Northeastern Ontario feels a little different from the south. The towns and cities are even more friendly and relaxed, and the space between them is much greater. The trees are taller, and the landscape more wild. And the roads . . . well, the roads are bigger, longer, twistier, and more mysterious. Welcome to Ontario's magnificent Northeast.
Rainbow Country encompasses Georgian Bay's northeastern shore, Manitoulin Island, and Sudbury and surrounding area.
Here in the heart of mining country, the roads are carved deep into a granite landscape with old-growth pine forests and sparkling lakes and rivers. At the southern end of the region, Highway 69 crosses the breathtaking French River where you'll find a few sweet roads that take you to the river's edge. The French River Trading Post has comfortable rooms, and if you're willing to spend some time off your bike, canoe rentals are available from French River Adventures.
Further north in Sudbury, a visit to Dynamic Earth is in order. This state-of-the-art earth sciences centre developed a mining exhibit that actually takes you down seven stories into the earth.
Above ground, Sudbury is a biggish city minus a big-city attitude. Frank's Delicatessen, or the Beef 'N Bird (whose porketta is some of the best I've had anywhere) are among the many delicious restaurants in town. If you're in Sudbury in early July, this year's Northern Lights Festival promises to be another success.
Just across the water is the world's largest freshwater island, Manitoulin. Home of the Anishinaabe and the Great Spirit, the Island is rich with culture. The incredible Great Spirit Circle Trail offers innovative experiences with First Nations cultures, from traditional cooking workshops, drumming and singing instruction, interpretive paddling routes, unique accomodations and more. Gordon's Park Eco Resort is another interesting option for lodgings and off-bike fun, and their breakfast earns a gold star for deliciousness. Check out Vicki Gray's article about her experiences riding Manitoulin.
The Near North falls roughly between and around Lake Nipissing and Lake Temagami. On Highway 11, the city of North Bay is host to the awesome Ride For Dad event. Motorcyclists from all over gather in North Bay and ride en-masse to raise money for the fight against prostate cancer. It's a lot of fun and an excellent cause.
Outside of North Bay, where the roads branch out into denser woods and smaller towns like Loring-Restoule, Callander, and Mattawa, you'll find laidback lodge-style and B&B accommodations. For something a little different, check out Pie Bird B&B. They offer unique experience packages with food growing workshops and a lively events schedule.
Check out this article for more tips about the area.
The Wilderness Region
From Latchford all the way up to Moosonee on James Bay, the Wilderness Region of Northeastern Ontario is waiting to hear the roar of your engine. For long stretches on these northern roads it's just you, your bike, and the shadow of an overhead turkey vulture coasting above the tree line. Take a deep breath and soak up the wild country.
It's not all trees and solitude out here. Tucked away along the quiet highways are friendly and interesting towns. In Cobalt, dubbed "Canada's most historic town," the Cobalt Mining Museum tells the stories of the town's ghostly buildings and mine shafts. A little further north, the famous New Liskeard Biker's Reunion is set for the last weekend in June. You'll want to visit Hockey Heritage North in Kirkland Lake. And nearby Cochrane boasts the famous Polar Bear Habitat and Heritage Village where you can swim alongside those lovable giants. Don't worry: a glass barrier separates the people swimming pool from the one for the bears. From Cochrane the Polar Bear Express train leaves for Moosonee on James Bay. The ride is six hours, but it's James Bay for Pete's sake!
Check out the new Go Tour Ontario Interactive Motorcycle Trip Planner for the best routes:
The roads up north will keep you grinning for weeks. What are you waiting for?
Recommended Routes: The Lake Temiskaming Loop Tour, Riding Along the Shores of Lake Temiskaming, The Georgian Bay Coastal Route, The Big Belly Tour, Highway 11 From Nipigon to New Liskeard, Ultimate Ontario Motorcycle Route for Michigan Riders, Great Legends Circle Tour, Toronto to Manitoulin and Back