4-day Ontario road trip: Lake Superior to Lake of the Woods
The cities, lakes and wilderness of Northwest Ontario will delight outdoor adventurers and nature lovers.
START: Thunder Bay
From the shores of Lake Superior to the shores of Lake of the Woods, all expectations of any watersport enthusiast, hiker, angler, or nature lover will be exceeded! Throw in the big city of Thunder Bay and the waterfront city of Kenora to enjoy culinary delights, homegrown breweries, and the best gouda cheese.
Ontario is the world in one province and is the original homelands to many nations of the First Peoples. With the Cree Nation in the North, the Haudenoshaunee in the South, and the Anishinabek Nation all around the Great Lakes, we are pleased to acknowledge and support the First Peoples and First Nations of these lands; the Inuit; and the Metis as we host visitors together.
Thunder Bay – Day One
Thunder Bay is famous for its location on beautiful Lake Superior – the largest freshwater lake in the world. With stunning views of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park across the lake, it’s hard to imagine that in such an urban setting, you can stay in an upscale hotel and then go for a paddle or hike within minutes of your hotel room? It is the most wonderful contradiction!
In 1970, the two towns of Port Arthur and Fort William amalgamated to form the city of Thunder Bay. Visitors can explore the history on a historical walking tour, visiting a local museum or go way back to the 1816 fur trade era at Fort William Historic Park.
It’s easy to explore Thunder Bay’s fascinating heritage sites, stunning architecture, vibrant public art installations, delicious local food offerings and more through the new Thunder Bay Tours app.
With big city amenities, from great restaurants that serve in-season local ingredients to microbreweries, live theatre, casinos and gaming… Thunder Bay is a shiny gem for anyone for who comes to visit.
Things to Do
Fort William Historical Park is one of the largest living attractions in North America. The recreation of the North West Company and the fur trade is amazing. With 250 acres and 57 buildings, including the David Thompson Astronomical Observatory – home to one of the biggest telescopes in Central Canada.
Gaze out at the lake and imagine gliding along on a wonderful sailboat, zodiac rocket or catamaran. From half-day trips to full-day and longer, Sail Superior will turn your dreams into reality.
Stroll the beautiful waterfront at Prince Arthur’s Landing, complete with walking paths, art installations, playgrounds, splash pad, festival area and restaurant. Make sure your spend some time enjoying the coast of Lake Superior.
Hint: Don’t go home without buying a branded Sleeping Giant Brewery sweatshirt or hat. Or stop by Thunder Oak Cheese Farm to pick up some of its world famous gouda cheese or grab a bottle of the world's most versatile hot sauce – Heartbeat Hot Sauce. Also found at many local grocery stores and farmers markets.
Places to Stay
Courthouse Hotel: An elegant 40-room boutique hotel in one of the city's oldest buildings. In its past, this building was a Superior Court of Justice, and now embraces the past classical revival style architecture blended with modern design.
Best Western Plus Norwester Hotel & Conference Centre: Conveniently located by the NorWester Mountains, this hotel’s location puts you close to the Thunder Bay Airport as well as downtown businesses and attractions.
Delta Hotel by Marriott: On the waterfront! With a waterfront park setting and views of the Sleeping Giant and Lake Superior, this location brings you up close and personal with the big lake.
Places to Eat
A must-eat for breakfast or lunch is a feed of Finnish pancakes. Available at many restaurants in Thunder Bay, but here are a few:
Niva’s: Serves breakfast, lunch and snacks and you must try their Finnish pancakes.
Rooster’s: A family-run restaurant in Thunder Bay’s Waterfront District, and prides itself on classic, home-style food and treating customers like family.
Nook Italian Restaurant: Italian handmade pizza and pasta made with quality ingredients, served in a lively atmosphere. Gluten, vegetarian and vegan options.
Tomlin: This renowned Thunder Bay restaurant works with local producers to create fresh and eclectic plates with an emphasis on sharing at the table.
The Foundry: A pub is located in the heart of the waterfront district. Hearty lunches and dinners, featuring an outdoor street patio perfect for soaking up the summer sunshine well into the evening.
Hint: Persians are a Thunder Bay delicacy. This delicious donut cannot be explained and must be enjoyed! The original Persian was invented by The Persian Man Bake Shop.
Distance to Next Stop: 30 km / 18.6 mi
Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park known as the Niagara of the North.
Ignace – Day Two
Distance to Next Stop: 241 km / 150 mi
Ignace marks the halfway point between Thunder Bay and Kenora made famous for its great fishing, white sand beaches of Agimak Lake and friendly Northern hospitality. You can head out on signed trails that include the Lily Pad Lake Trail, Sandbar Provincial Park trails and Agimak Lake Trail.
Hint: Don’t miss seeing Raleigh Falls. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the picnic area. Washroom facilities are on site, and don’t forget bug spray, particularly in late spring and summer.
Places to Stay
The Lone Pine Inn: Located on the beautiful shore of Agimak Lake in Ignace, all suites are lake facing.
Ignace White Otter Inn: Renovated rooms include a fridge and microwave. Property is walking distance to the grocery store and LCBO.
Northwoods Motor Inn: Located in the heart of Ignace right on Highway 17. Very clean property with a restaurant on site.
More info on places to stay in Ignace.
Places to Eat
Robin's Express: Connected to the Westwood Motel and offers fresh coffee, pastries and sandwiches.
Roxanne’s Sweet Things Bakery and Cafe: A local favourite filled with fresh homemade baked goods and food.
Northwoods Motor Inn Restaurant: In heart of Ignace right on Highway 17 with a licenced coffee shop, dining room and lounge.
Hint: When visiting Ignace, you may want to check out the Trading Post Motel. There is not much known about the life size superhero figures located there, but it’s definitely a photo opp!
Distance to Next Stop: 132 km / 82 mi
Vermillion Bay is located on beautiful Eagle Lake and famous for its fishing. Nice stop to stretch your legs and grab lunch at the Comfort Table Bakery, The Black Oven or Quakers Diner. You can gas up and get on your way, or relax and stay a while!
Dryden – Day Three
Distance to Next Stop: 44.6 km / 27.7 mi
Dryden, Ontario is the midway point between Thunder Bay and Winnipeg, Manitoba. Dryden’s unique landscape begs exploration and visitors are encouraged to take part in guided or self-guided tours. Whether your interest is community arts, bird watching, geocaching or the Path of Paddle, Dryden truly has it happening.
On the south shore of Thunder Lake, is Aaron Park Provincial Park. This provincial park is located within the Dryden city limits and has many amenities, including a covered pavilion with a barbeque pit, two sandy beaches with shallow water and trails. It is famous for the ability to see and photograph the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis.
Take the time to view the Roy Wilson Suspension bridge Roy Wilson Suspension bridge over the Wabigoon River – a park and walkway await!
Hint: Photo opportunity with Max the Moose – a monument dedicated to all of Max’s ancestors and friends! Snap a picture and make sure to share it with Dryden.
Things to Do
Known for its beautiful location in Sunset Country, the city of Dryden truly has a lot to offer. It is an outdoor paradise.
Dryden is home to beautiful artist benches and murals. With more than 40 benches peppered throughout Dryden, you’ll find a water bomber-themed bench, a sunset, a sailboat, rocky shorelines, and First Nations, to name a few. Each location is captured on a map. What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon finding all these beautiful works of art.
The Egli Sheep Farm is home to a wool and sheep skin specialty shop. Take a self-guided tour of its animal park, see where they live, where they stay in the winter months and have the opportunity to interact with the smaller, friendly ones!
Places to Stay
Riverview Lodge (has restaurant on site): is a historical building fully renovated into a beautiful lodge-like property with everything from executive rooms to full blown suites.
Holiday Inn Express: Contemporary low-rise lodging with an indoor pool, exercise room and a free breakfast bar.
Best Western Plus: Features an informal bar and grill, indoor pool and steam room.
More info on places to stay in Dryden.
Places to Eat
Patricia Inn Family Restaurant: Home cooked meals with good-sized portions.
B & B Roadhouse Bar and Grill: Large variety of local menu favourites from burgers to pasta.
Black Barrel Eatery: Fresh gourmet dining with a city twist, made with local food producers.
Masala Restaurant: East Indian, Greek, Thai and North American.
The Riverview Lodge: Located along the Wabigon River.
Patricia Inn Family Restaurant: Home cooked meals with great portions.
Kenora – Day Four & Five
Distance to Next Stop: 137 km / 85 mi
Kenora is a vacation community. Surrounded by waterways, bays, beaches and islands, it is no wonder that so many who have visited here say it reminds them of Muskoka. The city is located on the northern tip of Lake of the Woods, on the shores of Safety Bay. Known for 100 years of forestry, mining and transportation industries, Kenora is now world-renowned as the perfect outdoor adventure destination.
From the waterfront you can relax and watch the boats docking as cottagers on Lake of Woods get groceries and incidentals. Visit one of Kenora’s many beaches with offerings such as look-out decks and boardwalks. You can rent a boat, kayak, canoe or paddle board to take in some watersports while at the beach. Be sure to check out the 18 murals located throughout Kenora, adding another layer of beauty and culture to this wonderful place.
Hint: Check out the Lake of the Woods Discovery Centre to enjoy the view, the artifacts and the warm welcome by the staff. With pride they will tell you all about their community and the beautiful area.
Things to Do
From the waterfront you can see the quaint downtown core filled with small businesses that carry neat tourism trinkets, unique clothing shops and stores providing the opportunity to purchase what is fondly known as a Kenora dinner jacket – plaid, reversible and wool! Downtown walking tour info can be found here. Several other walking tours will have you explore historic buildings such as the 1898 City Hall, the 1898 Hose Hardware, the 1899 CPR Rail Station and much, much more. Urban trails and hiking trails are available in Kenora and they are mapped. Cool fact is that Kenora has five public beaches.
Don’t forget the MS Kenora Cruise Ship on Lake of the Woods that departs from the waterfront daily and even has a wonderful evening cruise or the The Muse-Lake of the Woods Museum and Douglas Family Art Centre. Both the ship and the museum are major attractions in Kenora!
Two cool and quirky things to see: Devil's Gap Rock was originally painted in 1890 as a prank and has been repainted by local residents for years. Don’t miss Huskie the Muskie in McLeod Park. This fish stands 12 metres (40 feet) tall and weighs more than 2.2 tons. This photo op represents the predator fish known as the Muskellunge. Nicknamed the fish of 10,000 casts, it is a prominent fish in the Lake of the Woods.
Hint: There is a major farmer's market under the White Cap pavilion in the summer every Wednesday.
Places to Stay
Comfort Inn: Located on the Trans-Canada Highway
Days Inn: Restaurant and pool with a waterslide
Super Eight: Ensuite bathrooms and free continental breakfast
Travelodge: Stay in Kenora on a budget with an indoor and outdoor pool, casual restaurant and a low-key bar
Places to Eat
Yesterday’s Restaurant is located in the Travelodge and features home-cooked favourites that will keep you coming back for more.
HoJoe Coffee and Eatery: Premium coffee and specialty drinks like the Kenora mist and infamous frozen hot chocolate. For the healthy eater, cold pressed juices and salads are also delicious.
Plaza Restaurant: Has a full slate of delicious Greek food and also offers pastas, seafood, ribs and walleye.
Boathouse Restaurant: On the waterfront of Lake of the Woods has beautiful views. When it’s warm, be sure to dine outdoors.
Dino’s Restaurant: Fine dining specializing in Greek food.
Lake of the Woods Brewing Company: Located in a refurbished fire hall with an outdoor deck and great selection of branded goodies to bring home for gifts – or better yet for yourself!
Things to Know
- Don’t forget to pack your bug spray and sunscreen when traveling in the summer.
- Summers are beautiful and warm, but cool days and nights do happen so pack accordingly with warm clothing and rainwear.
- If you are traveling in the winter, always check for road conditions before heading out.
- Don’t forget to download the Thunder Bay app.
Last updated: September 27, 2023