With colourful fall leaves, bountiful golden harvest and cool, crisp air, the autumn season seems to beckon motorcyclists to hit the open road to experience the energy of the season. My husband and I love taking long day trips and weekend getaways on our motorcycle, it’s the best way to experience the countryside of the area we visit! Taking a weekend road trip to southern Ontario, my husband and I got to experience driving our motorcycle in another country and view the incredible landscape of Essex County, Ontario!
Located in southern Ontario, Canada, just over the border from the United States is charming Essex County. This region, the southernmost in Canada, is mainly known for the thriving city of Windsor, but Essex County offers motorcyclists more to explore. Winding paved country roads leads you to postcard worthy towns, stunning lake views, gorgeous landscapes, Point Pelee National Park (southernmost tip of mainland Canada), Pelee Island and EPIC (Essex Pelee Island Coast) Wine Country.
With the lure of the open road and picturesque Canadian countryside, my husband and I spent the weekend exploring the southernmost region of Ontario. Cruising on our Harley Davidson Ultra Limited, we rode over 200 miles during our fall motorcycle road trip. We weren’t in a hurry, we just let the road lead us around gentle curves, through farmlands, along several rivers and lakes and through EPIC Wine Country, giving us a ride we will remember for a lifetime!
Although we just explored Windsor and Essex County area, motorcyclists will be thrilled to ride the hundreds of miles of coastline along Ontario’s South Coast. The “Cruise the Coast” campaign, a partnership with Ontario’s Southwest, provides motorcyclists with twelve rider-approved routes which wind riders along Lake Erie’s shoreline through charming towns, historical sites and biker-friendly stops along with scenic views at every turn. Riders can pick up a Cruise the Coast map at numerous tourism boards and biker-friendly places in southern Ontario or click HERE to download the map.
After cruising the country roads of southern Canada, here is my fall road trip itinerary for exploring Essex County, Ontario:
After crossing over the Ambassador Bridge (non-Canadian citizens need to provide a passport or passport card to cross the border from the U.S. to Canada), take some time to explore the city. Make your first stop in Windsor at the Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island tourism office to grab a map, an EPIC Wine Passport and ask a tourism specialist for local hot spots to visit. Cruise along the Detroit River to catch great views of Detroit and Windsor, explore Windsor’s riverfront parks, visit the Peace Fountain at Coventry Gardens and the Windsor Sculpture Park. If you are feeling lucky, stop at Caesars Windsor for world-class gaming and entertainment. Grab lunch at Bubi’s Awesome Eats, then drive through the Walkerville District (the historic town that Hiram Walker, owner of Canadian Club Whisky, built for his workers).
Visit the Canadian Club Brand Centre** for a tour and whisky tasting. During the tour you will learn about the history of the Walker family and Canadian Club Whisky, tour the offices of the Walker family and learn about the major role Canadian Club Whisky played during the U.S Prohibition in the 1920’s. The finale of the tour offers Canadian Club Whisky samples. The tour** takes about 1.5 hours and costs $12 CAD per person.
*Riders can fuel up in Windsor before setting off to explore Essex County.
** The Canadian Club Brand Centre is not currently offering tours (as of April 1, 2017)
Leaving Canadian Club Brand Centre, head east to cruise along the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair coasts, marvel at the beautiful homes and make your way toward the Lakeshore region.
Stroll through Belle River and stop at the Lakeview Park & Belle River Marina to enjoy views of Lake St. Clair.
Riding East towards Tilbury-
After exploring Belle River and Lakeview Park, head east to Rochester Place Golf & RV Resort (about a 10-minute drive) for dinner at Parkside Grill. After dinner, head east to the quiet town of Tilbury.
After a long day of riding and exploring, a good night’s rest is what every rider deserves. Name brand hotels are available in Windsor, but to truly experience Essex County, I would recommend staying at a local Bed & Breakfast.
Katharine’s B & B is located on a quiet street in a quiet neighborhood of Tilbury. Built in 1897, the beautiful brick Victorian home offers three guest rooms, each room has an in-suite bath, internet access and cable television. Our cozy room was the perfect retreat after a long day of riding on the motorcycle. We woke up to a delicious home-made breakfast and had a lovely chat with Doug (Doug and Kathy are the owners and hosts of Katharine’s B & B). Our stay at Katharine’s B & B was delightful!
*Katharine’s B & B rates start at $120 CAD. Riders should note that Katharine’s B & B has a gravel driveway.
Riding from Tilbury to Leamington-
After you have enjoyed a wonderful night sleep and delightful breakfast at Katharine’s B & B, head south towards Leamington to visit Point Pelee National Park. Cruising the country roads, the 35-40-minute drive will provide gorgeous views of Ontario’s farmland.
*Riders can fuel up in Tilbury before your journey to Point Pelee National Park.
A visit to the southernmost tip of mainland Canada is a must for your trip to Essex County! Point Pelee National Park is home to the southernmost tip of mainland Canada and is the 2nd smallest and most diverse national park in Canada.
Winding your way back to the Visitors Centre, the tree lined road almost seems to form a “tree tunnel” with sneak peaks of Lake Erie through the lush trees. Park at the Visitors Centre, explore the center and grab a park map. Visitors can either hike (approximately 30 minutes one way) to the tip or take the free shuttle (just a few minutes ride) to the drop-off point near the tip. Once at the shuttle drop-off point, walk a few minutes along a tree-lined sandy path toward the southernmost tip. Take a few extra moments to watch the waves crash ashore, snap a photo at the southernmost tip of mainland Canada and revel in the beauty of nature! The neatest part about the southernmost tip is watching the two currents of Lake Erie collide into one another!
Before leaving the park, explore the park’s marsh, walk around the boardwalk that encircles the marsh and climb to the top of the observation tower for a bird-s eye view. Kayaks are available to rent if you want to explore the marsh by water. Point Pelee National Park is a designated International Monarch Butterfly reserve and is an important bird area. The park welcomes bird-watchers year-round, but particularly during the spring and fall migration!
*Entrance to Point Pelee National Park is $7.80 CAD per adult. I would plan at least two hours to explore the stunning landscape of the park.
Riding from Leamington to Kingsville-
Leaving Point Pelee National Park, head west towards Kingsville. The charming town of Kingsville offers visitors locally-owned antique, boutique and specialty shops, numerous locally-owned restaurants, parks and nearby wineries to explore.
Kingsville is the perfect town to stretch your legs and grab a delicious meal. I would recommend eating lunch at Mettawa’s Station, stroll the streets of Kingsville, visit Lakeside Park, shop at local antique and boutique shops and visit Cindy’s Home Garden & Gifts.
Exploring EPIC (Essex Pelee Island Coast) Wine Country-
With the geographical location of the Lake Erie North Shore Region and a unique climate, this area provides ideal conditions for growing vineyards. Located on the 42nd parallel, the same latitude as northern California and the Mediterranean, the rich soil of the region produces award-winning wines.
To enhance your wine tour, I would suggest you purchase a Passport to EPIC Wine Country ($10 CAD). With the passport, ten participating wineries offer complimentary tastings, food and wine pairings and souvenir wine glasses. If you collect five stamps from participating wineries, you can enter a drawing for a chance to win a VIP Wine Country Experience!
If you are a wine lover (like myself) I would suggest spending several hours touring a few wineries. Even if you are not a wine drinker, please take an hour or so to drive through EPIC Wine Country! The lush vineyards, lake views and stunning landscape of this region will not disappoint!
*EPIC Wine Country Pit-stop:
Since this region is known for the award-winning wines, a visit to any of the nearly twenty wineries of the region is the perfect stop to sample a few wines, grab an appetizer to pair with your tastings and enjoy the incredible views. We visited Pelee Island Winery (in Kingsville), Mastronardi Winery, and Viewpointe Estate Winery.
EPIC Wine Country to Harrow-
Continue west from wine country to the small town of Colchester. Riding through the countryside near Colchester, you might spot several barn quilts. Visit www.barnquilttrails.ca for more information about the area’s Barn Quilt Trail.
Stop at the biker-friendly Colchester Bar & Grill for dinner and great conversation with friendly locals. You’ll be in good company with other motorcyclists enjoying the friendly “biker bar” atmosphere. Don’t be shy, almost every local we spoke with owned a motorcycle and gave us great tips about the region to make the most of our weekend getaway!
Continue west from Colchester to the agricultural community of Harrow.
After another long day of riding and exploring, you deserve a good night’s rest. The Doctor’s House B & B is located in the agricultural town of Harrow. Built in 1936 by the town-folk for the town doctor, the historic home offers four guest rooms, one room has an in-suite bath, while the others have a shared bath. The Doctors’ House B & B is self-catering, but breakfast packages are available. The lovely owner and host, Melanie, will gladly provide additional items you might require. Our stay at the Doctor’s House B & B was the perfect country retreat.
*The Doctor’s House B & B rates are negotiable, depending on season, length of stay, and number of rooms. Riders should note that The Doctor’s House B & B has a gravel/grass driveway.
*We attended the McGregor Beer Festival during our weekend getaway to Essex County. While this is a yearly festival, I would suggest visiting the quaint town of McGregor and Essex Centre.
Riding from Harrow to Essex-
After you have enjoyed a wonderful night sleep at The Doctor’s House B & B, head north towards Essex to visit the Canadian Transportation Museum & Heritage Village.
*Essex Pit-stop: (multiple pit-stops in Essex)
The Canadian Transportation Museum & Heritage Village was built in 1982 with expansions in 2000 and 2002. The museum welcomes visitors to discover a century of vintage automobiles and to tour the numerous buildings as you stroll through the historic village. From vintage automobiles and trucks, motorcycles, emergency medical services and historic sleds and sleighs, the museum invites visitors to experience a time-warp through their antique and vintage automobile collection.
*Guided tours of the Canadian Transportation Museum & Heritage Village are given at 10am and 1pm, museum hours vary by season. The Museum Tour costs $6 CAD per person, the Village Tour costs $7 CAD and a package tour of both costs $11 CAD. I would plan 2 hours to tour both the museum and heritage village.
*Enjoy a hearty breakfast at the 50’s Diner at the Canadian Transportation Museum & Heritage Village.
After your tour of the Canadian Transportation Museum & Heritage Village, drive into Essex to have lunch at Billy’s Taphouse. This farm-to-table restaurant sources as many products as they can from local producers in Essex County. They also serve Ontario craft beers on tap and local wines. You will get the true sense of Essex County’s agricultural flavor when you have a meal at Billy’s Taphouse!
Save room for dessert and stop by the Dairy Freez in Essex. This drive-in restaurant and ice cream parlor is a local hotspot. On a nice afternoon, be prepared to wait in line for the delicious soft serve ice cream, as locals and visitors alike seem to flock to the ice cream shop. The Dairy Freez does close for the season on the last Sunday of October.
Driving from Essex to Windsor-
With your trip almost complete, leave Essex and head northwest towards Windsor.
*Riders can fuel up in Essex before your journey to Windsor.
Take a short pit-stop at Wagner Orchards to snack on home-made cookies, apple fritters, apple cider and sample Wagner Estate wines. It is the perfect place to enjoy the fall apple harvest and grab some home-made goodies for the drive home!
Leave Wagner Orchards, then take Highway 401 to the new Herb Grey Parkway towards Windsor. The parkway is an easy and quick way to return to Windsor. And just like that your weekend motorcycle ride through Essex County is complete!
*U.S. Citizens must have a U.S. Passport to cross the Canadian Border.
*Canada does require all motorcyclists to wear helmets.
*Overall the road conditions were fairly well-kept. Riders should beware for loose stone and gravel along some road intersections and watch for the wide gravel berms on most roads.
With beautiful Canadian landscapes, charming and historic towns, stunning lake views, award-winning wineries, delicious dining, local shops and markets and welcoming locals, a motorcycle tour through Essex County is the perfect fall getaway in southern Ontario! To plan your Essex County Road Trip this fall, please go to www.visitwindoressex.com/fall-drives or follow #falldrivesYQG for plenty of reasons to visit – the website is updated with fresh ideas each week throughout the season.
Watch the video below to experience Essex County, Ontario from the passenger’s seat!
Looking for more reasons to visit Essex County? Read my 7 Reasons to Visit Essex County, Ontario, here!
Thanks for reading!