5-7-day Ontario road trip: Lake Superior's Ontario coast
Travel along the awe-inspiring coast of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world.
START: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
END: Thunder Bay, Ontario
Immerse yourself in the beauty of the largest freshwater lake in world, Lake Superior. Known to locals as a "lady," she comes complete with countless sandy beaches, water sports, epic scenery that inspired the Group of Seven and communities like your starting point, Sault Ste. Marie, that serve up Northern hospitality.
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.
Sault Ste. Marie – Day One & Two
When you arrive in Sault Ste. Marie, known as “The Soo” to locals, you will be drawn to the waterfront. The St. Mary’s River was a focal point of Indigenous culture, exploration, the fur trade, and the city’s development. Learn about its significance with an interpretive guided paddling tour in the famous ‘big canoe’ with the Lake Superior Watershed Conservancy or the Waterfront Adventure Centre that offers downtown canoe, sea kayaks and stand-up paddleboard rentals.
The Soo downtown is also a send-off point to the Hub Trail – a walking or biking path that circles the city. Head west to the Mill District, Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site or the picturesque Fort Creek Conservation area. A journey east will take you to the Ermatinger-Clergue National Historic Site, the Art Gallery of Algoma, Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre, and the beautiful Bellevue Park.
St. Mary’s River Rapids is also home to world class angling and is accessible from the downtown. Expert guides are available. If you prefer to relax, take a stroll along the beautiful boardwalk and watch boaters or the ships locking through the St. Mary’s River as they move between Lake Huron and Lake Superior.
Things to Do
The Soo is emerging as one of Ontario’s best adventure towns; located just 15 minutes from downtown Hiawatha Highlands & Kinsmen Park has an ever-expanding 31 km network of single-track for all levels of riders, set in a stunning forest of old-growth pine and Canadian Shield outcrops. Rent a bike and get trail recommendations at one of three bikes stores in town. If you prefer hiking, the Highlands is home to backcountry day hikes on the Voyageur Trail.
Note: The famous Agawa Canyon Train Tour could be added as an option. This would require an extra night in SSM.
Places to Stay
In Sault Ste. Marie, the options for accommodations are many.
Delta Hotel by Marriott is the one and only on the waterfront! With a beautiful outdoor patio and too many amenities to note, almost everything is within walking distance.
The Sault’s largest convention centre, the higher end Quattro Hotel, is an all-suite property located on Great Northern Road, which turns into Highway 17 North.
Glenview Cottages and Campground is close to all the city amenities but still in a rural forest setting. Beautiful cottages with kitchens, where you can prepare your own meals.
Catalina Motel is a mid-range family owned and operated motel that offers quality accommodations and all the amenities one needs featuring packages with tourist attractions year-round.
KOA Campground offers VIP camping services with deluxe cabins/sites, in ground pool, and gift shop.
For more accommodations in Sault Ste. Marie, visit the Algoma Country website.
Places to Eat
In Sault Ste. Marie, foodies will be in their happy place! Whether you are looking for simple fare or fine dining, there are many options. See a sampling below.
The Breakfast Pig: The Pig will change your vision of breakfast for the rest of your life.
Muio’s Restaurant: It's chicken fingers and ‘broasted chicken’ have a reputation far and wide.
Georgie’s Sharwarma: Authentic Syrian cuisine that will transport your taste buds.
East Street Pizza Company: Delicious meals made with real food.
Giovanni’s Restaurant: Known for its beautiful pasta dishes and fall of bone ribs.
Water Tower Inn Pub: Arrive early to try and get seated at the guitar table!
The Mill Steakhouse and Wine Bar: Located in the fully renovated Machine Shop Building, part of an old paper mill.
Embers Grill & Smokehouse: Located at Crimson Ridge Golf Course, serves a mouthwatering, elevated arrangement of entrées.
Distance to Next Stop: 55 km / 34 mi
Chippewa Falls – washroom facilities are available as well as a photo op you won’t want to miss.
Distance to Next Stop: 12 km / 7.5 mi
Batchawana Bay and Voyageurs’ Lodge and Cookhouse.
Make sure to buy one of the Voyageurs’ Lodge’s famous apple fritters and cross the highway to get up close and personal with beautiful Lake Superior.
Distance to Next Stop: 9.2 km / 5.7 mi
Pancake Bay Provincial Park for swimming and trails. Hike to the Pancake Bay Lookout known to locals as the Edmund Fitzgerald lookout. Timeframe: 6KM return – moderate hike.
Or continue to Lake Superior Provincial Park.
Distance to Next Stop: 118 km / 73 mi
Traveling up Highway 17 you will be welcomed to beautiful Lake Superior Provincial Park as the highway continues directly through the park.
Must stops include Agawa Bay, Alona Bay, Katherine Cove, Old Woman Bay and the LSSP Visitor Centre where you will find the Power of the Lake Exhibit and plenty of cool Lake Superior artifacts.
Note: Agawa Rock Pictographs is great to see but closed on windy days. It’s a short hike of 500 metres each way. Check at the Visitor Centre to find out if it’s open.
Wawa – Day Three & Four
The Municipality of Wawa is truly an iconic place located in the heart of Algoma Country. Many of the beautiful vistas in this area were captured by the most famous Canadian art collective – the Group of Seven. Immerse yourself in nature, including waterfalls, beaches and a swim in beautiful Lake Superior. Pose in front of the Wawa Goose and smile big! You’ve made it to this iconic spot.
Wawa marks the beginning of the Boreal Forest, which is the largest continuous forest on the planet. If you want to learn more, walk Wawa’s Lion’s Beachfront Heritage Walk featuring a boardwalk that includes a scenic tour of the downtown waterfront.
Hint: stop at Young’s General Store, and yes they do have a pickle barrel. Bring a camera because you will want to smile beside its “pet” moose on the verandah. Don’t forget to buy an ice cream cone on your way out!
Things to Do
If you are a waterfall lover, you have arrived at the right place. In the area surrounding Wawa you will find a couple of great waterfalls like Scenic High Falls and Silver Falls.
Wawa truly is surrounded by water, including a beautiful beach right in the downtown core. Lake Superior is home to Sandy Beach where you can enjoy those lazy days of summer, catch a few rays, go for a swim and relax.
If you are looking for something a bit more active, look no further than Naturally Superior Adventures. Beginners and experts can all enjoy a paddle board, kayak or canoe with full- and half-day instructional outings. Be sure to book ahead to avoid disappointment.
Wawa is not just famous for the goose, it is also known for the Algoma Highlands Wild Blueberry Farm and Winery. If you visit during harvest, you can purchase or pick your own wild blueberries. Be sure to shop for jams, wild blueberry syrup and strawberry and blueberry wine. A favourite jam is the blueberry jalapeno, but don’t miss out on any of them!
Places to Stay
Best Northern Motel and Restaurant is located on Highway 17 just before the link off the highway to Wawa. Offering both motel rooms and two-bedroom cottages, it has a restaurant that serves Indian as well as European food.
Outdoorsman Motel is located in downtown Wawa, and all rooms are fully renovated. With fridges and microwaves in every room, free Wi-Fi and barbeques are also available. They even have fresh coffee and cookies!
Wawa Motor Inn is located as you enter Wawa. This full-service motel has renovated rooms as well as log chalets. It has a full-service restaurant, a fitness centre, free Wi-Fi, free parking, guest laundry facility and more.
Rock Island Lodge offers bed and breakfast style accommodations on the shore of Lake Superior. Together with Naturally Superior Adventures, it offers guided trips on sea kayak, canoe, and stand up paddleboard. Talk about location! Bring your camera, or your paint brush and let the magic of the lake inspire you.
To find more accommodations in Wawa, visit the Algoma Country website.
Places to Eat
From Indian fare to Polish delights and homestyle cooking, restaurants in Wawa will not disappoint!
Kinniwabi Pines Restaurant: Offers an eclectic menu with the flavours of Trinidad, India, Europe and Canada.
Best Northern Motel and Restaurant: Indian as well as European food prepared by a well-experienced chef.
Viking Restaurant and Tavern: Simply good food.
Distance to Next Stop: 191 km / 118 mi
As you leave Wawa heading for Pukaskwa National Park (pronounced “Puck a saw”), don’t forget to stop in White River and snap a picture at Winnie-the-Pooh Park. At “Puk” you can experience the White River Suspension Bridge Trail (18 km day hike, estimate of 8-9 hours of rugged hiking). There are also numerous other trails available, including accessible facilities and a wheelchair-friendly boardwalk beach trail to Hattie Cove that leads to Horseshoe Bay.
Terrace Bay or Schreiber – Day Five & Six
Terrace Bay is a township located on the east coast of Lake Superior. This area has beautiful vistas, beaches and access to the big lake. The area is surrounded by the rugged Northern Ontario wilderness, including Slate Island Provincial Park and Neys Provincial Park. Be sure to visit the light house located in the downtown core, you can climb the staircase to enjoy breathtaking views of Lake Superior and the town itself.
Hint: Don’t miss Terrace Bay Beach and the lighthouse!
Things to Do
Aguasabon Falls & Gorge is a must see, powerful in the spring and serene during the summer, the majesty of this gorge is surreal. Complete with picnic tables, washrooms and a wheelchair accessible boardwalk.
The Slate Islands are protected islands and only accessible by boat or float plane. Home to a herd of wild caribou and a great place for fishing or hiking but be aware there are no facilities on the island as it’s a natural spot. It’s estimated there are about 100 caribou on the island, who have lived predator-free for more than a century.
Places to Stay
Drifters Motel Terrace Bay – Each room has a beautiful view of Lake Superior, a TV, mini fridge and microwave.
Norwood Inn has renovated rooms with complete kitchenettes so you can prepare your own meals. It also has full-blown suites, as well as regular motel rooms.
The VOY in Schreiber is newly renovated and fully up to date with a store, cafe and laundromat coming soon. Located just 14 km from Terrace Bay.
Places to Eat
Drifters Restaurant (in Norwood Inn): Next to Drifters Motel had great food and big portions
The Hungry Moose (Schreiber): A small, rural diner-type restaurant with excellent food and service.
Wah’s Restaurant: If you have a hankering for Chinese food, Wah’s serves both Canadian and Chinese options.
Aguasabon Golf Club: A Club House complete with a licensed restaurant and bar.
Distance to Next Stop: 2 km / 1 mi
If you didn’t have time to stop at Aguasabon Falls and Gorge, make sure and stop on your way out of Terrace Bay. The falls are amazing!
Distance to Next Stop: 35 km / 22 mi
Distance to Next Stop: 71 km / 44 mi
Check out The Paddle of the Sea Park and Bridgeview Tower in beautiful Nipigon. You can check out the Nipigon River Recreations Trail, which runs between Nipigon and Red Rock.
If you have a hunger going on, you can stop at Red Pebbles in Red Rock for a bite.
Distance to Next Stop: 124 km / 77 mi
Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park - This day-use-only park is home to panoramic views of a 150-metre-wide gorge complete with sheer cliffs. A trail and boardwalk connect to two lookout platforms – photo op extraordinaire.
Distance to Next Stop: 88 km / 54 mi to Thunder Bay
Thunder Bay – Day Seven & Eight
Known as the gateway to Northwestern Ontario and nestled on the shores of Lake Superior, Thunder Bay is surrounded by the Canadian Shield and the boreal forest and is truly an outdoor paradise. Look up and glance across the big lake to see majestic views of the Famous Sleeping Giant. While you stroll the beautiful waterfront, you will know you have found somewhere pretty darn special.
Make sure to take time to visit the Terry Fox monument, Fort William Historical Park and the Amethyst Mine Panorama. You may just want to spend an extra day or two to full enjoy this Northern Ontario city. Think about ending your driving tour on another Lake Superior adventure with Sail Superior. Your sailboat, catamaran or zodiac adventure awaits!
Things to Do
The Thunder Bay art scene is not to be underestimated. It has seven galleries and studios, including the Thunder Bay Art Gallery. There truly is art here for everyone. The Thunder Bay Gallery is home to more than 1,600 works in its permanent collection. Many of these works are traditional Woodland art making it one of the most significant collections of Indigenous art in Canada.
You can truly step back into the history of Thunder Bay by visiting various museums such as the Thunder Bay Museum, the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, Fort William Historical Park or do one of its historical walking tours.
There is no better way to take in this city than by foot, so hike, jog, walk, cycle or in-line skate on one of the 21 miles of trails. Or, take a more urban approach on a guided walking food tour with Seek Adventure Tours that includes a Sip and Savour Tour and Superior Happy Hours.
Places to Stay
Courthouse Hotel is 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. Today, it embraces classical revival-style architecture blended with modern design.
Townplace Suites Thunder Bay is located just off the Trans-Canada highway. This all suites hotel is close to golf, shopping and the airport.
Delta Hotel by Marriott is 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
Breakfast and Lunch
Tina’s: A breakfast and lunch favourite for locals and travellers.
Daytona’s: From Finnish pancakes to prime rib, Daytona’s serves it up with great service.
Man vs Meat: Over 50 years of cooking experience brings you great food
Bight Restaurant: Located on the waterfront great views and great food.
Red Lion Smokehouse: Can it get any better than barbeque, smokehouse and local craft beer in the waterfront district?
Caribou Restaurant and Wine Bar: This North American bistro serves great food inspired by dishes from Italy and Korea.
Things to Know
Depending on when you are traveling, you should pack for all types of weather. Always pack clothes to keep you warm in the evenings and cool winds can blow off the big lake even in the warm summer months.
If you are traveling in the spring and summer, pack bug repellent. At dusk and in the early mornings the bugs can be bad.
Comfy walking shoes, to ensure that your feet last a whole day.
Doing a tour of Thunder Bay? Download the app.
Last updated: August 22, 2023