My dogs and I have travelled all over Canada and the United States. Over the years, we have seen both coasts and many mountain ranges.
Even though we’ve been to a lot of great places, my favourite part of Canada is still the Trans-Canada Highway, also called Highway 17, between Sault Ste. Marie (also called “the Soo”) and Thunder Bay (or T-Bay).
The best way to see everything around huge Lake Superior is to take the Lake Superior Circle Tour, which goes through both Canada and the United States.
But for this article, we will focus on the Canadian leg of the tour. We could call it the Lake Superior Half Circle Tour, for example.
Let’s get started.
THINGS TO DO IN SAULT STE. MARIE ONTARIO
Take a day in Sault Ste. Marie before you leave to ride the Agawa Canyon Tour Train. This out-and-back train route is 182 km (114 miles) long and goes through the woods of the Canadian Shield.
It ends at Agawa Canyon Park, which passengers can explore before getting back on the train. Because you can only get to the park by train or trail, it won’t have as many people as other parks.
Some other things to do in Sault Ste. Marie are:
- The Ermatinger-Clergue National Historic Site tells the story of Charles Oakes Ermatinger and other lucky people who lived in this beautiful home from 1808 to 1870.
- This building is right next to the Ermatinger-Clergue National Historic Site and shows the history and excitement of flying as well as how to keep forest fires from spreading. This is a great place to get up close and personal with planes—and maybe even sit in one!
- The Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre is a short walk from the Art Gallery of Algoma, which has a permanent collection of Group of Seven paintings. It is also right on the water, making it a great place to spend a day relaxing.
- At the end of the boardwalk is the Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site, which has old locks that people still use to get into Lake Superior. You can even cross the locks to see the rapids on the St. Mary’s River.
Even though the Trans-Canada Highway is the main way west and mostly follows the coast of Lake Superior in Ontario, it feels like you’re on the edge of a wild frontier when you leave Sault Ste. Marie.
As the road clings to the constantly changing cliffs, small towns that are barely holding on to life appear and then disappear, being swallowed up by trees.
During the middle of the day, thick fog often blows in from the nearby lake, and the weather can change in an instant.
Outside of the settlements, there are no man-made lights, and when the sun goes down, deer and moose are a big danger.
The cool waters of the Great Lakes make tourists want to stop at one of the many rest stops and illegal parking spots and splash in the waves as they walk along the rocky shores to see what’s around the next rock wall.
As people and dogs look for hidden treasures in the woods and on rocks, a minute could turn into an hour before they move on.
There are many places to stay in Sault Ste. Marie if you want to rest your head. Some examples are the Quattro Hotel, Holiday Inn, Days Inn, The Water Tower Inn, and Best Western.
On the Canada side of the Circle Tour, there aren’t many Lake Superior resorts.On the other hand, the Voyageur’s Lodge and Cookhouse could be a choice.
PROVINCIAL AND NATIONAL PARKS ALONG THE WAY
Lake Superior, Sleeping Giant, Ruby Lake, and Pukaskwa National Park are all places where you can camp in your car or take a backpack or canoe into the wild. All of the parks have hiking trails that people of all skill levels can use.
If you do decide to hike, make sure you have good shoes, clothes that fit, and food. The weather can be very hard to predict, and if you don’t have cell service, it’s easy to get into trouble.
LAKE SUPERIOR PROVINCIAL PARK
From Sault Ste. Marie, Lake Superior Provincial Park is the first one you’ll pass through on your way.
Lake Superior Provincial Park has a special place in my heart because it was where I had the best campsite I’ve ever had. It was almost on the beach and so close to the lake that I could almost skip stones from my tent.
One of Ontario’s biggest provincial parks, Lake Superior Provincial Park, is about 1,550 square kilometres in size.
Why do people like it so much?
- There are parts of the Lake Superior coast that can be reached and parts that can’t.
- The land is stunningly beautiful and diverse, with cliffs, river valleys, waterfalls, beaches on Lake Superior, and lakes in the interior.
- Hiking and paddling are known all over the world.
- Agawa Rock Pictographs is one of the few places in Ontario where you can walk to see pictographs.
- There is cultural history, natural beauty, and a variety of ways to have fun, like fishing for trout.
- In Lake Superior provincial parks, you can camp in an RV, a tent, or by hiking into the backcountry.
In addition to the campsites in the park and on Lake Superior, travellers who want to see monuments that are bigger than life should stop in Wawa to see the biggest Canada Goose you will ever see.
The goose was made to celebrate the end of the last part of the Trans-Canada Highway on Lake Superior.
PUKASKWA NATIONAL PARK
The next stop on the plan is Pukaskwa National Park. Since it opened in 1978, Pukaskwa has become well-known for its views of Lake Superior and the Boreal forest.
The park covers more than 1,800 square kilometres and protects one of the Great Lakes’ longest stretches of natural coastline.
Pukaskwa is absolutely breathtaking. It has spruce and pine forests, cliffs, and quiet beaches with sand.
As the sun went down, you might see black bears eating blueberry bushes or hear loons singing. The Anishinaabe First Nations also have an old story about people.
Why do people like it so much?
- Anishinaabe culture coexists with true boreal forest.
- Along rocky coastlines, people look for treasure and try to find geocaches.
- Views from the White River Suspension Bridge
- Unwind on beaches with sand.
- There are excellent hiking trails, like the long-distance Voyageur Hiking Trail.
- Amazing paddling possibilities
- There are backcountry campsites and other ways to camp in Pukaskwa National Park.
- There are a lot of different kinds of animals there, like black bears, moose, peregrine falcons, wolves, and more.
Fans of Winnie the Pooh might want to go to White River, which is north of the park. This is where the bear who inspired Winnie the Pooh lived. White River has a festival on the third weekend of August.
The tourist centre has a statue and an exhibit of the cartoon bear, and the White River Heritage Museum has a huge collection of Winnie-related items.
WHITE LAKE PROVINCIAL PARK
White Lake Provincial Park is right next to Pukaskwa National Park to the north. It has White Lake, sandy beaches, and wetland areas.
It used to be rich in furs and wood, but now it has beautiful natural things like orchids and bogs with plants that eat bugs.
Why do people like it so much?
- White Lake is one of the largest lakes on the Lake Superior Circle Route. It is 65,000 hectares in size.
- There is great fishing for walleye and northern pike.
- Beautiful places to swim and relax, like sandy beaches
- In a boreal forest, there are three nature walks to take.
- Not far away is the Winnie the Pooh Hometown Festival.
White River has a few places to stay, like the White River Motel, the Continental Motel, and the White Lake Lodge, which some people call the White River Lodge.
RUBY LAKE PROVINCIAL PARK
You might miss it if you blink. The next place to go is Ruby Lake Provincial Park. At the mouth of the Nipigon River, this small provincial park has three small lakes, marshes, and a mesa-cuesta with cliffs and ravines.
The National Marine Conservation Area, which is part of Parks Canada, is next to Ruby Lake Provincial Park.
It’s also a great place to see peregrine falcons and bald eagles, which are both endangered in the province but can be seen around Doghead Mountain.
Why do people like it so much?
- Hiking over rough terrain with a large network of trails.
- Lake Superior can be used to get to the park by boat or canoe.
- Wildlife watching and taking in the sights
- Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are two winter activities that can be done in the park.
As you drive through Nipigon, you’ll pass the Paddle to the Sea Park, which is named after a famous Canadian book about a trip from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean by Holling C. Holling.
The park is made up of twelve playgrounds that go from the centre of Nipigon to the beach. This is a great place to go with your family.
SLEEPING GIANT PROVINCIAL PARK
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park in Thunder Bay is the last (or first, depending on where you start) stop on the Canadian Lake Superior Circle Tour. It covers 244 square kilometres and is densely forested.
When I first camped there, I saw a deer follow a little kid through the campsite. I thought the child was a deer for a split second. It’s a wonderful, beautiful place.
The western part of the park is made up of cliffs, valleys, and mesa-cuestas, which help give the park its name.
The eastern part of the park is made up of lowlands. The upcoming Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area is also on the east side.
Why do people like it so much?
- The views of Lake Superior and the area around it are absolutely stunning.
- There are almost 100 kilometres of hiking trails with different kinds of geology.
- There are deer, wolves, foxes, lynxes, and hundreds of bird species, among other animals.
- There are many places to camp, from campsites in the middle of nowhere to lodges with full services.
- The natural and cultural history of the Sibley Peninsula is shown at the Visitor Center.
Amethyst is the provincial stone of Ontario, and many mines are open during the summer outside of the park.
The largest amethyst mine in Canada is at Amethyst Mine Panorama, which is 60 kilometres east of Thunder Bay. When looking for their own piece of amethyst, kids of all ages may get their hands dirty.
THINGS TO DO IN THUNDER BAY ONTARIO
Thunder Bay is the biggest city on Lake Superior and one of the best places to visit in Ontario. It has the most people of any municipality in Northwestern Ontario, with almost 120,000 people living there.
It used to be known for forestry and industry, but now it has a knowledge economy and is home to the Thunder Bay Regional Health Research Institute. There are also a lot of things to do there, which we’ll go over below.
But before you get to Thunder Bay, you can take a break at the Terry Fox Memorial and Outlook.
This is a nice place to stop and remember this amazing young man, whose Marathon of Hope was cut short in 1980 but still inspires millions of people today.
If you haven’t heard of him, Terry Fox is one of Canada’s most well-known people.
When you get to Thunder Bay, Canada, there are many things to do, such as:
- Outdoor things to do in the province include hiking to one of the highest peaks and sailing on the world’s largest freshwater lake.
- Seeing places with a lot of history, such as Fort Williams Historical Park,
- Try out a variety of restaurants to satisfy your taste buds.
- You can smell the flowers at the Centennial Botanical Conservatory.
- The Thunder Bay Museum will enlighten you.
THINGS TO DO IN NORTH SHORE ONTARIO
As you can see, the area around Lake Superior is full of fun things to do, wildlife, and places to camp. There are so many things to do and see, like hiking, canoeing, fishing, and just being amazed by the beauty of nature.
You won’t find many high-end restaurants in this part of Ontario, except for a few in Thunder Bay. The most popular places to eat are small, family-owned businesses and well-known fast-food chains.
Because fishing is so popular on Lake Superior, you can get fresh fish in almost every town. If you have a fishing rod, you can try to catch whitefish, lake trout, walleye, or any of the many other kinds of fish that live in lakes and rivers.
The journey doesn’t stop because it’s winter. When winter comes, snowmobiles, snowshoes, and cross-country skiers take over the routes, and ice fishing lodges pop up on the frozen lakes. In the far north, winter lasts longer, so kids have more time to play in the snow.
Camping is a popular thing to do in these areas, but if you don’t like it, you can stay in one of the smaller hotels along Highway 17 or in one of the larger chains in Sault Ste. Marie or Thunder Bay.
If you don’t want to drive, you can use the international airports in both cities to get where you need to go faster.
After a day in the woods, a cool beer from a local craft brewery or a cup of fresh coffee from a tiny café might make you want to check out the city.
This part of Ontario is special in a way that goes beyond how beautiful it is. Let the mesmerizing waves of Lake Superior pull you closer to the tall cliffs above you, whether you’re looking for a place to go for the weekend in Ontario or planning a trip to Lake Superior.
THINGS TO DO IN ONTARIO
There are many things to do in Ontario besides the Lake Superior Circle Tour. The province also has the Niagara Falls, Canada’s largest city (Toronto), Canada’s capital city (Ottawa), and the entire North, which has hundreds of thousands of lakes.
If you want to know what to do on vacation in Ontario, sign up for Must Do Canada and watch our video on the best things to do in Ontario. It shows the province’s most famous sites and cities.
Have you ever been to the area around Lake Superior? What did we overlook? Tell us what you think in the comments!
This story was originally written by Kristal of adventuredawgs.ca. It has been expanded to give a better overview of the area. (Unless it says otherwise, all of the photos are by Kristal.)