Motorcyclists escape Toronto to ride beautiful Madawaska Valley roads for annual InstaMeet

Sarah Crookall
Staff Reporter

Seven motorcycle riders from the GTA hit Madawaska Valley’s expansive winding roads for the annual Ride The Highlands InstaMeet from Sept. 19-22.

“Those were the best roads I have ever been on, and there’s so much more still left to explore!” wrote rider Alex Palumbo on Instagram.

Starting the tour in Golden Lake, the riders went through Old Barry’s Bay Road. And one essential stop for riders had to be Madawaska Coffee in Barry’s Bay.

“Riders love coffee so we stopped there and got our coffee,” says Kristin Schaab, marketing coordinator for Ride the Highlands.

“Then we continued on down Siberia Lake Road into Combermere where we stopped again at Heartwood Restaurant
for lunch.”

Beginning in 2017, the InstaMeet started as a partnership by Ontario Highlands Tourism, Ottawa Valley Travel, and Destination Ontario to highlight the Ottawa Valley and local businesses through the Ride the Highlands tour. The organizations chose motorcyclists who are also Instagram influencers to highlight the tour on social media.

Eight years ago, the Ride the Highlands motorcycle touring program began with several preplanned routes, including the highlands loop. The loop is 1,000 kilometres, typically taking three days to complete. It winds through Ottawa River, Rideau Canal, Algonquin Park, Centennial Lake Road, Calabogie, and Tweed.

“Ottawa Valley itself just has a plethora of roads—people just love the winding roads and there’s been so many roads that have been repaved through the years so they’re just smooth like butter,” says Schaab.

Along the way, riders stop at motorcycle friendly restaurants and attractions across the Ottawa valley. The stops are more likely to feature paved back roads, paved parking lots, motorcycle parking, and motor cycle themed food.

During Renfrew County’s Oct. 12 development and property committee meeting, committee members said the event went off as smoothly as the county’s roads.

Lee Perkins, director of public works and engineering for Renfrew County, attended the InstaMeet and says the route is popular among motorcyclists.

“Centennial Lake Road, County Road 65 and then onto Calabogie, 511 is actually one of the top 10 rides listed in North America,” he says.

Schaab agrees and says Letterkenny Road was an all-time favourite. “The riders just had huge smiles on their faces when they were done and they actually went back and rode that road again.”

Engagement for the event was high. “Everybody was sharing everybody’s posts,” says Schaab.

Schaab says the Ride the Highlands team chose Instagram for the meet because it’s more visual.

“I find that Instagram is more quick and you’re constantly posting stories and you’re posting photos on your feed throughout. We just wanted to have a mashup of content in a short period of time.”

Riders can plan their trips on the Ride the Highlands website, which features maps and trip-planning aids.

The website indicates the Ottawa Valley’s top 10 roads, which include: Old Barry’s Bay Road- Palmer Road- Schutt Road, Madawaska Road, Highway 60 Algonquin Park, Flinton Road, Letterkenny and Foymount Road, Elephant Lake, Peterson and Loop Road, Lower Faraday Road, Bolingbroke and Westport Road, Calabogie, 511 and Centennial Lake Road, and Highway 118 and 28 (Carnarvon – Denbigh).

For more information visit