Popular travel guide Lonely Planet once painted a less than perfect picture of Northern Ontario cities. According to the CBC, the well-known travel guide’s scathing reviews of North Bay, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, and Wawa include depictions such as “dreary,” “middle of nowhere,” “sketchy,” and “winters out of a Siberian nightmare.” Residents, local councillors, and commenters were quick to jump to the north’s defence, noting that Lonely Planet failed to seek out the hidden gems of Northern Ontario, and should reconsider what the region’s immaculate wilderness has to offer—and we agree. Here are our top five reasons to love Northern Ontario:
1. Its abundance of lakes and rivers
There are plenty of them. Northwestern Ontario is an angler’s paradise. Whether you’re looking to catch that trophy pike or your first brook trout, lakes and rivers dominate much of the Northern Ontario landscape. Some notable fishing holes include Sutton River in the Algoma District of the Hudson Bay lowlands and St. Mary’s Rapids located in the heart of Sault Ste. Marie. If fishing isn’t your thing, you can busy yourself with white water canoeing, kayaking, swimming, snorkeling or scuba diving. Try paddling down the Agawa River or sea kayaking in Georgian Bay.
2. It’s the perfect place for outdoor adventures
If you’re more of a land person and prefer exploring terrain, Northern Ontario has an assortment of tours, hikes, trails, and packages designed to get you out there and discovering the region’s gorgeous landscape. A couple of noteworthy urban trail systems include the Rainbow Routes near Sudbury, and the Discovery Routes near North Bay and surrounding area. Both systems feature trails that allow you to hike, rollerblade, cycle, snowshoe or cross-country ski in spectacular natural landscapes.
3. Its rich Aboriginal art community
There’s no doubt the area’s natural environment influences and inspires people, so discover and support Canadian Aboriginal artists. Explore Thunder Bay’s rich art community, full of painters, sculptors, weavers, potters, glassmakers, textile artists, and more. The city houses a number of art galleries including the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, the dramatic Kleewyk Stained Glass Studio and Ahnisnabae Art Gallery. You are sure to find the perfect conversation piece for your home.
4. The opportunity to see the Northern Lights
The province’s long winter nights provide ample opportunity for viewing the Aurora Borealis. Catch the fantastic colours and vibrant streaks in an unobstructed sky where you can gaze at the dancing hues for hours on end. Canadian Geographic magazine recommends visiting Cree Village Ecolodge in Moose Factory to take in the breathtaking Northern Lights at night, after you’ve spent the day learning about Cree culture. There are plenty of other options too: book a wilderness canoe trip in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park or head for a drive through Sunset Country and enjoy the show.
5. The record-breaking roadside attractions
Driving for long stretches may not be ideal and eventually open rockface all looks the same, but if you’re looking for kitschy fun, there are plenty of oversized roadside attractions to keep an eye out for. Wawa’s 27-foot-tall goose weighs in at 150,000 pounds and sits at the junction of Highway 17 and 101, encouraging travellers to stop in the tiny township. Outside Sudbury is The Big Nickel, approximately 64 million times the size of a regular nickel. Further along Highway 17 is Echo Bay, home to The Giant Loonie. The village of Moonbeam boasts an enormous flying saucer next to its information centre and towering wooden statues of lumberjacks, explorers and pioneers can be found in Mattawa.