Northeastern Ontario is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. But, it's also an area rich in culture with enough historical landmarks to make any history buff go crazy. My experiences continue to blow me away from meeting friendly locals and doing what they do, getting up close and personal with nature while exploring the great outdoors, learning about the region, and being spoiled by the many tourism operators in the area. Ironically, with each item I check off my bucket list, I learn of another "must-do" experience. I love how I somehow find a way to be a busy-bee in each region I visit, especially in one believed to be made up of mostly forests. It comes as no surprise to find Northeastern Ontario has so much to offer.
Here are just five of the many incredible experiences I've had in Northeastern Ontario!
Skating with the Gold City Roller Girls in Timmins
The Gold City Roller Girls, home of the Gold Miners' Daughters, frequently hold open practice where the public can join them for a skate. It was hard to keep up with the girls as they showed off their quick and fancy footwork on the court. I did my best not to fall flat on my face, although, the knee pads did break my fall more than once. Skating with the Gold City Roller Girls is a fun and care-free way to spend an evening being active, meeting new people and laughing.
Walking an alpaca at Dream Acres Alpacas in Matheson
The moment I stepped onto the property of Dream Acres, the alpacas all stopped what they were doing and curiously gazed in my direction. This level of inquisitiveness is not the norm for the alpaca. Gary and Jo-Anne love their many multi-coloured beasts as if they were their own "children," and use an up-close and personal approach to raise them, which fosters a level of comfort for the alpacas when they are around people. They love visitors – Who would have thought you could walk an alpaca?
Flying to Moosonee with Thunder Airlines
Flying over Northeastern Ontario, and seeing the landscape by air, gave me an entirely different perspective of the region. While looking out the window on my King Air 100 flight from Timmins to Moosonee, I realized just how flat the region is, and yet, it's full of lush green forests, lakes, rivers and streams. Flying to one of Northeastern Ontario's remote towns is an experience everyone should have. Typically, these are hard to reach, but Thunder Airlines makes it easy to visit the unique and culturally thriving towns. Not even Moosonee's giant and abundant black flies, horse flies and mosquitoes could keep me away.
Driving the back country roads of Smooth Rock Falls
Driving 80 kilometres north of Smooth Rock Falls, along Hwy. 634, is a true Northern Canadian experience. On the drive, I saw a total of five black bears on three occasions. On one such occasion, I witnessed a lone black bear walking up the tracks of the Polar Bear Express (yes, it's actually a real train name). This reminded me I was in the middle of nowhere — exactly where I wanted to be. At the end of Hwy. 634, I arrived at the Abitibi Canyon Generating Station, one of Ontario's largest hydro stations, which recently celebrated its 75th anniversary. There is something symbolic about driving to the end of the road, because the exploration only begins there.
Voyageur canoe trip to New Post Falls with Northern Spirit Adventures
Northern Spirit Adventures took me on an expedition to the far corners of the region to see historical landmarks, unprecedented natural wonders and to provide me with a one-of-a-kind, true Canadian experience. Paddling in unison on the very same route the Canadian Hudson's Bay Company travelled, allowed me to experience fur trading history at its best. The owners Andre and his wife, along with their trusted four-legged companion, did a great job educating me as we paddled the river in the same way the voyageurs did, while learning traditional paddling techniques, greetings and songs. Northern Spirit Adventures brought stories of the voyageurs and the spirits of the Coureurs de Bois to life by animating them along the way. The 13 kilometre paddle down river to New Post Falls was worth the journey. The waterfall was one of the most beautiful falls I have seen in Canada, and very few Ontarians get the opportunity to see it.
Northeastern Ontario doesn't disappoint. My tour was beyond what I expected of a region believed to be remote and isolated. Whether you come from abroad or locally, the options are endless. I've only had the opportunity to sample some of the best activities, yet there are countless more and I can't wait to return to see what else I get up to.