The following article and photos were produced by Colin Field.
Rolling from Collingwood to Orillia, the Simcoe County section of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail is set up perfectly for a multi-day ride. This newly completed 255 kilometer-long trail features off road pavement, some crushed limestone trail and some on-road country highways. Signage was completed in spring of 2022 and you’ll pass through wetlands, beaches, farmland and so much more. Grab a room halfway along the trail in Midland at the bike-friendly Quality Inn or Comfort Inn.
Starting in Collingwood, you’ll find a vibrant cycling community; there are multiple bike shops in town, so if you need some gear before starting your journey this is the place to do it. Try Kamikaze, Little Ed’s or the Summit Social House. The culinary scene in Collingwood has also exploded; from brewpubs and Mexican restaurants, to vegan options and awesome coffee shops, it’s easy to eat your way through town.
When you start your ride, you’ll follow the bike path from downtown along the shores of Georgian Bay on the Sunset Point Park trail. This is a hot spot for locals and if you’re ready for a swim, this is the place to do it.
From here the trail continues east through the business district and on towards Wasaga. Once in Wasaga you’ll take Shore Lane until it ends on a trail through Wasaga Beach Provincial Park, a true Georgian Bay beauty. This is another incredible swim spot, it’s actually the longest freshwater beach in the world. It’s a tourist hot spot for good reason; it’s gorgeous, especially at sunset. But the shoreline’s beauty continues beyond Wasaga Beach. As you head north you’ll encounter Woodland Beach, Georgian Sands Beach and more. They’re all spectacular viewpoints and there are plenty of places worth stopping. If you’re getting low on calories around here, the Tiny Treats European Deli in Lafontaine has some seriously delectable goodies.
Moving east, the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail takes you through Awenda Provincial Park; if you’re the bikepacking/camping type, this is a great place to stay. There are a couple more stunning beaches in the park, great places to cool off with a swim. Otherwise, carry on and enjoy the winding tree-lined roads of the park. Absolutely beautiful.
In Penetanguishene, Cafe Kittyhawk is a great place to stock up on calories for the final push to Midland.
Midland is the perfect place to spend a night or two; you could stay a second night and do the 66-kilometre Big Chute Loop which takes you up to the Big Chute National Historic Site; this marine railway is the only one of its kind in North America and if you’re lucky enough to watch a boat being transported on it, you’re sure to be amazed. It’s a serious feat of engineering and determination. The twisting road from Port Severn to Big Chute itself is well worth the extra mileage; it’s a lovely tour through Ontario’s magnificent cottage country. While in Midland don’t miss out on dinner at the beautiful patio of the Boathouse Eatery and morning java at Grounded Coffee.
Carrying on the main route from Midland, you’ll end up on the Tay Shore trail for nearly 20-kilometres. This paved trail starts along the shores of Matchedash Bay and is stunning. That trail will then become the Uhthoff Trail which will take you through woodlands and wetlands. Passing through the tiny town of Coldwater, check out Em’s Cafe for a delicious way to stock up on calories and wandering around Phil Holder’s Steampunk Factory is wildly entertaining. Coldwater is actually the home to the Coldwater Steampunk Festival in early August, so if you time it right, this is an awesome attraction.
From Coldwater the final push will continue on the Uhthoff Trail. This trail takes you all the way to Orillia. The trail ends downtown at Couchiching Beach Park, a perfect spot to celebrate your accomplishment with a swim and some goodies from the nearby Mariposa Market, Couchiching Craft Brewing or Studabakers.
This is the first year Simcoe County’s section of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail is open and riding it is an accomplishment that won’t be forgotten. From the farmlands and beaches to the towns and communities this is a relatively easy ride without too many heinous climbs or challenging descents; it’s the perfect trail for just about anyone.
To learn more about the Simcoe County section of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail, visit cyclesimcoe.ca.