The St. Lawrence River boasts some of the richest history, culture, and scenery in all of Ontario. As someone who has been an avid road-tripper for his entire life, I was used to seeing this spectacular scenery through the windshield of my truck. But it took a three-day ride with Ontario by Bike for me to gain a deeper appreciation of the beauty of eastern Ontario.
My eyes were opened when I joined Ontario by Bike for a three-day ride along the 1000 Islands St. Lawrence River from Mallorytown to the Long Sault Parkway. Of course, being in a vehicle can let you see many incredible things in a short amount of time. But being on a bike, well, it enables you to take in all of the small things that truly bring the world into focus.
Day 1: Brockville to Mallorytown Landing
Our first day of cycling adventure began in Brockville. And wow, does this town have some scenery to offer. Not only does Brockville sit at the heart of the Thousand Islands, but it’s also one of the oldest cities in Ontario. What was once a bustling industry town now sits as a quiet riverside retreat speckled with the massive homes of some of Ontario’s most successful industry leaders.
Among the many incredible stops within the city are the plethora of great restaurants, the Aquatarium Discovery Centre, and Canada’s first rail tunnel. This historic site has been modernized into a whole light and sound experience that explores the history and importance of the rail industry to both Ontario and the city of Brockville itself.
Cruising the Waterfront Trail’s rolling hills and long flats for an hour brought us past scenic riverfront properties and lots of shaded roadways. But the main attraction was our lunch stop at Thousand Islands National Park. Land-wise, this beautiful Parks Canada escape is tiny; but, the park extends across 20 of the Thousand Islands and a good chunk of the mainland at Mallorytown landing. There are plenty of interpretive trails, Indigenous history walks, and much more to explore at the park.
For those looking to delve a little deeper, you can rent a canoe or kayak from a local outfitter such as 1000 Islands Kayaking Company and have the boat dropped off at the park. Then, a quick paddle offshore, and you’ll be surrounded by the world-famous islands of the St. Lawrence River.
Mallorytown has more to explore for those willing to take a little extra time in the region. Spots such as BUSL Cider and Skywood Eco Adventure offer ways to broaden your visit.
Day 2: Upper Canada And the Sunken Villages
The Long Sault Parkway is arguably one of the most underrated rides in all of Ontario. Our second day started in the town of Morrisburg and headed east along the St. Lawrence River through shaded waterfront trails lined with an explosion of wildflowers.
About halfway along the route stop at Upper Canada Village if you like reenactment villages where you can time travel back 200 years is the place to do it. This excellent sprawling park is a village in more than just name. You could spend a day here and still not see it all. And while many riders head to the memorial looking out over the St. Lawrence River, those who choose to enter the park and wander the grounds will get the whole experience, including the on-site lumber mill and a wool shop whose product makes it out to the local market.
But the crown jewel of the ride is the little-known Long Sault Parkway. This magnificent chain of 11 islands is connected via a causeway and is entirely built of the hilltops of one riverside village. When the St. Lawrence River was flooded for expansion, these villages sunk beneath the water’s surface and have become what is known as the ‘Lost Villages’ and is now a SCUBA divers paradise.
Day 3: Morrisburg to Cardinal
Where much of the St. Lawrence River bicycle trails are focused on the experiences along the way, the Morrisburg to Cardinal route is more about the experience itself. Cycling along pristine waterfront trails, pass small beaches, local camping spots, and tiny townhomes where locals come out to wave at groups of riders.
While there are still some great things to see along this part of the trail, such as the Iroquois Dam, where massive cargo ships bypass the dam system that helps control the water flow out of the Great Lakes, the whole route brings forth the sense of community of small-town Ontario. What it lacks in big thrills, it more than makes up for as a dive into the communities that make the St. Lawrence River trails spectacular.
And after three days of riding together, this sense of community is perfectly fitting as many new friendships were struck with other cyclists in the group also enjoying the 1000 Islands St. Lawrence River Ontario by Bike Ride. .
This cycling route in eastern Ontario passes through one of the province’s most historic pieces of land. And even when I wrote in-depth about the best things to see on the drive from Toronto to Montreal, I still missed out on a vast section of this parkway. But thanks to the Ontario By Bike Ride itinerary, I slowed down enough to experience even more of this beautiful province.
Guest Blogger – Bio
Kevin Wagar is a travel writer and photographer based out of Brampton, Ontario. He is the creator behind Wandering Wagars: Adventure Family Travel, a website focused on family adventures both local and around the world, and the co-founder of Ultimate Ontario, a digital publication focused on sharing the best experiences, attractions, and small businesses throughout Ontario.
South Eastern Ontario – southeasternontario.ca
Ontario By Bike – ontariobybike.ca/southeasternontario
Brockville Tourism, SDG Counties Tourism, Cornwall Tourism