Why bike from Toronto to Niagara? You’d best ask yourself why not, because the path is wonderful and the reward is great. Ontario isn’t famous for its mountains or hills: in fact, it’s pretty flat around here. Though this may be a bummer for those seeking summits, it’s actually a wonderful thing for the cyclists of the city. Last summer, I cycled from my previous workplace in Mississauga to Niagara on the Lake via the Waterfront Trail to meet with friends for a wine tour by bike. It was a spectacular way to spend a weekend.
Bike from Toronto to Niagara Itinerary and Route
Day 1 – Mississauga to St. Catharines, 98km
I worked the night shift on Friday night. In my Summer madness, I had started work at 10pm on Friday and finished at 6am on Saturday – this was just the beginning of my journey! Taking my bike from the trunk of my car, I packed panniers full of a hammock and tarp, a few snacks, a sleeping bag, and I was off. Going at an incredibly leisurely pace, I made my way from Mississauga to Burlington through rural streets and parks.
I met a friend in Burlington for ice cream, where we enjoyed it in the sun by the surprisingly beautiful waterfront. Burlington never seemed more appealing than it was when I arrived for the first time by bike.
It was a crisp sunny day with a light and cool breeze – perfect weather for biking. My favourite part of the journey was between Burlington and Grimsby. After crossing the Burlington Canal Lift Bridge, the trail continues right beside Lake Ontario through conservation areas and black sand beaches. The Waterfront Trail runs over 2100km along the Great Lakes, and is an incredible way to explore Ontario. About an hour outside of where I would be camping for the night, I passed through a town and picked up some pepperoni sticks and a beer or two for my enjoyment later on. I finally reached the camping ground, and I shared the entire space with just one other couple. The wonderful people at Big Valley Campground charged me just $15 to stay over, as I had no car and needed no power – they even gave me a freezie and water. Lovely!
I was completely exhausted. This was to be expected, having been awake for nearly 24h at this point. One beer would be enough to wipe me completely out, and after my picnic meal I would soon fall asleep before the sun left the sky.
Day 2 – St. Catherines to Niagara on the Lake, 28km
My sleep lasted almost 13 hours, but falling asleep by 6pm meant I was up and biking by 7am. I was meeting my friends in Niagara on the Lake at noon, so I had lots of time to kill. The morning was glorious, and the stretch to Niagara on the Lake passed by many of the wineries I would be visiting later that day.
I stopped at Tim’s on the way in and sat for a long while, thoroughly enjoying a breakfast and large steeped tea with milk. In town, I shopped around and discovered fun craft goods in the small stores. I bought a picnic lunch, then biked back to the waterfront. After dunking my head in the lake (very cold, very nice) I moved a little further up the shore and found two trees that overlooked the lake. Hanging my hammock, I lay back to enjoy the sun while I waited for my friends to arrive.
A Wine Tour by Bicycle
Dark clouds started to roll in, and by the time they arrived at 11ish it was raining. In typical Summer storm fashion, however, the intense bouts of rain were interrupted with blue skies and sun.
The weather did not stop us from having an incredible time. We went on a Buytopia deal with Grape Escape, and it was SO much fun. We were an overwhelming group, and I apologize to the rest of our tour for our loud volume, but it came hand in hand with entertainment and friendliness to match. There was no way I was going to be biking all the way back home – the bike from Toronto to Niagara was long enough – so I happily jumped on the bus my friends had organized that took me all the way home. Excellent!
Gear and Food List
This was an easy overnight trip. I wore one set of clothes from start to finish. My entire gear list, including the clothes on my back was: a shirt, shorts, sandals, raincoat, fleece, bike, pannier bags, hammock, sleeping bag, tarp, bike lock, helmet, and snacks. If you want something more, see my Gear for the Trail list for somewhere to start.
This was a weird one with mostly grocery store picnics along the way. For a more enjoyable and well-planned trip, here are some ideas: Food on the Trail. In general, my days usually look like this…
Breakfast: hot oats on short days, cold granola with milk powder on long days
Lunch: snacks throughout the day including pepperoni sticks, tortillas, a LOT of peanut butter, granola bars, GORP, and dried fruit
Dinner: prepared dehydrated meals when I’m feeling fancy, or deluxe instant noodles/Sidekicks when I’m not. On this trip, what dinner ended up being was a box of Triscuit crackers with tuna and pepperoni. YAY!
From Toronto (or Mississauga) to Niagara, you can pass through many towns and by many gas stations. The more you stay by the water, the less frequent these will come up.
Make it Happen
- Understand the route and pick a time of year you want to go. I literally put the location into Google Maps and adjusted the route as I went to stay close to the lake as much as possible.
- Choose your route/itinerary. Sticking by the lake will make the trip longer, but certainly more pleasant. There are lots of campgrounds in the St. Catharines area and beyond, so it’s easy to split up the journey.
- Once that is locked in, book your flights and/or transportation to and from Toronto.
- I live in Toronto, but if you’re around the world it’s fun and easy to visit Toronto! There are so many options to rent a bike and do this trip, and feel free to reach out if you need some logistical support.
- Book accommodation or a campsite on the way if splitting it into 2 days
- The fun begins! Plan your meals, get your gear in order, and figure out whether you’ll rent a bike or buy one outright (if you don’t have your own).
- Get outside and do the thing.
Have you been to the Niagara on the Lake region, or Niagara Falls at all? Though Niagara Falls is something incredible to behold, I have to say that given the choice I’d far rather return to the wineries and waterfront of Niagara on the Lake.