NORTH­ERN ON­TARIO: A WORLD AWAY, BUT OH-SO CLOSE

Travel Guide to Canada - - Table Of Contents - BY JOSEPHINE MATYAS

North­ern On­tario is per­fect for a quick es­cape, a re­treat to na­ture and a pris­tine wilder­ness that’s within com­fort­able driv­ing dis­tance from On­tario’s big­gest cities. But, as close as it may be, this part of the prov­ince feels like it could be a world away. It is a ge­og­ra­phy of lakes and rivers, of quiet and seren­ity, of wildlife and heart-stir­ring beauty.

Ca­noeists and hik­ers, pho­tog­ra­phers and artists, sports­men and wildlife watch­ers have long felt the draw of this un­spoiled land­scape.

Whether a short visit or a long stay, this part of On­tario de­liv­ers the goods— from scenic train tours and mu­seum vis­its, to premier angling and camp­ing. Both in­doors and out, North­ern On­tario sup­plies a direct con­nec­tion to na­ture and the peo­ple who ap­pre­ci­ate it (www.north­ern on­tario.travel).

NORTH­EAST: A PAS­SION FOR THE OUT­DOORS

An­chored by the cities of North Bay, Sud­bury, Temiskam­ing Shores, Cochrane and Tim­mins, North­east­ern On­tario is very much an al­fresco des­ti­na­tion where peo­ple come to rel­ish soli­tude and quiet. With more than 1,000 lakes and rivers, pad­dlers may find them­selves on “a lake of their own.” And there is no artist quite like Mother Na­ture—whether hik­ing, crosscoun­try ski­ing or pad­dling, the can­vases of na­ture are noth­ing but in­spir­ing. Look up at the clear, dark night skies for a stargaz­ing spec­ta­cle and the north­ern lights.

This part of the prov­ince is blessed with four dis­tinct sea­sons and is just a three to four hour drive away from Toronto or an hour by mul­ti­ple daily flights to North Bay, Sud­bury and Tim­mins.

Tak­ing in the great out­doors is top-of­mind for many lo­cals and visi­tors to the area. Ivan­hoe Lake Pro­vin­cial Park is known for its healthy pop­u­la­tion of white moose—the

First Na­tions Peo­ples know these as the “spirit moose.” Take the Po­lar Bear Ex­press to On­tario’s North Shore or see po­lar bears in Cochrane. The prov­ince of On­tario pro­tects both these an­i­mals and placed a ban on the hunt­ing of the mag­nif­i­cent crea­tures.

You don’t have to rough it to soak in the beauty of this bo­real for­est wilder­ness. Whether your mode of trans­port is snow­mo­bile, ATV, mo­tor­cy­cle or bike, and your in­ter­est is re­lax­ing, wildlife view­ing, tro­phy fish­ing, an epic road hol­i­day or con­nect­ing with lo­cals, great ac­com­mo­da­tions are avail­able through­out the year. Rus­tic sim­plic­ity melds with lux­ury touches at Kil­lar­ney Moun­tain Lodge, a full-ser­vice resort with ro­man­tic rooms, suites and chalets (www. kil­lar­ney.com). Out­fit­ter WildEx­o­dus has a full menu of glamp­ing experiences in tents and yurts, with high-end culi­nary ad­ven­tures from just-caught shore lunches to fine din­ing on white linens in a prospec­tor’s tent (www. wildex­o­dus.com). Cedar Mead­ows Resort & Spa in Tim­mins of­fers well­ness get­aways with a full menu of ser­vices at their Spa Grande Na­ture and Nordic Baths (www. cedarmead­ows.com). Hor­wood Lake Lodge is now open through­out the year for tro­phy fish­ing ex­pe­di­tions, ATV trail rides, moun­tain biking and wildlife watch­ing. Guests can choose from cabins or glamp­ing in lux­ury teepees (www.hor­wood­lakelodge.com). For some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent, an au­then­tic sweat lodge ex­pe­ri­ence can be ar­ranged through the Tim­mins tourism of­fice in col­lab­o­ra­tion with lo­cal Indige­nous part­ners (www.tourism­tim­mins.com).

Sum­mer­time means get­ting out on the water. There are lakes, streams and more than 200 lodges and camp­grounds mak­ing the re­gion an an­gler’s dream. Home to 25 types of sport fish teem­ing just be­neath the sur­face, there are op­por­tu­ni­ties to catch brook or lake trout, wall­eye, salmon, north­ern pike or muskie.

With names like Kil­lar­ney, Ge­or­gian

Bay, James Bay, Mat­tawa, Man­i­toulin Is­land and Temiskam­ing Shores, visi­tors are at­tracted to boat­ing, pad­dling, hik­ing, rid­ing and driv­ing. These are pop­u­lar ways to ex­plore his­toric trade routes, en­joy the gran­deur of na­ture and gaze across a land­scape barely touched by man.

Renowned for its trail sys­tems, the re­gion fea­tures ex­pan­sive well-es­tab­lished hik­ing net­works to suit ev­ery­one, from city trail sys­tems to long dis­tance treks. Just off the beaten path near Tim­mins is Archie’s Rock, named after the late avid out­doors­man, Archie Che­nier. It is a unique ge­o­log­i­cal for­ma­tion of enor­mous, stacked boul­ders left from the last pe­riod of glacia­tion.

Sum­mer also means fes­ti­vals, pow­wows, sport­ing events, fish­ing der­bies and cul­tural at­trac­tions. The sec­ond an­nual Stars and Thun­der Fes­ti­val is an eight-day in­ter­na­tional fire­works com­pe­ti­tion and mu­sic fes­ti­val boast­ing head­lin­ers in­clud­ing Bryan Adams and Blue Rodeo, along with al­most 40 other bands (www.starsandthun­der.com).

And on the water, 2018 is a cel­e­bra­tion of the 10th Great Cana­dian Kayak Chal­lenge and Fes­ti­val. The late Au­gust, three-day fes­ti­val at­tracts thou­sands of visi­tors and more than 130 boats par­tic­i­pat­ing in kayak and stand up pad­dle­board races, sem­i­nars, workshops and a voyageur ca­noe brigade. Dis­plays in­clude an Indige­nous vil­lage with drum­ming, food, cer­e­mo­nial events and arts and crafts (www.the­great­cana­di­ankayak chal­lenge.com). For a tran­quil river ex­pe­ri­ence in the heart of North­ern On­tario’s pris­tine wilder­ness, North­ern Spirit Ad­ven­tures of­fers ca­noe ex­pe­di­tions, courier des bois style. Cos­tumed in­ter­pre­tive guides lead tours along wa­ter­ways such as the Abitibi River, once an his­toric fur trade route. The re­mote area is a wildlife-watch­ers dream— home to bears, wolves, moose and lynx. Trips in­clude time for bird­ing, fish­ing, hikes and camp­fire-cooked meals (www. north­ern­spir­i­tad­ven­tures.com).

Sud­bury is home to two out­stand­ing, in­ter­ac­tive science cen­tres: Science North and Dy­namic Earth. The dis­tinc­tive snowflake-shaped build­ings of Science North house an IMAX theatre, dig­i­tal plan­e­tar­ium, en­closed but­ter­fly gallery and in­ter­pre­tive dis­plays on the ge­ol­ogy, land­scape, wa­ter­ways, forests and wildlife of the north. Dy­namic Earth—home of the Big Nickel, Sud­bury’s most fa­mous land­mark—is an earth sciences cen­tre with ex­hi­bi­tions, dis­plays and spe­cial events on ge­ol­ogy, fos­sils and the re­gion’s min­ing his­tory (www.sci­en­cenorth.com).

In the colder months, guar­an­teed snow means win­ter magic. The re­gion boasts a long sea­son for Alpine ski­ing, snow­mo­bil­ing, snowboarding and dogsled­ding, in

ad­di­tion to hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres of groomed Nordic ski and snow­shoe trails. As the water freezes over, ice huts—some heated —pop up on lake ice sur­faces. Win­ter­time an­glers can connect with op­er­a­tors and lodges for bait and tackle, hole drilling, shut­tle ser­vices and hut rental pack­ages.

SAULT STE. MARIE—AL­GOMA: MUCH TO CEL­E­BRATE

North­ern On­tario’s third largest city—Sault Ste. Marie, fondly nick­named the Soo—sits at the heart of the Great Lakes. A bor­der cross­ing lo­ca­tion, driv­ers take the In­ter­na­tional Bridge con­nect­ing the United States and Canada and recre­ational boaters float from Lake Huron to Lake Su­pe­rior through the Sault Ste. Marie Canal Na­tional His­toric Site.

This nat­u­ral in­ter­sec­tion of land and water has made Sault Ste. Marie a travel hub for hun­dreds of years. It is one of the old­est Eu­ro­pean set­tle­ments in Canada—the French Je­suits es­tab­lished a mis­sion there in 1668—and for mil­len­nia was home to the Ojibwa who fished in the rapids of the St. Marys River. Mis­sion­ar­ies, traders and voyageurs used what is now Sault Ste. Marie as their base to ex­plore the wa­ter­ways and the great swaths of un­touched forests.

For mod­ern day ex­plor­ers, the Soo is the per­fect place to dis­cover this rugged and re­mote part of the prov­ince. Just steps from the city, Al­goma Coun­try is filled with some of Canada’s best hik­ing, pad­dling and wildlife watch­ing, as well as op­por­tu­ni­ties to find re­lax­ation in an au­then­tic, re­mote set­ting. The city’s hub of restau­rants, ho­tels and shop­ping is a place to re­fuel and stock up for short day trips or longer jour­neys. Sault Ste. Marie is a pop­u­lar start­ing point for the drive along the north­ern shore of Lake Su­pe­rior, con­sid­ered one of the most scenic drives in Canada. There are self­driv­ing tours along the coast­line, marked by in­ter­pre­tive pan­els trac­ing the foot­steps of the Group of Seven, land­scape painters cel­e­brated for their work in the early decades of the 20th cen­tury. Two or three­day tours can be viewed and pur­chased on-line (www.sault­tourism.com).

Let­ting some­one else do the “driv­ing” is an ex­cel­lent way to see the rugged north­ern wilder­ness on the scenic Agawa Canyon Tour Train, an in­ter­ac­tive Cana­dian Sig­na­ture Ex­pe­ri­ence (CSE). The his­toric train line’s up­graded coaches have been out­fit­ted with the lat­est au­dio­vi­sual tech­nol­ogy and a GPS-triggered script with the op­tion to lis­ten in sev­eral dif­fer­ent lan­guages. As the weather turns colder, the hard­wood forests are splashed with red, or­ange and yel­low, mak­ing au­tumn a daz­zling time for the day­long train tours. It was this blaze of in­tense colours that at­tracted some of Canada’s most fa­mous artists, in­clud­ing the Group of Seven. Sev­eral mem­bers of the Group—in­clud­ing Lawren Har­ris and A.Y. Jack­son—painted from a box­car, mov­ing from one out­stand­ing vista to an­other, some­times set­ting out on foot to cap­ture the per­fect an­gle. A replica of the box­car-stu­dio is on dis­play in Sault Ste. Marie at The Ma­chine Shop (www.agawa­train.com).

You don’t have to be an avi­a­tion geek to en­joy the Cana­dian Bush­plane Her­itage Cen­tre, housed in the Soo in an ac­tual air­plane han­gar. It is ded­i­cated to the his­tory of float planes and the skill of aerial fire­fight­ing by means of water bomb­ing (the tech­nol­ogy was ac­tu­ally de­vel­oped in this han­gar). There are dozens of planes for visi­tors to climb into, ex­hibits that tell the story of early water bomb­ing tech­nol­ogy and fire­fight­ing meth­ods, an op­er­a­tional engine test cell and a flight sim­u­la­tor. Guides in the cen­tre are re­tired bush plane pi­lots. A large screen theatre with 3D tech­nol­ogy that makes guests feel like they are fly­ing above the trees in an ac­tual water bomber, tells the story of how for­est fires are fought. There are 27 bush planes on dis­play, in­clud­ing a re­stored Beaver—the old­est pro­duc­tion Beaver in fly­ing con­di­tion to come off the De Hav­il­land Canada as­sem­bly line (www.bush­plane.com).

North of Sault Ste. Marie, along the fa­mous coast­line drive, the wilder­ness out­side the town of Wawa is home base for Nat­u­rally Su­pe­rior Ad­ven­tures, an out­fit­ter for guided hikes, sea kayak, ca­noe and voyageur ca­noe trips. Cer­ti­fied guides pro­vide sea kayak and ca­noe in­struc­tion and workshops, as well as equip­ment ren­tals and ve­hi­cle shut­tles for pad­dlers, hik­ers and out­door en­thu­si­asts. Paired with Rock Is­land Lodge on Lake Su­pe­rior, the out­fit­ter of­fers bed and break­fast pack­ages (www.nat­u­rally­su­pe­rior.com).

In­land, fur­ther north along the Trans-Canada High­way, the town of White River is the launch­ing point for an au­then­tic angling ex­pe­ri­ence in the Cana­dian Shield wilder­ness. From there, by seaplane

or by train, guests travel to the se­cluded Lodge Eighty Eight on Esnagi Lake. The re­mote lake is known for wall­eye, north­ern pike, perch and white­fish. Guests can stay in the main lodge or in ul­tra-deluxe cabins. Here, there is ev­ery­thing an an­gler would need for their next big catch, from bait to boats (www.lodgeeightyeight.com).

NORTH­WEST: THE HEART OF THE BO­REAL FOR­EST

The north­west part of North­ern On­tario is an enor­mous area of 527,000 sq. km (203,476 sq. mi.), filled with com­mu­ni­ties large and small, ex­panses of vir­gin pine and spruce forests and more than 150,000 lakes and rivers. It is a part of the prov­ince rich in Indige­nous cul­ture reach­ing back 9,000 years, strong Eu­ro­pean in­flu­ences and re­cent South­east Asian in­spi­ra­tion. Blended to­gether they cre­ate a unique cul­tural and culi­nary tapestry.

This part of On­tario is a renowned water des­ti­na­tion for angling and pad­dle sports in pure wilder­ness set­tings in­clud­ing Quetico, Wabakimi and Wood­land Cari­bou pro­vin­cial parks as well as the Lake Su­pe­rior Na­tional Ma­rine Con­ser­va­tion Area. The lakes and rivers are known for wall­eye, north­ern pike and lake trout.

There is no short­age of qual­ity ad­ven­tures to es­cape, ex­plore and be im­mersed in the beauty and his­tory of On­tario’s north­west. Wilder­ness North is a col­lec­tion of lodges and out­post cabins of­fer­ing world-class fly-in fish­ing, fly fish­ing and lodge-to-lodge ad­ven­tures. Guests can camp, pad­dle and ex­plore on pro­fes­sion­ally guided, re­mote wilder­ness re­treats (www.wilder­ness­north. com). Totem Lodge, near Sioux Nar­rows on Lake of the Woods, com­bines es­cape, re­lax­ation and a pas­sion for the great out­doors at the re­gion’s only five-star rated resort. The lux­ury wilder­ness prop­erty is an On­tario Sig­na­ture Ex­pe­ri­ence, with guided or self-guided fish­ing, hunt­ing, hik­ing and eco­tours (www.totem­re­sorts.com).

Get­ting out on Lake Su­pe­rior pro­vides a dif­fer­ent kind of es­cape—the ex­hil­a­ra­tion of the big water of the world’s largest freshwater lake! With Sail Su­pe­rior, visi­tors can re­lax on a wine and cheese cruise or a tour of the Thun­der Bay Har­bour. They also of­fer a sail­ing school, bare­boat charters and hike ’n sail ad­ven­tures to nearby is­lands and the Sleep­ing Gi­ant—a mas­sive rock for­ma­tion that is the City of Thun­der Bay’s mas­cot (www.sail­su­pe­rior.com ). The re­laxed el­e­gance of an all-in­clu­sive cruise on the Grace Anne II is def­i­nitely a lux­u­ri­ous way to ex­pe­ri­ence the soli­tude and beauty of Lake of the Woods. De­part­ing from Kenora, the clas­sic 26-m (85 ft.) yacht with gleam­ing ma­hogany decks and state­rooms of­fers gourmet meals, fish­ing, water sports and wilder­ness ex­cur­sions to ex­plore the 105,000-km (65,244-mi.) Lake of the Woods shore­line (www.graceanne.com).

The best way to gain an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the Euro­peans who broke paths into the north­ern On­tario wilder­ness is at Fort Wil­liam His­tor­i­cal Park, a liv­ing his­tory at­trac­tion de­voted to recre­at­ing the days of the North West Com­pany and the Cana­dian fur trade. The Park’s her­itage build­ings paint a vivid por­trait of life dur­ing the fur trade era, in­clud­ing cul­ture, crafts, do­mes­tic and daily life, busi­ness and farm­ing. Visi­tors can come for the day, sign up for an ar­ti­san workshop or opt for an overnight stay (www.fwhp.ca).

On the shores of Lake Su­pe­rior, Thun­der Bay is the ur­ban base camp to the re­gion’s out­door experiences in­clud­ing Kak­abeka Falls—the sec­ond high­est wa­ter­fall in On­tario—and Sleep­ing Gi­ant pro­vin­cial parks. Served by an in­ter­na­tional air­port with 16 flights daily from Toronto, the city has a rich Indige­nous her­itage and a ro­bust culi­nary scene that draws on the lo­cal taste and in­ter­na­tional in­flu­ences. Thun­der Bay is a base for rock and ice climb­ing, pad­dling, boat­ing, win­ter sports, ur­ban angling and a fine year-round fes­ti­val and event cul­ture (www.visit­thun­der­bay.com).

For city dwellers and visi­tors search­ing for an au­then­tic Cana­dian wilder­ness ex­pe­ri­ence, North­ern On­tario fits the bill. It’s a place to find re­lax­ation, dab­ble in a lit­tle his­tory and cul­ture, in­dulge in a lit­tle pam­per­ing and still be just steps away from ex­plor­ing the beauty and soli­tude of On­tario’s pris­tine lakes, rivers and forest­lands.

SAIL­ING ON LAKE SU­PE­RIOR • DES­TI­NA­TION ON

ESNAGI LAKE, AL­GOMA • JAMES SMED­LEY

HOR­WOOD LAKE LODGE

WILDEX­O­DUS GLAMP­ING • DES­TI­NA­TION ON

LODGE 88, AL­GOMA • JAMES SMED­LEY

NAT­U­RALLY SU­PE­RIOR AD­VEN­TURES • DES­TI­NA­TION ON

FISH­ING IN WABAKIMI PRO­VIN­CIAL PARK, NORTH OF THUN­DER BAY • TOURISM THUN­DER BAY

FORT WIL­LIAM HIS­TOR­I­CAL PARK • DES­TI­NA­TION ON

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