2 days on the Highland Hustle Route –E-bikes, baked goods and rolling hills

On a midweek Fall day, we headed out to meet up with friends Jim and Mary Boate, well known Clarington cycling advocates and long-time supporters of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail. Our plan – to check out the Highland Hustle Route – a two day, 169 /194km tour that takes you through the hills of Durham and Northumberland and along the shores of Lake Ontario. Port Hope (for 169km) or the equally lovely Cobourg (for 194km) are perfectly positioned for an overnight stay.

The Highland Hustle Route connects the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail and the Greenbelt Cycling Route, showcasing spectacular rural scenery and coastal views. The route could never be described as flat, and that’s part of its appeal!  There are hills aplenty but obviously what goes up must come down!

Check out the profile and download the GPS files.

The recommended ride start is Rotary Park in Whitby – You can park at the Whitby GO station for a maximum of 48 hours – ideal for this two-day ride. The short 1 km ride to the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail from the GO Station is conveniently signed.

We chose to ride the Highland Hustle in a clockwise direction. The first day was going to be the most challenging of the two-day ride and Jim and Mary were sensibly riding their E-bikes. The route heads uphill out of Whitby, following connector signage to the Greenbelt Route and climbing gradually out of town and north on Ashburn Road for the first 20Km. After turning east onto Myrtle Road, we reached our first stop of the day at 25km – The White Feather Country Store. This is a great place to stop for a coffee and a treat – they are famous for their apple fritters which are served on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. White Feather is popular and during COVID they are limiting the number of people inside the store – don’t forget your mask, you’ll be refused entry without it!

After leaving White Feather the rolling hills really kicked in. The views up here were spectacular and we all agreed that the fall colours were at their absolute peak. Passing Linton Farms, we couldn’t miss a spectacular display of pumpkins in every colour imaginable. Our next stop was in Enniskillen at 41km – The Enniskillen General Store is a great place to rehydrate and also serves enormous ice creams! A cute patio with colourful Muskoka chairs under a large tree offers a shady spot to take a quick break.

Another 5 km of riding and we were at picturesque Tyrone Mills. This is a wonderful spot – a working traditional water-powered mill constructed in 1846. The mill sells local products including its own mill ground flour, bakery items, and locally grown fruits and vegetables. We were lucky to bump into the owner Rob Schafer – who was happy to chat about the economic benefits of cycle tourism on the Greenbelt Route – He also confirmed that the locally famous donuts are only served Thursday through Sunday!

The route continued to roll, although by this point we were apparently starting to head downhill. At around 60km we arrived in the quaint village of Orono. The stretch from Orono to Port Hope is quite remote with no services so we headed into the local convenience store to pick up extra water and snacks. There are also a couple of café restaurants, the Orono Country Café and the Firehall Bistro – don’t forget your mask and remember that indoor dining is subject to Covid restrictions at this time.

After Orono it was plain sailing (although those hills were still rolling) following the Greenbelt Route signage all the way down to Port Hope. The views to the south towards Lake Ontario are absolutely spectacular along this stretch.

After almost 100km we rolled downhill alongside the Ganaraska River into the lovely town of Port Hope – tired and hungry. There is a great selection of restaurants and accommodations in Port Hope and wonderful shopping too. We chose not to take the spur out to Cobourg but for those wishing to add an additional 20km the route is flat and fast with another don’t-miss bakery Betty’s Pies and Tarts on the north side of Highway 2.

Day 2- Port Hope to Whitby

A less hilly ride along the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail was on the cards for Day 2. We were looking forward to another beautiful day of fall cycling. The route out of Port Hope was easy to find – we followed the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail signs uphill and out of town. Insider tip from Jim and Mary – stock up with water and snacks before leaving Port Hope since there are no services along this section of the trail until you get to the Port of Newcastle in Clarington.

After 30km of riding we arrived in the Municipality of Clarington. Clarington has just completed paving their section of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail and has done an outstanding job – it was an absolute treat to ride on the fresh smooth pavement. We stopped briefly to get a photo of Jim at Jim Boate Hill – named to honour the work that Jim has done over the years to improve cycling safety in Clarington and his dedication to the Waterfront Trail and the cycling community. Well-deserved Jim!

We continued to roll alongside the well-signed Great Lakes Waterfront Trail – route finding was simple-we just kept the sparkling waters of Lake Ontario to our left! After 40km we arrived in Bowmanville ready for a bite to eat at The Deck bar and grill located at the Marina. This seasonal spot has an excellent summer patio – please note that the restaurant will shortly be closed for the 2020 season.

At the 50km mark, we rode through Darlington Provincial Park– this is an excellent camping spot on the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail (reservations required).  During a normal non-Covid year they also serve fantastic ice cream – hopefully, ice cream service will resume in 2021!

We rode through Oshawa and into Whitby for a total of just under 70Km of gorgeous waterfront cycling.

We all agreed that had been a great couple of days of fall cycling with some challenging hills and amazing views topped off on the second day with the wonderful  Great Lakes Waterfront Trail.  Adding an overnight in either Port Hope or Cobourg made for a great mini-cycling tour,  featuring the best of the Greenbelt Route and the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail. The route was well signed and easy to follow – the Ride with GPS files were easy to download and also provided additional information on route elevation and places to stop along the way. The route is best suited to experienced riders on road bikes, hybrid bikes or e-bikes. When considering using an e-bike please check battery capacity; on a route such as this we recommend riding in economy mode when not climbing hills to conserve battery power.