Ever think about packing up your car and hitting the wide open road for unexpected adventures? That’s exactly what I did when I relocated to Northeastern Ontario. I’ve lived in a handful of places, been to over 30 countries, backpacked my way around the world, but never had I packed only what I could fit into my car and hit the road for new experiences—until now.
Road tripping is one of the most authentic forms of travel—if you can be so daring as to not plan your journey in advance. With no set agenda in mind, you can be spontaneous in your explorations, while stopping when you like, where you like, and for as long as you like. Touring by land is not only economical, it provides travellers more than they bargained for with unexpected free activities, one of a kind experiences, unique landmarks, and breathtaking natural wonders along the way.
My time in Northeastern Ontario has been one road after another from exploring cities, meeting furry friends, and getting down to earth with Mother Nature. Exploring within one’s country doesn’t have to be an extreme and grand expedition; the simplest experiences are the ones you and your travel companions will remember!
With endless things to see and do in Northeastern Ontario, it’s hard to know where to begin when constructing your road trip bucket list. Each item you complete will be replaced with another must-do experience. Northeastern Ontario is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, yet it is also an area rich in culture unique to each quaint village, town, and city, while offering historical landmarks that will make any history buff go crazy. From storytelling with friendly locals, paddling down rivers only locals know about, to seeing out of this world views from the most unexpected places, be sure to add one or more of these northern landmarks and destinations to your top-ten-list.
Big Nickel, Sudbury
A road trip in Northeastern Ontario isn’t complete without a visit to Sudbury’s 13 ton big nickel—the largest coin in the world. The 30 foot twelve-sided replica of a 1951 Canadian nickel celebrates the wealth Sudbury has contributed to the Canadian economy. The gigantic nickel is supported by rocks, stones, and minerals mined in the Sudbury Basin.
Hockey Heritage North, Kirkland Lake
Be sure to stop at the North’s very own hockey hall of fame! Who would have guessed that the famous NHL Montreal Canadiens player Ralf Backstrom is from Kirkland Lake with one of his original jerseys resting at Hockey Heritage North? The newly renovated museum and state-of-the-art convention and exhibition center tells the story of ice hockey in North America, while honouring the history of hockey in the north and its famous players.
Arctic Watershed, Highway 11
Along the way, stop at the Atlantic and Arctic Watershed on Highway 11 in Sesekinika to grab a selfie at an elevation of 318 meters. Did you know that when driving northbound past the Arctic Watershed, all waters flow north into the Arctic Ocean, yet if driving southbound, all waters flow south to the Atlantic Ocean?
Dream Acres Alpacas, Matheson
Next up is Dream Acres Alpacas where you can meet new furry friends and walk an alpaca in Ontario’s beautiful boreal forest. Why not grab some cozy earth-friendly alpaca wool winter gear at their onsite boutique to keep you toasty warm in the frigid temperatures.
Hersey Lake Conservation Area, Timmins
Hersey Lake Conservation Area is a year-round unique recreational facility located in the magnificent Jack Pines Forest just north of Timmins. The variety of outdoor and leisurely activities available to nature lovers makes it the perfect road trip destination. Whether you want to sit by one of the numerous lakes, bird watch, or snowshoe or hike one of the many trails in the 560 acres area, Hersey has it all.
Cedar Meadows Resort & Spa, Timmins
Need a break from the road? Escape the urban center at the 175 acre resort, spa, and wildlife park. Cedar Meadows is known for its impressive lodging, exquisite food, scenery, and majestic animals, yet it is conveniently located minutes from downtown Timmins. Regardless if it’s the suites, chalets, Nordic spa, food, or outdoor environment calling your name, Cedar Meadows will nourish your wandering soul and allow you to “…experience and feel nature the way it is intended to be”.
If adventure travel is on your bucket list, and you’re travelling during the warmer months, then let WildExodus put together an individually tailored custom tour highlighting the area’s best locally produced meals, outdoor experiences, and accommodations. Get out and eat local wild cuisine, glamp in the Boreal Forest, camp at Wawaitin Holiday Park, fish the majestic waterways, cruise the Kenogamissi, kayak Grassy River, canoe the Mattagami Water Shed, hike to High Falls, explore Wawaitin Falls, and end your day with a boreal bonfire. Make your dreams come true and experience nature your way.
Polar Bear Statue and Cochrane Railway Station, Cochrane
For a truly northern Canadian experience, visit Chimo the Polar Bear, Cochrane’s mascot and the Cochrane Railway Station in Cochrane. Touch a polar bear, catch a glimpse of the Polar Bear Express train, and jump aboard a vintage train for the opportunity to get some iconic pictures.
Polar Bear Habitat & Vintage Snowmobile Museum, Cochrane
As crazy as it sounds, seeing a polar bear up close while it’s swimming or enjoying a snack is a must. The Polar Bear Habitat and Vintage Snowmobile Museum offers travelers of any age the exclusive opportunity to observe distinctive northern machines and creatures at this intriguing tourist destination. It can’t get more Canadian then posing by an antique skidoo after coming face to face with a nearly 1,000 pound polar bear.
Northern Spirit Adventures
Before your journey comes to an end, be sure to incorporate a Northern Spirit Adventures expedition into your itinerary. Head off to faraway places like the Abitibi Canyons, New Post Falls, and the James Bay on a snowmobile to discover Ontario like you’ve never seen before. Travel in a 34 or 25 foot traditional voyageur canoe with an experienced guide to visit remote areas and see out of this world scenery, while learning about its history, environment, animals, and waterways. Story-tell, bird watch, and photograph your way through the best in the region.
There is no greater freedom then packing up your car, hitting the wide open road, and driving ahead with no specific destination in mind. Open your window, let the brisk winter air in to awaken the journey that lies before you, and let go of all expectations! With more than just forests and lakes, Northeastern Ontario’s hidden gems are waiting to be discovered on your road trip of a lifetime and won’t disappoint. Regardless of what type of traveler you are, if you are travelling locally or a bit further from your home, this region has something for you from rural, urban, and historic, to cultural attractions.
Where will you start?