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.
By Mike Jacobs
Photos by Alexe Sawicki
When I was asked to write about the best places to ride a motorcycle around North Bay, I wasn’t sure where to start. North Bay is perfectly located as a launching point for so many different awesome adventures that it’s hard to cram them all into one little article. Not to mention, it’s a great place to just hang out for a few days and experience fabulous hospitality, natural beauty, and killer dining.
North Bay is close to many great riding roads, including highway 533 out of Mattawa, where I put my GS650 to the test
We were lucky enough to pass through North Bay several times on our Ultimate Northern Ontario Road Trip last summer, and more recently I’ve experienced the region in winter with some great sledding. From the most robust of fine dining at the delectable Churchill’s Prime Rib House to the down home fun of karaoke and cheap beer at Partner’s Billiards & Bowling, I’ve laughed, cried, and had so much fun all over this town.
Singing my heart out in North Bay
And that’s not even including all the awesome destinations surrounding North Bay, and all the great riding you’ll do to get out there.
Once you’re in North Bay, depending on your riding style, you can experience the delights of the region with a day trip around Lake Nipissing, enjoy a weekend getaway with a circuit of Lake Temiskaming, or hit the road for a little longer and head into the wilderness on the Great Legends Circle Tour.
Where to first?
Day Trippin’: backroads, beautiful bays, and badass ice cream cones
One of Ontario’s largest lakes, Lake Nipissing is a fishing destination with family-run lodges tucked into little bays around the shoreline. A fun and full day trip starting and ending in North Bay, the Nipissing Loop meanders along secondary roads, with sweet sweeping corners and interesting places to stop along the way.
Best wishes from Board’s Bees
Drop by Board’s Honey Farm just outside Restoule for some fresh honey, beeswax candles, and any number of surprising bee-related gift items. Check out the UNORT blog for a little more information on our visit.
Stop for a photo at the Lake Nipissing Scenic Lookouts and learn about the region at the French River Interpretive Centre in the French River Provincial Park. Lunch at the French River Trading Post on Highway 17 is always a blast, with riders from all over taking a break for an ice cream cone.
The iconic blue bear marks the French River Trading Post
For dinner on your way back to North Bay, stop by Larry’s OR The Riv, rival chip trucks in Sturgeon Falls, and pick your side of the great chip truck battle!
Rolling down the 522
A Wicked Weekend Getaway
For those looking for a weekend adventure further afield, try the Lake Temiskaming Circle Tour from North Bay, through Ontario and Quebec. The stunning combination of geography—with scrubby bush giving way to rolling farmland surrounded by massive cliffs and mountains and the boreal forest—will blow your mind.
Highway 101, in Quebec
From North Bay, make your way east on Highway 17 to Mattawa. If you can, don’t miss the spectacular Eau Claire Gorge Conservation Area along the way. The road in is a little rough—a ride that can handle gravel is definitely required.
Eau Claire Gorge, on Highway 17 near Bonfield
The Mattawa shortcut, Highway 533, requires a bike with decent ground clearance, long travel suspension and some tires with aggressive tread. It’s kind of a wild road, but with the right bike it is incredible fun. Those on a cushy touring bike might want to take the 63 north to Temiskaming, which is easily one of the most scenic in the province, as the road runs directly beside the Ottawa River.
Maison Pierre Moffat, Ville-Marie, QC
At Temiskaming, you’ll cross the lake into Quebec. Highway 101 north winds you through golden canola fields and the historic town of Ville-Marie to Notre-dame-du-Nord and the bridge back into Ontario. Make your way around the Lake to your room at the Holiday Inn Express and Suites in New Liskeard, where they take good care of riders.
Lac aux Brochets, QC
On the way home, cruise your way around Lake Temiskaming to Haileybury, and head south on Highway 11 back to a great pub meal at Winnie’s in North Bay.
Getting Epic: The Great Legends Circle Tour
Once you’re in North Bay, the vast wild of Northeastern Ontario stretches to the North and West of you, calling to the intrepid motorcycle explorer. The route itself includes the Nipissing and Temiskaming Loops, but takes it one step further—or as many steps as you want to take it—in so many ways.
There are so many options, so I’ll just list our favourite places and let you decide for yourself where your road will take you.
The Elk Lake Eco Lodge, in the middle of the little clay belt a day trip away from North Bay, has the best poutine we have ever tasted. The roads are bucolic, winding, and surrounded by gorgeous green forests and never-ending farm fields. Stop into Thornloe’s for a snack of fresh cheese curds.
Once you go Pam Hamel’s poutine, you’ll never be satisfied by anything less
In the middle of your Temiskaming Tour, loop up from New Liskeard to Timmins, and indulge in a relaxing spa experience and wildlife tour at the cozy Cedar Meadows Spa and Resort.
After a day in the saddle, a soak in the hot tubs at Cedar Meadows is just what the doctor ordered
Go deep into the Northern wilds with an hour-long ride from Timmins to Cochrane, and meet Ganuk the Polar Bear before you indulge in a decadent rack of ribs at JR’s Barbecue. The Swan Castle Inn Best Western is a great place to spend the night, with safe motorcycle parking.