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Our Home on the Road in Northwest Ontario

Heading Pukaskwa National Park on our way across Ontario. Photos: James Bai.
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Our Home on the Road in Northwest Ontario

One Adventurous Couple’s Journey Across the Province

A Toronto couple chose the Canadian route for their RV trip across the continent and loved where it took them.

Last fall, my husband Wobblycat and I departed on a cross-Canada (though not coast-to-coast) trip from Toronto to Vancouver to see and experience this great country of ours. We were so glad to have stayed in Canada versus taking the route through the US, as it would’ve been a huge missed opportunity to see and experience the highlights of Ontario. Those included gorgeous views of from the north shore of massive Lake Superior, grabbing a photo at the big goose in Wawa, hiking where the rocky Canadian Shield meets the water in Pukaskwa National Park, hearing the roar of Kakabeka Falls—the second largest in Ontario, Niagara Falls being the only larger—and more!

Still Close to Home

Our excitement began with the Bracebridge Fall Fair in mid-September, only a couple hours north of Toronto.

Horse and rider at Braceridge Fall Fair
Lots to see, do, and eat at the Bracebridge Fall Fair!

Between the giant pumpkin contest, horse shows, live music, and square dancing, we enjoyed a full weekend of entertainment, and camped on a hill overlooking the fairgrounds. Wobblycat even enjoyed riding the twisty scenic motorcycle roads in the area (Muskoka Beach Road)!

The Bracebridge Fall Fair is an easy weekend getaway from the city
The Bracebridge Fall Fair is an easy weekend getaway for Torontonians who want a little “country.”

After the fair, we did the short drive to the Bethune Memorial House National Historic Site in Gravenhurst, a National Historic site, for a day trip. We learned all about the life of Canadian hero Dr. Norman Bethune, who brought modern medicine to rural China and championed bringing universal healthcare to Canada.

Continuing north, the French River Provincial Park Visitor Centre is located right off the TransCanada Highway 69. This first-class interpretive centre highlights the history of the French River area and its First Nations peoples.

Selfie at the French River, Ontario
View of the expansive French River from the pedestrian suspension bridge.

A side-trip to the south shore of Manitoulin Island took us to Dominion Bay Cottages to visit friends. We loved wading in the shallow water of the gorgeous sandy beach on Lake Huron and walking the rocky shoreline, which curves around the bay. 

Dominion Bay on Ontario's Manitoulin Island
Beautiful sunsets over Dominion Bay, Manitoulin Island.
Bald Eagle in Northeastern Ontario's Manitoulin Island
Did you know there are bald eagles on Manitoulin Island?

Within Lake Superior Provincial Park, Bathtub Island near Katherine Cove is a stunning oasis. We lucked out with a warm, sunny afternoon and sunbathed on a small rocky island with shallow pools and smooth surfaces.  

A beautiful place for a midday swim: Bathtub Island
Wade through the waist-deep cool waters of Lake Superior on an underwater sandbar to get to Bathtub Island.

Pukaskwa National Park

Arguably the most scenic part of the trip, we were amazed by the sweeping vistas of Lake Superior and the rugged Canadian Shield along the TransCanada Highway in the Algoma region. Our favourite spot on this trip was Pukaskwa National Park.

Home away from home at Pukaskwa National Park's Hattie Cove Campground
Hattie Cove Campground at Pukaskwa National Park. We opted for non-electric, but electric sites are available. Dump station is easily accessible for large rigs.

We camped at Hattie Cove Campground, at the north end of the park, which is within walking distance of multiple trails along rocky cliffs with more incredible views of this massive inland sea. Just north of Pukaskwa, we hit the town of Marathon for groceries, dinner out, and a stop to use the library wifi.

Beautiuful view at Pukaskwa National Park in Northwest Ontario
Pukaskwa National Park was our favourite campground on this trip for views like this! We loved the rocky shores and plentiful hiking trails.

Along Lake Superior

A surprising geological find just east of Thunder Bay, we walked the trail and boardwalk with overlooks of a 150-metre-wide gorge at the world heritage site Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park. We had fun bouncing echoes off the sheer cliffs, which plummet 100 metres straight down, and laughing as our dog Sadie jumped back in surprise at the echo of her own bark! We marvelled at the canyon floor, where conditions mimic more northern regions, allowing for rare artic flora to flourish. Learn more about Rving to Ouimet Canyon here

The incredible Ouimet Canyon has to be seen in real life.
Ouimet Canyon is a world heritage site and a worthwhile stop.

Sleeping Giant Provincial Park campground on Marie Louise Lake is located within a huge peninsula jutting into the north end of Lake Superior, just east of Thunder Bay. Our trip to the unique waterfront community of Silver Islet had a decidedly maritime feel on this wild southern shore of the peninsula.

Pulling the RV and motorcycle into Northwest Ontario's Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park has all types of campsites available, from rustic to full-service.

In and Around the City of Thunder Bay

In Thunder Bay, we enjoyed Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park and took time to meander along the forested walking trails that overlook the scenic Kaministiquia River canyon and the roaring falls.

Kakabeka Falls is  a must-see when visiting Thunder Bay, Ontario
Kakabeka Falls, Canada’s largest falls after Niagara Falls are located 25 minutes west of Thunder Bay. 

An hour north of Thunder Bay, we were curious to check out Silver Falls Provincial Park, which offers a dozen campsites free for stays of up to 23 days. With no hookups, only pit toilets, and located about 20 kilometres up a bumpy gravel road, this option is definitely for the more adventurous RVer. With our solar equipped, self-sufficient rig, it suited us just fine—we especially loved the wide sandy beach along Dog Lake.

West of Thunder Bay, Fort William Historical Park tells the story of the fur trade in the early 1800s. The expansive grounds house multiple historic buildings, which come to life with costumed interpreters. We loved the live farm animals, particularly the newborn baby goats!

Roadside Attractions Along the Way

Some of the roadside attractions you'll only find in Ontario

Be sure to catch the following photo ops along the way:

1. The Big Nickel, Sudbury 2. Central Standard Time Zone Marker, Raith  3. The Big Loonie, Echo Bay 4. Arctic Watershed Marker, Raith 5. Winnie the Pooh Memorial, White River 6. The Big Goose, Wawa

Northwest Ontario

Approaching the western edge of northern Ontario, we recharged at the Dryden Pool and Fitness Centre at their huge indoor swimming pool and luxurious steam room. The adjacent Dryden Signature Trail provided leisurely riverfront walking for our dog in a park-like setting.

Husky the Muskie in Kenora, Ontario
In the incredibly scenic waterfront town of Kenora, we paused for a photo with the huge fish statue of Husky the Muskie.

Since we drove across Canada, you may be wondering, why the focus on Ontario? Almost half the distance travelled across the Trans-Canada highway from Toronto to Vancouver is in Ontario! We were amazed at the beauty and diversity of Ontario, and truly believe one of the best ways to experience it is by RV. Whether you have a small off-grid capable trailer like ours, or a large Class A motorhome or fifth wheel, there are plenty of camping options all with a promise of good scenery and a good time.

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