When We Were Kings: A Motorcyclist's Kingston Diary

Nestled between the tourist regions of 1000 Islands and Prince Edward County, Kingston makes a great riding destination.

Situated equidistant from Montreal and Toronto, Kingston is one of Canada’s oldest cities. Named the King’s Town after King George III (later shortened to Kingston), it was briefly the capital of Canada and remains to this day an important military city. But the appeal for motorcyclists is not so much its history but its geography.

Kingston is located on the north-eastern end of Lake Ontario where it connects with The Saint Lawrence and Cataraqui rivers. To make a good ride great, just add water, and there is plenty of it in this region. 

Our group of 11 bikes from The West Island Moto Club left Montreal early on a Friday morning and, after cruising along the 1000 Islands Parkway, arrived in Rockport by noon in time to catch our boat cruise of the 1000 Islands waterway with Rockport Cruises. Our particular 2-hour cruise was named Palaces and Palisades and took us past some truly magnificent cottages on Millionaire’s Row and an actual castle.

Bolt Castle
Bolt Castle was built by magnate George Bolt for his wife. Tragically, she died before its completion and he vowed never to set foot on the island again. Today, it’s a tourist attraction open to the public.

The cruise also takes you past some interesting landmarks, such as the statue of Saint Laurent overlooking the river that bears his name, and the world’s shortest border crossing—a footbridge that spans the Canada-US border.

International Bridge Crossing
The world’s shortest border crossing. Note the flags adorning the bridge.

After we docked, we geared back up and continued west to Prince Edward County, south of Belleville. This beautiful region is known for its orchards, wineries, farmland, and sandy beaches. Sandbanks Provincial Park is a popular destination, containing the world’s largest baymouth barrier dune formation, and for literary types, you will find the grave of famous Canadian poet Al Purdy in the Ameliasburgh cemetery. In 1957, Purdy and his wife left Montreal with $800 and built a simple home there, and I can see why. There’s a quiet, peaceful calm about the entire county, and today the original farmhouses coexist with the opulent cottages along the shorelines.

Our Airbnb cottage was not opulent but right on the water in Waupoos (Ojibwe for “rabbit”). But first we stopped at Parsons Brewing for some beverages. I’m a self-confessed beer snob and their beer is first rate. I especially liked their Grandpa Miguel’s Coffee Stout and their Mousetrap Rye Pale Ale, but regardless of your preferences, you’re sure to find something you’ll like.

Parsons Brewing
Picking up the evening’s refreshments.

By the time we arrived, nobody felt like cooking, but thankfully our ride planner had thoughtfully arranged catering through Sarah’NDipity Eats & Treats, a small local caterer. Our planner based her decisions on what she thought our group would like from the online menu, and then Sarah made it easy by making suggestions based on that, and was willing to customize our order. Her prices were much more reasonable than the larger, more established caterers, and being a local business, Sarah was able to deliver to us and even offer special touches with a smile. The food was excellent both nights, especially the desserts!

If Day 1 was about getting out to the region, Day 2 was all about riding it. 

We rode past Canadian Forces Base Trenton and the National Air Force Museum of Canada. If you are an aviation enthusiast, as many bikers are, be careful with the rubber-necking. In fact, the museum offers tours and is a destination in itself. We picked up Highway 33 that hugs the shore of the Trent River, and headed north over the 401 into the rolling hills and twisty roads of Ontario’s Highlands, stopping at Old Bank Cafe for a second morning coffee and Burnside’s Casual Dining in Madoc for lunch. It was wickedly hot, but no one had room yet for ice cream at the adjacent Madoc Dairy, so we rode for bit into Tweed to Tweedy’s Classic Scoops, a funky ice cream parlour with retro decor.

Tweedys Ice Cream Tweedys Jukebox
There’s nothing like an ice-cream rest stop on a hot summer afternoon.

Highway 41, with its sweeping corners and picturesque views, took us back south and soon we were crossing the Quinte Skyway Bridge again and re-entering Prince Edward County. If the countryside is peaceful during the day, the shoreline is positively magical in the evening. We enjoyed hanging out on the large deck, listening to music and enjoying conversation as the fading sun cast muted colours across the water and the first stars began to appear overhead. This is what multi-day rides are all about. Yes, the riding is always good, but the time off the bikes in the evenings is an opportunity to deepen bonds with riding friends.

Deck view of Airbnb
Enjoying the view and conversation at our Airbnb in Waupoos, Prince Edward County.

If you’re tired of your same old routes, consider putting together a multi-day ride in the Kingston area. You can easily string together a great ride along the river through the 1000 Islands Parkway, Prince Edward County, or up into the lake district of the Ontario Highlands. A short boat cruise is not expensive and adds another dimension to your adventure, and with a little planning, accommodations with catering can make a great base camp for day excursions. And along the way, you’ll be supporting the small, locally owned and operated cafes, bakeries, microbreweries, restaurants, and other companies that are still struggling to recover from the economic effects of Covid. Treat yourself to an experience fit for a king. 

About Kevin Bushell

Kevin started riding in 2015 and quickly took to off-roading and adventure touring. He has travelled extensively across Canada and the northeastern states. In addition to writing about his travels, he writes poetry, and his book Invisible Sea—a collection of poems on the theme of flight—is published by DC Books. He is an English teacher at Vanier College and lives with his wife and border collie in Montreal.

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