All motorcyclists battle to squeeze out a few extra seconds on their bikes. We wait for Friday like a wolf at the zoo waiting for feeding time. And when that work whistle blows and we’re freed from the shackles of a paycheck, we can’t get our butts in those moto-saddles fast enough and embrace our inner weekend warrior. There are places however where a weekend is not enough—where the riding is so good, the roads so sweet, and the air a bit too crisp. Northeastern Ontario is one of those places. Make no mistake, you’ll have a blast for a weekend, but give it a week and you’ll fall into mad love.
This is less of a petition for you to go ride up North, and more of the old guy at the bar that leans over at the end of the night and whispers one of life’s secrets into your ear. You remember it for the rest of your life. Slow down, take the time, get lost, and embrace all that this area has to give you.
Toronto to North Bay
My seven-day adventure to Northeastern Ontario started from our launch pad at the Toronto Holiday Inn. We feasted on poutine—I live in the U.S. so I had a desperate craving—and our bartender Daryl kept the cold, local Steam Whistle beer coming. Sufficiently full and after a great night of sleep in cushy rooms, we shot out the next morning to North Bay.
Everyone in Toronto had the same idea and we spent our first day of riding in fairly heavy traffic. Add to that “lake effect” rain for most of our 350 km up ON-400 and ON-11. Thank the Lord for built-in hand warmers. Once we got closer to North Bay the roads started to clear. This rainy ride was a down payment to the motorcycle gods for what would be an awe-inspiring week.
Once in North Bay, we checked our soggy selves into the exceedingly accommodating Clarion Resort Pinewood Park (now the Ramada Pinewood Park Resort) and dumped our stuff in the “Pink Room.” That’s right, the room is pink. The hotel gives a portion of this room’s cost directly to a charity to combat breast cancer. You should do the same so we can keep evolving the motorcycle-outlaw-with-a-heart-of-gold stereotype.
Our reward for all that rain-drenched riding was catching dinner at my favourite pub of the trip, The Crown and Beaver Pub in North Bay. This place has an amazing selection of small batch draft beer, top-notch food, and friendly service. I had ridiculously good Muskoka Brewery Cream Ale while my riding buddy had an equally good Spark House Red Ale. Good local beers = happy travellers. The chorizo mac’ n cheese didn’t hurt either.
North Bay to Temiskaming Shores
The next day we saddled up on our BMW adventure motorcycles, a F800 GS and a F650 GS, and continued north to Temiskaming Shores. During the 150 km north on ON-11, the hundreds of beautiful Ontario lakes became more prominent. The weekend traffic dissipated and the rain gave way to sun. The real riding was just beginning. The route to Temiskaming went quick, but it’s not the ride to Temiskaming that’s the treat, it’s the ride around it.
We dropped our gear in our room at the Waterfront Inn that sits on the beach of Lake Temiskaming. What an absolutely beautiful view of the Lake and its islands! We hopped back on our now much lighter bikes and started exploring the over 400 km of ATV trails and dirt roads surrounding the lake. Our adventure bikes allowed us to continue the adventure where the pavement ended and gave way to big dumb grins under helmets.
I strongly recommend bringing a motorcycle with off-road capabilities to Northeastern Ontario. You will no doubt have some incredible riding on the paved roads, but your mind will be blown once you discover what the dirt roads and trails have to offer when you are cruising even deeper into Canadian wilderness.
One dirt road lead us down to a campground, which lead to a short hike to the infamous Devil’s Rock. Having explored Ontario extensively, I can honestly say this is one of the most impressive natural sites not just in Ontario, but in Canada. Devil’s Rock is a massive rigid cliff face that looms like a giant a few hundred meters over the edge of Lake Temiskaming.
After soaking in the jaw-dropping Devil’s Rock, we headed back to the Waterfront Inn. Once at the Inn we ate dinner on the back deck of the hotel restaurant with an epic view of the sun setting on the lake and the full moon rising over it. After a day of stunning views and dirty riding, we packed up the next morning re-energized and headed further north to Cochrane.
Temiskaming Shores to Cochrane
As good as the dirt roads around Temiskaming were, the paved roads up to Cochrane were better. This is the moment I realized a weekend in Northeastern Ontario would never be enough. By having more time to roam, we abandoned all direct routes up to Cochrane and followed the side roads recommended by the wise Ontario moto-expert Mike Jacobs of WhataRide247.com.
North of Temiskaming, you officially need to be paying attention to your gas gauge—having a jerry can isn’t a bad idea because petrol stations will be scarcer. You’ll start hitting nearly 100 km stretches with no gas options. However, this desolation means you get to eat up incredible roads all by your lucky self.
Roads That Dreams are Made Of
King’s Highway 65 north was first on the menu for the day. With almost zero road traffic and long, lonesome straightaways, this was a fantastic first opportunity to let our bikes off the leash and really eat up the lush scenery of the surrounding forests and lakes.
Next was a curvy lass named Highway 66 east. After a first course of straightaways on 65, 66 was happy to dish out plentiful twisties. If catching leans on turns around gorgeous deep jade forests turns your crank then look no further than Highway 66. It definitely gave me flashbacks of the infamous Tail of the Dragon back in the States, except this time the road was all mine.
For the main course we hit one of the best roads I’ve ever ridden in North America—highway 672 north through the Esker Lakes Provincial Park. Forget about seeing any other traffic—this road feels like you called in a reservation. 672 is the total package, a road that really has it all, and a road you would have never found on a weekend trip. Spontaneous sexy curves, downhill straightaways that feel like they’ll never end, and rolling hills revealing innumerable amounts of unreal scenery.
There aren’t many catches on a road this good, but I will advise you to watch out for some sandy corners and bears. Highway 672 puts you pretty much in the middle of nowhere wilderness, so this is not the place you want to get greedy and go horizontal and eat it on a curve. Additionally, during a photo op we had to make a quick exit when a nosey bear started wandering up to our camera equipment. PS: seeing bears in the wild is a phenomenal rush.
Once we reached the end of the dream known as 672, we cut northwest on 101 and then west on Highway 11 where we saw familiar creatures known as humans again. Huge lumberjack statues, ancient steam powered trains, and an abundance of beautiful lakes kept the final stretch to Cochrane entertaining.