A Day of Cycling in Orillia in Simcoe County

Hansonthebike contemplating life
Wetlands at Orillia

In August 2019 we visited the Simcoe area to meet up with Sara of Humdinger Bicycle Tours, who shared with us some bits of her routes in different parts in the Simcoe region. Today we roll around town in Orillia and catch another rail and trail.

A bike ride through downtown Orillia

Peaceful is the key word at the waterfront

Orillia is situated at the top end of Lake Simcoe where it meets Lake Couchiching. It has about 30,000 residents. The lakes are part of that other Ontario canal system, the Trent-Severn waterway.

The city’s claims to fame are being the setting of the fictional town in Stephen Leacock’s “Sunshine sketches of a little town“, the first North American municipality to introduce daylight saving time and the first municipal hydroelectric transmission plant. If those aren’t reasons to pay a visit to Orillia, what is?

Stephen Leacock’s Orillia

tephen Leacock historic site
Stephen Leacock historic site

We started out at the municipal park on Lake Couchiching and puttered around, checking out some historical structures and reading about a historic boat race gone wrong ending up in a big fight.

Of course, we had to see the Stephen Leacock Museum and National Historic Site on the lake but didn’t go inside; we checked out the garden instead, which had abundant Monarch butterflies. We all agreed that the restaurant next door is a prime spot overlooking the bay, but with the umbrellas down and no life in the building, we decided to forego coffee here.

Monarchs in Orillia

Mnjikaning Fish Weirs

Image of fish weirs from an information panel
Image of fish weirs from an information panel
Some remains of the fish weirs in a peaceful and rustic site, or so you think…

Following part of the Trans Canada Trail we eventually arrived at the Mnjikaning [Man-jik-a-ning] Fish Weirs National Historic Site where indigenous people used to maintain fishing weirs (adding a new word to my vocabulary here).

Carbon dating of the wood used in the weirs shows people were using the weirs as far back as 3300 BCE, about 5300 years ago. Sadly and quite unbelievably really, Ontario built a large highway right over top the site.

Highway built over historic fishing weirs site
Trans Canada Highway built right over one of Canada’s oldest historic sites
The defunct swing bridge at the Narrows
The defunct swing bridge at the Narrows

Lunch at Rustica

Lunch: pizza and soup and a beer
Lunch at Rustica: pizza ‘Sunshine City’: pancetta, apple, honey, arugula, smoked cheddar; Tomato & Basil Pesto Soup all for $15

Lunch with Humdinger Bicycle Tours Sara was enjoyed in downtown Orillia on the patio of Rustica on Mississauga St East. It so happened that the city was decorated with bicycles as a form of art. However, we hardly saw any ‘urban cycling’, if any. Orillia is much hillier than Ottawa, but we did find cycling very doable and e-bikes would make it totally worthwhile In this small town. You can hop on the Trans Canada Trail right downtown and bike all the way to Georgian Bay as part of the 160 km Simcoe County loop.

The Orillia Museum

wrongly placed bike rack
You had one job…

After lunch we dropped in at the Orillia Museum of Art & History. Finding a bike rack wasn’t easy and we had to improvise a bit as the rack was not properly placed. We didn’t find the museum too exciting to be honest when we were there. You might be luckier with another exhibit. There is a nice gift shop with products from local artists.

Orillia Rail to Trail

Rail to Trail south of Orillia on bridge
Rail to Trail south of Orillia

We continued via West St to another rail to trail stretch and veered off to Eight Mile Point on Lake Simcoe. Following the shore line part of the way back and admiring some properties we eventually returned to downtown Orillia to have a coffee at Mark IV Brothers on Nottawasaga, but they just closed for the day. Instead, we dropped in at the LCBO where we saw one of the few bikes parked, an upright Dutch ‘Gazelle‘ no less….

This week was part of a half day Humdinger Bicycle Tours tour through Orillia. Next week, we’ll explore a bit of the Haliburton area, which is another part of one of Orillia based Humdinger Bicycle Tours multi day tours.

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