Cycle: Windsor to Port Stanley

Konrad and I really enjoyed our overnight bikepacking trip in 2018 and were ready to go again in 2019. The main question was where. I was poking around the Ontario by Bike website and came across the Windsor-Kingsville-Essex Tour. Like our 2018 trip, this tour starts on a rail trail, heading south out of Windsor and going through Harrow and Kingsville. Doing a quick search on provincial parks in the area, I found that Wheatley Provincial Park lay just east of Leamington. A further check also showed that Rondeau Provincial Park was equidistant from Wheatley to Port Stanley. So the plan was set: bikepack over three days from Windsor back to Port Stanley.

The Day 1 plan would follow the Windsor-Kingsville-Essex Tour to Kingsville and then go through Leamington and along the Lake Erie shore to Wheatley,

Windsor to Wheatley Provincial Park via Leamington
Windsor to Wheatley Provincial Park via Leamington

Day 2’s plan was to cycle north east to Blenheim and then east to Rondeau for a second night of camping.

Wheatley Provincial Park to Rondeau Provincial Park
Wheatley Provincial Park to Rondeau Provincial Park

Day 3 would pretty much be another north-east cycle along the Talbot Trail until Wallacetown where we would return to roads close to the lake coming into Port Stanley.

Rondeau Provincial Park to Port Stanley
Rondeau Provincial Park to Port Stanley

Once again, we picked a Sunday as the starting day, giving us lots of options for campgrounds. My wife Robin, our daughter Becky and our granddaughter Lily shuttled us down to Windsor on the Saturday afternoon where Konrad and I stayed in a motel near the airport. We had a great kickoff dinner at Tenko Sushi that evening.

Day 1 – 74.7 km

We were up in good time Saturday morning and grabbed breakfast at the motel. The plan was to cycle south out of Windsor on the Chrysler Canada Greenway rail trail towards Leamington. We joined the Greenway by using the Rotary (1918) Centennial Hub.

The rail trail was in good shape and we made good time to Harrow where we stopped for a snack and some water. Turning east, we found the temperature starting to rise. We later stopped at the old railway station in Kingsville, again for water.

We arrived in Leamington and stopped to have some lunch. During our planning talks, we had discussed cycling down to the tip of Point Pelee National Park as part of the route, but decided that it was too ambitious. So we headed straight east from Leamington towards the Hillman Marsh Conservation Area. This was a pretty area to cycle through. Just after, we turned north towards Wheatley. It was on this stretch of road that we could see the extravagant efforts people were making to keep Lake Erie back and away from their low-lying cottages.

We stopped to buy some beer at the LCBO in Wheatley and then cycled into the provincial park. The park was a revelation; the Boosey Creek campground featured nice access to the water’s edge and some nice views.

We set up camp, drank our first beers and had some dinner. Afterwards, we walked out to the day area at the lake’s edge and back around through the other campgrounds. We turned in pretty soon after sunset to be ready for Day 2.

Day 2 – 70.0 km

We were up in good time and packed up camp. Once again, a classic breakfast of instant oatmeal and coffee got us ready for the day.

The Day 2 cycling was mostly on back roads. In the beginning, the roads were in good shape, but, later on, there was quite a bit of maintenance activity on a good stretch leading into Blenheim. The just-graded gravel was really loose and we lost a lot of energy plowing through it. By the time we got to Blenheim, both Konrad and I were tired and thirsty.

First stop in Blenheim was the LCBO for more end-of-the-day beer. Second stop was FROSTBITES for ice cream; we both had a large soft ice cream cone covered in chocolate. Third stop was Shopper’s Drug Mart for drinks (coke and iced coffee for me). It was a welcome break.

Coming southeast out of Blenheim, we were treated to a really pretty stretch of scenery before reaching Rondeau. We arrived in good time and set up camp. We had a good dinner and walked over to the east side of the provincial park to check out the beach. Well, the beach was pretty much underwater, as the levels in Lake Erie remained high all summer long.

Heading back to our tent, we could see we were about to get a thunderstorm come through. We battened everything down and jumped in the tent. Unfortunately, the fly on my 28-year-old tent was not up to the rain, and we spent an uncomfortable night dodging the rain dripping into the tent at times.

Day 3 – 80.1 km

Konrad and I were up early. We surveyed the campsite; lots of rain on the ground, but our packs were in the large part dry. Unfortunately, along with the rising sun, the mosquitoes came out and we rushed through breakfast and packed up.

Our plan on Day 3 was to stick to the Talbot Road for most of the trip back to Port Stanley. The wind was at our backs and the road was quiet with traffic. Once we hit the Elgin County border, the road gained a beautiful wide paved shoulder that made the rest of the day a little less stressful.

We turned off the Talbot Road at Wallacetown and stopped for some more cold drinks. We then headed east towards Port Stanley, passing by the Fingal Wildlife Management Area, before arriving home just after lunch.

Summary

Compared to our 2018 trip, each of the three days this year were shorter with less elevation gain. On the other hand, the 2019 weather was probably hotter so it always felt great to get off the road at the end of the leg. The scenery was nice and the cycling mostly good, except for some recently-resurfaced gravel roads between Wheatley and Blenheim.

It’s cool to think that we’ve now cycled along about 2/3rds of the Ontario side of Lake Erie now.

Photography / Videography

We took two GoPros (a Hero 5 Black and a Hero 5 Session) with us, as well as a DJI Mavic Pro Platinum drone. The title photo for the post is a screen capture from some drone footage I took on Day 2.

Camera: DJI Mavic Pro Platinium
Mode: Screen Capture from Video; 2.7 K, 30 fps
Color: D-Cinelike, colored in Davinci Resolve
Style: Custom (+1, -1, 0)
ISO: 100
Shutter Speed: 1/60 with a PolarPro ND32 Neutral Density Filter
EV Comp: 0

Barry Cott Written by:

Barry is one of the two driving forces behind Station Studios. An avid photographer and outdoor enthusiast, when he's not traveling, he calls Port Stanley, Ontario home.