Cycling Adventures, Toronto to Cape Vincent, NY & Back – on the Cheap

Incorporating trains and ferries gets you around efficiently and on budget for this five-day ride.

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By Holland Gidney

In August 2007, I was living in a stuffy attic bachelor apartment in Parkdale with a crackhead building manager. It was stifling in more ways than one. With the end of summer approaching, it suddenly seemed urgent that I get out of Toronto for one last adventure. Affordable vacation destinations within cycling distance were limited (and none was appealing), but incorporating trains and ferries got me all the way to upstate New York and back, on the cheap. Here’s how you do it…


Rather than ride all day to the edge of Toronto, take a 45-mile (73-kilometer) shortcut to Oshawa via the GO Train ($8.25 CAD), which leaves from Union Station downtown and allows bikes on weekends and on weekdays during non-peak times. After arriving in the suburbs, find the Waterfront Trail and start following Brian Hedney’s excellent Toronto-Montreal cycling route (print out beforehand). You’ll ride past GM Canada’s headquarters and the Darlington Nuclear Power Station en route to quaint Port Hope (check out Furby House Books) and Cobourg (“Ontario’s feel good town”). You can camp beachside for cheap at the Cobourg Trailer Park (905-373-7321) or ride on to Salem Woods (905-355-3826), where you can tent next to the trailer park pool (though you may be too tired to take advantage of it).


Stick to the Waterfront Trail, riding through Presqu’ile Provincial Park (another camping option) and crossing the Murray Canal to access Price Edward County, with farms and wineries aplenty. Reward yourself with ice cream at Slickers in Bloomfield before finding a campsite for the night, either at Sandbanks Provincial Park or Hideaway Trailer Park (613-393-2267), where tents are permitted alongside a big field.


Pack up and hit the road early: you’ve got three (!) ferries to catch. Ride to Picton for breakfast (lots of options on Main Street) then follow the signs to the Glenora ferry (free), which will carry you and your bike to Adolphustown. Follow the Loyalist Parkway into Kingston – passing the high-walled federal penitentiary – to catch Ferry #2 to Wolfe Island (free). Marysville has a great bakery, so stock up before riding 6.8 miles (11 kms) to Point Alexandria to catch Horne’s Ferry ($2.00 plus a passport) to Cape Vincent, NY.

Known as the place where Napoleon was supposed to settle after the War of 1812 (but didn’t), Cape Vincent has restaurants and a grocery store, so eat dinner here or get something to cook once you reach the Tibbets Point Lighthouse Hostel ($20.00 USD per night). Located about two miles (3 kms) from town, the 1826 lighthouse was automated in 1976, which is when the lighthouse-keeper’s house became a seasonal hostel. After camping, the foam-mattressed bunkbeds will seem luxurious.


Start the day by learning about Tibbets Point in the lighthouse’s mini-museum, then head to the Cape Vincent Historical Museum, housed in barracks leftover from the War of 1812. Next, ride 121/2 miles (20 kms) along dead-flat Highway 12E to Clayton, home of the Antique Boat Museum ($12 USD) and the National Handweaving Museum (free). Pick up cheesy souvenirs (or picnic supplies) at 1000 Islands “River Rat” Cheese, then take a boat tour ($15 USD) to Boldt Castle ($7 USD), built in 1900 by the Waldorf-Astoria hotel’s owner. Finally, bike back to Tibbets Point in time to join the locals who’ve driven out to watch the sunset.


Backtrack to Kingston and grab grub-to-go at Pan Chancho (44 Princess Street) before heading to the VIA Rail station (1800 John Counter Boulevard) to train it to Toronto ($55.00–$82.00 CAD per person plus $20.00 per bike). Make sure to allow time (and bring tools) to box your bike for the trip. Once onboard, sit back and relax, and try not to notice how the distance it took you almost two days to cover zips by in less than three hours.

Note: This trip is best made between mid-May and mid-October when the hostel and various attractions are open, and all of the ferries are running.

Holland Gidney lives in Victoria, BC. Her next cycling adventure with a lighthouse hostel stay will see her riding down the West Coast to Northern California next summer.

Web links:

Ontario provincial parks camping reservations website – A great resource for touring cyclists (like couch-surfing but everyone’s a cyclist)

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