Island Cruising

Cycling Algoma’s St. Joseph Island

What is it about islands that make them seem to have the power to melt all of our life’s troubles away? The island doesn’t have to be big or far away, just offer a buffer from the rest of the world. Located about 45 km and a bridge southeast of Sault Ste. MarieSt. Joseph Island is no exception to the power of the island vibe. Add to this a sunny patio and a cold beverage, and it’s hard to stay focused on our objective, which is to experience the island from the seats of our bikes.

Over time, St. Joseph Island has developed a reputation as one of the top cycling destinations in Northern Ontario. Ask Siri, Alexa, or any local cycling enthusiast, or inquire the old-fashioned way via a keyboard and Google, and you will find a ride around St. Joseph Island on top of all to-do lists. Why you ask? Let’s find out.

A popular weekend destination with people from Sault Ste. Marie and Michigan, on this Monday afternoon things are on the quiet side. Hilton Beach, with a full-time population of 200, is the smaller of the two main communities on the island.


The area dates back to 1850, and some of the buildings are well over 100 years old. We visit the general store, which is still operational, and the Hilton Jail, which is not so much. In fact, the barely 20’x20’ structure can uncomfortably sleep two, but never has hosted an inmate.


Time to ride; the island’s most popular route is to follow Highway 548, which circumnavigates the island. We chose to ride it in the counterclockwise direction for no reason in particular, other than our best chance for breakfast was in that direction. With a stunning sunrise behind us and a perfect day ahead, the anticipation is high as we set a blistering pace. It doesn’t take long to understand the charms of cycling St. Joseph Island: virtually no traffic makes for a very relaxed ride.




A few kilometres into the ride, the Black Bear Café and Eatery serve up an amazing breakfast that will have us fuelled up for the day. A new business, the Black Bear is already a favourite with locals and visitors, awesome coffee, baked goods, food, and a gift shop—a must-stop. Next on the route is Richards Landing, a picturesque village and the larger of the two communities on the island. Here you will find unique shops and eateries as well as the newly built bike repair station, a testament to the area’s commitment and appreciation of the cycling visitor.


Once you depart Richards Landing, it is welcome to the country: farmland views, glimpses of the North Channel, forest-lined roads, and no services for the next 50 or so kilometres. The route offers a steady supply of uphill challenges and downhill rewards to keep things interesting. The few cars that we did see offered plenty of space as they passed. At one point one enthusiastic driver offers a few cheers of sport on a particularly challenging uphill.


Seventy-one km on the odometer, and we are hooked on cycling St. Joseph Island. Back in Hilton Beach, looking at a plate full of shrimp tacos and a fine pint of Northern Ontario’s Brewing creation, our conversation turns to next time.


No matter what kind of cyclist you fancy yourself, St. Joseph Island has something for you. If you prefer to challenge your heartbeat limits, there are weekly rides and annual races and events, plenty of opportunities to take on your friends in person or on STRAVA.

If you fancy yourself more of a cycling explorer, then may I suggest visiting Fort St. Joseph National Historic Site, where you can explore the remnants of a British fort and take in a very interesting indoor exhibit showcasing life from the past. There are also onsite nature trails you can explore by bike if you choose. The St. Joseph Island Museum is a collection of historic buildings and artifacts courtesy of the ancestors of the Island's early settlers. Adcocks Woodland Gardens is an inviting setting of ponds, flowers, birds, and pathways. The gardens are open from spring until fall. This being an island, a beach is never far away; the best one according to all asked is simply called Beech Beach.

There is definitely something about islands that makes them seem to have the power to put your soul at rest, and St. Joseph Island is no exception. Exploring the island by bike will leave you wanting more, so do yourself a favour—come for a ride but stay a while.

Notes From The Road

  • Book ahead, particularly if you plan to visit on the weekend; after all, this is an island and everything is limited.
  • Beyond Hilton Beach and Richards Landing you will be on your own, so be sure to have all you need: food, water, and tools.
  • If you are more cruiser than racer type, bigger volume tires make things more comfortable.
About 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 such as Ski Canada, Explore, Bike, Mountain Life, Couloir, Kayak Angler and Family Camping, as well as in calendars, catalogs and brochures.

Recommended Articles

Lake Superior

10 Facts You Might Not Have Known About Lake Superior

The Wawa Goose

12 Fun Facts About This Iconic Monument on Ontario's Highway 17 North.

Bringing Home Fish

Understanding Ontario Fishing Regulations

Old Woman Bay

A Must Stop on Lake Superior

Early Season Pike

Learn How to Target These Big Fish

10 Secluded Beaches

These Beautiful Sandy Beaches are a Must This Summer

Facts About Lake Huron

10 Things We Bet You Didn't Know

Pike and Muskie Leaders

When to Use Them and What Types To Use

Life Under The Dome

Glamping on the edge of Lake Superior at Rock Island Lodge

Riding Hwy 129

Ontario's Tail of the Dragon

Food Trucks & Chip Stands in Algoma

Burgers, Fish & Chips and Twists on Favourites

Fresh Fish Fries

Fish'n Chips, All You Can Eat & Specials in Algoma

Eye Opener

Best Bait, Lures and Scents to Catch Walleye

The Butter Tart

Oh, Butter Tart, We Stand on Guard for Thee

Have You Hiked Orphan Lake Trail Yet?

Cedar Groves, Pebble Beaches & Waterfall Views Along Lake Superior

Drop Shot Walleye

Learn This Effective Fishing Technique

6 Amazing Roadside Attractions in Algoma Country

The Wawa Goose is a must-see!

Pike & Dead Bait

How to Effectively Use Dead Bait

Stop The Car

A Road-tripping guide to the North Channel of Lake Huron

A Lake Huron Road Trip

What to See and Do on the North Channel