Travel: Road Trip Northeastern Ontari-ari-o
By Catherine Daley
Skip the line-ups at the airport, pack the car and hit the open road. Stop where, and when, you want, and shrug off that nonexistent timeline – there’s nothing more freeing.
I did just that this past fall, spending nights in North Bay, Tekmiskaming Shores, Cochrane, Timmins and Sudbury. It was during this time that the passing of Gord Downie was announced. At the Best Western Hotel in Cochrane, I was told by the manager that Downie often checked in, and then would board the Ontario Northland Polar Bear Express to Moosonee, where he’d write and relax. For miles of unspoiled northern environs I listened to Downie tributes on CBC – the landscape, itself, was a fitting tribute.
As you venture north during the fall months, the hardwood colours diminish and a softer colour palette prevails – eventually becoming predominately green and gold. The rich hues of evergreen trees, combined with the gilded needles of the larch and yellowing birch leaves, make for a soothing backdrop.
Plan now for a summer trip. If camping, dozens of provincial parks, endless forests, lakes and rivers are yours to explore. If you’re looking for comfort, suite-style hotel options, with kitchenettes, are plentiful and convenient.
DAYS 1 & 2
I used an old-fashioned, paper map folded to reveal my next destination. There’s something about that visual reference that makes you appreciate how far that you’ve traveled in relationship to the surrounding area.
North Bay is considered to be the gateway community to Northeastern Ontario, and is located on the traditional territory of Nipissing First Nation peoples. The name was derived from its position on the shores of Lake Nipissing, and was the site of the main canoe route west from Montreal. There was little activity in this area until the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) moved west in 1882.
Today, North Bay has a vibrant downtown core with an abundance of shops, restaurants and art studios. If you have a sweet tooth, check out the Opera Bakery Cafe. For an amazing spinach salad and pizza, place an order at Greco’s Pizza.
West of North Bay, along Highway 17, is the Duschesnay Falls and trails, where a 70-metre-high waterfall cascades down the rocky escarpment.
Two hours north of North Bay is Temiskaming Shores, which was created with the amalgamation of the towns of New Liskerard, Haileybury and the township of Dymond in 2004.
Side trips from this location include Caribou Mountain where you can climb a fire tower overlooking the village of Temagami. The Thornloe Cheese Factory is a local favourite, and Cobalt is a Parks Canada National Historic Site. Here you can visit the Mining, Firefighters and Bunker Military Museums.
DAYS 3 TO 5
It’s in Cochrane where you book a round-trip ticket on the Polar Bear Express, operated by Ontario Northland Railway. Year-round, this train transports passengers and supplies to Moosonee five days per week (with an additional train on Sunday during the summer), as there are no roads connecting the two towns.
Also located in Cochrane is the Polar Bear Habitat for orphaned and rescued bears. Tours and programs are available.
Every patriotic Canadian, who enjoys a good cup of coffee, should visit the Tim Horton Museum in Cochrane – his birthplace. A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Horton co-founded the doughnut and coffee shop chain in 1964.
Just west of Cochrane is the beautiful Rene Brunelle Provinicial Park with great fishing, two hiking trails, four sandy beaches and seasonal site rentals.
DAYS 6 TO 8
Natural resources are plentiful around the City of Timmins. From lumbering to the mining of zinc, copper, nickel, silver and gold, Timmins is the fourth largest city in the Northeastern Ontario region. Archaeologists’ research indicates that there has been human settlement in this area for at least 6,000 years.
Today, Timmins prides itself on its hospitality, and is branded as the city with a heart of gold. For fabulous fish n’ chips, try the Fishbowl Restaurant, as well as The Voyageur Dining Room at Cedar Meadows. The Cedar Meadows Resort & Spa offers special packages that include accommodation, spa treatments and nordic baths. Also at this location is the Wildlife Sanctuary, where you can get up close and personal with moose, bison, deer and elk.
Gas up before you set out for Sudbury from Timmins. There are few service stops along Highway 144, but many magnificent photo opportunities. A call of nature had me looking for a rest stop along this stretch, and it was in Gogama that I found a small diner. With a population of 277, this community looks like something from a movie set and relies heavily on eco-tourism. It’s here that you’ll find The Gogama Heritage Museum, which is housed in a Hudson Bay Company store built in 1922.
In The Tragically Hip’s song Fly, the lyrics include, “There’s Mistaken Point, Newfoundland, There’s Moonbeam Ontari-ari-o, There are places I’ve never been, And always wanted to go.”
Photography, courtesy of Northeastern Ontario Tourism