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Local Flavour on Ontario’s West Coast – A G2G Rail Trail Adventure

We arrived in Goderich as the sky was opening up after a rainstorm on our drive in. It was glorious to see the pure blue skies unveil themselves as we rolled into the town’s unique downtown, known as ‘The Square’. We had come to explore all that the area and its trails had to offer on a weekend cycling excursion.

We were planning to discover Huron County (a.k.a. Ontario’s West Coast) on two wheels and were excited to explore the Goderich to Guelph (G2G) Rail Trail between the two communities of Goderich and Blyth.

Goderich to Guelph (G2G) Rail Trail

The G2G Rail Trail has gained a lot of publicity in recent years, and piqued our interest, with all the work completed to connect each section, creating a 132km (plus a few detours) linear trail ride through some fantastic communities and a beautiful slice of Ontario countryside.

Huron County’s section of the trail really interested us, with a large draw being stunning Lake Huron, the proximity to interesting towns, the area’s rivers (including a beautiful gravel road detour around the Maitland River), and a mix of lush forests and rolling farmland.

Exploring Goderich

Having left home quite early, we headed to Cait’s Cafe for a second breakfast to fuel up for the ride ahead. In addition to coffees we had a delicious croissant sandwich made with a local gouda sheep’s cheese, and a scone that was just as good.

Feeling satisfied, we biked downhill toward the water and the G2G trailhead where we were greeted by the incredible turquoise waters of Lake Huron. Not far from the trailhead we came upon the second awe-inspiring view atop the Menesetung Bridge, crossing the Maitland River Valley, with views both upstream and downstream toward Lake Huron. It’s an impressive wooden structure, and was the longest bridge of its kind in Ontario when it was completed in 1907.

The first section of the G2G from this end is the Goderich to Auburn Rail Trail, the G.A.R.T. Probably my favourite section of the whole morning ride was where the trail wraps around the river valley and you emerge on the crest of a hill overlooking the Menesetung Bridge, the Maitland River and Lake Huron. There’s a lovely sitting area with benches and a picnic table.

After a stop at the secluded “Tiger” Dunlop Tomb (founder of Goderich) the trail travels through lush forests, and after the early morning rain the air had a nice, crisp quality to it. The remainder of our morning ride was on the G.A.R.T, through peaceful forests and farmland, before we turned around back to Goderich for lunch.

We had lunch at Beach Street Station, which is easily one of the best patios in Ontario. The restaurant is housed in a former train station, and from its large patio we had a full view of Lake Huron right in front of us. The food was excellent and they allowed us to lean our bikes against the patio railing while we ate, which they said cyclists often do. They also have a bike rack around the back of the building.

After a visit to the architecturally-interesting Huron County Gaol, a unique octagonal building and National Historic Site, we were feeling like a sweet treat was in order. We had heard about the legendary cream puff donuts at Culbert’s Bakery (local institution opened in 1877) and they did not disappoint. My partner tried the butter tart, where I went for the classic cream puff – so good.

Heading back down to the Goderich waterfront and beaches, we cycled to the end of Cove Road where a trail continues along the water. There are some incredible bluff views along the Huron coastline and it feels as if you’ve been transported to the Mediterranean. After exploring, we returned for a swim at Cove Beach, which was super inviting with a sandy beach and shallow water.

An Evening in Blyth

After a fun afternoon we were sad to leave Goderich but excited to be checking into our overnight accommodations, the Blyth Trailway Cabins.

The cabins, located just a few minutes bike or drive from the village of Blyth, are located with direct access onto the G2G Trail. We were really impressed by the cabins – they have a classic woodsy feel with modern finishing and amenities (compact kitchen and full bathroom). While we didn’t make use of it, there’s a big communal fire pit which looked quite enticing.

For dinner, we decided to try Cowbell Brewing Company as we’ve enjoyed their beer for a long time. The scale of the brewery is remarkable – like a massive ski chalet. On the patio we enjoyed a juicy session ale and a cocktail paired with some great food – pulled pork sandwich and a Buddha bowl. While we drove to dinner from the cabins, you could easily bike or walk there from the bounty of accommodations in Blyth.

Ride to the Maitland River

It was such a beautiful evening, and we saw rain in the forecast for the next day, so we decided to do an evening ride on the G2G to the Maitland River and back, the start of one of the main detours of the trail. The Blyth to Maitland River section of the trail is also a nice mix of rolling farmland and forests. Be prepared to follow a second signed on-road detour around ditch digging work at Sandhill Line and the trail, which according to signage will be completed by Fall 2024.

The trail ends at the Maitland River and down by the river you’ll see pillars of the old rail bridge that once carried trains to Goderich. The G2G Rail Trail organization is fundraising to build a new bridge in this location. The evening light was spectacular against the river backdrop.

Maitland River Gravel Detour

On day two, with rain in the forecast we decided to limit our cycling to a few sections. We had heard the 10km signed detour on gravel roads around the Maitland was quite scenic so we drove to a nearby trailhead (Sharpes Creek Line) on the west side of the river to ride it.

The detour begins taking riders on the Maitland Trail, a gravel and dirt double-track path rambling up and down hills and through forests. This part of the detour, while beautiful and wild, is not for the beginner cyclist, due to steep grades. This trail can be avoided by taking Sharpes Creek Line and Hills Road (also hilly). The trail connects with River Line with sweeping views of the river valley below. Turning onto Little Lakes Road we spotted a dear and rolled past lush wetlands and lakes. Visiting Ball’s Bridge alone is worth the detour, a single-lane bridge over the babbling Maitland River.

Downtown Blyth

We returned to Blyth by car and then again hopped on our bikes, making our way from the cabins to downtown. The long-anticipated Blyth Tunnel is now open to trail users which makes this section of trail fully level and accessible, travelling underneath Blyth Road.

Blyth’s downtown is about 200m south of the G2G trail crossing at London Road. Riders can easily visit the village from the trail as a rest stop or an overnight stay while cycling the G2G (102km from Guelph, 40km including detours from Goderich). Riding down the main street, we were struck by the village’s mix of rural charm and artsy vibe. The renowned Blyth Festival Theatre, which this year is celebrating its 50th season, has attracted quite a large artistic community to the area and continues to draw visitors every year.

Some unique shops we visited – at Wild Goose Studio we saw some cubist art made from parts of musical instruments, and some neat locally-sewn quilted bags and other home goods at Penny’s of Blyth. The cafe we visited – BRØD bread & pastry – is actually now closed, but will be opening as a bistro under new ownership this summer, so keep an eye out for that. The Blyth Inn is a great spot right downtown you can grab a meal, and even stay the night.

It was inspiring to see so many unique shops and businesses that focused on locally-made products. Even the grocery store Blyth Food Market had local cheese that we had brought back to our cabin for breakfast. While it sees a fair amount of traffic, Blyth’s main street is quite interesting and bike friendly, with a number of recently installed bike racks, and even penny-farthing shaped racks commemorating a historic bicycle race in the town.

Planning for the Next Adventure

After some more exploring, it had come time to wrap up our trip. We were struck by a lot of things in our visit to Huron County. First, the friendliness of the people was really refreshing. Second, Goderich and Blyth have so much to offer – interesting architecture and history, incredible food, artisan shops and locally-made goods and a vibrant and active artistic community. We loved this stretch of the G2G Rail Trail and it’s such a fantastic way to see the natural beauty and communities in the county. You really can explore as much or little as you like from the trail, and have just as much fun on or off the bike. We’ll definitely return to explore more soon!

If you’re inspired to visit yourself, here are some links for more information.

  • Ontario’s West Coast  – Plan your trip to Huron County. Find tourism information for things to do and see, places to eat and where to stay during your visit to Ontario’s West Coast.
  • Village of Blyth – Blyth is a small vibrant village 30km from Lake Huron in rural Ontario. Explore the Blyth Festival Theatre and local artisan shops.
  • Town of Goderich – Interesting architecture and history, beautiful Lake Huron, tons of local cafes and shops to explore.
  • G2G Rail Trail – Explore the G2G Rail Trail interactive map to discover entry points, parking locations, washroom facilities, points of interest and more.
  • 519 Tours – Tour company based in Goderich with group transportation and shuttle services available to assist with one-way trail rides on the G2G.
  • Ontario by Bike – Huron County – Great Places to Cycle – Find routes, trail information, maps, and bicycle-friendly businesses in the region.

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Sponsored Content Partner: Huron County / Ontario’s West Coast

Article and photos by Peter McMurtry, Ontario By Bike

Published On: July 1, 2024Categories: News

About the Author: Ontario By Bike