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Cycling in Stratford: Life is Better on Two Wheels

Nestled in the heart of Perth County and best known as the home of the Stratford Festival, Stratford is quickly becoming a destination for cycling, boasting routes from easy in-town loops to back-country gravel adventures. With a growing number of bicycle friendly businesses, the city offers a variety of unique accommodations, restaurants ranging from fine dining to quick eats, and services to support every cyclist’s needs. What a better way to explore Stratford than pairing your theatre experience with a ride around town?

Festival City Route

One of many curated cycling routes, the Festival City Route is a flat, 12km loop that showcases both the dramatic beauty of Stratford’s parkland and natural areas and historic cultural landmarks.

By starting and ending at Market Square, cyclists can fuel up at one of the many local coffee shops and cafes. A delicious sandwich or a coffee and pastry from cafes surrounding Market Square will not disappoint, but taking a trip around neighbouring streets will reveal many delightful eats no matter if you’re looking for a hearty sit-down meal or a light snack before embarking on your journey.

If your bike requires a quick fix before heading out, bike repair stations are conveniently located at the corner of Wellington Street and Market Place, and on York Street by the Avon River. Two local bike shops (Totally Spoke’d and Ross’ Bike Works; also located in the downtown core) have gear and services to get you on your way.

Be sure to download or pick up a paper copy of the refreshed bike map at the Destination Stratford office, where staff can assist with planning your cycling adventure. If Ride With GPS is your navigational aid of choice, popular routes and helpful tips can be found on the Visit Stratford website.

Heading towards the Avon River, the Festival Route first meanders along Lakeside Drive where you might glimpse Stratford’s iconic white swans or other waterfowl such as the majestic blue and green herons. Both the magnificently reconstructed Tom Patterson Theatre and the original Festival Theatre can be visited along this stretch and are worth a quick photo stop.

Depending on the timing of your visit, you may have a chance to peruse creations of local artists at Art in the Park or be serenaded by the Summer MusicBarge or Razzamajazz, as you ride along this stretch of waterfront that attracts thousands of visitors each year. If you’re ready for a longer stop or want to circle back later, take note of Tom Patterson Island as a cute picnic location complete with shady tables under brightly coloured umbrellas.

The Festival Route continues through quiet, tree-lined neighbourhoods and heads northeast past the Rotary Complex, the location of one of Ontario’s oldest farmers markets. Established in 1855, the Stratford Farmers’ Market is open year-round every Saturday from 7am to 12 noon. You can stock your panniers with fresh fruits, veggies, cheese, bread, and other tasty treats.

Continuing along McCarthy Rd in the dedicated bike lane and when traversing the multi-use pathway along O’Loane, cyclists are reminded that the City’s neighbourhoods are literally side-by-side with agricultural land. Fields of corn and other crops provide a beautiful pastoral landscape along this portion of the ride.

If you desire some quiet reflection, the route passes through the peaceful plots and serene greenery of the Avondale Cemetery, which is adjacent to the T.J. Dolan Natural Area. A bike rack at the corner of John and Centre Streets is a safe lock-up site if you’d like to take a stroll along the river or through the forested natural area. While not part of this bike route, consider a detour along the re-designed shared pathway of T.J. Dolan Drive – it’s like biking through an enchanted forest with overhanging branches and a river view. Simply exit the cemetery at John Street instead of Avondale and make a quick zigzag to connect with the pathway.

From there, the route skirts the Stratford Intermediate School and leads back downtown where you can easily continue cycling with a choose-your-own-adventure style ramble.

If refreshments are top of mind, there are several breweries and a distillery just south of town where you can sample some locally craft brews. Destination Stratford’s signature Bacon & Ale Trail and Chocolate Trail are both fun options to explore by bike including their new Savour & Sip Trail, available until October. This seasonal trail encourages outdoor dining and makes for the perfect afternoon picnic.

If art is more your thing, consider a short ride back across town through Upper Queens Park to Gallery Stratford, where admission is by donation and you can take in the latest art installations.

Further Afield – Side Trip to St. Marys

If you’ve explored Stratford by bike and are seeking an out-of-town adventure, why not plan a ride to nearby St. Marys? Roughly 20 km each way, both paved and gravel roads connect Stratford to the bike-friendly Town of St. Marys, home to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and the Quarry, a popular swimming attraction.

The scenic St. Marys Loop Trail is a 13 km marked route with a variety of surfaces ranging from roads, grass, and dirt paths to a paved pathway along the Thames River. The Grand Trunk Trail is not to be missed, as this pathway crosses the Sarnia Bridge and offers breathtaking views over the river and out towards the small waterfalls at the edge of Milt Dunnell Field (“The Flats”). Complete with plenty of shops and restaurants to complete the cycling experience, St. Marys is a great midway stop before heading back to Stratford or is a worthy standalone biking destination.

Planning Your Bike Ride in Stratford

Leverage Destination Stratford’s site for information about cycling, accommodation, experiences and more.

Day trippers may wish to park in the Cooper Lot next to the University of Waterloo Campus. Consult the City of Stratford site for an up-to-date parking map.

Public washrooms are available year-round at City Hall, the Transit Terminal, Destination Stratford on Downie Street, the William Allman Memorial Arena, the Rotary Complex and at the York Street Boathouse.

Explore other scenic bike routes through the farmlands and charming small towns of Perth County.

Want to ride with a group? Guests are welcome on Cycle Stratford’s Sunday morning rides.

Additional Information

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Sponsored Content Partner: Destination Stratford

All photos courtesy of Destination Stratford

Published On: July 1, 2024Categories: News

About the Author: Guest