My Favourite Things in Ride the Highlands

One rider hits Ontario's Highlands region and discovers a ton of things to do. Check out the best stuff and add it to your bucket list.

I just spent the last 2.5 days riding and exploring the Ride the Highlands area with friends and I’m exhausted, happy, with a camera roll full of photos and videos—all hallmarks of time well spent! I stayed at the Sands on Golden Lake in a newly renovated room whose balcony not only overlooked the private sandy beach on Golden Lake, but was in direct view of the sunset as it fell behind the lake. How they named this hotel and body of water is a mystery.

Letterkenny "The Rollercoaster" road looking south from Rockingham Road.

The entire Ride the Highlands area is easily within a day’s ride of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) but you would be barely scratching the surface going up and back on the same day. Just getting to the hotel was fun, hitting 2 of the Top 10 roads. Of course, the riding is incredible and the region is very motorcycle friendly, but you’ll also love the other activities and amenities. Every time I’m in the Ride the Highlands (I’ve been coming here for years), I feel like there’s more to do!

Here’s a roundup of my favourite things to do in the Ride the Highlands area from my latest road trip:

The Ride the Highlands Map: An indispensable Planning Tool

The Ride the Highlands map: An indispensable planning too. Order yours free here.

First you must plan. From large multi-day loops, to local routes, accommodations, fuel stops and even repair shops -- this is an indispensable planning tool. In fact, it rivals any other motorcycle road map I’ve seen, even the expensive ones! If you’re like me, you hate doing hours of research. Choose any of the colour coded routes or choose individual roads “a la carte”, twist the throttle and go! I prefer the hard copy fold-out map which you can order for free here, or use the online version here.

My Favourite Roads in the highlands

The boat launch at the Centennial Lake bridge makes a great photo op.

Centennial Lake Road (Hwy 65)
Especially the stretch between Calabogie Road (Hwy 508) and the boat launch by the bridge at Centennial Lake. The twisties are amazing, and I liked it so much, I turned around to do it again! But ride with respect and within your limits as there are many blind corners, non-graduated curves, and intersecting roads.

Letterkenny Road
This thing should be called the Roller Coaster—the elevation changes are legendary! You’ll come over rises where you don’t know if the road continues straight, left or right, and you’ll definitely feel the gravity at the bottom of hills when it transitions to a sharp uphill. And combined with some legit twisties and scenery, you’ll be smiling out loud in your helmet.
PS. Don’t steal the fricking road signs, the show isn’t even filmed here!

Elephant Lake Road and Peterson Road
These two are usually on my list of favourites roads but at the time of writing, there is a significant gravel stretch under construction.

My Favourite Places to Eat in the highlands

Madawaska Coffee, Barry’s Bay, ON (Link to map)
Mornings are made better with amazing butter tarts and good coffee! Park right outside on the boulevard.

All the colours of a Buddha Bowl from Heartwood Restaurant.

Heartwood Restaurant, Combermere, ON (Link to map)
Their Buddha Bowls are a feast for the eyes and the mouth, and provide a lighter, healthier option compared to burgers and BBQ.

My Favourite Off-Motorcycle Activities in the highlands

Crooked Slide Park, Combermere, ON (Link to map)
It not only makes a great photo op, but is the perfect place to relax, listen to the cascades and take in the fresh air. Go for a short hike to rejuvenate your energy. Bonus: it’s on Old Barry’s Bay Road, a Top 10 Road.

Relax and recharge at Crooked Slide Park in Combermere.

Bonnechere Caves, Eganville, ON (Link to maps)
This is the best stop on a hot afternoon: walk through cool (a constant 10 C) underground caverns with fossils, stalactites and more. A short hike from the exit of the caves will take you through a forest back to the venue’s entrance. The road to/from is fun and scenic as it follows the Bonnechere River.

My Favourite Gems in the highlands

These are things I found by “accident” just riding around:

Old Killaloe (Link to map) just south of Killaloe on Highway 512. I found the “Old Killaloe” sign, an old mill (now a private residence), the historic Getz General Store, a hand dugout canoe.

Beavertails Did you know the famous pastry known as Beavertails were invented in Killaloe? Me neither! And the Killaloe Sunrise flavour pays homage to its roots.

St. Mary Catholic Church On Highway 60 just east of Wilno. There is a great panoramic lookout over the Ottawa Valley, seemingly made to view the fall colours.

These are just a few of the roads and things to see and do in the area, and I didn’t even mention how welcoming the locals are. So, what are you waiting for? Ride the Highlands are waiting for you.

Special thanks to:

About Wobblycat

James Bai, aka Wobblycat, knows riding. Hailing from the Greater Toronto Area, he traded in his office desk for handlebars in 2016 and is now location-independent, travelling on his motorcycle across North America, from Mexico to the Arctic Ocean and the roads (and off-roads) in between.

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