Located along the southern shore of the Georgian Bay, Grey County has established a solid reputation for the quality of the area’s cycling opportunities courtesy of an abundance of rolling hills and quiet country roads. As luck would have it, the locals possess a flair for turning the spoils of the area's fertile soil into many tasty liquid refreshments, aka beer, wine and cider.
The idea is simple, ride three cycling loops and along the way sample the goods of ten establishments. So grab a bike, grab some friends and hit the road in search of breweries, wineries and cideries, but be sure to bring a bag to collect all those tasty treats you find along the way, to enjoy when you get home.
At 27 kms, this is a perfect introduction to the idea of exploring the area by bike. The loop takes you on both paved and gravel roads, through two quaint Grey County towns and to two breweries. We made our start and end point at MacLean's Ales in Hanover. Nobody was interested in sampling ales at 10:00am, but the location became ‘the carrot at the end of the stick” motivation for the riders to make it back. Travelling clockwise we made our way south along paved roads to the picturesque town of Neustadt. A collection of historic stone buildings that house antique shops, studios and restaurants, Neustadt was once referred to as "One of the Prettiest Towns in Ontario”.
The most impressive stone building in town belongs to Neustadt Springs Brewery. First established in 1859, this is reputed to be the oldest operating original brewery building in Ontario. You can sample their selection of natural premium ales and beers and enjoy a tour of the historic building and brewing operation.
Lunch was a delicious experience served up by Noah’s Inn Fish And Chips, which is another stunning historical building right on main street in Neustadt. It’s worth noting, this restaurant isn’t just for fish lovers! They offer souvlaki, burgers, wings and deep fried pickles.
The ride back included some easy rolling gravel roads and a cruise past the famous Hanover Raceway and Casino.
More distance, more paved road, more gavel road, a bit of recreational trail and even some rail trail and of course more stops. The 58km Owen Sound route steps up the challenge for our legs and taste buds with a sampling promise of wine, cider and beer. We start the day at Best Western Inn on The Bay, our overnight location, (Don’t forget you can take advantage of the Ontario Staycation Credit) and the perfect starting point to the loop with the bike trail and the waterfront at its doorstep. We make our way north along the path shared by the Waterfront and Tom Thompson Trail.
For 23km we follow the recreational trail on to paved roads and eventually gravel roads before arriving at our first stop, the spectacular setting that is Coffin Ridge Winery. With a selection of wine and cider to sample along with their vintner’s plate made up of delicious local charcuterie, cheeses and artisanal breads, we linger perhaps too long.
We make the return trip back into Owen Sound, but take a different route that combines the trail with paved and gravel roads, and make a stop to take in the impressive cascades of Inglis Falls. We head back into downtown and end the day on the patio of one of Owen Sound’s favourite hangouts the Mudtown Station restaurant and brewery. Good food and a sampling of beers from the in-house brewery, a perfect end to an awesome day; and to make things even more perfect our accommodations at Best Western Inn on The Bay are just minutes by bike away.
When the word valley presents itself in a name, I think it is fair to anticipate that you are in for some ups and downs. At 47 kms, today’s route could be a challenge, but with four tasting stops plus lunch on the itinerary there will be plenty of opportunities for recovery. After a quick stop at Good Grief Coffee in Thornbury, we roll out of town. It doesn’t take long before we arrive at stop number one, the Spy Cider House where ciders are sampled in a beautiful setting surrounded by the rolling hills of Ontario’s Blue Mountains.
The ride must go on, but not for long. We pop into the Blackbird Pie Company, a very popular stop with local cyclists and anybody else that appreciates a fine sandwich and tasty baked goods.
We are halfway into the day but our next destination will require some sweat equity courtesy of some challenging ups. The effort is rewarded with spectacular views of the surrounding landscape and some tasty wines at The Roost Wine Company.
The Georgian Hills Vineyards is stop number three of the day. It was another spectacular experience, both visually with its surrounding views of the vineyards, hills and the Georgian Bay to the north, and the wines and ciders sparkling in the afternoon sun.
Onto the home stretch. Up to now all roads have been paved but to add some adventure to this adventure we opt to take in some gravel as we dip down towards the Georgian Bay.
The crushed stone path along the Georgian Trail guides us to our final stop at Thornbury Village Cider House. The hustle and bustle of the patio is a stark contrast to the country setting we experienced all day. With 57 kilometres and a few hills in our legs, the energy is appreciated as is the cool and delicious beer and cider.
Please drink responsibly, know your limits and do not drink and drive.
Story & Photos by: Martin Lortz
Martin Lortz is a freelance photographer/writer specializing in the outdoor lifestyle. Whether he is covering adventure motorcycling, kayak, fishing or family oriented outdoor pursuits, his passion for capturing the beauty of nature and the people that partake in it, is evident in his work. His photos and articles have appeared in magazines and blogs as well as in calendars, catalogs and brochures.