Snik. That’s the sound of my 2016 Yamaha FJR1300 moving up a gear, more specifically into the model’s new 6th gear, calming my ride just a bit more as I settle into that Zen state of rolling meditation. I’ve just left Kingston, Ontario, on the Canadian northeast corner of Lake Ontario, and I’m heading west for Prince Edward County (PEC), a peninsula of land identifying more closely with the lake rather than with the land just to the north. As I head down Ontario Highway 33, a.k.a. Bath Road, a welcome drop in temperature affirms this association. The cooling air is always the first taste of my favorite ride.
Highway 33 carries me hard by the water, inviting me into gently sweeping curves and picturesque straights offering farmland views on the right, and wide-open waterscapes on the left. Not technically challenging, but oh-so satisfying. The villages of Millhaven, Bath and Adolphustown float by, as do seasonal roadside offerings of sweet corn, strawberries, apples and veggies of all kinds. Tonight’s supper, conceived and assembled on the spot, will be the cherry topping.
Just west of Adolphustown the Highway ends at the Glenora Ferry, crossing the 1-kilometer Adolphus Reach in the Bay of Quinte in about 20 minutes. The first commercial ferry license here was granted in 1802, accommodating the loyalist settlers on both shores. The ferry operates on a 30-minute schedule in the off-season, and during the summer two ferries swap shores every 20 minutes. The cool crossing is an opportunity to hold informal meet and greets with other riders, as there is always a group bound to explore PEC.
Immediately off the ferry and now formally in PEC, I take a hard left onto County Road 7, up to Lake on the Mountain. The road rises 62 meters in less than a kilometer, throwing in a 180-degree curve that challenges me to set the bike into a hard lean, holding it in a constant line, no bobbles, no braking, always trying to up my “smoothness quotient.”
At the top is, yes, a lake, 62 meters above the ferry, but in a straight line less than a kilometer away; a geologic rarity. Washrooms, restaurants, an inn and a viewing area overlooking the Reach are available here, but no camping.
Continuing on 7 moves me into the back county, where the ride eases into quiet rural landscapes, shaded lanes and past the occasional lazy farm dog at the roadside. Again, not a technical ride, no “hair on fire” cornering here. It’s more Mozart than Led Zeppelin; more a state of mind, a quiet escape into an earlier reality.
PEC developed as arriving loyalists carved out homesteads, but today the cool climate invites a newer purpose. In 2007 the County was designated as the fourth DVA (Designated Viticulture Area) in Ontario. More than 40 wineries will tempt you, along with all kinds of craft cheese and beer, and art galleries displaying local talent. Info on wine tasting tours can be viewed at princeedwardcountywine.ca.
I turn south and pick up County Road 8 traveling east to visit Waupoos Estates Winery, one of my favorites. A nice Cabernet will accompany my meal tonight. Heading back west I pick up County Road 13 for some excellent five-year-old cheddar at the Black River Cheese store. Continuing on 13 takes me out Long Point Road. The road opens, and I can move my girl up to 6th. Snik. Lovely smooth.
At the end of Long Point Road you’ll find the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory. Spring and fall bird banding takes place here, and the public is welcome. During migration the station may band more than 200 birds a day, and trails going back to the mist nets are open to the public for viewing and photography. Info online can be found at PePtBo.ca.
Turning west again, the ride takes me toward Sandbanks Provincial Park. Jumping from one County Road to the next eventually places me on County Road 18, which runs into the park. If you get off track, well done. You’ll probably discover another winery.
Once in the park, paths lead over the dunes to the beach. Sandbanks Park boasts the world’s largest freshwater barrier dune formation, another geologic rarity. Once onto the beach you’ll wonder how you ended up in Florida. Warm shallow waters, kilometers of fine sand beach and 500 campsites are available from late April to early October. Check out Ontarioparks.com/park/sandbanks for more info, and book early. Day visits cost $12 CDN. Pack your thong.
Heading west again, you can pick your route from a weave of bucolic pathways. Today I feel more straight line than curvy, so I ride up to County Road 1 and snik up to smooth sixth. Riding past Lake Consecon I head for a little pullover I know, sneaking the big bike through 30 meters or so of a shaded lane that puts me on a secluded smooth pebble beach for lunch.
Rested and fed, I cross back east to County Road 14, then County Road 15, and leave PEC via the Bay of Quinte Skyway Bridge. As if the peninsula hasn’t offered enough, the waters under the bridge are home to a world-class Pickerel fishery, drawing anglers in from all across North America. Charters are available. Info on all this and more can be found at prince-edward-county.com.
Finally turning back to Kingston, the round-trip ride is roughly 300 kilometers, depending on which roads you choose to explore. I head east onto Highway 2, and those longer meditative straights open up in front of me. Snik.