We were welcomed into Cochrane by a giant polar bear statue and worked our way to the Best Western Swan Castle Inn. I was a little disappointed not to see a swan-shaped castle, but this Best Western was still an extremely comfortable and accommodating place to crash. We asked the friendly staff at the hotel about the massive polar bear we saw on our way into town and they told us about the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat. It is a preserve for polar bears and contains an unbelievable section of the habitat where you can sometimes literally swim next to polar bears in a pool separated from them by a few inches of glass, or see them playing in their enclosures. You’ve got to check out the pictures online to believe it. (Keep in mind that the Polar Bears are free to choose which enclosure they want to be in, and they may not be in their pools at the time of your visit.)
After some tasty burgers with locals at The Ice Hut restaurant, we headed back to our luscious beds to sleep off another great day of riding.
The next morning, we headed northwest on ON-11 towards Kapuskasing. After a short distance we caught a planned detour due north on 634—basically a logging road—towards the “town” of Fraserdale. Fraserdale wasn’t really what I would call a town as it only consisted of a gigantic hydroelectric dam and what looked like an abandoned railway station.
This is one of the things that makes riding this far north in Ontario such a blast: It’s these dirt roads and paved logging roads that basically take you into the middle of dense Canadian wilderness where you find really cool hydroelectric dams, immense logging operations, and colossal gold mining industry. These are things you would never otherwise see in your life and it turns into a mini-adventure, like ours to Fraserdale.
If you head to Fraserdale you will absolutely need extra petrol cans of some sort on your bike—it’s 75km to get there, another 75km to get back, and any extra exploring you might do. The long empty roads to Fraserdale are walled in on both sides by dense, endless, dark emerald forest. I named this stretch of 634 “The Hall of Trees.” In the magnificent 75km north, I saw maybe two logging trucks.
Once in Fraserdale, there is a crossroads and a decision to make. Head right at the intersection and there’s a massive hydroelectric dam a kilometer down the road that you can actually drive on top of, which we did. Head left (which we also did) a few kilometers and there is cool seemingly abandoned railway station. You will need an adventure motorcycle to navigate the rough dirt roads back to this site. Lastly, you can head straight at the intersection. This is the true adventure route. The road becomes rough dirt and gravel and eventually becomes a private road with public access. This road goes on a loop west through raw wilderness and down back on Highway 11 in Kapuskasing 200km later. That makes your trip up 634, around the private road and back down to 11 roughly 300km. While it is unreal riding, it is also very technical riding. It is reminiscent of off-road riding you might find in Moab or Colorado in the U.S. We headed about 20km on this road and realized we were in over our heads. You absolutely have to have knobby tires if you intend to do this route. Without knobby tires and with bikes full of gear we realized an accident out here would mean trouble with no support or hope of seeing anyone but bears. Not exactly ideal.
With our egos in check, we headed back south the way we came on 634 to Smooth Rock Falls (just as amazing in the other direction). We made a turn west on 11 and, after short ride past Moonbeam and their whacky but awesome U.F.O. monument, we arrived to our destination at the Kapuskasing Super 8.
Super 8 motels in the U.S. are usually pretty spartan economical motels without too much extra to offer. This Super 8 was truly one of the nicest I have ever stayed at. I caught a quick workout in their gym and then relaxed in their exceptional hot tub. After a good soak we headed to a local dining spot called Papa Franco’s and got a couple of delicious pizzas made in their Italian-style ceramic pizza oven. To quote Ice Cube: “I had to say it was a good day.”
After a great nights rest we finally entered the southern half of our loop in Northeastern Ontario. This ride would be the longest stretch of our trip. After a quick stop in Driftwood we headed direct south on 655 past Timmins. On 144 South we were in for some long-distance cruising. Think Easy Rider but with endless lakes, streams, islands, and countryside. Below Timmins, towns and gas stations will once again become scarce so stop for gas at the station on Highway 144 and 560. Outside Sudbury, stop at the beautiful Onaping Falls. It’s a convenient pull off to stretch your legs and take a few pictures of the stunning Onaping Falls.
After dominating some serious distance, we checked into The Travelway Inn and we were ready for some grub. Lucky for us we found The Laughing Buddha. This place had some tasty eclectic pizzas and a lively patio. All the motorcycles out front made it clear that this was the right choice. A stones throw away we got some beers at legendary local watering hole, The Townehouse. Along with a great drink selection, the Townehouse has live music nearly every night, hosting every type of music from jazz, blues, rock and goth. Obviously this makes for some excellent people watching.
After a lively night in Sudbury, we kept on southwest 17 to Highway 6. We twisted and curved our way past gorgeous lake after gorgeous lake all the way down to South Baymouth to hitch a ride on the Chi-Cheemaun ferry to Tobermory.
You’ll want to make reservations ahead of time for the Chi-Cheemaun ferry, and check out the schedule to make sure you don’t get stuck waiting hours for the next one. On the bright side if you do get stuck with a few hours to kill you can explore the twisties, endless hills, scattered waterfalls, and Lake Huron scenery of the First Nations island of Manitoulin. We actually scheduled to take our ferry late so we could spend as much time on the variety of island roads as possible. By the time the ferry came we already considered that we needed one more day on Manitoulin.
The Chi-Cheemaun Ferry is an exceptional experience for motorcyclists—you’re the first ones on and off the ferry. Expect nothing but relaxing down time with tremendous views of Lake Huron while on the two-hour ferry ride. It’s a nice break from the seat of a motorcycle after six days of riding.
When we pulled into harbor and rolled off the ferry, we stayed on south 6 down through the Bruce Peninsula with striking cliff views along the lake all around us.
In Wiarton, we satisfied our hunger at Dockside Willies. Going along with the theme of scenic places by a lake, we stayed the night at the cozy Waterview On The Bay Hotel.
Our final leg of the ride began the next morning as we set out for Toronto. Without any worry of scarce petrol, we were able to get in some laid-back cruising on 10 south through fields of wild flowers, farmland, and titanic wind turbines. It was a smooth finish to an unreal week of riding.
Back in the big city and off the bikes, we had a minute to digest all that we had seen and conquered. We thought about all the side roads, logging roads, ATV trails, and dirt roads we wandered onto along the way. We pondered the side highways, the perfectly paved roads past bears, and the straightaways in the middle of nowhere we thought would never end. Sure, you could taste this in a weekend, but wouldn’t your rather spend a week and relish in all the glory that is Northeastern Ontario?
There is a lot of adventure out there waiting for you friends. Don’t let a short weekend keep you from finding it.