By Donald D. Dowling
Whether your ride is a highway taming luxury tourer, a high styling cruiser, a twisty-blasting sport bike, a go anywhere dual-purpose machine, a majestic Trike or a pert and pretty scooter, you will love discovering Chautauqua County on two or three wheels. Chautauqua County has many interesting roads, and lots of interesting destinations. Having a rough guide with some interesting stops is also very useful. The rides described below are some of my local favorites, along with some of my favorite stops to fuel my personal hungry engine. You may pick up the tours at any spot, and see the tours and suggested stops on an interactive map.
NORTH COAST WINE COUNTRY
Starting Point – Dunkirk, NY | Approximate Distance – 61 miles | Riding Time – 1 hour, 40 minutes
The northern boundary of Chautauqua County is Lake Erie and wine country that fills mile after mile with vineyards lying between the shores of Lake Erie and the seven hundred foot high Chautauqua Ridge. Arriving from the East, pick up this tour at the Dunkirk Pier on Rt. 5. Shops on the pier offer ice cream, pizza and much more.
Further west on Rt. 5, you will discover Lake Erie State Park, a great place to camp beside Lake Erie. Rt. 5 parallels the lake shore with moderate changes in elevation and comfortable sweepers and great views of both water and vineyards.
Approaching a stoplight at the junction of Rt. 5 and Rt. 394, on the right is the Dan Reed Pier. Park on the pier and see the old Barcelona lighthouse that was the first lighthouse to use natural gas to illuminate the light. When finished sightseeing, in the tiny hamlet of Barcelona you will find three places to grab a tasty meal: Jack’s Drive-In has great pies; When Pigs Fly offers wonderful Bar-B-Q; and the chef at the restaurant at the Barcelona Harbor Market Café (with convenience store & gas station) prepares some of the best cooking you can find anywhere.
Continue west on Rt. 5 through vineyards with many lake views. Turn South on Rt. 76 into the village of Ripley and another left on Rt. 20 returning east. There are many wineries in this region (see the Lake Erie Wine Country for a list). Johnson Estate Winery, one of my favorites in the region, is on the right about nine miles east of Ripley. Stop for a tasting, keeping in mind to only taste; you have other wineries to visit. Just a few hundred yards east of Johnson Estate on the left is Mazza Chautauqua Cellars and Five 5 & 20 Spirits and Brewing, the first venue in New York State to produce wine, beer and spirits. At one of your stops, buy a bottle or two to enjoy after you have finished riding for the day!
Two more miles east is the picturesque village of Westfield. Two restaurants you might wish to try are the Parkview Café and Brazil’s on Main Street (Rt. 20). Also a half block east is the Westfield Diner with a cool 1960s vibe.
Continuing East on Rt. 20, watch on your left for an 8 foot high pink elephant… no, you have not already tasted too much wine; yup, it is for real! It marks the spot for 21 Brix, a great winery with a sense of humor. Another few miles down the road you will enter the little village of Brocton (watch your speed in this jurisdiction). Hungry again? Two blocks before the traffic light turn north on Central Avenue. Just before the railroad tracks the Nickel Plate Depot offers preferential parking for bikes and sponsors special motorcycling events. Enjoy their great hamburgers and wings. Also, at the light in Brocton, the St. Stephan Hotel is a popular stop for rallies and runs.
Ahead lie some fun twisties. Back on Rt. 20, go through the traffic light .2 miles to Old Mill Road (Rt. 380). Turn right and follow Rt. 380 to the Jct. with Rt. 73. Turn left on 73 for a pleasant 8.5 miles of sweepers down the escarpment to the village of Fredonia. Fredonia is a college town with lots of dining opportunities. My favorite is EBC West, a brew pub of excellence! You will find it by taking a left on Rt. 20 at the traffic light.
From EBC West, go back to the stoplight where Rte 73 crosses Rt. 20. Turn left (north) on Temple Street for .1 mile to Central Avenue. Turn right on Central (east) and shortly after entering Dunkirk, slow down! You are about to pass one of the best ice cream shops ever. The “Big Dipper” on the right can’t be missed if you love ice cream! Your sweet tooth satisfied, ride north on Central Ave to your starting point, the Dunkirk Pier.
SOUTHERN FARM COUNTRY
Starting point – Jamestown | Approximate Distance – 86 miles | Riding Time – 2 hours
From your accommodation in Jamestown, pick up Rt. 394 west through the Lakewood shopping district. Look for a left hand turn onto Rt. 474 toward Ashville (across from the Smith Brothers Marina on Chautauqua Lake). Ahead on the right is the Ashville General Store for great eats and a warm country vibe. Get subs and picnic supplies for your next stop at Panama Rocks.
After leaving the deli head west on 474 to Blockville and turn right onto Open Meadows Road (Rt. 35). Enjoy wide views until reaching a “T” intersection. Turn left on Rt. 33 south to Panama. At the light turn right and follow the signs to Panama Rocks, a natural wonderland. There are picnic tables, a restroom, and a great tour through an amazing rock formation. It is shady and cool even on the hottest days, and makes a wonderful spot for a quiet break and picnic.
Back on Rt. 474 turn left (west) and follow the road to the junction with Rt. 426 north. Follow it north along Findley Lake and cottage country. There are a few tight turns so be ready for them. Look for Krasa’s Kove Ice Cream Parlor on your right across from the Lake. Pig out on their great, homemade ice cream. Then, continue north to the hamlet of Findley Lake at the junction of Rt. 430. This is a good place to park and relax.
Next, head east along Rt. 430. For a really fantastic biker destination, hang a right onto Bailey Hill Road as you leave Findley Lake and keep your eyes peeled on the right for a sign announcing the Pine Junction Restaurant. This is a place that really understands bikers and welcomes them. A “Bucket List” place!
Later, returning east on Rt. 430, stop in the little village of Sherman. You’ll know you are there when you see the old west style covered sidewalks with railings to hitch your pony. Franklin’s Pizza offers a buck off for bikers on any pizza or sub. (Tell’m Don sent you).
Continuing on Rt. 430 will take you into Mayville, the county seat, at the head of Chautauqua Lake. Take time to cruise through Mayville with a right turn on Rt. 394 at the light. When you round the sharp downhill curve, the Lakeview Hotel and Restaurant at the Docks will be on your right. This is a major biker hangout and usually has bikes parked out front. After enjoying their hospitality take a walk along the lake shore.
When finished in Mayville, retrace your path back up the hill to the traffic light and turn right (east) on Rt. 430. Continue to the turnoff to Bemus Point just where 430 goes from two lanes to four lanes divided. Turn right into Bemus Point, the party town of Chautauqua Lake. The Italian Fisherman is an entertaining restaurant right on the water. They sponsor many events during the summer. And across the intersection is the new Ellicottville Brewing Company on Chautauqua, a really good brew pub.
Next, return to the Rt. 430 interchange and take a right toward Jamestown. Within a couple of miles, keep left to head East on Interstate 86, but don’t set the cruise control because you really need to get off at the highway rest area. It has fantastic views of the lake and has to be one of the prettiest rest areas anywhere. Finally get back on I-86 to Jamestown.
THE GREAT BEER CHASE
Starting point – pick your own | Approximate Distance and Riding Time – varies
There are four destinations on the brewery tour, and they are at opposite ends of the county. If you want to hit all four, you may wish to make each a stop on another tour or a destination of its own. Each has its own special appeal.
Destination #1: The Ellicottville Brewing Company in Fredonia, known as EBC West. This brew pub has a great restaurant. It is just a block west of the traffic light on Rts. 20 and 73, next to the town park and the center of town. Make reservations for dinner and enjoy. If you are definitely through riding for the day you might try EBC’s “Pantius Droppus”, Imperial pale ale. It packs a royal punch.
Destination #2: Five & 20 Spirits and Brewing just 2 miles west of the village of Westfield on Rt. 20. They have the distinction of being the only brewery/winery/distillery in the county. Try them all… if there is a designated driver?
Destination # 3: The new Ellicottville Brewing Company location in Bemus Point. Located in downtown Bemus Point right next to the lake you can enjoy beautiful sunsets and participate in the array of entertainments in this dynamic town.
Destination #4: The last beer stop is the very impressive Southern Tier Brewing Company, which recently was voted the best brewery in America in a USA Today poll. The brewery is located just off Hunt Road at 2072 Stoneman Circle, Lakewood, NY. Southern Tier recently won the Ultimate Craft Beer award. Don’t miss this experience!
Chautauqua County – Yours to explore. For help in advance planning, be sure to pick up a copy of the Chautauqua County Travel Guide or visit the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau.
Donald Dowling has been a motorcyclist for over 55 years. His first bike was a 500cc BSA stripped for off-road riding. He has owned bikes from most major manufacturers, ranging from 50cc to 1800cc. A competitor in motorcycle scrambles racing as a young man, he has been a road rider most of his life. He has been a writer for nearly as long and most recently completed a Western novel, “The Gold of Vanishing Creek”. Dowling has been a resident of Chautauqua County for over thirty years, and has loved great eats even longer. He is always ready to talk bikes and good food. Read more about his adventures on his blog at donalddouglasdowling.com