Touring Ontario: Algoma Country

Roads Less Travelled

story by Dustin Woods, Photograph by Robert Stimpson, Created Apr. 22, 2009
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While there are many fair-weather motorcyclists who are content to tear up the same local tarmac week after week, there are others who constantly gaze towards the horizon, searching out new roads that will prove more picturesque and challenging than those outside their front door. Thousands of astoundingly beautiful, scenic routes across this great continent await those who are willing to take the time to search them out. After all, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

One such riding destination exists between Lakes Huron and Superior known as Algoma Country. Millions of years ago, during the Precambrian era, a multitude of lakes and rivers were carved out of the earth, creating unique rock formations and stunning views amidst the landscape. Much of this incredibly diverse and distinctive geographical entity remains virtually untouched, allowing a co-existence with nature unseen in most of the world. A total of 11 National parks as well as nature and wildlife preserves span this landscape where it is not uncommon to come across foxes, deer, hawks, moose or beavers during a ride. This isn’t just tourism department PR either, as I was fortunate enough to come across much of the aforementioned wildlife firsthand during my brief experience in the area. Lacking in gridlock, road rage and even streetlights for the most part, this area has become a playground for nature and motorcycle enthusiasts alike.

Much of this incredibly diverse and distinctive geographical entity remains virtually untouched, allowing a co-existence with nature unseen in most of the world.

There are many reasons why riders may avoid venturing too far from home; kids, pets, work obligations, or even the belief that they will have to ‘rough it’ while on the road. While enduring the lack of cleanliness in truck stop restrooms is something that is difficult to avoid during long road trips away from metropolitan centers, a variety of options are available for lodging in Algoma Country. Whether you want to experience the pristine wilderness firsthand by camping under the stars or enjoy the indulgence of a pool, hot shower, wireless Internet and satellite television, you are likely to find accommodations that suit your needs. You won’t find a Ritz Carlton for hundreds of miles, but you won’t find the exorbitant cost or pretension that often comes with such luxury hotels either. Friendly, down to earth locals offer unsurpassed northern hospitality to the point where it is not uncommon for proprietors to open up their own homes to complete strangers when their motels are filled to the brim during high season.

Picturesque waterfalls and creeks are a common sight in Northern Ontario.

An active gateway to the north, Algoma Country also offers access to eco-adventures, canoeing, kayaking and some of the finest fishing lodges in the world – that is if you ever want to get off your bike. For riders who wish to combine their two-wheeled touring with sight-seeing or outdoor adventures, there are many great places to be found. Whether you want to wait out a thunderstorm for a day or just indulge your inner tourist, Algoma Country also has many activities no matter what your interest.

The Algoma Central Railway offers year-round tours through 22,000 square miles of wilderness, including the world’s largest natural wildlife game preserve and the Agawa Canyon. Passengers witness some of the most scenic, pristine wilderness in the world, all from the cabin of a comfortable train car with picture windows. After arriving in Sault Ste. Marie (pretty much everybody calls it ‘the Soo’) following an eight hour bike ride, I decided to give my butt a break by stopping by the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre. Home to antique and historic aircraft, interactive displays and simulators, the Heritage Centre spans 25,000 square feet and can easily occupy hours of your time while waiting for rain to pass or fog to lift.

Boasted as one of the top ten drives in all of Canada, the trip from Sault Ste. Marie to Wawa Ontario follows the coastline of Lake Superior along Highway 17.

Having only a couple of days to spare in the area, we decided to tackle the Grand Circle Tour, although there are many options for routes depending on how much time you have. We ventured out from Algoma’s Water Tower Inn where we stayed in downtown Sault Ste. Marie. While travelling by motorcycle can create a multitude of hassles when it comes to washing, storage and safety, the Water Tower Inn is no stranger to motorsport enthusiasts all year round. Located behind the grand hotel is a locking, secure storage and maintenance facility to keep machines away from the elements as well as prying eyes. Ditto for the Lakeview Hotel in Wawa.

Boasted as one of the top ten drives in all of Canada, the trip from Sault Ste. Marie to Wawa, Ontario follows the coastline of Lake Superior along Highway 17. No two turns are the same with each one offering a new view of the great lake. Our scenic afternoon ride to Wawa (yes, we saw the giant goose) was broken up by lunch at The Voyageurs` Lodge and Cookhouse, as well as a few stops for photo opportunities and restroom facilities. After parking the bikes directly outside our private cabins at the Wawa Motor Inn, we changed out of our riding gear and headed off to the Best Northern Resort for a truly memorable meal.

Bright and early the next morning, we topped ourselves up with Tim Horton’s coffee and our bikes with gas to set out on a totally different day of riding from the day before. Where Highway 17 boasts wide open views of Lake Superior, Highway 101 towards Chapleau darts inland providing tighter turns and an equally impressive backdrop with sparkling rivers and mountain ranges. After topping up the bikes and ourselves in Chapleau, we set off down Highway 129 back towards the Soo, stopping first in Bruce Mines and then St. Joseph Island. The most western of the Manitoulin Islands, St. Joseph Island resides within the channel between Lakes Huron and Superior and offers a combination of majestic views and small town hospitality. Home to one of the Friday the 13th destinations, the Hilton Beach Inn is often a favored destination for bikers of all kinds.

Soaking in the view of Lake Superior from a lookout point.

Regardless of whether you are just starting out on two wheels or are a seasoned veteran, the stunning landscape and smooth roads of Algoma Country will keep you entertained for as much time as you have to invest. The motorcycle-friendly accommodations offer high value with surprisingly little expense, which makes the trip all the more worthwhile during these difficult economic times. So this summer, instead of doing the same old loop week in and week out, head up to Algoma Country for a change of scenery - you won’t be disappointed.

Travel Distances to Algoma Country (Miles)
  Toronto London Ottawa Grand Rapids Detroit Wisconsin
Sault Ste. Marie 429 522 494 183 215 233
Wawa 565 658 630 272 304 322
Chapleau 490 584 559 303 335 352
Blind River 342 435 407 237 270 288
Elliot Lake 283 429 404 259 292 310

Below is a list of web addresses where people interested in visiting Algoma Country can visit.
http://www.gorideontario.com/
http://www.algomacountry.com/
http://www.ontariomotorcycletouring.com/

Plus, the places we stayed....
http://www.wawa.cc/
http://www.watertowerinn.com/
http://www.voyageurslodge.com/
http://www.wawamotorinn.com/
http://www.bestnorthern.ca/
http://www.hiltonbeachinn.com/

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