The best day trips and wilderness tours in Algoma
The geography of Ontario’s Algoma Country is defined by the Great Lakes. The rugged coastlines of Lake Superior and Huron comprise the region’s southern boundary. A closer look at the map reveals an intriguing shoreline of scalloped bays, smooth rock islands, sand beaches and stalwart rock headlands: In short, a sea kayaker’s dreamscape. The coastline will blow your mind—but it also demands caution: dress for the water temperature, paddle within your limits and be sure your kayak is equipped with Canadian Coast Guard safety regulations. Better yet, sign up for a guided trip for a more immersive experience.
I’ve been guiding sea kayak tours on Lake Huron and Lake Superior for over two decades. After countless days spent on Algoma’s vast freshwater shores, I still can’t get enough of the wilderness and solitude. Here are six of my favourite adventures.
#1 Pancake Bay Provincial Park Day Trip
This popular front-country campground is located about an hour’s drive north of Sault Ste. Marie on Trans-Canada Highway 17 is best known for its gorgeous beach. Pancake Bay is also a great place to go kayaking. On a calm day, recreational paddlers can trace the three-kilometre-long beach, imagining the brigades of voyageurs who once rested here during the days of the Canadian fur trade. More adventurous sea kayakers can make a one-way journey north to Sawpit Bay and Coppermine Point, getting a glimpse of the impressive glacial geology that makes up most of Lake Superior’s north shore. Vehicle shuttles can be arranged through Forest The Canoe.
#2 Mississagi Delta Overnighter
The North Channel of Lake Huron is often overlooked by sea kayakers in favour of other, more crowded destinations like Georgian Bay. That’s a shame—and a benefit for intrepid paddlers willing to get off the beaten track. The scenic archipelago at the mouth of the Mississagi River provides a great example of the North Channel’s charms. You’ll find a public launch at Beharriell Park off Dean Lake Road, accessed from Highway 17 between Iron Bridge and Blind River. Investigate the narrow channels between the polished granite of the Burton Islands, just west of the launch. If your skills are up to the challenge, make the two-kilometre crossing to the French Islands near the mouth of the Mississagi River. You’ll find a specular sand campsite on the west side of Tonty Island, with perfect exposure to catch the sunset.
#3 Lake Superior Provincial Park Multiday
I can’t get enough of the diverse shoreline of Lake Superior Provincial Park, located in the heart of Algoma Country between Sault Ste. Marie and Wawa. The best way to get a taste of this wild coastline is to plan a three- to four-day, out-and-back trip from Katherine Cove to Gargantua (you could also arrange a vehicle shuttle for a one-way trip). The sounds of the Trans Canada Highway disappear as you paddle north. You’ll find stunning beach campsites at Baldhead River, Beatty Cove and Rhyolite Cove, with more sand, backcountry camping and mind-blowing scenery at Gargantua; park permits and backcountry camping reservations are necessary. The Rhyolite Cove reveals Lake Superior’s geological history, marking a contact zone (and one billion-year time gap) between the volcanic and igneous rock. Meanwhile, the Gargantua area (pronounced “Gar-gan-twa”) remains a spiritual centre for Indigenous people. This trip is best for intermediate to advanced sea kayakers with wilderness paddling experience. Consider a guided trip with Wawa’s Naturally Superior Adventures if you’re at all concerned about your skillset.
#4 Overnight on Mijinemungshing Lake
This sprawling, island-pocked lake in the interior of Lake Superior Provincial Park, about 40 minutes south of Wawa, is a popular destination for canoeists—but there’s no reason it can’t be enjoyed by kayakers, too. “Mijin” offers great fishing for lake trout and brook trout, ancient white pine, serene island campsites and the opportunity to spot wildlife including moose and loons. Park permits and backcountry camping reservations are required. You’ll find plenty of shorelines to explore as well as relatively sheltered water, making it a great destination for recreational kayakers and novices.
#5 Turnbull Islands Weekend
Among the best places to paddle on Lake Huron, the Turnbull Islands are a hidden gem. This donut-shaped archipelago is located in the North Channel, just east of Blind River. You’ll find a public launch with overnight parking just off Highway 17 in Algoma Mills, on Highway 538. This destination is best for intermediate to advanced sea kayakers with open water skills; the journey begins with a crossing to Sanford Island, where you’ll find more sheltered conditions. This area is undeveloped but you’ll find several primitive campsites, including a beautiful gravel beach on the north side of Caroline Island that makes a fantastic base for a weekend trip.
#6 St. Joseph Island Day Trip
Located 45 minutes east of Sault Ste. Marie, St. Joseph Island is an Algoma gem, noted for its outstanding bicycle touring, maple syrup and laid-back vibe. It’s also a great place to go paddling, with several options for day trips. My trip favourite begins at the picnic area on the north side of the island bridge, off Highway 548. Watch for boat traffic and be mindful of the current beneath the bridge; to be safe you’re best to trace the mainland shore east and use a series of islands as a handrail to reach Campement D’Ours Island. The eight-kilometre circumnavigation of this island includes tall pines, narrow channels, sand beaches and rocky shores, as well as glimpses of North Channel lighthouses.
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