Article by: Martin Lortz
We riders are a lucky bunch when it comes to Ontario’s touring opportunities. Where’s it going to be? The north shore of Lake Superior in Algoma, cottage country meandering in Muskoka, beach hopping in Ontario’s southwest, or straddling the Ontario Quebec border in Northeastern Ontario? There’s so much to ride in such a short season.
That being said, if there is one area that delivers the best bang for your motorcycling buck, its Ontario’s ‘Ride the Highlands.’
Located between Haliburton Highlands and encompassing the Ottawa Valley, this roving landscape of picturesque lakes and rocky outcroppings makes following a straight route virtually impossible. Twists and turns rule the pavement, making it an unimpeded joy for those who prefer two-wheel travel.
So how do you discover this moto playground? Look no further than the good folks at Ride The Highlands, who have been perfecting the experience for years.
Let your fingers do the walking and head over to the Hide The Highlands website. There you will find route recommendations, lists of best roads, accommodations and points of interest. Pick a route, download a GPS file, and hit the road. If you are more old school, you can order the Ride The Highlands paper map.
Whether you’re old school or not, using a paper map is a thing of beauty. It takes you back to a time when every adventure started with a map unfolding. If you’d like even more resources for planning a trip, the Ride The Highlands Facebook group is an excellent place for rider feedback.
I have been making an annual pilgrimage to the Highlands for more years than I have fingers on both hands. I still discover new things on every ride, but some have become my favourites.
Choosing my favourite roads is a very difficult choice. The list changes constantly, but I have ridden these three roads more than any other:
If you’d like more info, check out the list of Ride The Highland's Top 10 Roads.
Even the best roads can become ordinary on an empty stomach. Luckily, chances to refuel the body are aplenty, from coffee shops to fast food, to sunny patios that will have you staying too long. Often lunch is a second thought, depending on where you are at lunchtime, but these three eateries are worth planning your day's ride around:
• Redneck Bistro in Calabogie. The summer patio vibe here is strong, and the food is delicious.
• Heartwood Restaurant in Combermere. Family classics, a hearty burger, perhaps a Buddha Bowl, or my go-to - the Ruben.
• Wilno Tavern Restaurant in Wilno. Enjoy Polish fare and a traditional Canadian menu. Few things fuel the body better than a plate full of Polish Perogies.
As good as a day ride in the Highlands can be, more is always better. Whether you prefer a resort, motel, or cottage for your overnight stay, there is something for everyone. Here are three spots I will happily drop my bags at again - all provide good food, a comfortable bed, and a chance to swim in a lake or sit by a relaxing campfire.
• Sands on Golden Lake - Comfortable rooms and dining on-site.
• Sir Sam's Inn - One of Ontario's finest inns and even has a spa.
• Bonnie View Inn: A family-owned and operated country inn, the Bonnie View Inn welcomes riders with a 10% discount.
Yes, I know it's all about the ride but sometimes even the best trips can be more memorable with a few interesting stops. Stretch your legs, review where you've been and where you're going, and learn something new about the area.
• Bonnechere Caves - Home to a series of caves carved into the surrounding rock 400 to 500 million years ago. Head underground and learn about the fossils, bats, and history. Motorcyclists enjoy dedicated parking spots and get $1 off admission!
• Kaminiskeg Lake Lookout - You don't have to get off your bike to enjoy the spectacular view of the surrounding area. It’s a spectacular vista. The lake below is the location of the Mayflower tragedy.
• Crooked Slide Park - a reconstruction of an original log chute used in the early 1900s, and an excellent spot to stretch your legs before resuming your ride along Old Barry's Bay Road. It's one of my favourites.
Picking a post-ride refreshment after a day of incredible travel is not an easy choice, but one I am willing to continue researching. More often than not, the cooler contains an assortment of the area's favourite brewers.
Yes, we are lucky with so much good riding to discover in Ontario. If you are looking for a destination with excellent roads and many reasons to stop and stay, the Ride The Highland has it all. See you on the road!
My Ride - 2021 Gold Wing Tour DCT
A three-day weekend from the GTA to the Highlands and back can quickly tick off 2000 plus kilometres on the odometer. While the experience is fun on any bike when it comes to a long day in the saddle, I do appreciate the Gold Wing's comfort spoils, ease of packing and ride quality.
It didn't take me long to get over the lack of manual shifting, as the Honda's Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) works flawlessly and lets you enjoy the ride. The Gold Wing keeps me smiling with a mode for every situation from Tour to Sport and even a reverse gear to help you get out of that tight parking spot.