The Rock Pine Motel & Restaurant – Just Look for the BIG Fish!
By Steve Pitt
For more than six decades, the Rock Pine Motel and Restaurant has been an unmistakable landmark in Northeastern Ontario. Located in Marten River just thirty minutes north of North Bay on Highway 11, the usual directions given to first time visitors is, “Just look for the Big Fish.” Wawa has its 10 metre goose. Sudbury has the Big Nickel. The Rock Pine Motel and Restaurant has a school bus-sized fish statue on its property that has been greeting passing travellers since the 1960’s.
“You can’t miss The Fish,” laughs Garry Andrade who, along with his wife Yvette Kramer, took over the Rock Pine Motel in early 2016. Both of them had worked in the tourism industry for decades before deciding that they wanted a place of their own to operate. “We looked at several places before we found the Rock Pine up for sale,” Yvette says. “When we saw this place, we both immediately fell in love.”
A Four Season Paradise
If you like to fish, hunt, canoe, hike, snowmobile or ride an ATV, it is easy to see why Garry and Yvette fell in love with the Marten River region so quickly. As the name implies, Marten River is part of an unspoiled water system that connects thousands of acres of pristine lakes and rivers that are abundant in beauty and wildlife. Hundreds of kilometres of ancient trails and old logging roads wind their way through unspoiled forests and nature preserves. The Marten River’s waterways are teeming with lake trout, smallmouth bass, perch, pike and the ever popular walleye (pickerel). The region is also very popular with hunters when the bear, deer and moose seasons are open.
If you are more of a history hunter, there is a replica of a 19th century logging camp at the nearby Marten River Provincial Park. Just an hour further up Highway 11, there is the historic town of Cobalt, once the capital of Canada’s silver mining industry. The Cobalt Mining Museum boasts the largest display of silver in Canada. Nearby, the largest military history collection in northern Ontario is housed in “The Bunker Museum”, formerly the elegant Cobalt train station. In the summer months, rock hounds aged five and older can tour an actual early 20th century silver mine or take a self-guided walking tour called the Heritage Silver Trail around the town.
‘The Best Chicken Club in the North’
The one thing hunters, hikers, fishers, snowmobilers, ATV enthusiasts, history buffs and canoeists all have in common is that at the end of the day they all need a good meal and a clean, comfortable, affordable place to stay when they return from their day’s adventures. That’s something the Rock Pine Motel and Restaurant has been providing to generations of visitors.
“We offer all the modern amenities on nature’s doorstep,” Yvette says. “When we first took over this place we had to decide what to keep and what to change. We wanted to keep the old fashioned charm in our rooms but we upgraded them with new linens, towels, flat screen TVs and modern appliances. Our motel rooms are still available 24/7 and our restaurant is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner just like before.”
In the restaurant, Chef Garry had the same decisions to make – what to keep and what to change.”The restaurant was already famous for its clubhouse sandwich because they used a whole chicken breast, not sliced meat,” Garry says. “I decided to take it up a few notches by charbroiling the meant instead of just frying it on a grill. The improvement in flavour is fantastic.” This year I’m adding a beef clubhouse to the menu as well. The Rock House sandwiches are so big, many couples decide to split one along with a salad or soup. We always have two fresh soups available. Some of the new favourites we offer are bacon-potato, butternut squash and cabbage roll soup.”
A Landmark in the Northeast
Canoeists and fishing fans can launch their boats into Frenchman’s Bay right from the motel grounds. Nature trails connecting to thousands of acres of crown land also link to Rock Pine’s property. “Snowmobilers and ATVers also appreciate the fact that we sell gas on-site so they don’t have to pack in their own fuel,” Yvette says. There are two fire pits for guests who enjoy sitting around a campfire.
As for the Big Fish, it has become such a landmark that Yvette and Garry are thinking of holding a contest to give it an official name. “We’re working on some way to let people vote through social media. We haven’t figured out the details yet but we think it will be a fun thing to do,” Garry says.
The Rock Pine Motel is a true four season resort with something new to do every day but if you are planning to stay for one or several days at the Rock Pine Motel, it is a good idea to book a room in advance to avoid disappointment. And try to think of a good name for The Fish on your way there.