Boaters and anglers have long boasted about the magical experience that is Algoma's North Channel of Lake Huron. It's a pristine landscape of water, islands, and rugged shorelines, and while it is an open water playground that is best experienced from the deck of a boat, it doesn't mean that you can't get a taste of the magic from the seat of your car, too. Luckily, Highway 17, aka Trans Canada Highway, follows the north shore of the channel for its full length. Working the suggested 10 stops below into your next road trip can turn a drive from point A to B into a scenic vacation.
Here are ten great places to stop along the Trans Canada Highway in Algoma.
Whether you are travelling Highway 17 east or west, the Spanish Municipal Marina will be your first or last chance to experience the grandness of the North Channel; either way, the impression is sure to be lasting. Located on the beautiful Lake Huron shores, the marina is renowned by boaters and anglers as the access point to world-class sailing and fishing opportunities. For the road tripper, the attraction is the red-roofed gazebo high atop a rocky bluff, offering a 360° vista overlooking the Spanish River Delta, Sagamok Anishnawbek, Whalesback Channel, and of course the Town of Spanish. What's better than one grand view, more of the same, I would say. With the staircase climb out of the way, continue behind the gazebo where the Shoreline Discovery Trail offers just that, along its rugged 2.5 km length (featured photo).
Not all rest areas along Highway 17 are created equal, and the Serpent River stop opportunity is considered by many as much a destination as a chance to break up a long drive. Just metres off the highway, you will find yourself amongst a growth of old pine trees and the sound of rushing water; the atmosphere is pure northern Ontario. Be sure to follow the sound of rapids and the path under the highway to experience the power of Kennebec Falls. For a more soothing water's edge experience, a walkway at the back of the rest area, past the bathrooms, will present a set of water and forest that will have you coming back every chance you get.
Lake Lauzon is a head-turner, literally. It's hard to avoid the lake's inviting qualities as it borders the edge of the highway. Admiring it on the go is not necessary as at the east end of the lake, just off Highway 17, you will find a pretty public beach and rest area. Playground equipment, washroom facilities, picnic tables, BBQ pits, and parking are all here to take care of your along-the-road needs. The beach is a popular swimming spot, and Lake Lauzon is well known for its boating and fishing opportunities, including the elusive Muskie.
As you enter the community of Blind River, keep an eye out for the signs for the Boom Camp Interpretive Park. A few minutes from the highway, the park encompasses 12 kilometres of multi-season trails, cross-country skiing in the winter, hiking and biking in the summer. Located at the Mississagi River's mouth, this section of Lake Huron's North Channel is significant for its cultural and natural historical values. Archaeological evidence and oral traditions of the Mississauga First Nation support the belief that the area was a gathering place occupied by some of the earliest First Nation peoples. The eastern access point offers up wooded trails showcasing the area's ecological zones. The trails at the western entrance lead to some of the most spectacular beaches in the area.
Some spots along Highway 17 deserve a stop just because they do. The Dean Lake Bridge is just such a spot—unless you are a bridge buff or a photographer, then the stop is not only deserved but mandatory. Even at highway driving speed, you will catch a millisecond glimpse of the impressive bridge structure as you pass, and you will forever wonder, what was that about? Spanning 300 feet across the Mississagi River, the steel bridge has been around for over a hundred years; definitely stop-worthy.
The Veterans Bridge is bound to catch your eye as you travel through Iron Bridge along Highway 17. Tally-Ho Park offers a perfect opportunity to stretch your legs. Walk above the Mississagi River along the footbridge, and beyond as here you will also find access to the TransCanada Trail and Voyageur Trail. In June, enjoy the scent of blooming one-hundred-year-old lilac trees.
Located at 2 Little Rapids Road, approximately 5 km north of Thessalon, just off Highway 129, is your chance to walk through another time. Established in 1977, the Heritage Park Museum offers a glimpse of what life would have been like in the area over 100 years ago. Explore authentic displays and buildings including, a general store, a chapel, the blacksmith shop, stables, and period farming equipment.
The historical theme continues at Bruce Mines Marina and the Group of Seven interpretive sign overlooking the St. Joseph Channel. As the story goes, in 1912, Tom Thomson and fellow artist William Broadhead took a two-month canoe trip down the Mississagi River. Unfortunately, the trip ended with a tipped canoe, stranding Thomson and Broadhead and, it was during that time it appears that Thomson painted the town's waterfront. If you are lucky enough to view the setting under the brooding sky, you will find that the scene still matches the painting precisely over 100 years later.
Located 45 km (28 mi) east of Sault Ste. Marie via Highways 17 and 548, in the channel between Lakes Huron and Superior, St. Joseph Island is the most western of the Manitoulin chain of islands. Visiting the island can be justified in a couple of different ways. On the one hand, the island is a worthy destination in its own right, so staying a while is a good plan. Option number two, is a quick coffee shop stop. When it comes to a good cup of coffee in Algoma, it is sure to start with coffee beans from St. Joseph Island Coffee Roasters. While yes, you can enjoy their product all over the region, it tastes its best on St. Joseph Island. You don't have to go far to enjoy the spoils as the Black Bear Cafe and Eatery at the first intersection as you get onto the island serves up a good cup of brew and other tasty treats. Perhaps take your coffee to go and head back over the bridge to a lovely rest spot amongst rock and wind-shaped pines at the water's edge.
Who can resist a selfie with a big chunk of money? Yes, it might only be a loonie and made of fibreglass, but it is big and very photo-worthy. You can find the monument along Highway 17B in the Town of Echo Bay, a short detour from Highway 17. The structure was constructed in 1992 in honour of Mr. Robert R. Carmichael, the artist responsible for creating the Loon Dollar design and a Township resident.
Yes, Algoma's North Channel of Lake Huron might be the playground of boaters and anglers, but with so many points of interest accessible by car from Highway 17, they will have to learn to share their bounty.