From North Bay to Mattawa in Four Days
The Temiskaming Loop Tour is a wonderful way to taste from the buffet that is North Eastern Ontario. We've sampled a four-day itinerary that allows for a leisurely pace while still hitting many major attractions.
Day 1 - North Bay to Latchford
Arriving in North Bay is your first stop. If you've had a long trip to get here, we suggest taking the opportunity to eat either lunch or dinner at Average Joe's, overlooking Trout Lake. The parking lot is a bit rough, so be sure to have something to support your kickstands.
If you've arrived early and want to spend some time in North Bay before heading on, the Dionne Quints Museum is just around the corner. Chronicling the birth and lives of the five Dionne babies, the musuem showcases their birth, which became an international sensation attracting over 3 million visitors in the 1930's.
Next, we headed up Highway 11, passing through dense forests and over small lakes, to the town of Latchford, where we spent our first night. The Bay Lake Bed and Breakfast is a cozy little place with above average accomodations for decent prices. It's also within walking distance of the lake and the town's best (and only) restaurant. We had dinner and breakfast there, and neither the cuisine nor the prices gave us anything to complain about.
Day 2 - Latchford, Cobalt, Elk Lake, and New Liskeard
Starting our day in Latchford, and having a hearty home-cooked breakfast at the Nascar themed Wilke's Pit Stop, we wound out way up Highway 11B to the old mining town of Cobalt. There, we visited the Cobalt Mining Musuem and took a 1/2 hour tour of a closed mine. The museum itself is full of curiousities, not the least of which is a $20,000 chunk of silver sitting on top of an antique safe.
After our museum tour we headed through the city of New Liskeard, along Highway 65 to the Elk Lake Eco Centre, where we had an incredible lunch. Fresh baked bread, gourmet-level wild mushroom soup and spectacular presentation—it's hard to ask for more.
From there we took Highway 65 north to Matachewan. This freshly paved stretch of road was pretty straight, with occasional glimpses of the river it runs beside, but once you make the right turn at Matachewan, following Highway 66 back to Highway 11, you're in for a real treat. This highway zig-zags up and down through some of the most gorgeous far north scenery—dozens of small lakes offset by the sun flickering though the trees made for one of the most engaging rides of the trip.
We spent the night at the Day's Inn in New Liskeard, and dined at Zante's right in town. The pool was closed, but the accomodations are top-notch. Very comfortable rooms, cable TV, recent renovations and dead quiet at night—we thoroughly enjoyed our relaxing stay.
Day 2 - From New Liskeard to Devil's Rock to La Bannik to Mattawa
The next morning we crossed the highway and dined at one of the top breakfast destinations in northern Ontario, Gillis Truck Stop. Big, hearty portions of perfectly done traditional diner breakfasts, and lots of hot, delicious coffee made our chilly early morning ride to Devil's Rock much easier.
Devil's Rock is the hidden gem of the Temiskaming Loop tour. There are no signs or maps on how to get to this location, but if you have the wherewithal to do the trek there, it is unlike anything you will see anywhere else on the tour. This link takes you to the exact location of the very small parking lot off the dirt road that marks the start of the 20 minute trail up to Devil's Rock. This isn't the ideal motorcycle experience, but when you see the view, you'll know why we included it:
We then rode out of New Liskeard and into Quebec through some gently winding roads, passing through Notre Dame-du-Nord, which has incredible views of Lake Temiskaming. We followed Quebec Highway 101 along to Duhamel Ouest where we stopped for lunch. The highway along this section has some of the most pleasant scenery on the tour. The road is fairly straight, with plenty of ups and downs, but it's really the small expanses of agricultural land, the small houses at long intervals, and crumbling barns, offset by beautiful forests and hills on one side, and frequent views of Lake Temiskaming on the other that make it such a great and liberating ride.
We lunched at La Bannik, which has bar-none the best combined view and menu of any restaurant we visited. This is a must visit destination, which also has a wide array of campgrounds and cottages for rent. Their website has all their current rates and the menu, which we can assure you is second-to-none in the area. The national historic site Fort-Témiscamingue is right around the corner, but as we were visiting so late in the season it wasn't open.
We trekked on down the rest of Highway 101, passing through more densely forrested area. We passed Lake Kipawa, a world-renowned destination for boaters, and headed down a wonderful long decline into the town of Temiscaming, stopping briefly at the Musee-du-Gare (literally, station museum.) We crossed the Ottawa river back into Ontario and took the shortcut down to Mattawa where we dined at the known motorcyclists hang-out, Myrt's Family Restaurant. We spent the evening at Nature's Harmony, and woke up to spectacular breakfast and stunning views of the Ottawa valley.
Day 4: Mattawa to North Bay
After a four-star home cooked breakfast prepared for us by our host Zack at Nature's Harmony, we set out for North Bay. Along the way, we took took a short side trip down the road to Kiosk, which touches the northern entrance to Algonquin Park. The road was in pretty rotten condition when we went, but was in the process of being repaved. When we arrived in North Bay we had lunch at Average Joe's restaurant, which continued this tour's tradition of incredible views. The parking lot there was a little tricky, as it is right off the highway and is mostly gravel, but with a little finesse we managed to park the bikes safely.
If you had skipped the side trip, making it back to your point of origin on the fourth day is definitely doable, and well worth the trip into Ontario and Quebec. All along the way the rides were fantastic, the food delicious, the views unique, and people were happy to see and talk to us.