If you’ve been keeping up with our posts, you’re probably familiar with the big motorcycle tours and routes in Ontario—week-long trips to Ride Lake Superior and Ride the Highlands are probably well known to you, and you’ve exhausted some weekend trips like Cruise the Coast and the Georgian Bay Coastal Route. No doubt you’ve also done some of the mid-range trips, like the Lake Temiskaming Tour.
But there’s another, much lesser-known route right in the middle of the province, between Algonquin Park and Georgian Bay, and south of North Bay—so it’s easy to get in and out in two glorious days on new pavement, in one of the quietest areas around. The Ride Around Nipissing, sometimes referred to as the RAN tour, takes riders into the heart of what used to be called “Vacationland” Ontario. With some quiet backroads, amazing old-school lodges, and some nice laid-back sweepers, it’s a great last-minute weekend ride when you’ve just got to get out on the bike.
The RAN tour takes its name from Lake Nipissing, the main body of water in this area that feeds the legendary and stunning French River. If you’re coming from the south, we recommend heading up Highway 11, and getting off at the great little town of Powassan. From there you’ll cut through the best riding on the route—Highway 534 and 522. On 522 you’ll pass through the tiny town of Port Loring. There’s a few great little lodges in this area to stay at like Pine Grove Resort, or you can keep trucking on to the French River area.
A few years ago we stayed at the Saenchiur Flechey lodge and we’d easily recommend it again, although it’s a gravel driveway all the way in. The epic log construction of the lodge, and the wraparound deck that somehow manages to capture both the sunrise and sunset, make this a top choice for the region.
If you plan your Saturday night around staying at either of these places, the next place to stop is the French River Provincial Park. From there you can see the incredible French River, which seems to have hewn the rugged rock it traverses in half to form its meandering path down to Georgian Bay.
Next, you’ll head out on another great road, Highway 64. Lots of twists and turns here, but perhaps none as epic as the one into the tiny town of Lavigne. There are lots of places to stay here, but perhaps the most important place to stop is the Lavigne Tavern. We can personally guarantee that they have some of the best pizza in the North, and there’s also an old Triumph motorcycle on stage. If you plan your trip to spend the night here as well, you can schedule it around their substantial live music line-up that never disappoints—and there are some accommodations within walking distance.
Continuing north to Highway 17, the Trans-Canada, the ride is a little more highway, but when you get to Sturgeon Falls you have the incredible benefit of grabbing a poutine and a corndog at one of the two legendary chip stands there: Larry’s or The Riv. Both have been there forever, and anyone who passes through must choose their own favourite. We’ll keep ours to ourselves for the time being.
Next up is the city of North Bay. Here, we recommend parking your bike at the waterfront and taking an afternoon or evening cruise on the Chief Commanda II. There’s no better way to get acquainted with Lake Nipissing than out on the water itself. The tour offers some great insight into the importance of the waterway and some of its unique features. The North Bay lakeshore is also a pretty dreamy place to spend an afternoon before heading home.
If you’re looking for a last-minute ride that’s guaranteed to avoid the big traffic and take you to some pretty charming places, the Ride Around Nipissing is the way to go. See you on the road!