Cycling Ontario: Onwards to Ottawa

Kelly’s write up of cycling to Ottawa, during our coast to coast Canada cycle trip. Her other Ontario blog posts are cycling to Thunder Bay and Cycling Lake Superior. Click here to read Michael’s write up of cycling in Ontario.

We still had 850km to cycle to reach the country’s capital, Ottawa. After some discussion, we decided to take the most direct route to get there. This would mean we could meet my brother in Montreal on 14th September, and also have a few rest days before then.

Discovering Amish Country

After all the steep inclines around Lake Superior, we finally got to enjoy a relatively flat road. The cycle from Sault St Marie to Sudbury also took us through Amish country. To our delight fruit stalls and bakeries started to appear along the road. We also spotted a few horse and carriages on the highway and horse powered plowes in the fields.

September Long Weekend

Cycling into Sudbury on the Friday before a long weekend was definitely not a smart choice. In fact, it was horrible and very dangerous! Not only did we have to put up with road works, a terrible or non-existent hard shoulder and soft gravel, plus a cross wind, we also had constant RVs and trucks to keep an eye out for.

After a very long, scary day, we pulled off the highway onto a quieter road, just as we were coming into Sudbury. We had decided to try and avoid the highway as much as possible. It was getting late in the afternoon, and we decided to start looking for a campsite, just as a car pulled off just in front of us (this is one of Michael’s pet hates).

“Friendly-cycling-enthusiast” to the rescue

Out of the car popped, Patti! A keen and very enthusiastic cyclist, who insisted we make it to her house that night, to shower, do laundry and sleep in a proper bed. The only problem was, Patti lived at least another 30km away (we discovered later it was more like 40km). There was no way we were going to push on another 30km. We were done for the day and felt completely defeated. Patti then offered to drive the bikes and us to her place. Usually, I would consider this cheating and decline the offer, however after spending the day on the busy highway, fearing for my life, we decided, screw it, lets do it! Cycle touring is about the experiences you have and the people you meet, not about cycling on dangerous, busy roads.

Picnic sites make ideal camping spots

After spending the night at Patti’s we woke early, feeling rested and in good spirit. The weather was good, so we decided to try and smash out the kilometres, getting as close to North Bay as possible. North Bay is where we had planned to take a rest day off the bikes. Having a long day would mean a short cycle day into North Bay and a bonus afternoon off the bikes.

The cycle day was great! We managed to find a camping spot at the picnic site about 20km west of North Bay. We camped behind the drop toilets at the picnic site, which was also an amazing viewpoint and sunset, looking out over Nipissing Lake. It would have been an amazing camp spot if it weren’t for the smell of the toilets.

Since arriving in Ontario, we discovered how great picnic spots are. They are practically free, basic campsites. Sometimes there might be a “no camping” sign; however a lot of the time, there is no sign at all. Some of our best campsites have been at these picnic sites.

Campsite next to the highway on the way to North Bay
“Campsite” next to the highway on the way to North Bay

Rest day in North Bay

We arrived into North Bay early the following day. We had arranged to stay with Liz, a warmshowers’ host from Australia (the first Australian we’ve met since leaving BC). It turned out, she also had a love for beer, worked in a local brewery, and fed us free, tasty and local beer! We definitely scored!

We were in North Bay for September long weekend. After the traffic we experienced heading into Sudbury on the Friday, we decided cycling on the Monday would be hectic, and to take the day off cycling. This meant we got to experience North Bay’s September long weekend festival next to the beach. The town definitely had a great community vibe, and quite a nice beach.

Deep River

The cycle to Deep River was quite pleasant, which meant we were getting used to cycling on the busy Ontario highways, which lacked any decent hard shoulder. The scenery was quite beautiful, and the roads were slightly quieter after the long weekend, which meant we felt quite relaxed. If Ontario roads were cycle friendly and had good hard shoulder, then I’m sure it would have some of Canada’s best cycle routes.

Once we arrived in Deep River, we were fortunate to stay with Mike and Danielle, two warmshowers’ hosts that had toured a lot around the UK. Mike, like Michael, had a interest in fine beers, so we spent most of the evening sampling and learning about beers. It was great! Beer is full of carbs, so it’s great for cycling. They also helped with our route into Ottawa and told us away to avoid all the busy highways.

Goodbye Highway 17!

After Deep River, we finally got off highway 17 and onto some quieter country roads. We had been on highway 17 since Thunder Bay, so more than 1000km on the same, crappy quality road. We were ecstatic to be off it.

The country roads were awesome! On the way into Ottawa we camped out the back of a gas station, for the first time in Canada. On our last cycle trip, camping at gas stations was the norm.


Onwards to Ottawa

We stayed on the country-roads until we reached the start of the city’s cycle paths, about 20km outside of downtown Ottawa. The cycle path led us right to Parliament Hill in downtown Ottawa. It was probably the easiest and most stress free cycle into a capital city we have EVER experienced.

We arrived into Ottawa a day early, so decided to stay 4 nights in Ottawa, to check out the city and rest. After 10 weeks of cycle touring, we were definitely beginning to feel a bit drained.

Our warmshowers’ host, Richard, was awesome! He had loads of interesting stories and loads of interesting bikes to go with it. He showed us a whole world of bicycles and bicycle touring that we didn’t know existed. Ottawa is an awesome city! Super bike friendly, with great markets and a real community feel. It felt more like a big town then Canada’s capital city. We were definitely sad to leave.

There were two options when leaving Ottawa, to get to Montreal in Quebec: the Quebec route or the Ontario route. The Ontario route was 20km shorter, so we decided to take that option. The route led us onto an old railway path that was converted into a very quiet cycle (gravel) cycle route. Though it was on gravel it was great, and a brilliant way to end our trip through Ontario.

Bonjour Quebec!

If you’re planning a trip across Canada you might want to check out our gear list, cycle stats or route notes.

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