Despite the less than temperate and dishearteningly precipitous summer experienced in the North East last riding season, I managed to log over 15,000 miles on two wheels – mostly during inclement weather. After riding in the cold rain from sunrise to sunset, a good meal, a hot shower and a comfortable bed can be a Godsend.
While I travelled from coast to shining coast, the majority of my time in the saddle was spent exploring Ontario’s vast network of roadways. My experience ranged from one spectrum to the other and I resided in everything from the most modest of motels to the most grandiose of resorts. I’d say it gave me a pretty good perspective of the variety that the province has to offer. Listed below, in no particular order, were some of the highlights.
Algoma’s Water Tower Inn
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
Accustomed to hosting snowmobilers in sub-arctic weather conditions, the Water Tower Inn offers secured storage and maintenance facilities to house expensive recreational machines all year round. Not only does this protect them from the elements, but it also keeps them safe and secure.
One could literally spend months in the area and never see the same scenery twice if you had enough time to invest, so we tackled what is known as the Grand Circle Tour. The trip from Sault Ste. Marie to Wawa follows the coastline of Lake Superior along Highway 17, providing an incredible view of the greatest of the great lakes.
While being given a tour of the facilities, which most notably included a salt water pool, the manager recounted tales of famous people who had been former guests; Dignitaries, Prime Ministers, even Johnny Cash, rest his soul. Any hotel worthy of the man in black to hang his hat is good enough for me.
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
Located about 10 minutes north of “The Soo,” Glenview offers guests the choice of staying in one of their 30 private cottages or renting a campsite and sleeping under the stars. Not having my camping gear with me on this particular trip, I opted for one of the cottages which was clean, quiet and comfortable. It was also incredibly convenient for loading and unloading as I could park my bike right outside the front door of the cabin.
After a couple beers and a few rounds of horseshoes with some fellow riders I met there, I used the kitchen to whip up something rarely experienced on the road – a home cooked meal. Offering excellent amenities and a staff that welcomed me like family, I’m sure that won’t be the last time I stay there.
J.W. Marriott Red Leaves Resort
Lake Rosseau, Muskoka
Out of all the riding I did in Muskoka last summer, I never once grew tired of the journey through Southern Ontario’s prime cottage country. Boasting miles of twisty tarmac, gorgeous scenery fit for framing and accommodations featuring premium amenities, how could you go wrong?
After a spirited day of riding two-up, my better half and I decided to treat ourselves to a night at Red Leaves. Overlooking Lake Rosseau, the majestic resort offers amenities and activities that cater to every whim imaginable. It’s no wonder the area has become a favorite for the rich and famous, but there is never a shortage of bike enthusiasts making use of the backcountry roads too.
The Voyageurs' Lodge & Cookhouse
Batchawana Bay, ON
On any extended absence from home, one of the things I begin to miss the most is good old home cooking. As someone who attempts to keep his consumption of fast food to a minimum, it can often be difficult to avoid on a road trip due to cost and convenience.
Roughly 45 minutes North of Sault Ste Marie, I came across The Voyageurs' Lodge & Cookhouse and stopped for a late breakfast and a coffee. A family-run establishment catering to faithful locals and weary travelers alike, they offered exactly what I was looking for; good food and quick, hospitable service. I was clearly not alone in my thinking as the restaurant was packed with vacationing families and travelling bikers alike. On this particular trip, I only stopped for sustenance, but the next time I am passing through I will certainly make use of their private cabins overlooking Batchawana Bay.
Wawa Motor Inn
Touted as one of the top ten roads in Canada, the stretch of Highway 17 from Sault Ste. Marie to Wawa offers incredible views of Lake Superior and leads to the largest wildlife preserves in the world. Guests at the Wawa Motor Inn can choose between traditional hotel rooms or the personal cabins at the rear of the property that overlook a nine hole golf course. Riders from all over North America congregated in the parking lot that evening as we shared beers, swapped stories and checked out each others’ bikes.
As someone who lives in the city, the one thing that never ceases to amaze me about Northern Ontario is the abundance of stars that are visible. Such experiences create a high value quotient with surprisingly little expense
Best Western Orangeville Inn & Suites
Surrounded by great riding roads, Orangeville makes an excellent place to stop, whether used on route or as a starting point for daily rides. Truly a luxury hotel, I don’t know what I found more surprising, the fact that they encouraged us to line up our Harleys at the front entrance of the building or that the premium accommodations were so inexpensive. Regardless, the romantic tryst in front of the fireplace – and in the Jacuzzi - followed by a night of sweet slumber in the uber comfortable bed was well worth the price of admission.
All completely different from each other but unique in their own way, each establishment offered its own appeal whether it was comfort, convenience, affordability or good old fashioned Northern hospitality. What all of them shared, however, were the picturesque surroundings of the Province of Ontario, excellent value and close proximity to some of the most entertaining roads in the world. Not only that, but they welcome motorcyclists with open arms.
As you plan out your own excursions for the upcoming riding season, consider some of the aforementioned suggestions. You never know, maybe I’ll see you there.