Tour Del Gelato: Ontario's Best Ice Cream Cycling Routes
From loaded sundaes to simple scoops, Ontario cyclists can’t get enough cold, creamy goodness. Pedaling in the hot summer sun makes that ice cream cone or cup of gelato (or sorbet, frozen yogurt, soft serve… take your pick, our scoops shops have ’em all!) extra delicious and well deserved.
We’ve tracked down the best cycling routes serving up this delectable dessert—but with loads of famous local flavours like Moose Tracks, Bear Claw, and Ontario’s first Muskoka Maple Creemes, the hard part will be choosing just one or two scoops.
Hungry for more? Find info on these and other top riding routes at Ontario By Bike. Then cross-reference with the 61 stops along the newly minted Ontario Ice Cream Trail. This sweet taste trail is a partnership between the Dairy Farmers of Ontario and local ice cream shops province-wide. The trail boasts over 900 flavours, but the sweetest part is that it showcases an all-Canadian line-up of ingredients, dairies, and ice cream parlours.
Great Lakes Waterfront Trail—Algoma Country
Here’s the Scoop: Founded on Manitoulin Island in 1933, Farquhar’s Dairy produces what many in Northeastern Ontario consider to be the world’s best ice cream. Family owned by third- and fourth-generation Farquhars, the dairy is now located in Espanola and distributes its classic ice cream flavours throughout the region. Savour a scoop of each while cycling through friendly communities along the North Channel extension of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail.
Choose from a variety of excellent day rides, or pedal the entire 460-km, multi-day tour from Sault Ste. Marie to Sudbury. Plan it right, and you can hit an ice cream stop (or two!) for each day of your ride: 1) Red House Ice Cream in Bruce Mines, 2) Yellow Butterfly Trading Post in Iron Bridge or Little Red Ice Cream Shack at Lake Lauzon Resort in Blind River, 3) Lucky Snack Bar in Spanish and Northwest Trading Company in Espanola, and 4) Just Chillin in Lively.
Download printable Waterfront Trail maps of the route here.
Manitoulin Island Cycling Routes
Here’s the Scoop: The charming village of Little Current greets travellers heading to the cycling paradise of Manitoulin Island from Sudbury or points west. Situated on the primary boating passage between the North Channel and Georgian Bay, Little Current has a summery seaside atmosphere that pairs perfectly with cold cones and milkshakes. Sample over 30 flavours and catch up on a sweet history lesson at retro-deco 3 Cows and a Cone, located by the swing bridge at the site of Farquhar’s original ice cream bar.
Quiet, lightly-trafficked roads and a bucolic landscape of rolling farms, forest, and sweeping lake vistas are just some of the many fine reasons to plan a riding holiday on Manitoulin Island. Road and recreational cyclists can choose from the 14 fantastic routes mapped by the Manitoulin Island Cycling Association. The routes range from easy half-day rides to challenging, multi-day tours—find maps and cyclist-friendly accommodation, dining and attractions on their website. For an idyllic home base on the island’s south shore, slip back in time at the laidback village of Providence Bay. Grab a scoop at Huron Island Time by the town beach, then check out the tasty dining options and lakeside camping. For those who want all the logistics organized for them, you can also join a multi-day cycle tour with OK Cycle and Adventure Tours..
Sault Ste. Marie
Here’s the Scoop: Sault Ste. Marie is home to a disproportionate number of ice cream parlours and gelato shops. Could Saultites affection for the frozen treat be a product of the city’s Italian roots? Or is it something about the winning combination of cycling and ice cream? After all, “the Soo” is emerging as one of Northern Ontario’s finest destinations for all things two-wheeled.
For cyclists, the 23-km Hub Trail serves as scenic artery, linking the city’s lovely parks and green spaces with the downtown waterfront, historic district and, of course, ice cream shops. Take a leisurely spin along the trail and stop for scoops at these three local favourites—just remember to pace yourself!
Downtown, stop at the historic Machine Shop for an out-of-this-world gelato tramezzino (like an ice cream sandwich, only molto better) on the patio at The Gelato Mill. Continuing east, make a sidewalk stop at Elliott’s Ice Cream—renowned for fantastical cotton candy-ice cream cones. Complete the gut-busting trifecta at Holy Cow’s Ice Cream Parlour in the East Neighbourhood.
Here’s the Scoop: Sudbury offers riders a tremendous variety of dedicated cycling routes and spectacular mountain biking trails. Fans of singletrack can put knobby tires to the test on the bare rock ridges of the Precambrian Shield at Walden Trails Park, Kivi Park and Lake Laurentian Conservation Area. Recreational riders will find over 25 km of community trails exploring all corners Nickel City along the Rainbow Routes Trail Network. Download the trail map to plan your ride—ambitious cyclists can circle Ramsey Lake on the grand Tour de Sudbury route.
It’s easy to get across Sudbury by bike on the Junction Creek Waterway Park trail, which traverses the city from the northeast to the southwest. Sweaty cyclists can cool off at Marble Slab Creamery near the trail’s northeast end, then replenish across town at funky Flurple’s—“a little ice cream window with a lot of heart”—reputed to have the city’s best milkshakes. Just a few blocks from Bell Park and downtown, pick from 12 flavours of freshly made gelato at Regency Bakery & Deli. Their authentic Italian espresso bar means you can also enjoy affogato—a java jolt poured over gelato.
Here’s the Scoop: North Bay cyclists enjoy a number of rewarding road and trail rides that are part of the region’s Discovery Routes network. Join the locals on the classic North Bay Bike Route, which climbs and descends along the escarpment north of Trout Lake. Starting at 24 km, cyclists can also extend the length with a variety of route alternatives and smaller loops on paved roads. The circuit leaves from Trout Lake’s Olmsted Beach, so you can take a refreshing post-ride dip. Even better, The Green Store—a sprawling country general store serving up ice cream cones, frozen yogurt, and soft serve—is just down the road.
Here’s the Scoop: One of Ontario’s most cherished ice cream brands, Kawartha Dairy has been in operation for over 80 years with the same family at the helm. Although it has grown tremendously from its early days—there are now 10 retail locations across central Ontario—the dairy remains headquartered in Bobcaygeon where it was founded. Situated in the heart of The Kawarthas, this is also farming country, providing the dairy with a daily supply of fresh milk—and cyclists with a pastoral paradise of small towns, rolling drumlin hills and winding rural roads to explore. The famous Trent-Severn Waterway doglegs through the region, linking historic communities via river, lakes and locks.
Riding possibilities here are almost limitless. Choose from eight scenic day rides around the Kawartha Lakes—we suggest following the 36-km South Sturgeon Route from Lindsay along Sturgeon Lake to Bobcaygeon’s Kawartha Dairy ice cream counter.
For cyclists departing from Peterborough, three classic routes ranging from 45 km to 100 km are mapped and described in detail on The Kawarthas cycling page. The website includes ride highlights, photo ops, worthwhile stops, accommodations and eateries en route (yes, including ice cream shops). Whichever route you pick, don’t miss a stop at Central Smith Creamery, accessible by a new gravel path from Peterborough. Specialists in all things ice cream since 1952, Central Smith’s 70 flavours of creamy goodness are made on-site and served up in cones, cups, shakes, or sundaes at their scooping parlour. Add grassy lawns and picnic tables, and you get all the right ingredients for weary cyclists.
Find even more great rides around Kawarthas Northumberland at Ontario By Bike.
More great places in Ontario to ride, ice cream and repeat
When you’re riding in Thunder Bay, don’t miss a stop at Prime Gelato—an authentic, hip gelateria serving up all-natural gelato and sorbetto made with fresh, local ingredients in homemade waffle cones. Their flight of four flavours is perfect for indecisive gelatophiles.
If you’re craving a cone in Southern Ontario, plan to ride Bruce County’s very own Huron-Kinloss Ice Cream Trail. The 48-km route travels primarily on quiet rural roads, shares a stunning leg along Lake Huron with the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail, and features nine stops serving Ontario-made ice cream.
Further south on the Lake Huron leg of the Waterfront Trail, cyclists in Grand Bend can enjoy a cup or cone by the 10-km-long sand beach at Pinery Provincial Park or downtown’s Grand Bend Beach—scoops are served on the main strip at The Dairy Dip, The Original Fast Eddie’s Ice Cream & Froyo, and Hobo Piez. And if you are pedaling through in September, you can catch Grand Bend’s annual Ice Cream Festival, hosted by the Pinery Market and featuring every imaginable iteration of the delicious dessert. This year’s event will be held Sunday, September 13, 2020.
PLAN YOUR SWEET ROUTE
It’s always fun to plan a cycling route, and I can’t think of a better reason than testing some Ontario’s best ice creams.