With two pretty towns as bookends, cyclists will love the easy biking between Gananoque and Brockville on a section of Ontario’s Waterfront Trail. Plenty of access points ensure a whole lot of ways you can configure a trip. And with a 10 foot wide, newly paved (in 2014) mostly traffic-free trail, this is an outing the whole family can enjoy.
The approximately 45 kilometre section of the Waterfront Trail between the two towns parallels the 1000 Islands Parkway and the St. Lawrence River – one of North America’s longest rivers. As you cycle alongside the upper part of the St. Lawrence River, an especially scenic section, dotted with well over a 1000 islands, some of which are part of 1000 Islands National Park, you can gawk at the myriad of cottages. Many of them are eye-candy and great fun to admire – not only for their architecture but for the beautiful islands they sit on, some of which aren’t much bigger than the cottage itself.
But before you even get to the eye-candy you’ll have to decide in advance what kind of cycling experience you’re looking for. Do you want an out and back ride – in which case where should you start? Or would you rather just cycle a section between the start and end points of the 1000 Islands Parkway? There is also the option to cycle one way and overnight in either Brockville or Gananoque and retrace your steps the next day? Strong cyclists can certainly knock off the round-trip in about five hours but recreational cyclists might want to stop and swim, enjoy a picnic or admire the view from one of the lookout spots.
I’m partial to starting in Gananoque – as I love the waterfront and the choice of historic and very beautiful B&B’s to stay in before or after the bike ride. (It’s also a great place to take a boat tour post bike ride.)My inclination is to do and out and back trip.
In Gananoque you can park for a fee down by the marina on Water Street. Just be aware that the area can get congested on summer weekends so plan to arrive early. The actual car-free trail starts 2.5 kilometres east of town. Other places to start that are right on the trail include the Environmental Awareness Centre in Mallorytown Landing, picnic spots along the 1000 Islands Parkway and Brown’s Bay Day-Use Area (pay for two days if you leave your car overnight.)
There’s a short section of busy road you must contend with as you head east from Gananoque. Once on the parkway you pass through a pretty area around Ivy Lea before you head under the 1000 Islands Bridge to the US. This is one of the few areas where you need to exercise caution as there is a short section of narrow, busy road. From there continue to Rockport, a popular centre for boat tours. You’ll find a restaurant, fast food places and a store. Although it’s a good spot to buy cold drinks and food, especially since it’s at about the halfway point, picnickers would do well to stop at one of the many rest stops with picnic tables overlooking the river. If you’re like me and love slabs of pink granite and wind-swept trees with views of islands, then save your picnic for the 1000 Islands National Park further to the east and enjoy your picnic by the water. Don’t forget to buy your picnic supplies before starting out for the day.
Reach the Brown’s Bay Day-use Park six kilometres past the 1000 Islands Visitor Centre in Mallorytown Landing. The park is a great turnaround spot if you want to avoid cycling the nine kilometres of road into Brockville though there is the option to continue a further 2.8 kilometres on the car-free trail to Butternut Bay. And what better way to get refreshed for the return ride than a swim in Brown’s Bay Park. Just don’t forget your bathing suit.
Recreational cyclists can easily make a full day out of the bike ride. Everyone will enjoy not only the scenery but the prolific birdlife and the chance to experience the St. Lawrence River up close.
For detailed help in planning your trip check out the Waterfront Trail website with its interactive map that showcases places to stay, exact distances and the suggested bike route through towns along the way.