What better time to dust off your wheels, explore Guelph by bike, and enjoy the sunshine than today? Coincidentally, June happens to be both Bike Month and Recreation Month. Cycling is also one of the many ways that you can become a more sustainable traveller. In fact, Guelph is 1 of 28 cities in Canada that has committed to the United Nation’s global Race to Zero challenge. If you’re unfamiliar with the worldwide campaign, cities, businesses, investors, and regions pledge to work towards using 100% renewable energy by 2050 in their part to combat the climate crisis.
The United Nations’ Global Race to Zero
Did you know that there are currently 65 kilometres of all-purpose trails, as well as dedicated bike lanes on Guelph’s roads? One of the areas the city is tackling in their commitment to a becoming a greener city is the creation and improvement of sustainable transportation options. More specifically, they have been increasing their cycling infrastructure with bike signals, multi-use paths, trails, on-street bike lanes, and so on. Thanks to the money and time that’s been allocated to sustainable transportation in Guelph, travellers and residents alike will have better and easier access to more sustainable choices in their day-to-day lives.
How to Spend 1 Day Exploring Guelph By Bike
There are hundreds of different routes you could take to explore Guelph by bike. Below you’ll find the self-guided itinerary I followed that was created by Ontario by Bike and Visit Guelph, plus a few extra spots I added. Don’t miss the downloadable map at the bottom of this post with all of the stops and directions laid out for you. Enjoy!
First Stop: Eric the Baker
Begin your day in downtown Guelph on Carden Street with breakfast and a hot cuppa at Eric the Baker. Just follow your nose – the tempting aromas wafting down the street will direct you. I opted for a green tea and pain au chocolat to fuel the first part of my ride. You can easily park and lock your bike out front in the bike racks. Take note that it is a cash-only establishment. Enjoy breakfast on the patio or take it to go and savour your morning treat at your second stop. Pro Tip: Download the Great Taste of Ontario Guelph Passport. After eating at a restaurant on the list, check in, and earn your way to a $25 gift card. Three of the food stops on this tour are a part of the passport, so you’ll be well on your way to earning the prize by the end of your day!
Second Stop: Goldie Mill Ruins
Not too far from downtown is a historically significant ruin on the west bank of the Speed River. Home to the nearly 160-year-old limestone remains of Guelph’s manufacturing hub, Goldie Mill Park is a great place to cycle, walk, run, or people watch. The paved trail surrounds the grey stone walls for 360 views of the buildings and the 90-foot brick chimney.
After not one, but two fires that destroyed the mills built in 1827 and 1845, a man named James Goldie purchased the land in 1864 and rebuilt the stone buildings we see today. Goldie was a leader in the flour industry. He ran successful mills and was the president of the Ontario Millers’ Association. In 1918 the Goldie family sold the flour mills, though they remained in operation for 11 more years until a flood destroyed the dam. Fire struck the site one last time in 1953, leading to the manufacturing centre’s permanent closure.
It’s amazing to think of all of the different uses for the land over the years. It has supported flour mills, a foundry, a sawmill, a cooperage, a distillery, a piggery, and tannery, not to mention the various land use prior to European settlement. Today, the Goldie Mill Ruins is a popular place for wedding photography and leisurely strolling along the river. I wonder how it will continue to change over the next century.
Third Stop: Park Eatery
Since 1890, this storefront has been an Exhibition neighbourhood staple. Over the past 100 years it’s housed a grocery store, a deli, a cafe, a bakery, and now Park Eatery. Each have quenched neighbours’ thirst and kept their hanger demons at bay. Bob Desautels, who grew up down the street from Park Eatery, opened the living wage establishment in 2019 as The Neighbourhood Group of Companies’ next delicious venture. You may already be familiar with their other restaurants, such as Borealis Grille & Bar. Each of them are built on a strong foundation of supporting the use of locally-sourced food and participating in sustainable community practices. Park Eatery’s mission is no different.
In fact, many of the Park Eatery employees are also either former or current Exhibition neighbourhood residents. The local bottle shop, small grocer, and cozy restaurant provides more than scrumptious delights. They also contribute to Guelph residents’ well-being through partnerships with KidsAbility, the Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition, Food4Kids, and many more local non-profits and community groups. When they say the love local, they truly mean it!
Speaking of, Park Eatery’s super fresh menu is made from scratch daily. Their burgers, brisket, milkshakes, and colourful bowls will tempt you to return time and again. I’m already planning another visit to experience their weekend brunch on the patio this summer. If you’re short on time, the bottle shop features local beer, cider, wine, and non-alcoholic refreshments. I spotted a few local favourite bevvies, like the Heartwood Sparkle, Welly IPAs, and Elora Borealis. There are also to-go items and a takeout menu. If you really want something special, you must try the Nutella oatmeal square. Oh. My. Goodness.
On my Guelph adventure, the original plan was to purchase a snack to-go to enjoy later in the day. However, the rain made an extended appearance and the pop-in shopping trip became a proper sit-down lunch. I parked my bike in the racks out front and ordered a Goldie Mill Bowl with a sweet potato patty. It was fantastic, especially the hearty patty and tangy salad dressing! I couldn’t resist adding a local drink, Heartwood Cider’s Forest Garden, to the lunch order too. Who knew Guelph tasted so delicious?
Fourth Stop: Riverside Park
It wouldn’t be a trip to Guelph, Ontario without visiting Riverside Park. Families will love the historic carousel and mini train rides open from late May until early October. Passes are required for the attractions, are reasonably-priced, and can be purchased at rec centres and Service Guelph. The carousel, designed by Allan Herschall, has been a special attraction since it was added to the park in 1970. His unique hand-carved carousels and other amusement park rides can be found around the world. I visited the Riverside Park at the beginning of May, so I don’t have any pictures of the carousel. It was, however, wonderful to see so many people outside enjoying the spring weather.
Riverside Park is a hub of activity during the warmer months. There are baseball diamonds, a disk golf course, a Dutch windmill replica, and an ice cream stand, to name a few of the park’s other features. There are picnic tables and benches everywhere, perfect for gathering with friends and family or to sit and people watch. Since it opened in 1905 the park has grown nearly 6 times in size, from 14.5 acres to 80 acres. Cyclists will love the paved paths that wind alongside the river. There’s nothing like a smooth and scenic ride!
Fifth Stop: Fixed Gear Brewing Co.
Craft beer enthusiasts, this stop is one of two you’re going to love! Fixed Gear Brewing Co. is a staple in the local beer and cycling circles. The brewery has 3 locations, with 2 of them back-to-back in the Junction Village. This former industrial area is a thriving neighbourhood, thanks to grassroots community groups like The Junction Village Guelph, the Guelph Black Heritage Society, and Fixed Gear Brewing Co.
Founded by Mike Oosterveld, Fixed Beer Brewing Co. is a cycling company at its core. Mike’s Opa inspired his love of cycling. He ran a bike repair shop in Holland before WWII. Unfortunately, the war forced the shop to close until the town was liberated by Canadians. It sparked the idea to move his family across the ocean where they began farming in Rockwood, Ontario. Why beer? It had always been another of Mike’s interests. Today the brewery sponsors different Guelph cycling initiatives and events, extending their reach into the community. They also welcome cycling groups, many of whom often start and end their rides at Fixed Gear Brewing Co.
No matter what day you’re visiting Guelph by bike, there will be a fun activity or tasty special at the brewery’s 2 locations in the Junction: the Canteen and the Alma Street Beer Store and Tasting Room. The Canteen has stand-up comedy every Tuesday. On Thursdays, bingo. The Alma Street location is at the opposite end of the parking lot and is the perfect place to grab a roadie, including non-alcoholic beers and seltzers. At the Canteen’s merch shop, you can even bring home a pair of cycling pants as a souvenir.
Though beer’s not my drink of choice, I am a huge fan of the creative brew names, such as “Cherry Training Wheels Sour” and “Peloton German Pilsner”. Both locations have patios. The bottle shop’s dog-friendly outdoor space has that festival feel, with string lights, shipping containers, colourful furniture, and a vintage airstream. The Canteen rocks the restaurant vibe. The bottle shop has bike racks and cyclists are welcome to bring their bikes into the Canteen’s patio area or even inside the restaurant.
If you return to Guelph without your bike, check out the Guelph Beer Bus for another affordable and sustainable travel option. It’s a free Saturday shuttle that runs between all of the Guelph breweries and looks like a ton of fun.
Sixth Stop: Guelph Civic Museum
You can’t miss the Guelph Civic Museum, as it oversees the downtown area from its perch atop the hill. The former Loretto Convent houses an amazing 30,000 artifacts and hosts permanent and changing exhibits throughout the year. Past exhibits have touched on everything from fan folding, to bridging generational gaps, to local fashion, and Indigenous art. There’s also an interactive gallery that’s great for families. It’s never too early to introduce kids to museums!
Final Stop: Royal City Brewing Company
You’re probably going to need a hearty meal and a bevy or two to wash it all down to end a full day of exploring Guelph by bike. Royal City Brewing Company has everything you need to accomplish that final mission! Park your bike on the racks out front and head inside. Their lively beer hall is the perfect place to catch a game on the big screen. With high ceilings, a ton of natural light, and a menu that will make your mouth water, it’s also great for large groups to mix and mingle along the long tables. As with any great beer hall, you can expect German influences on the menu. The crowd favourite are the locally-made sausages. There are also sprinkles of Korean cuisine with kimchi featured on numerous dishes. Whatever you chow down on, there are over 15 beers on tap, plus wine, cider, and non-alcoholic bevvies to pair with your meal.
Plan Your Visit to Guelph, Ontario
Cheers to you for choosing a sustainable, mood-boosting, locally-inspired way to travel!
There are numerous Guelph cycling routes to explore when you visit Guelph by bike and several cycling resources on the city’s website. The trails and bike lanes are both paved and non-paved. Cyclists of all skills levels will find accessible options throughout the city. Don’t forget to brush up on the province’s bike laws. If you need a refresher or want to learn how to cycle safely in Ontario, check out the Ontario government’s link before you head out. Their helpful resources cover how to find the properly-sized bicycle, what safety equipment to consider, how to use the correct hand signals, and how to ride with traffic and understand the necessary road signs.
Currently, there aren’t any Guelph bike rental services. If you don’t have a bike, ask a friend or family member to borrow theirs! If you live in Guelph and are looking to take up cycling on a more consistent basis, check out the Guelph Cycling Club which hosts all sorts of organized rides between April and October. As you’ve seen throughout this blog post, there are a number of attractions and food and beverage locations that are bicycle-friendly, with secure bike racks to lock up your wheels, air pumps, and even bike-themed goodies.
Downloadable Guelph by Bike Itinerary
How to Get There
Guelph is located on approximately 1 hour west of Toronto and is accessible via the 401.
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