November 14, 2016

Loop Around Prince Edward County

While the Niagara Region may be the biggest focus for cycle tourism outside of Toronto per the “Investigating Impacts of Cycle Tourism in Ontario” study (more on this here), another region which ranks among the top five is Prince Edward County. Getting to Niagara Region “sans voiture” is easy with GO trains during the summer and buses with bike racks year-round. Prince Edward County, on the other hand, requires transporting bicycles via private automobiles, given there is only one VIA train per day which stops at Belleville and offers a baggage car for transporting bicycles at a cost of $25 one way. On Saturday, October 8, Helen and I set out to Picton (a 2.5-hour drive east of Toronto) and do a 70-kilometre loop around the County.
Birdhouse City - just outside of Picton
If you’re unsure where to start a cycling trip in Prince Edward County (PEC), you can’t miss the free parking lot on Mary Street just outside of Downtown Picton, which can also come in handy for exploring Downtown Picton after riding. Once on the saddle, it wasn’t necessary to go far before we came across Birdhouse City and their dozens of birdhouses which were reproductions of historic buildings. Unlike in Niagara Region where their Circle Route mostly followed off-road paths, there were no such paths in PEC and many roads didn’t have paved shoulders. Fortunately, there wasn’t much traffic on the roads with tourism season behind us aside from one last hurrah for the Thanksgiving long weekend. With reduced traffic, farms dotting the landscape, and leaves changing colour, the fall is a pleasant time to bike around PEC.
Lighthouse outside of Mariners Park Museum
Once at the eastern edge of the County along County Road 13, several stops were made starting with Rutherford Stevens Lookout. Further along was the Black River Cheese Company – where I recommend their goat cheddar – and the Galloping Goat Gift Shop across the street. One good thing PEC has done to accommodate cyclists is the addition of bicycle racks at the cheese factory, the Mariners Park Museum, and other local tourist sites. The gift shop provided some much-needed refuge when the rain became heavy for about 15 – 20 minutes, though they have some hilarious vintage signs which wouldn’t be socially acceptable today. Once the rain subsided, it was on to the Mariners Park Museum which showcased the region’s naval history from indigenous birch bark canoes to high speed boats, along with an old fort and lighthouse. By that point, the clouds cleared and the rest of the ride was bright and sunny. Several wineries could also be seen on route, though we didn’t stop by any.
One of many barns found in Prince Edward County
Due to the museum throwing off wayfinding, we forgot to turn onto County Road 10 and continued another 3.5 kilometres on County Road 13 to Babylon Road. Despite this wayfinding misstep, there were still plenty of nice views and barns to see. Back on the right routing via County Roads 10, 18, and 12, we then continued by Sandbanks; a popular cottage and beach destination. Just before Sandbanks, we saw a canal-like view with dockside properties which could feel right at home in the Netherlands.
A river with dockside properties just before Sandbanks
Once at Bloomfield on Highway 33 for the final stretch, we came across one of the funkiest bicycle shops around; the Bloomfield Bicycle Company. They have creative ways to reuse bicycle parts (e.g. wheel rims for bicycle parking and greenhouses, bike frames as garden props, and inner tubes for larger tires). They also win when it comes to slogans, in which they use “TV Sucks, Ride Your Bike!” Why haven’t I seen that in Toronto? If you were unable to bring your bike to PEC, Bloomfield also offers bike rentals.
Bloomfield Bicycle Company
 
To cap off the ride, we saw a pumpkin patch off the highway and took a stroll around Downtown Picton, which was under construction at the time. There were a couple of older buildings which stood out such as Regent Theatre and The Armoury, as well as the usual galleries, shops, and caf├ęs. A couple of final observations about the County include the abundance of Loyalist heritage and motif designs found on many buildings.
Map of our route in Prince Edward County
If there is one major thing Prince Edward County should do to improve cycle tourism, it is to get VIA Rail to offer their bike train service more frequently than once a day. Perhaps even have tour buses with bicycle racks? Overall, Prince Edward County is a cycling destination worthy of your consideration.

Some more pictures of our ride can be found in this Flickr album.

Bike on!
Rob Z (e-mail)

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