Along the legendary shores of the largest Great Lake, Lake Superior, Lake Superior Provincial Park makes up an area of over 1,600 square kilometres making it the perfect destination for the outdoor enthusiast.
Located between Sault Ste. Marie and Wawa along Highway 17 North, Lake "Gitche Gumee" is deeply rooted in local aboriginal culture. The earliest artifacts to be uncovered and carbon dated is 500 B.C. Immerse yourself in this history with a hike to the Agawa Rock Pictographs estimated to be between 150 to 400 years old. European fur traders and explorers settled along the shores of Lake Superior and mapped the lake. The early 1900s brought Canada's Group of Seven who made the first boxcar excursions to fill their canvases with the wonder of Algoma's landscapes.
Camping, rentals, hiking...and don't forget your camera!
Lake Superior Provincial Park has something for everyone. Hiking possibilities are endless from short day trips to multi day backpacking adventures as there are eleven hiking trails from easy to challenging. The Coastal Trail alone takes five to seven days to complete offering numerous lookouts to view the rugged shoreline of Lake Superior, high cliffs, beautiful sand beaches, boulders and windblown trees. Several access points in the park make it possible to hike shorter portions of this trail. There are seven canoe routes which range from one to five days in duration. Rentals are available at Rabbit Blanket Campground at Mijinemungshing Lake, Agawa Bay, or Crescent Lake campgrounds. If you decide to canoe the big lake, pick up a canoe route map at the chosen park prior to departure. For the wildlife enthusiast, over 200 species of birds have been sighted in the park and between 120 and 135 of these species call Lake Superior Provincial Park home.
Lake Superior Provincial Park is also a great place to experience Algoma's great fishing
Fishing is allowed in Lake Superior Provincial Park and it has one of the finest brook trout fisheries in all of North America. Four kinds of trout can be found in the park: Brook, Lake, Rainbow and Splake. A valid fishing license is required to fish.
The Famous Cross Canada Driving Tour
Stop into Lake Superior Provincial Park on a cross-Canada driving tour. Because part of Trans Canada Highway 17 cuts through the Park, there are many scenic lookouts and leg stretch stops. Some of the most popular are: Agawa Bay, Alona Bay, Old Woman Bay and Katherine Cove. You'll have incredible views of Lake Superior's blue-green water and shoreline, secluded spots to picnic and great spots to swim in Lake Superior.
Lake Superior Provincial Park offers something for everyone: camping, hiking, leg stretch stops and picnics, canoeing and kayaking.
For more information about Lake Superior Provincial Park phone toll free 1-888-668-7275 or visit the Algoma website at www.algomacountry.com
John Campbell of Canadian Biker Magazine, after a motorcycle tour of the Algoma region's roadways, sent us this note to tell us what he thought of the tour:
For a die-hard westerner such as myself, much of Ontario has long been something of a mystery. But an all-too-short week roaming lakeside highways, exploring historic villages and venturing the back roads of Algoma Country has opened my eyes to the sheer power, size and diversity of this provincial jewel. Here, the proud rocky bluffs, the hardwood forests and the sparkling lakes and river courses of the Canadian Shield have carved out beautifully winding roads; trim, leafy communities, and intriguing nooks that any motorcyclist with even an ounce of adventure in him absolutely needs to experience first-hand.
- John Campell, Canadian Biker Magazine
Start planning your next motorcycle tour in Algoma with a visit to www.touralgoma.com where you can order FREE road maps, travel guides and receive more information.
For those who do not know me, my name is David, I own an automotive repair shop, and I decided to write this because I had another frustrated customer bring in his tandem axle utility trailer and truck for an annual safety inspection after getting nabbed in a road side safety inspection recently, which cost him more than the trip to the dump to get rid of a load of garbage bags.
One frequent question I get asked or have to deal with during annual MTO safety blitzes is, "Does my truck and or trailer require an ANNUAL SAFETY INSPECTION?"
This is sometimes a simple question and other times a difficult one.
It's very unfortunate that most vehicle owners do not take the time to find out whether they are breaking the law when it comes to the Highway Traffic Act, until, of course, they get stopped by an MTO enforcement office, or a law enforcement officer who is authorized to perform road side safety inspections! Of course, no one wants to spend money on their vehicle or trailer unless it's broken — I myself hate spending money on my vehicles — but when pulled into a safety inspection and caught doing something wrong, I assure you it is going to go one of two ways: a slap on the wrist or slap to your wallet!
Some of the fines can get quite costly, and I know because I have seen some of my clients' charges: a simple stop for inspection might start with determining whether or not you need the dreaded "YELLOW sticker(s)", you may get your vehicle or combination of vehicle and trailer weighed on site with portable scales, your load securement will be inspected, the condition of your vehicle and or trailer will then follow, right down to the dreaded e-brake test.
Then the outcome: either you're on your way or the fine book comes out to pay your bank account a visit! Oh, did I mention they could also pull your PLATES on the spot!! Then your choices are: either have your vehicle/trailer towed to a repair facility, or the scrap yard! You will be required to prove that the repairs have been completed or that it passes a safety inspection. This applies to both the vehicle and trailer depending on the faults found. Also, if you happen to be OVERLOADED, you may have to unload to the acceptable weight of your combination of vehicle/trailer or contact someone who holds a valid licence to haul the weight (as long as the vehicle/trailer combination is approved for the weight).
A quick review of the of the Ontario Court Of Justice web site under Set fines shows fines starting at $85.00 and going up ... way up: an insecure load on a commercial vehicle is a $310.00 fine! WOW!!
Now some of you may say, "Wait, I don't drive a commercial vehicle." Well, I hate to say this, but this is the definition you need to know:
"Truck" includes, but is not limited to truck tractors, straight trucks, pickup trucks, curb side/cube vans, trade vans/panel trucks, and passenger vans and two and four wheel drive sport utility vehicles while being used to transport cargo, other than personal effects, with one or more of the vehicle's rear seats removed. This applies regardless of how the vehicle is plated: e.g., car, truck or farm plated.
Something most operators of pick-up trucks are unaware of is that it is always registered in Ontario as "commercial," (hey, don't believe me: open your ownership, look at the top right of the piece labeled VEHICLE PORTION. It will say Commercial Fit if it is plated). I get caught in this conversation even with people that drive heavy trucks for a living!
All this being said, here is what the MTO has to say about Annual inspection:
Annual Inspection and Safety Standards Certificate (SSC):
•Trucks, trailers and converter dollies alone or in combination with a total gross weight, registered gross weight or manufacturer's gross vehicle weight rating exceeding 4,500 kilograms (kg),(9,920 lbs)
Annual Inspection, Semi-annual Inspection and Safety Standards Certificate:
•Buses designed for 10 or more passengers excluding those with a manufacturer's gross vehicle weight rating of 4,500 kg or less used exclusively for personal use,
•Accessible vehicles modified to be used for the purpose of transporting persons with disabilities, excluding those used only for personal purposes, and
•School purposes vehicles operating under contract with a school board or other authority in charge of a school being used for the transportation of six or more children or adults with a developmental disability.
Check out the MTO's Fequently asked questions as I have only provided a snippet of what is there.
Also, for everyone's information, I will point out a couple of key phrases that commonly get overlooked: "COMBINATION" and the different "WEIGHT" statements. Everyone should know that the standards apply whether the vehicle/trailer is empty or loaded!! The weight of your tow vehicle and its maximum cargo including you is contained on the driver's door sticker as "GVWR".
Here are the terms you should know:
What do the different weight terms mean?
Registered Gross Weight (RGW)
The RGW determines the fee paid for a truck or bus licence plates. RGW is based on, and must be at least equal to the actual weight of the truck and its heaviest load or in the case of a bus the empty weight of the bus plus 60 kg per passenger (40 kg per passenger for school buses) based on the seating capacity of the bus. Generally the weight of a towed trailer and its heaviest load are added to the RGW of the truck. Load includes the driver, passengers, fuel, equipment, tools, etc. A trailer does not have a RGW.
The RGW is indicated on the right portion (plate portion) of a truck's or bus' permit, to the right of "REG. GROSS WT" and is in kilograms. One kilogram equals 2.204 pounds and one pound equals 0.4536 kilograms.
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)
The GVWR of a vehicle is a weight rating established by the manufacturer that indicates the maximum gross weight that the vehicle is designed for and includes the empty weight of the vehicle with the maximum payload. The GVWR of a vehicle is stated on the manufacturer's federal compliance label – usually on the driver's door or door post on a truck or on the left side near the front on trailers.
The Gross Weight of a vehicle is the actually weight of the vehicle as would be determined by weighing the entire vehicle and its load on a weigh scale.
So if you choose to stay legal you need to have your "vehicle/trailer" inspected and brought up to current safety standards, then have a "Yellow Annual Safety Inspection Sticker" affixed to the vehicle/trailer, as well as carry a copy of the certificate of inspection with you! This can be done at any garage that is licensed to repair your class of vehicle/trailer and is authorized as a "Motor Vehicle Inspection Station." If you decide to do any repairs yourself, make sure that you are meeting the "National Safety Code" before paying to have the inspection done. The best bet is to use a Qualified, Reputable, Licensed repair facility, they have the manuals and updates from the MTO to know what needs to be inspected as well as updated to meet code in some cases.
I have provided you with a condensed version of my opinion based on my years of experience in this trade, as well as review of the material made available to me by elaws, MTO inspection manuals, and personal communication on an ongoing bases with enforcement officers from both the MTO and OPP.
It is my sole intention to inform you, I leave it to you the reader to follow up!
The most spectacular long distance ride in Ontario, Ride Lake Superior can be tackled in one epic 1300 mile / 2080 km tour -- half in the US, half in Canada -- or in a variety of smaller trips. Make sure you give yourself enough time to really experience the natural splendor and local colour of this unique, epic motorcycle route. This isn't a ride that should be rushed.
Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake, and the sparsely populated region straddling Algoma Country and Northwestern Ontario offers many restorative sights for the weary city rider, with miles of mountains, forests and water. What sets Superior apart from the other great lakes is the distinctive topography, reminiscent of Highway 1 down the California coast. With towering quartzite cliffs on one side, the never-ending blue of the lake on the other, Highway 17 sweeps and climbs in a breathtaking rollercoaster of curves.
Starting points for those planning a long-haul of the northern shore are either Sault Ste. Marie or Thunder Bay. But for the best views, riders should consider a clockwise navigation around the lake.Riders approaching from the south might consider starting in Duluth, MN.
Plan on spending a day or two in Thunder Bay to kick off or finish your journey -- there are some amazing gems here you won't want to miss. With its unique cultural history of Finnish and Polish settlers, it has some distinct traits that riders won't want to miss.
Breakfast at the Hoito is a must. Housed in the basement of the Finnish Cultural Centre, it offers typical Finnish fare such as delicate crepe-like pancakes and Piirakka, rye-crust pastries stuffed with egg salad, as well as hearty diner-style breakfasts and sandwiches.
Take a day trip out to Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park -- the 40m drop into a Precambrian Shield Gorge creates one of the most impressive sheets of water in Ontario. And if you're looking for something fun to do out of the saddle, try a harbour tour with Sail Superior Yacht Charters. They run four sailing tours every day for a different perspective of the city.
Just an hour from the bright lights of Thunder Bay is the peaceful peninsula of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. Fill up in Thunder Bay -- there's no gas on the peninsula. The road to Silver Islet is one of my favourite roads in the province, and leads riders to the quaint village of Silver Islet. Plan to stop for a homemade cinnamon bun at the General Store there; a charming, peaceful spot at the end of the road,it's a great spot to wander with an ice cream cone, past sweet sleepy cottages and several antique stores and galleries.
Leaving the peninsula, the road turns inland for 100km/60 mileson the way to Nipigon. Fill up and have lunch before you head off along the north shore to Terrace Bay, where you'll find several inns, motels, and bed and breakfasts. Charters to the Slate Islands leave from Terrace Bay taking riders across the big water to the sheltered bays and ancient rock formations that are home to a herd of protected caribou.
Continuing east from Terrace Bay, Highway 17 veers north around Jackfish Lake and twists through forest and around smaller lakes inland -- dropping down to shore sporadically for surprise big water vistas before tucking back inland again -- for most of the way to Wawa, about 260km/160 miles.
In Wawa, plan to spend at least an hour at Young's General Store, chockablock full of souvenirs, snacks, fishing accessories, and a giant pickle barrel. It's a must-see, from the stuffed moose on the porch to the jalapeno fudge. If you're done for the day, the Wawa Motor Inn is a great place to stop, with motel-style rooms or private cabins, and a perfectly paved parking lot. And don't forget to snap a photo at the iconic Goose on your way out of town.
The ride between Wawa and Sault Ste Marie is some of the most exhilarating coastline along the Canadian part of the route. In 230km/140 milesthe road goes inland just once -- through the deep green of Lake Superior Provincial Park -- before bringing riders to the absolutely stunning Agawa Bay, where peach-coloured sand stretches out for miles.
Agawa Bay, Old Woman Bay, and Batchawana Bay are great places to stop for a swim or a picnic, to just bask in the sunshine or soak your feet in the clean blue water. And if you're cruising down here at dinnertime, do not miss the feast at the Bavarian restaurant Salzburger Hof.
After a few days on the road, Sault Ste. Marie offers a great variety of historic and cultural sights. If you're interested in old machines (as many riders are), you could get lost for hours in the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre. Housed in an old airplane hangar right on the river, it's not only a repository of 25 bushplanes and water bombers, but an educational centre dedicated to preserving the history of Bush Flying and Forest Protection in Canada.
The old downtown core of Sault Ste Marie is really quite beautiful, with some gorgeous old heritage buildings and interesting coffee shops and eccentric fashion houses. It has an interesting vintage feel, with the old store signage and diners like Mike's Lunch, but vibrant and alive at the same time. It's also home to the historic Ermatinger*Clergue National Historic Site, the oldest log house northwest of Toronto.
From border to border, the Canadian leg of the Lake Superior Circle Tour has something for every rider -- exhilarating roads, breathtaking scenery, and perfect beaches just made for a relaxing afternoon. It's home to some of the best hiking in Ontario, fabulous restaurants, intriguing museums, and some truly unique and excellent shopping.
So whether you're a long distance rider, or just up for a long distance dash over long sweepers in the sunshine, Ride Lake Superior on your bucket list for this summer.
Sault Ste. Marie is:
345 miles from Detroit, Michigan
465 miles from Chicago, Illinois
282 miles from Green Bay, Wisconsin
430 miles (700km) from Toronto, Ontario
1000 miles from New York, New York
Thunder Bay is:
340 miles from Minneapolis, Minnesota
700km from Winnipeg, Alberta
View Ride Lake Superior Motorcycle Touring Route - Lake Superior Circle Tour in a larger map
Algoma Country stretches from the North Channel of Georgian Bay, deep into the northernmost wilds of Ontario. Here you'll find glorious swathes of untamed boreal forest, glittering lakes around every sweep and turn, massive cliffs and mountains and a combination of the best motorcycle roads that make up the Grand Algoma Loop.
This past summer I made an attempt to ride every paved road in Northern Ontario, and after surveying thousands of miles of asphalt in the province, the most scenic and entertaining rides to be had on two wheels is this loop. From the quaint town of Thessalon on the shores of the North Channel, heading North on Ontario's Tail of the Dragon (Highway 129) to Highway 101 into Wawa and the iconic goose, and the jaw-dropping scenery of Highway 17 as it hugs the winding eastern coastline of Lake Superior, riding in Ontario doesn't get much better than this.
From the Greater Toronto Area, riders could undertake an epic 2,000 km trip in a long weekend but it's worth stretching out the trip and stopping to explore the peaceful back roads, scenic vistas, Provincial Parks and history-rich communities along the way.
View The Grand Algoma Tour in a larger map
If you're arriving at the start of your routes in Thessalon, you can stop for the night at the Carolyn Beach Motor Inn and start the first section the following morning, or extend your trip with a quieter start, and stay overnight at the quaint Hilton Beach Inn on St. Joseph Island, only 55 km west of Thessalon. The Island is a wonderful place to unwind before heading north.
On the island, the Kentvale General Store, established in 1888, has something for everyone and is a fun place to get lost. The St. Joseph Island Museum Village is a collection of many of the Island's historical buildings, outfitted with an amazing array of pioneer tools and beautiful antique home wares. If you're interested in any kind of antique implement, you'll find it here -- from hearses to Dictaphones to trailers to maps to old lace and irons. There's even a "motorcycle only" parking area out front!
The villages of St. Joe's Island offer lunch options, local art and antiques, and the perfect butter tart. If you're up in the area on a Friday the 13th, the Hilton Beach Inn organizes a great local ride -- what better way to get to know the Island?
Heading north on Highway 129 riders will experience some nice curves through farmers' fields, which change into a series of never-ending sweepers, before a massive descent into a river valley, and then an incredibly technical group of rapid-fire switchbacks and quick ups-and-downs. The landscape here is stunning -- with mile high cliffs on one side of the road, and a raging river on the other. After 225 km of this paved bliss, riders arrive at Highway 101 in Chapleau.
This is a road for pure riding, with few amenities. Gas up on St. Joe or in Thessalon, and make sure you stop at the Tunnel Lake Trading Post on Highway 129. It's a treasure trove of hilarious odds and ends, so fill up your tank here while you consider purchasing a t-shirt that says "Don't Feed the Black Flies."
If you can handle the short patch of gravel (less than 2 km), this is the best road in Algoma. If you can't, it's still a mind-bender. Ride to the gravel and turn around -- you won't be disappointed.
Highway 129 continues north through several provincial parks until it meets Highway 101 just south of Chapleau. It's worth a stop in town for lunch at the classic diner Gus's Family Restaurant. Explore the area's logging and railway history at the Museum, then head west on Highway 101 to Wawa. If it's a hot one, stop at Potholes Provincial Park to soak your feet in the ice cold river.
In Wawa, plan to spend at least an hour at Young's General Store, chockablock full of intriguing gift ideas, local snacks, fishing accessories, and a giant pickle barrel. It's a must-see, from the stuffed moose on the porch to the jalapeno fudge. And don't forget to snap a photo at the iconic Goose on your way out of town. If you choose to stay the night, the Wawa Motor Inn offers motel style accommodation or private housekeeping cabins, and caters to riders with a newly paved parking lot.
The next day, head south on Highway 17 through Lake Superior Provincial Park. The ride between Wawa and Sault Ste. Marie is exhilarating, with the Lake Superior coastline close enough to touch. In 230 km, the road goes inland just once -- through the deep green of Lake Superior Provincial Park -- before landing riders out at the absolutely stunning Agawa Bay, where peach-coloured sand stretches out for miles.
This is a journey you'll want to savour, so give yourself a whole day to enjoy the dreamy sweepers and mountains reaching up into deep green forest, sparkling blue water as far as you can see. Trading posts and picnic spots abound on this part of the route, so stop and explore: indulge in a sunny nap in Katherine's Cove or Old Woman Bay, pick your way through the driftwood and round red rocks of the Lake Superior beaches, and travel back in time with fascinating interactive displays at the Agawa Bay visitor centre.
For dinner, drop in to the Salzburger Hof in Batchawana Bay, and experience authentic German-Austrian Cuisine in a one-of-a-kind dining lounge, complete with tiny gnomes peeking out of the stone fireplace. You'll be too full to ride very far afterward, so enjoy the hospitality of the Elsigan family with an overnight stay in a comfortable waterfront motel suite or private Chalet. Fair warning -- there is a bit of a gravel road into the Hof.
To finish the loop, explore the historic and cultural sights of Sault Ste. Marie. If you're interested in old machines, you could get lost for hours in the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre. Housed in an old bushplane hangar right on the river, it's not only a repository of 25 bushplanes and water bombers, but an educational centre dedicated to preserving the history of Bush Flying and Forest Protection in Canada.
The old downtown core of Sault Ste. Marie is home to beautiful heritage buildings, interesting coffee shops and eccentric fashion houses. It has an intriguing vintage feel, with the old store signage and old-school diners like Mike's Lunch, but vibrant and alive at the same time. It's also home to the historic Ermatinger-Clergue National Historic Site, the oldest stone buildings northwest of Toronto.
However you choose to tackle this route, you won't be disappointed. Two of the most epic roads in the province coupled with some of the most spectacular scenery, local colour, and fascinating local history makes the #1 Ride in Ontario a total package, in two days or seven.
For more information on motorcycle routes, accommodations, attractions and restaurants in Algoma Country check out www.RideAlgoma.ca
As always, if you want more information about riding in Ontario, check out routes.OntarioRides.ca or visit the home for Ontario Motorsports -- www.GoRideOntario.com for information on all everything to do with motorized fun in Ontario!
Order a FREE Motorcycle Map and receive travel information for your next ride in algoma at www.ridealgoma.ca or phone 1-800-263-2546
It was clear I had taken a wrong turn. I was on 540A and I needed to be on the 540. I dug into my motorcycle jacket pocket, pulled out my map and discovered I had left Manitoulin Island and was now on Barrie Island. It was that small piece of road across the water with a fast long sweeping corner after it. Back I headed. I could see three ospreys up ahead using their gigantic wingspans to soar upon the rising thermals. The sun made the water on both sides of the pavement shimmer against its cloudless blue backdrop. As the middle of the road elevated, arching up as a bridge would, I looked left and saw an osprey—we were at parallels soaring along side by side! I felt airborne—what a motorcycling moment!
Until now, nothing had indicated that I was on an island, let alone the world’s largest freshwater island. A hilly landscape of farm land spotted with jelly-rolled baled hay belied the ancient glacial rocks beneath it. Small herds of cattle and sheep; a real absence of people or goings-on kept me wondering if there were any inhabitants. Each time I shut the bike off on the road's shoulder to check directions— the silence, at first overwhelming—was worth listening to.
Sailing the mid-afternoon Chi-Cheemaun Ferry from Tobermory delivered me behind schedule at South Baymouth shore. I was expected at the Meldrum Bay Inn at the furthest west of the island, about 133 kilometres. Rather than continue on the 542 North to Gore Bay, I opted for Union Road, a side road that saved me 18 kilometres. The road moved quickly beneath me; there was no traffic! Blind corners and hills intertwined with long sweeping turns kept me focued—but then it happened! I spotted a huge brown mass 300 metres ahead—a deer! Minola, 81 next year, warned me of the islands’ steep deer population. “It was the fishing which beckoned our families to the island 29 years ago,” she enthused during our chat in the Chi-Cheemaun cafeteria. I had two more deer cross my path that evening and thought how thankful I was for Minola’s wise warning!
While exiting another long bend in the road, I picked up the scent of garlic! Over the next hill, there it was—the Meldrum Bay Inn and a sign stating “540 Ends.” Shirin, the owner, greeted me with a big family-like hug. She insisted that I sit down to dinner right away as it was after eight o’clock and they’d kept the kitchen open expecting my arrival. I parked the bike across the way; sprung the bungees freeing my cargo and carried it into the Inn plopping it on the sitting room floor. I sat down excusing my unbecoming “hair by helmet” and savoured the smoked trout fettuccini in a whisky Alfredo sauce—the very scent which greeted me the hillside over. With a frosty beer I settled into my dining chair on the Inn’s front porch, indulging all senses as Meldrum Bay dimmed in the lowering sun. A soft lakeside breeze brushed against the chimes hanging just above me, creating a tender hymn of tranquillity. Nine hours spent on the bike—what a perfect day, I thought, and what a good night’s sleep I’m going to have!
With a quick refuelling at the dockside pump, I waved a tall farewell from the disappearing road to Shirin and the new friends I’d made at the Meldrum Inn. The 540 would now take me east to Misery Bay Park and Nature Reserve located on an ancient flat bed lake bottom called an alvar! After turning onto Misery’s gravel road, I parked and walked a small path to the welcome and ‘Interpretation” centre. Welcoming volunteers pointed out the directions for one of the shorter hiking routes which took me about twenty minutes through wooded trails. The woods ended and opened up to the bay. It was decorated with large flat bits of bedrock and rocks appearing as rising turtles backs from the water below. These were the result of glaciers some 10,000 years ago. I felt no ‘misery’ as I compared my age to that of the alvars!
Back onto the 540 Eastbound still empty of traffic. The quiet enticed a group of sandhill cranes out of hiding, but then bashfully dashed into the woods as I approached. About 48 kilometres after Misery Bay, I arrived in Evansville and enjoyed viewing the Bridal Veil Falls alongside many who took a cool dip in its gorge and a photo standing behind the waters’ “veil”. I continued eastbound to M’Chigeeng First Nations, the backyard of Sheguiandah. It was in this region where archaeological discoveries confirmed Paleo-Indian and archaic cultures dating from 10,000 BCE to 2000 BCE! The Great Spirit Circle Trail Centre was along the same highway. I had the pleasure of meeting with Falcon, a representative of the association of the eight Indian nations on Manitoulin. They bring authentic aboriginal experiences to enjoy for a fee. Teepee campouts, canoe heritage tours, and tea tours—the canoe heritage tour sparked my interest! And before heading on my way, I zipped across the road to Lillian’s Crafts and Museum of Porcupine Quill Baskets, home to the island’s largest and rarest collection of porcupine quill baskets. The small baskets start at $95.00 and, though tempting, my budget was better suited to a lovely hand made beaded bracelet!
The day was passing quickly and before arriving in Little Current, I took a short detour to explore McLean’s Mountain, which boasts one of the island's prettiest views. The turnoff from the main road was a bit tricky—it's right in the middle at the apex of the fast corner you approach on. McLean’s road turns to gravel as it starts its steep climb, which is followed by a sharp corner. The BMW’s sport profile tires couldn’t find grip and spun round in the loose stones! I took it real slow and happily there was no traffic! Once at the top, 328 metres (1,075 feet) above sea level, I took in the exquisite panoramic view of the area and could even see Little Current! I didn’t stay long as I couldn’t wait for the kick of riding through the gravel on the way back down!
My night’s stay at Little Current’s Anchor Inn recharged me for another full day of riding! The Inn overlooks the waterfront marina and its owner Kelly (and husband Bruce) made me feel they’d known me forever! People are so friendly here in the North! Yesterday’s whitefish dinner still lingered on my tongue. Its accompanied veggies and herbs are right from Kelly’s garden! Trudy, Kelly’s mom, was also a rider so after we met for breakfast, she escorted me out of Little Current, timing the opening of the swing bridge just right. This is the only road which carries you across a narrow channel separating Manitoulin from the much smaller Goat Island. Farewell Gitchi Manitou!
The ride north east on Highway 6 linked stretches of islands which peered over the lakes it crossed. A few hours passed and soon the towering rock with its pine tree borders disappeared into the industrialized mining town of Sudbury. Easily spotted were the snowflake buildings of Science North—connected by a rock tunnel which passes through a billion-year-old geologic fault! This fault line was not known to be under the complex during the construction of the building. It was another “good sign” to the master plan of the science centre, geologist Franco exclaimed during my personal tour of the centre. I then rode over to the Big Nickel, now called Dynamic Earth, just in time to replace my helmet with that of a miner’s and be escorted underground for the Nickel mines’ last tour!
The final day of any motorcycle tour arrives too soon! South-bound on Trans-Canada Highway 69 are new sections of road whose pristine conditions beckon haste! I was happy to not miss the new wildlife overpass around the turn off to Killarney. The overpass is decorated with carvings of the animals it was designed to keep off this section of the highway, where a high number of collisions occur between vehicles and wildlife.
Another hour southward and I’d entered into French River region which marks the transition to the Canadian Shield. I pulled off to the roadside French River Trading Post—one of the oldest and largest gift shops in the region. Along with a superb selection of goods is a motel and a bakery with homemade fudge and “bear claw” cookies. Then up the road at the next right, is the French River Visitors Centre, a must see! As described by its architects, it is itself "an expedition; through its sitting, organization, views and exhibition, and as a responsible construction in nature.” And as the sign states “brake for snakes,” you’ll want to keep an eye out for rattlesnakes!
About 45 minutes further south from French River the 69 narrows. Its long broad turns disappear as it merges into the Trans Canada 400. I turned into Parry Sound, home of the annual sport bike rally. Lunch beckoned at the port side Bay Street Café, a favoured eatery of motorcyclists. The recommended local pickerel fish and chips were tasty! But it was the apple crisp dessert that topped this quaint waterside cafe’s fare!
Back through town to Tower Hill Park & Garden, whose access road gives any rider a brief, twisty taste of rocky mountain riding! Atop lies the replacement Fire Tower of the 100-year old original—the “tower man’s” cabin still stands. There’s also a museum whose exhibits change throughout the year and groomed grounds free to explore or use as a picnic spot. I gazed from below to the top of the tower high above. I knew this stop wouldn’t be complete until I climbed its 131 steps to the 29 metre (96 ft) look out—and I did need to work off the apple crisp!
As much as I dilly-dallied about with my gear and cargo, I realized I couldn’t postpone my ride back to Toronto any longer. I’d grown fond of Georgian Bay. Its great spirit, its silent roads and its ancient riches—riding my own discoveries over an enduring terrain.
View Motorcycle Touring - Georgian Bay Coastal Route- Georgian Bay, Ontario, Canada in a larger map
- For information on the Georgian Bay Coastal Tour, click here.
- To plan your next motorcycle trip in Ontario, visit www.GoTourOntario.ca for customizable itineraries and downloadable GPS files!
- For more information on riding in Ontario, visit www.GoRideOntario.ca.
- For a list of all motorcycle events and suggested routes to get there, visit Events.OntarioRides.ca.
Relive that 1972 Lake Superior trip you did sitting while jammed in the back of the family station wagon. This time do it on your own terms, with your best buds, on your favourite steed.
Ride Lake Superior is an epic motorcycle journey of roller coaster roadways that curve and twist along the highway that wraps around Lake Superior. Discover the intense thrill of taking your eyes off the road to look over your shoulder to gaze at the world's largest freshwater lake. Beautiful coastline on one side, sheer rock cuts on the other. The touring route was made for the motorcycle enthusiast and steers its way around the Canadian and American coastlines with plenty of must sees, miles of road, and the challenge of this just over 2,000 mile ride (and that's only around the lake!).
In 2006, The National Post named the ride from Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie is one of the Top 100 Things To Do in Canada Before You Die.
Starting in Algoma in the city of Sault Ste. Marie, your ride to Wawa slices through Lake Superior Provincial Park. There are some awesome leg stretch stops along this part of route and some must stops are: Agawa Bay, Old Woman Bay and Katherine Cove. Hungry? Stop at Voyageur's Lodge & Cookhouse for their Friday Night Fish Fry with fresh locally caught fish. Check out the Loft Gift Shop to pick up a souvenir.
Once you get to Wawa, make sure to take a photo of you with your companions at the famous Wawa Goose monument. Heading west towards Thunder Bay, you'll want to stop at Kakabeka Falls which is known as the Niagara of the North. It plunges 40 metres over a sheer rock face -- definitely worth the stop! And don't forget to share your photos or videos on the Ride Lake Superior Facebook!
Crossing into Minnesota, you'll want to stop at World's Best Donuts -- people from all over the world stop here in Grand Marais. Other interesting places to stop on the American side of Lake Superior are: Top of Brockway Mountain Drive and Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum in Paradise, Michigan. You'll be able to find plenty of motorcycle friendly accommodations and restaurants among the many communities that dot the route around Lake Superior. Many of places around the Lake Superior circle tour are well marked with a Ride Lake Superior Parking Sign.
If you've decided to make this epic journey and you've logged your first mile or kilometer, then you are automatically a member of Club RLS (Ride Lake Superior). We've created checkpoints around Lake Superior for Club Members to reward you for making the journey -- these are REALLY COOL souvenirs! Each checkpoint has something different for you and your bike. Most checkpoints are open regular business hours 7 days per week.
You can print out the ride checklist, read a full list of Must Sees and order a FREE Ride Lake Superior Route Map at the website www.ridelakesuperior.com
The fragrance of fresh birch and pine was invigorating! Golden rod and wild grasses along the road’s shoulder leaped forward with a punch of colour. The road shone. It had just rained, and gauging by the amount of water left behind, the Road King and I had only just avoided a huge soaking. “Thank you” I whispered to mom nature for staging this incredible panorama for me to ride. The pavement glided on below me, bending and straightening over and over. I moved the bike along naturally, constantly. The mighty Road King no longer shone. Water and debris from the road muddied its chrome. I thought about Harley enthusiasts I’d meet along the way, shaming me for its unkempt appearance. But then I’d explain that there was this great road, a wilderness road, no ‘cages’—just the pure sensation riding calls up. The only sound is the rumble of the Road King’s twin engine beating in time. All this on the road from New Liskeard to Elk Lake and back. They’d imagine—they’d understand.
With a thrilling sense of adventure, I watched Toronto disappear in my rear view mirror as I rode to the north and around Lake Temiskaming. I covered a good stretch of road—nearly seven hours on the bike—Toronto to Sudbury and then overnight in North Bay. I can still taste the fresh pancakes I devoured from the Holiday Inn’s breakfast buffet. To think that I almost bypassed them to save time and get to North Bay Cycle. I’d recently met up with Jody and the North Bay race group at recent Vintage Road Racing Association (VRRA) Mosport venue and had promised to drop by the shop. We enjoyed a terrific visit filled entirely with motorcycle chit-chat. And I confirm—the rumours are absolutely true—North Bay folks are as friendly as they say!
Leaving North Bay, I rode further northward on Trans-Canada Highway 11 toward Timmins and Cochrane. It was easy to keep the throttle steady; the road was simple and uninterrupted. I won’t forget the town of Temagami—I'm happy I took the time to visit the eye-catching old train station on its main street. It’s a restored original, built in 1907. Jenny, who was just finishing up her summer job at its info centre inside, told me Temagami was known for its majestic rare old red and white pines. The pine finished interior underlined that fact magnificently.
Yes, yesterday was perfect, and then—riding south on this Elk Lake run back to New Liskeard for the night—I found myself in the very same rainstorm that I’d had the fortune of avoiding earlier. It hit hard in a teeming downpour. Darn, I wish I’d worn my waterproof gloves! I spied the turnoff leading to Kap-Kig-Iwan Park, hoping to get a glimpse of its white water rapids from the Englehart River. I was its only visitor; the weather had chased others away. I, too, opted not to leave the bike and instead turned around with a mental note to revisit on a sunnier day.
When I arrived in New Liskeard the rain had subsided but the clouds on the horizon said it would return soon. It seemed like a good idea to meet Doug and Kim at the lakeside Roosters restaurant by taxi—avoiding an inevitable soaking later on the Road King. Doug and Kim promote, manage and enthusiastically partake in the annual New Liskeard Bikers Reunion. Through our hors d'oeuvre and tasty entrees, they shared accounts of the incredible growing popularity the event has had over its thirteen years. Literally thousands of motorcyclists arrive in New Liskeard to enjoy local rides and camaraderie—a full agenda of fun. The event is motivated by the goal of raising funds for the Cancer Care Unit at Temiskaming Hospital. I was convinced: this was one event I better not miss out on next summer and marked the 28, 29 and 30 of June in my calendar.
“Up and at ’em,” I heard myself say. Day three and the northern roads are waiting! I jumped out of bed and peeked outside the window—the foremost task of any motorcyclist’s waking moment in anticipation of the ride ahead. The Road King stood as a barely visible outline in the surprising and unexpected sight of thick fog.It reminded me of Austria, the Alps: almost all mornings were exactly like this. I decided to take my time, allowing it to lift before heading out. It would be safer to travel with better visibility. I lounged around my spacious Holiday Inn apartment suite and then made my way downstairs to consume numerous cups of coffee and, of course, pancakes.
The fog lifted; I tied my cargo bag to the passenger seat and stuffed everything else in the Harley’s saddlebags. Just down the road I intersected Highway 65 East. Every so often a logging truck stacked to the brim with logs passed in the oncoming lane. It scattered small bits of bark through the air and left a delicious potpourri of fresh cut wood scents. It wasn’t long before I began to observe the en français tones filtering their way to life in the town’s names and business signs.
Soon ahead, there it was: “Bonjour!”—the sign welcoming my crossover into Quebec just 22 kilometres from New Liskeard! I was now rounding the northernmost tip of Lake Témiscaming (its French spelling). I throttled the Harley through the silent, quaint village of Notre-Dame-du-Nord where Highway 65 East intersects the 101 South. It continued across a narrow section of the mighty lake. The scenery from Ontario to Quebec rolled on ahead in a combination of plateau, escarpments and the lowlands with changing elevations and Lake Témiscaming emerging then disappearing between the woods.
An hours’ riding passed quickly. I turned right at the Chemin du Vieux Fort to visit Fort Témiscamingue, the national historic site. It sits on the northwest corner of the Ottawa River where it turns from west to southeast.
I walked toward the entrance and left the Road King ticking—the random sounds of its cooling hot parts—in a shaded parking spot. The fort's shores were edged with small water smoothed white rocks. I walked the grounds, exploring the amusingly recreated scenes of the fort's olden activities.
Riding a motorcycle always seems to rouse my appetite; I was ready for lunch. I rode down the road to the La Bannik Recreotouristic camping site nestled at the base its conifer inhabited mountain. La Bannik Restaurant featured a falcon’s eye lake-view. I sat out in the outdoor deck settled among the white birch tree tops. A westward view directed me toward the mid-day sun, which lit up the lake as though blanketed by diamonds. I sipped my iced-tea, imagining it might be glasses of French red wine—if I hadn’t planned to continue riding. The lively French conversation at the bistro table next to me lent the perfect accent to every savoury mouthful of my tomato basil thin crust pizza.
Southward bound along Highway 101 South and still in Quebec, a little less than an hour brought me to the town of Témiscaming. Riding through its main street, I turned into the Train Museum: Musee de la Gare. You might think I’m a train enthusiast—this being the second train station stop during this ride—but I just can’t resist admiring these unique historic buildings. The museum had a fine collection of historic remnants on display detailing its activities since 1927. I enjoyed its authentic wooden benches, all with real old baggage at their sides, packed and readied for whatever journey awaited ahead.
My plan was to arrive at the Cedar Gables Lodge, Bonfield before the sun bowed too low in the sky. I’d crossed the Ottawa River and returned to Ontario via 63 south. Rather than stay on 63 through to North Bay and then East again on 17 to Bonfield, I decided to take highway 533 the Mattawa shortcut. It wouldn’t shave a lot of time off the journey, but would provide more of an adventure. Two Harley fellas I’d met earlier in Temagami had cautioned me about the 533’s poor road surface and stretches of loose gravel. I appreciated the alert yet was undeniably sparked with the thought of a challenging ride. I turned onto the 533, accelerating with caution. This wasn’t bad, I thought. It was a sort of concrete mixture of stones and paved patches here and there. And then it metamorphised into the rough and bumpy surface they’d described. I reduced my speed and “worked it”, doing my best to avoid the rough patches. The road narrowed, twisted, then widened and narrowed again for 52 kilometres—and I loved every minute of it!
The woods stood close to the road and, at times, its canopies concealed me from any rain which threatened to fall. Its side lanes posted No Trespassing warnings. They seemed to lead to campsites or logging sites by way of reddish coloured sand-like soil. I had an itching for an off-road bike, imaging how fun these would be to ride! The logging trucks used the shortcut too and had no qualms about ploughing by me with force which, as it happened, always seemed to be around the gravel sections of the road—covering me in dust. Yes, I’d take short cut 533 again just for the thrill of the ride, but not necessarily to save time.
After a quick spin around Bonfield Village and an animated conversation with two bold little five year old girls playing near the stop sign, I turned around, realizing this was not where I’d find the Cedar Gables Lodge. Back to Trans-Canada 17 it was. I could spy the sign on Road 3 Line North to Cedar Gables Lodge, just across the road. Joanne and Darcy Watson were waiting for me and had set out a side stand plank of wood to park in the gravel—a nice welcome mat, so to speak. After a delicious homemade veggie stir fry, a cold beer and conversations which generally only occur between old friends, I climbed into the high, four poster bed and fell fast asleep to the serenade of the Cedar Gables own cricket orchestra.
The Road King was loaded and ready for the journey back into Toronto. I bid farewell to the Watsons and their perfect inn amidst the cedars. I headed down the lane, grasping the Road King’s handlebars with a reluctant tug—like a parent taking its child who didn't want to leave the playground. In four hours I’d be sitting amidst Toronto’s hot, raging rush hour traffic. I turned onto Highway 17 East, revved the Harley up high and shifted to the next gear. I gazed at the view behind me in its mirrors, this time seeing only the reflections of Lake Temiskaming. It was that view I’d hold onto for the ride home to the city—for as long as I possibly could.
For more information please enjoy visiting the following websites:
Touring Ontario can be one of the greatest road-trip experiences a rider can enjoy, but with vast distances comes a need for extra preparation. We've compiled some ideas on what to pack for your trip, for all kinds of bikes and bikers.
Tools of the Trade
Even the shortest trip needs a bit of know-how, but without tools that know-how is almost useless. A small kit with the most common tools will help keep you rolling. Without adding too much weigh, the following items will make the trip a little more secure:
- sockets (in metric or imperial)
- a multi-tip screwdriver
- zip ties
- electrical tape
- spark plugs
- light bulbs
Of course there are plenty of details on what is best for your bike — but we'll let your priorities dictate what makes the cut!
Lock It Up!
More and more B&Bs, hotels, and motels are offering secure lock-ups for bikes, but many still don't have garages. It's always a good idea to carry your own backup plan. Often the small disc-brake type locks will do, as life in the north is generally different than the city — meaning your bike won't get swiped from outside the Starbucks by four guys in a van! But if you want that extra security, a cable-style lock will often do nicely.
Weekend Warrior or Long Distance Maven
Taking care of your bike is always a good idea, but if the rider is tired, burnt, wet or cold things can get...complicated. Ontario experiences some of the widest ranges of weather conditions of anywhere in the world — part of the adventure, right? So be prepared with sunscreen, water, jackets with removable linings and rain gear. Padding a trip by a day or two on either side for weather is always a good idea.
Genevieve Schmitt Discovers Ontario's Hidden Gem: The Ottawa Valley
When it comes to motorcycle destinations in Canada, riders south of the border may think of the Rocky Mountains as the place to go. But for everyone located this side of the Great Divide, that could be one very daunting trip. We know there are great adventures to be had for Ontario riders who want that once-in-a-lifetime trip, and one that's more accessible than the Rockies. The 2000km Lake Superior Circle Tour comes to mind. But what about just going out for the week? Or the weekend? Or if you're lucky enough to live nearby, just a day trip?
In her article for Women Riders Now, Montana rider Genevieve Schmitt shares her findings on the Ottawa Valley and it's allure to motorcyclists both near and far. Exploring the farmlands, quaint towns and many things to do between Ottawa and Algonqiun Provincial Park, she discovers the Ottawa Valley as an accessible attraction for an avid rider who's as interested in the sights and stops along the way as much as the ride itself.
And as it turns out, there's no shortage of reasons to stop and have a look around. Majestic hikes, deep cave exploration and the famous rapids of the "whitewater capital of the world" are among the many activities to tire you out. Fortunately there are many resorts and hotels to welcome the road-weary rider.
The Ottawa Valley Tourist Association is making a big push to reach out to motorcycle riders and especially women riders. The friendly people and variety of the rides make it an easy getaway destination for single or group trips.