If you’ve clicked into this article, chances are good that you’re already curious about the potential of doing a winter road trip in Northeastern Ontario. March has a reputation for being one of the most beautiful months of the winter season, and is a great time to consider hitting the road as a last hurrah before spring comes back to greet us.
With crisp, snowy winters and great chances for wildlife viewing, winter touring in Northeastern Ontario has a lot to offer an explorer. By having a great winter car safety kit on-hand and checking the weather forecast, winter road trips can be enjoyable, safe, and a pleasant change from the ordinary.
Arrival: Sudbury to North Bay
If you’re coming from Ottawa or Toronto, a quick 3.5 hour drive up either Highway 11 or Highway 69 will bring you into “up north” territory. On this outing I picked a friend up from the Greater Sudbury Airport. If you prefer the efficiency of flight, or require a car rental for your excursion, this option is equally as friendly as driving.
Get Outside: North Bay & Area
We had a busy 24 hours planned in North Bay, featuring food, skiing, snowshoeing, exploring the waterfront, and even horseback riding! We got early start and headed to North Bay—a quick hour and 45-minute drive east along the Trans Canada Highway.
Stop one was at the beautifully maintained North Bay Nordic Ski Club, where adults can obtain a day pass with ski equipment rentals and a trail pass for $20 (CAD), or a snowshoe pass and equipment rentals for only $12. Despite yours truly having a speed wobble on a (perfectly groomed) downhill, we had a fantastic morning on the trails, and even managed to work up a sweat! Read more about our experience here.
Pleasantly full and feeling exercised, we checked in to the Holiday Inn Express and Suites. Despite being booked with families in town for hockey tournaments, the hotel still provided a quiet pool area, fast check-in, and a central location for us to explore around North Bay.
Heading North: North Bay to Cochrane
We wanted to get an early start on Saturday morning, so grabbed continental breakfast at the hotel and headed out. Stop one was horseback riding with Von Doeler’s Ranch, just outside of North Bay in Rutherglen—an activity I didn’t know could be done in winter, but was excited to find out could be!
The staff at Von Doeler’s Ranch met us in front of their stable with helmets, tacked-up horses with curly coats, and heating packs for our hands and feet to keep us cozy on our ride. The highlight of this adventure was definitely the view at the end, the rushing, tumbling Talon Chutes on Talon Lake.
Once again full and exercised, we headed back through North Bay on our way to Cochrane and stopped in for burgers at Cecil’s Brewhouse & Kitchen. With in-house brewed beers named after local landmarks, juicy burgers, and a prime location downtown, the pub is inviting and provides a great jump-off point to explore the rest of North Bay. Having only the weekend to complete our tour, we pressed on north to Cochrane, a smooth 4-hour drive up Highway 11.
It’s worth noting that we made two pit stops along the way, and these made our day extra special! First, we did a little detour just east of Cobalt to visit Devil’s Rock. Looking out 300 feet over Lake Temiskaming at Quebec, this spot is absolutely breathtaking and takes about half an hour to hike out to from the road. Find out how to access it here.
Our second pit stop was at the Thornloe Cheese Factory, also on Highway 11. Producing a great selection of cheeses, open year round, and using local milk from the Temiskaming Area, this is a place you must stop in at!
Finishing our drive, we checked in to the Cochrane Station Inn, a very cool location that is also an operating Ontario Northland train and bus station. With cozy rooms and very comfy beds, the Station Inn is an easy place to relax after a long day of outdoor activity and/or driving.
Closing the Loop: Cochrane to Sudbury
First things first: waking up in Cochrane on our third and final day on the trip was gorgeous. There is something about those bluebird days that you get in winter coupled with cold, clear, crisp fresh air that makes a day special.
After braving the morning traffic jam at the local Tim Horton’s, we headed straight for the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat. This is an incredible facility and a must-visit activity to do while in Cochrane any time of year, whether you’re driving a car, sled, motorcycle, or RV. You’ll see the bears up close and personal and speak directly with the bear keepers, who care a lot about their charges.
Having only a weekend, this excursion was short but so sweet, and we were able to pack a lot into it! Once we’d headed back to Sudbury from Cochrane, our grand total of kilometres travelled closed out over a whopping 1,000 round-trip. No problem for two seasoned road trippers on a long weekend in March!
Would you consider planning a winter road trip? Let us know in the comments!