Locations,  Tips

The Ultimate Ontario Road Trip

The Lake Superior Coastal Drive from Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay is the ultimate Ontario road trip. This scenic route is dotted with numerous points of interest and provides breathtaking views of Lake Superior.

With so much to see and do, it’s important to note that you might not be able to experience everything in one go.

Canada's Longest suspension bridge
Standing on Bathtub Island
Paddling over Silver Islet Mines

Northern Ontario Road Trip:

18 Stops from Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay

Here are 18 locations to consider adding to your itinerary, offering an array of natural beauty, historical significance, and outdoor adventure.

For all locations please practice leave no trace principles and be respectful of the area.

1. Chippewa Falls

About 45 minutes north of Sault Ste Marie Chippewa Falls is directly beside the highway on the east side. Just a short walk from the parking lot, take in the gorgeous waterfall.

This location is also the midpoint of the Trans Canada Highway and is commemorated with a plaque.

Marybeth sitting on rocks at Chippewa Falls

2. Batchawana Bay Provincal Park

Not very far along the highway after Sault Ste. Marie is Batchawan Bay Provincial Park, a beautiful beach on the eastern shores of Lake Superior.  The day-use park is great for picnicking and dipping your toes in Lake Superior or going for your first swim in the largest Great Lake.

3. Pancake Bay Provincial Park

Another short drive along the highway and you’ll reach Pancake Bay Provincial Park. 

A full campground with over 3km (1.8 miles) of sandy beach on the shores of Lake Superior. 

This park makes a great spot to camp overnight if you’ve driven from Southern Ontario. Note: Sault Ste Marie is about halfway to Thunder Bay from southern Ontario and Pancake Bay is just over an hour past Sault Ste Marie. 

Check out the beach for a swim, have a picnic or go for a scenic hike on the Edmund Fitzgerald lookout hiking Trail. A moderate 6km (3.7 miles) trail out and back which provides panoramic views of Lake Superior.

Sitting on the sandy shore of Lake Superior at Pancake Bay Provincial Park

Before leaving Pancake Bay Provincial Park or Bachawana Bay Provincial Park area be sure to fill up with gas. There are no gas stations for approximately 150 km (93 miles) until just after Lake Superior Provincial Park closer to Wawa. 

Lake Superior Provincial Park offers a lot of different stops. The park is one of the largest provincial parks in Ontario with the trans-Canada highway running right through it.

The next 5 stops are within Lake Superior Provincial Park.

4. Agawa Bay Camp Ground

Agaway Bay Camp Ground, part of Lake Superior Provincial Park is located on the shores of Lake Superior on a 3km (1.8 miles) beach. 

A full campground with a handful of campsites located right on Lake Superior! Agawa Bay Campground is one of 2 car camping options in Lake Superior Provincial Park.

Tent on the shore on Lake Superior at the Agawa Bay Lake Superior Provincial Park Camp Ground

5. Agawa Rock Pictographs

35 red ochre images created hundreds of years ago. It is one of the few pictograph sites in Ontario accessible by foot but only when Lake Superior is calm.

Real and mythical animals are illustrated on the rock, including the Ojibwe water creature Mishipeshu, which directly translates to Great Lynnx. The mythical animal resembles a lynx with horns and a spikey back and tail. Mishipeshu is believed to cause rough and dangerous water conditions.

The hike to see the pictographs is short but rugged and steep. 

Depending on Lake Superior you may or may not be able to walk out on the rocks beside the pictographs. The rocks are also slippery even when the waves aren’t hitting them.

Another option is to paddle just over 1km (0.6 miles) to rocks from the boat launch located near the hiking parking lot but be sure to check lake conditions and keep an eye on the water and wind when you’re out. Lake Superior conditions can change quickly. 

Mishipeshu ochre painting at Agawa Rock Pictographs

6. Katherine Cove

Katherine Cove offers a sandy beach on the shore of Lake Superior with picnic tables, benches and restrooms. The parking lot is small and can be a busy spot during the summer months.

Katherine Cove is a great spot for a swim or hike south along the coastal trail for about 1.5km (.9 miles) to reach the next suggested road trip must see.

7. Bathtub Island

The island is suitably named due to the shallow basin-like rock that fills with water from Lake Superior creating a natural bathtub.

You can reach Bathtub Island by hiking from Katherine Cove as previously mentioned or you can hike from Sand River Falls just south of Katherine Cove on the east side of the highway.

From the shore, the water is shallow enough (knee deep) to walk out to Bathtub Island. Note that the island is made of smooth rock and can get very slippery to climb onto.

Marybeth standing with her arms up in the middle of the "bath tub" on Bathtub Island

8. Old Woman Bay

The final stop in Lake Superior Provincial Park, located at the northern tip.

The bay is named after a rock formation resembling an old woman’s face. The face can be seen within the 200 metres (656 feet) of standing cliffs to the left.

The bay is a  3km (1.8 miles)  long sandy beach on the shore of Lake Superior. Washrooms and picnic tables make it a great pit stop to stretch your legs and take in the beautiful views.

Marybeth looking out over Old Women Bay

9. Wawa Goose

The Wawa Goose is a famous roadside attraction situated at the Wawa tourist info center just off the highway.

Wawa takes its name from the Ojibwe word which translates to “wild goose”.

The giant goose was developed in 1960 to attract tourists to Wawa after the Trans Canada Highway bypassed the downtown core.

the giant Canada Goose in Wawa

10. Winnie The Pooh Memorial

White River is the birthplace of Winnie the Pooh as it was here that the real-life bear named Winnie inspired AA Milne’s character that was eventually adapted into the Walt Disney cartoon.

Beyond the park and the Winnie the Pooh statue there isn’t much to see but it is a fun and quick stop on the side of the highway. 

11. Pukaskwa National Park

15 mins drive south off the trans-Canada highway. Pukaskwa is a little more off the beaten path but that makes it extra special.

This national park is one of 6 in Ontario and is the only one classified as a wilderness park in the province.

It’s situated along the coast of Lake Superior offering unparalleled opportunities for backcountry camping, paddling and hiking.

With its rugged terrain and pristine wilderness, it’s a great stop for a night or more for anyone seeking an outdoor adventure in a remote setting.

There are several day hiking trails ranging from 1km (0.6 miles) to 18km (11.1 miles) varying in difficulty. Hiking to the White River Suspension Bridge is the longest. This hike is part of the rugged and scenic coastal hiking trail and is an out-and-back trail to the suspension bridge which crosses 23 meters (75 feet) high above Chigaminwinigum Falls.

If you do this hike be sure to stop in at the visitor center and get a sticker! 

The park does not take advance campsite bookings for Hattie Cove campground, the only front camping at the park. Sites are booked on a first come first serve basis. It’s typically not busy and you are able to drive around the park to pick your site. 

The park offers lots of amenities and programs; including canoe rentals or you can launch your own paddle vessel in Hatties Cove, a protected cove on Lake Superior.

Aerial view of Marybeth walking over White River Suspension Bridge at Pukaskwa National Park

12. Aguasabon Falls

Aguasabon Falls in Terrace Bay is a spectacular waterfall where the Aguasabon River dramatically plummets into Lake Superior.

A quick stop off the highway the viewing platform provides great views of the falls and Lake Superior.

Marybeth smiling at Aguasabon Falls on the look out platform

13. Eagle Canyon Adventures

Eagle Canyon’s Suspension Bridge is the longest in Canada at approximately 183 metres (600 feet) in length.  

There are two bridges offering incredible views of the canyon. 

Once you have crossed both  bridges the trail goes down into the canyon along the water. It takes approx 30 minutes to walk the entire thing and costs $25.

Marybeth walking across Canada's longest suspension bridge at Eagle Canyon Adventures

14. Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park

This is a day-use provincial park with panoramic views of a 150 metre (492 feet) wide gorge and cliffs dropping 100 meters (328 feet) straight down to the canyon floor. A one km (.6 miles) trail loop and boardwalk connect two lookout platforms along the edge of the canyon.

What makes Ouiment Canyon so special is that the temperature at the bottom of the canyon is cold enough for arctic plants to grow. Plants that are usually found 1000 kilometres (621 miles) north of this area.

Marybeth over looking the Ouimet Canyon gorge

15. Panorama Amythest Mine

A 12 min drive north of the highway, mostly on a dirt road, you’ll find the largest amethyst deposit in Canada.

The active mine provides educational tours and a dig for your own amethyst experience. It costs $10 to get in and $5 per pound of the amethyst you dig for. 

16. Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

30 minutes south of the highway and worth at least a full day spent here hiking. You can also camp, swim, paddle and fish. 

The 22-kilometre (13.6-mile) Top of the Giant Trial is the most popular day hike. The out-and-back trail climbs up the tallest cliff in Ontario providing spectacular views on sunny and clear days. On route to the top of the Giant a short trail branches off to view the Sea Lion, a diabase dyke. 

Sleeping Giant Provincial Park offers a full camp ground on Marie Louise Lake as well as backcountry sites.

Marybeth looking out at the Sea Lion at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

17. Silver Islet General Store

Located in Silver Islet which is at the very end of the road on the Sibley Peninsula.  It’s worth a trip off the highway on its own but if you’re going to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park it’s not much further south. 

The general store was built in 1871 during the operation of the silver mine, one of the world’s richest silver mines located just offshore on a small rock island on Lake Superior

As you step inside the general store, you will receive a warm welcome. You can visit the tea room at the back overlooking Lake Superior to relax and enjoy homemade treats, explore the history and artifacts of Silver Islet, enjoy an ice cream cone or browse locally made gifts. 

If Lake Superior and the weather is in your favour you can paddle from the dock beside the general store to the Sea Lion or out to see the old Silver mines both approx 3km (1.8 miles)  round trip from General Store. Note there is a cash box for launch fees: $5 per paddling vessel.

The front of the SIlver Islet General Store
Marybeth Paddling over the Silver Islet Mines

18. Terry Fox Monument

The monument honours the courageous journey of Terry Fox, a Canadian hero who embarked on a cross-country run to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. 

It’s a beautiful monument and park that offers views of Lake Superior and the Sleeping Giant.

Terry Fox Monument with views of Lake Superior and the Sleeping Giant

Tips & Other Notable Things:

  • The drive itself is 700km (434 miles) and takes approx 8 hours. You can do as much or as little as you like.
  • There are a few viewpoint pull-offs along the coastal Lake Superior drive. Not all viewpoint stops have the best views as trees have grown in but they make an easy pit stop to dispose of trash in bear-proof trash cans or stretch your legs. Only some of these stops have picnic tables and porta potties. 
  • Rossport is located on the north shore of Lake Superior and can easily be missed. The Rossport Islands are among the largest archipelago on Lake Superior and are protected in the Rossport harbour making it ideal for boaters, sailors and sea kayakers.
  • There are loads of other places to explore on routes like Nipegon and Marathon and a handful of Provincial parks such as Neys and Rainbow Falls that have not been listed. 
  • I’d recommend getting an Ontario Parks pass making it easier to stop and visit all the provincial parks.
  • My favourite way of getting to and from Sault Ste Marie from Southern Ontario is by taking the Chi Cheemaun Ferry from Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula to and from South Baymouth Manitoulin Island. The ferry is about an hour and 45 minutes and isn’t any faster than going by way of Parry Sound and  Sudbury but it breaks up the drive and adds a different type of adventure. Plus it’s a prettier drive especially if you plan to make stops on the Bruce Peninsula or Manitoulan Island. I’d recommend booking ferry reservations in advance. 
Chi CheeMaun coming into port on Manitoulin Island

Have you done the Lake Superior Coastal Drive from Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay? Or are looking to do it?

Share in the comments some of your favourite stops or what ones are at the top of your list to check out!

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