Preliminary route map for phase III of the GLWT / GBCyR expansion as well as the recently implemented expansion on Lake Huron and Manitoulin Island. As consultations progress the map is likely to change, so please check back for the most up-to-date info!

Expansion of the Trail into Manitoulin, Bruce and Grey Counties begins in 2017

In May 2014, the Waterfront Regeneration Trust (WRT) accepted an invitation from the Georgian Bay Cycling Route (GBCyR) Steering Committee to lead the Georgian Bay Cycling Route initiative with the goal of establishing a 1,000 km cycling route around Georgian Bay as the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail. Implementation has been on-going as part of larger initiatives to expand the Trail along the North Channel of Lake Huron, and most recently into Manitoulin Island, Bruce, Grey and Huron Counties. In May, 2018, the WRT began consultations for the final phase of the GBCyR, closing the gap between Collingwood and Sudbury along Georgian Bay’s east shore.

Travelling Georgian Bay By Bicycle

Travelling South from Sudbury:

There is no legal way to cycle Highway 69 south of Sudbury and there are no continuous alternative routes to easily detour around Highway 69 between Sudbury and Highway 522, a gap of roughly 80km. Consider one of the following solutions:

  • Riding with a partner? Consider taking two vehicles and make arrangements to leave one in Sudbury and one in either Grundy Lake Provincial Park or in Parry Sound. Cycle from Sudbury to Parry Sound/Grundy Lake or vice versa. Completing this extent of the circle will leave only a 1-1.5 hour drive between the two vehicles.
  • Cab or rideshare. Transit options are limited.

Signage Considerations:

  • Great Lakes Waterfront Trail wayfinding signage is not in place:
  • On the proposed expansion between Collingwood and Greater Sudbury on the east side of Georgian Bay (est. 2020 implementation including regional loops in Muskoka and Honey Harbour);
  • Highway 6 between Espanola and South Baymouth;
  • Highway 6 between Tobermory and Dorcas Bay Road, and Johnson Harbour Road and Dyers Bay Rd.

WRT is working to implement signage on the current expansion of the route, and continues to work with the Ministry of Transportation regional offices in Northern and Southwestern Ontario to implement signage along these last few signage gaps.

Seasonal Considerations:

  • Travel between Tobermory in the Bruce Peninsula and South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island is possible only via the MS Chi-Cheemaun Ferry which operates between May and October. Fees apply.
  • Some roadways, such as those in Township of Tiny and Rankin Lake Road in Seguin Township are not maintained for cycling in Winter. For the best experience, travel between the months of May and October are recommended.

Implementation Stages

Stage I: Espanola to Sudbury will be complete in Summer of 2018 as part of the WRT’s work on the Lake Huron North Channel cycle route (Sault Ste Marie to Sudbury) and in partnership with Trans Canada Trail, Ontario Trillium Foundation, Tourism Northern Ontario and the Ministry of Transportation.

Stage II: Espanola to Manitoulin Island, Owen Sound and Collingwood. In 2017, the WRT expanded the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail and partnership into Manitoulin Island, Bruce, Huron and Grey counties. The work achieves the second phase of the GBCyR, and connects the northern section of the Trail along the Lake Huron North Channel, to the southern sections along Lakes Erie and Ontario. The work will be complete in Summer 2018.

Leading project partners include the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Tourism Northern Ontario, Regional Tourism Organizations 7.

Stage III: Simcoe to Sudbury. Work on the final gap of the GBCyR begins in Summer of 2018 with community meetings to review the route proposed in the 2014 feasibility study. Work is possible thanks to funding provided by the Province of Ontario.

Background on the GBCyR

The Georgian Bay Cycling Route (GBCyR) will be a 1,000 kilometre, signed Signature Cycling Route around Georgian Bay that connects communities around the Bay to develop the region’s cycling tourism potential. The idea of the route came from the Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates (MICA) with the initial route researched by Denis Baldwin. Working with the LaCloche Manitoulin Business Assistance Corporation (LAMBAC), MICA established a volunteer steering committee chaired by LAMBAC to oversee a feasibility study for the route. The Study was conducted by Transportation Options and the Resource Management Consulting Group. Funding for the study was provided by  FedNor, the Province’s Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport and the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Feasibility Study Findings

  • 65 representatives of municipalities, tourism organizations, health units and cycling clubs participated in workshops held in Little Current, Sudbury, Parry Sound, Gravenhurst, Midland, Collingwood, Owen Sound and Wiarton or were interviewed by telephone.
  • Support in the Region for the GBCyR is strong. Over 58 letters of support for the concept were received.
  • Of the 1,000 km proposed route, 800 km is ready to be implemented, that is, mapped, signed and promoted.
  • The section between Parry Sound and Sudbury requires the Ministry of Transportation’s support and leadership to close two gaps to create a continous alignment. A third gap exists along HWY 17 by the Spanish River Bridge.
  • The steering committee voted unanimously to invite the Waterfront Regeneration Trust to assume leadership for the initiative, which it accepted.

Route Description

The GBCyR has been planned, in conjunction with local municipalities, to follow existing trails and roads as close to Georgian Bay as possible. It will allow cyclists to enjoy the beauty of the region, as well as views and access to the shoreline. In some places, the GBCyR goes right along the shore, in others it is a considerable distance back from the bay, traversing farmland, forest or the rocky terrain of the Canadian Shield. The GBCyR connects the culture, heritage and lifestyles of 35+ communities around Georgian Bay with two UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves, two National Parks, 15 Provincial Parks and includes a Chi-Cheemaun ferry crossing to Manitoulin Island. Eight hundred kilometers of the GBCyR is implementation-ready, from Town of Parry Sound, south around Georgian Bay to the City of Greater Sudbury. In two places, alternative routes have been provided:

  • Muskoka District – For cyclists with time, Core Route B (62 km) offers a longer, scenic ride along the shore of Georgian Bay Township towards Honey Harbour, than the more direct Core Route A.
  • Manitoulin Island – For cyclists who want to experience the interior of the Island. The Core B Route (83 km) offers a scenic ride into the heart of Manitoulin Island

Completion of the final 200 km between Sudbury and Parry Sound, will require support of the Ontario government and Ministry of Transportation to find a route.  In light of the Ontario Government’s 2013 #CycleOn Strategy, the GBCyR Steering Committee has initiated meetings with the Ministry of Transportation to investigate opportunities to make the GBCyR a complete loop around Georgian Bay. The proposed GBCyR has been mapped in MapMyRide, in Google My Maps and is now incorporated on the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail interactive map. For a brief description of the gaps, click here.

Route Objectives

  • Owned and maintained by the communities along the route and incorporated into their asset management plans
  • Promoted as a provincial tourism asset and attraction
  • Benefit cyclists, cycle tourists and local businesses and municipalities in the region
  • Link together the growing network of designated bicycle routes in the Georgian Bay region
  • Create a signature cycling route, to strengthen Ontario’s positioning as a cycling destination.

Benefits of the Georgian Bay Cycling Route

Communities along the GBCyR are very supportive of the GBCyR because the infrastructure investment would be low and the benefits would be substantial.

  • Creates a 1000 km high-profile bicycle route that is suitable for a wide variety of cyclists,
  • Support the communities’ ongoing initiatives related to Active Transportation, off-road cycling trails, paved shoulders and designated on-road cycling routes, and
  • Help communities set priorities for cycle route/trail development and enhancement.

Many destination marketing/management organizations and tourism businesses along the GBCyR are currently investing in cycle tourism product development to attract more visitors, increase their length of stay and increase visitor spending. The GBCyR aligns with these ongoing cycle tourism initiatives because it will:

  • Help communities meet the growing demand for safe cycle tourism by expanding the opportunities for recreational, experienced and touring cyclists;
  • Be a new product that aligns with tourism positioning of the community destination marketing organizations: active, outdoor recreational experiences;
  • Link many of the existing tourism attractions along Georgian Bay, providing an alternative to car transportation and a fresh way to market tourism attractions; and
  • Complement and further promote the communities and tourism businesses already participating in the Ontario By Bike Network (formerly the Welcome Cyclists Network).

The GBCyR aligns with #CycleON, the new Ontario government strategy to encourage the growth of cycling and improve the safety of people who cycle across the province. It will help Ontario residents reap the benefits identified in the #CycleON strategy:

  • Improved personal and public health for residents and visitors to the region,
  • Cleaner environment by providing an alternative to road transportation for residents and visitors,
  • New tourism product to meet the growing demand for cycling experiences, and
  • New business opportunities to service residents and visiting cyclists.

Regional Meetings

September 27, 2018 – District of Muskoka Meeting

October 4, 2018 – Parry Sound District

Route Update

  • The nearly 7km gap on Highway 17 gap between Old Nairn Road and Jacklin Road which includes the Spanish River Bridge is closed. The Ministry of Transportation has expanded the width of the highway to include hardened shoulders and installed route signage. We do still recommend caution when crossing the bridge over the Spanish River and when making any highway crossing.
  • Highway 6 between Espanola and South Baymouth has been signed with green ministry bicycle route marker signs, however Great Lakes Waterfront Trail wayfinding signage has not yet been installed on the route. Highway 6 between Tobermory and Dorcas Bay Road, and Johnson Harbour Road to Dyers Bay Road does not presently have route markers. The WRT is working with the Ministry of Transportation to have Great Lakes Waterfront Trail wayfinding signage installed along these sections of provincial Highway.
  • With the work that the Ontario Ministry of Transportation is completing to expand Highway 69 to 4 lanes, there is no legal way for cyclists to travel the Highway 69  corridor south from Greater Sudbury. The WRT is working with the Ontario Government to move forward with designs to accommodate cycling infrastructure on this corridor between Greater Sudbury and Highway 522.
  • 15 regional and area municipalities have made formal motions to support the implementation of the route between Collingwood and Highway 522 where we hope to establish an interim terminus for the route. A further 2 are expected to support the implementation of the route by October 2019. RTO 7, Tourism Simcoe County, Muskoka Tourism, Ontario Parks and the Ontario Government  have also supported the expansion project. RTO 12 has indicated its support as well.
  • The Town of Wasaga Beach received grant funding to expand cycling infrastructure within the Town. Much of these efforts are being focused on the GLWT expansion alignment in support of this route. This work is expected to be complete by Fall, 2019 and is being completed with cooperation from Ontario Parks.
  • The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, provided funding for the consultation phase of the present Great Lakes Waterfront Trail expansion between Collingwood and Sudbury. The WRT has submitted a request to the Ministry for funding support to complete the implementation of this expansion, to the extents possible by 2020.
  • The WRT will continue to work with the Ministry of Transportation to establish and sign this route along the Highway 69 corridor post 2020.

Trunk Route, Regional Loops, Bypasses and Spurs

The proposed expansion between Collingwood and Sudbury includes three local loops and one bypass:

  • Trunk Route: Part of navigating the routing in these waterfront communities will include identifying a “trunk route” which will utilize the standard Great Lakes Waterfront Trail blaze. This route will take cyclists on the most direct route available between Midland and Parry Sound while connecting to numerous communities, providing access to key amenities in areas of the province include remote areas.
  • Regional loops around Lake Muskoka and Lake Rosseau, and a loop to Port Severn, Honey Harbour and Big Chute will formalize popular local cycling loops with cobranded Great Lakes Waterfront Trail signage, allowing for more touring opportunities along the route and keeping wayfinding simple.
  • Bypass: The proposed expansion in the Township of Tiny includes the  80km “Thunder Beach Loop” which follows close to the Georgian Bay shoreline north of Balm Beach to Awenda Provincial Park and to Penetanguishene. This loop would be considered part of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail trunk route. Plans exist to sign a short bypass directly to Penetanguishene near Dow Bay.
  • Spur: A short spur to/from Orillia has been included in the proposed expansion routing between Collingwood and Sudbury to provide access to amenities (including overnight) along a remote section of the route. Orillia is located an ideal distance on the between Midland and the District of Muskoka.