivers.
Two hours south of Toronto are the shores of Lake Erie and the multiple routes that make up Cruise the Coast. While most of them are short—too short to make a weekend out of—you can string a few together and stretch it out. Or you could just ride from Niagara to Windsor/Detroit all along the coast of Lake Erie. There’s plenty of beaches and sleepy little port towns that you can stop at along the way, and it feels almost like going to summer camp.
You can make quick time by taking the 407 south to Hamilton and then just following the QEW right to Fort Erie. From there, there are signs all the way along that indicate the waterfront trail system, which is an easy way to stay close to the lake. Alternatively, you can plug it into your GPS and just cruise the backroads. They vary from straight and flat farm concession roads to winding through young forests. This whole part of Ontario seems to be a bit more charming and rustic, with a real reverence for the past and for a simpler life. City folks could learn something here. If you’re in a rush to get back, hop on any of the 400 series highways and book it.
Not a full loop, but a great weekend ride nonetheless is the Ride Grey-Bruce itinerary from the Georgian Bay Coastal Route. This route starts in the town of Collingwood. It’s so picture-perfect that you should absolutely stay here overnight—it’s a two-hour drive from Toronto—although if you’re leaving Friday night you’ll be heading out with traffic, so budget a bit more time, or map out a backroads route. You won’t regret it, as the roads out here are all picturesque.
From Collingwood, you’ll head west and north up to Tobermory, a quaint tourist town where you can pick up a ferry to Manitoulin Island—but that’s for another, longer, ride. Ride back down to Lion’s Head and check out the spectacular bluffs here before riding back down to the shores of Lake Huron. Grab a bite on a lakeside patio, then head back to the big city before Monday rears its ugly head. These roads are mostly straight and flat, but it’s quaint countryside and it’s good for your soul.
One of our favourite rides in the bunch, Ride the Edge has two routes—the smaller of the two being suitable for weekend rides. At 600 kilometres it’s one of the most ambitious rides, but it’s also one of the closest to Toronto. At only 2.5 hours from downtown, you can stay overnight Friday in either Gravenhurst or Bracebridge and get your ride started early the next day. The roads here are generally in great condition, but the local tourism body (Explorers’ Edge) sends a rider out at the beginning of each season to check the route, and report back if any of the roads are in rough shape—if they are, they literally change the route.
We recommend taking the route clockwise from Gravenhurst—you’ll start out with these tight country backroads that rock and roll like a rollercoaster, and then open up on Highway 400/69 through the glacially-scraped rocks, lakes, and inlets of the Parry Sound region. As you head inland back towards the Trans-Canada highway through Port Loring and Restoule, you’ll discover near-perfect pavement and deeply quiet roads—this section is pure zen and pure joy to ride. Heading back south to Huntsville, you can stay overnight there, as there’s plenty of local accommodation and restaurants, before wrapping up your trip Sunday. If you’re not fully refreshed come Monday morning, we’ll give you your money back. JK.
These are the five easiest, and best, weekend rides from Toronto—while there are others, these routes have all been verified by other riders and can be done within a regular non-long weekend while still being safe and fun. It’s up to you to cross them all off!