Road Trip Around the Top of Superior to Re-Discover Your Inner Child
Do you remember when you were a kid, the most exciting places to explore were in your own neighborhood? If you couldn’t see your house, you may as well have been on the other side of the world. One time my friends and I packed a snack, crossed the street, and trekked under a highway through a giant culvert. It couldn’t have been more than 500 meters from my house, but what a thrill! I’ll never forget that feeling. As we get older and experience “been there, done that” the raw excitement of the unknown becomes more difficult to reach. I think that’s why people love to travel so much, to recapture that magic of childhood, where everything is new. When you start to plan a vacation, your mind automatically goes to a faraway land. But I’m here to tell you, you CAN recapture your childhood! You don’t have to travel far to have an adventure.
I live in Nipigon, Ontario about an hour east of Thunder Bay, up the north shore of Lake Superior. I know it’s a beautiful place, and I love it. But because I live here, it’s not top of mind when I think holiday. Usually, I’m thinking poolside palm trees in exotic locales. But I digress. My new perspective started with a simple text exchange with a friend:
FRIEND: What are you up to this weekend?
ME: Not much.
FRIEND: I need to take some pictures for work. Want to go up the north shore with me?
We invited a few other friends, and suddenly the five of us were planning a weekend getaway. The plan was to leave from Nipigon and drive up to Manitouwadge, about 45 minutes northeast of Marathon, and work our way back, southwest to Silver Islet. I wasn’t driving this time, so I was able to take in the view along the way. No matter how many times I drive up the north shore, I am always spellbound by the breathtaking views of the lake.
At the turnoff to Manitouwadge, we just had to stop and get a photo with their welcome sign. The only interactive one I’ve ever seen! Upon arrival to Manitouwadge we were greeted by a quaint little town nestled within boreal forest, water, and mountains. We checked out the Community Centre, which is in process of being transformed into an open-air art gallery of sorts. For lunch we checked out Market 614, a new locally owned foodie joint that offers grocery and ready-made meals of which 80% of ingredients are sourced in Northern Ontario. They are also part of the Superior Picnics program. After a long drive and a meal, we were ready to take a challenging hike up the Manitouwadge Lookout Trail, and were rewarded with a spectacular view of the town, and Manitouwadge Lake.
Next it was on to Marathon and Pebble Beach. It is here that one truly understands the size of the big Lake. With no land in sight, we could have been looking out across the Pacific Ocean. The pebbles were so fun to investigate – the colors, sizes and patterns are all one of a kind, like round, smooth snowflakes.
From there it was back west to Terrace Bay where we ate at Drifters. Noted for its tasty, high-quality pastas, salads and pizzas, we were in for a treat. My pasta was the best I’ve ever tasted, bar none. Since it was a gorgeous evening, we were able to dine on their incredible patio, complete with waterfall and a view of the majestic Lake Superior.
The next morning, we explored the new pavilion and boardwalk at Terrace Bay Beach. It’s one of the more incredible ways to experience the big lake from land. A stop here is highly recommended whether for a picnic lunch, or a casual stroll down the boardwalk. After taking in the beautiful beach, we headed up the hiking trail to Aguasabon Falls. I’ve never been here, and the power of the water and the climbing walls of the gorge were spectacular.
After enjoying lunch at Schreiber’s Golden Rail – famous for its fish and chips – we headed to the Schreiber Beach where we hiked a portion of the Casque Isles Trail and relaxed at the Parks Canada red chairs. This spot was one of my favorite places on the tour. It’s a great place to just sit and look out at the lake, contemplating the size and majesty of it all.
Next on the agenda were Nipigon and Red Rock. In Nipigon we checked out the Bridgeview Lookout, a 40-foot open air tower that was designed to mirror the famous Nipigon River Bridge. In Red Rock, we checked out the Marina Interpretative Centre. Our favorite part of that by far was the virtual submarine ride to the bottom of the Nipigon Bay!
In Dorion we stopped at the Canyon Country Co-op and ordered from an incredible food stand called the Grill Shack. We ordered Wolf River Farms local beef burgers and fresh cut fries and picnicked at the Hurkett Cove Conservation Area. Again, somewhere I had never been, but what a gem. We walked off the picnic on the adjoining nature trail, then it was off to Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park. On the drive, we passed cows grazing at Wolf River Farms. Talk about locally sourced beef!! Once at the park we had a short walk through the boreal forest and were rewarded with an incredible view of the “Grand Canyon of the North”. Truly, it does not disappoint. To round out the trip, we did the trail to the Sea Lion at the Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.
Two nights, three days. It was a whirlwind weekend chock full of incredible sites, sounds and tastes many of which none of us have ever experienced. Which blows my mind, being born and raised in Thunder Bay and having lived on the north shore for 15 years! Even with everything we did, we were not able to experience everything. We plan on going back again soon to see things like the Schreiber Rail Museum and the Parks Canada Red Chairs at Terrace Bay beach. Maybe we’ll even stop in Rossport to take a guided kayaking tour with S.A.N.D.
So, message your buddies and start planning your top of Superior adventure, because if you want that thrill of the unknown you felt as a child, you’ll get it again when you explore your own backyard.