A one-day trip to Potholes Provincial Park and back turned into a full-day road trip on the Grand Algoma Route. That’s the fun of a road trip, you don’t have to plan much in advance; it’s fun to just go.
Sault Ste. Marie to Wawa
Born and raised in the area, I’ve seen many of the sites between Sault Ste. Marie to Wawa at various times. My husband and I started our trip in Sault Ste. Marie but you can start this self-guided tour anywhere on the route. While we did the entire loop in one day, I really do recommend you take 2 days at a leisurely pace because there are lots of things to see and do and explore.
We left early in the morning after breakfast with plans to have lunch on the road and chose to fuel up before leaving the city. There are lots of great breakfast places in Sault Ste. Marie, from a full, sit-down meal to something quick and light. Heading north on Hwy 17, the landscape becomes mountains and thick green trees almost instantly. As the road winds through the area, it also begins to rise and fall; you’ll even get your first glimpses of Lake Superior.
Local Beach Spot: Harmony Beach, Havilland Bay
Food: Northwinds Restaurant, Granny’s Fish & Chips
Fuel Notes: Timberland General Store
One of the first roadside scenic attractions on the route is Chippewa Falls. There’s parking, restrooms and a viewing bridge. You can hike along the side of the falls and venture out onto the rocks. The best time of year to view this waterfall is Spring when it’s roaring with water from the thaw.
(Photo credit: Virgil Knapp)
The next places to stop are Batchawana Bay and Pancake Bay.
Local Beach Spot: Batchawana Bay Provincial Park, Pancake Bay Provincial Park
Food: Voyageurs’ Lodge & Cookhouse, Agawa Crafts and the Canadian Carver, Agawa Fish and Chips
Fuel Notes: Voyageurs’ Lodge & Cookhouse, Agawa Crafts and the Canadian Carver
We stopped at Pancake Bay Provincial Park to buy a park day pass which allowed us to access to the park, Lake Superior Provincial Park and Potholes Provincial Park. We also wanted to see the Group of Seven interpretive panel that is located here and took a walk on the beach.
If you want to do some hiking the Pancake Bay Nature Trail, located next to the campground, is easy and takes about 1 to 2. The trail leads through a wetland, there’s a boardwalk and interpretive signs along the trail. A longer, moderate hike is The Lookout Trail about 5 to 7 hours across the street from the park. From the lookout, you see across to Whitefish Point. This stretch of Lake Superior is known as the graveyard of the Great Lakes where the famed Edmund Fitzgerald sunk in 1975.
Back on Hwy 17, we continued north, winding up the coast where the views become more spectacular with every turn.
Scenic Lookouts: Alona Bay and Agawa Bay (watch for signs)
Learn the power of Lake Superior at the Agawa Bay Visitor Centre through exhibits, visit the gift shop for locally made products/arts/crafts and Ontario Parks swag. The trail to the Agawa Rock Pictographs is located and the hike takes 30 mins to 1 hour to the rock ledge on Superior. The red ochre Pictographs are the place where generations of Ojibwe recorded dreams and spirits; an interpretive panel provides more information. This sacred site is a must-visit.
Scenic Spots and Attractions: Katherine Cove, Sand River waterfalls, Old Woman Bay
Once in Wawa, our first stop was to visit the Goose Monument and the information centre. The Wawa Goose has been welcoming visitors to the area since the 1960s.
Nearby, the Heritage Doors tell stories of influential people from the area, there’s a playground for kids, a gift shop and locally found artifacts on display in the centre. Wawa has a rich mining history and you can experience what it was like to pan for gold many years ago. If you’ve got the time, pan for gems and fossils!
The cost is $5.65 and you get a bag of sand with hidden gems and an identification card. (Photo credit: Wawa Information Centre)
Just like the miners did, dump the sand into the mining screen and shake it in the water trough and watch the gems appear on the screen!
We needed a Tim Horton’s fix so it was time to get a coffee. And the best place to enjoy it was Lion’s Beach on Wawa Lake.
Local Beach Spot: Lion’s Beach, Sandy Beach (a favourite spot for notables like the Group of Seven painter A.Y. Jackson and pianist Glenn Gould; visit the Story Telling Pavilion to learn about the area’s Indigenous history and culture)
Scenic Spots and Attractions: Scenic High Falls
Food: Best Northern Restaurant, Kinniwabi Pines, Lai’s Restaurant, End of the Line (vegetarian)
Seeing Lake Superior and going to the beach is one thing but being on Lake Superior is another experience altogether. If you’re looking to get out on the water, Naturally Superior Adventures offers Half-Day Kayak and Canoe Basics, or Learn to Stand Up Paddle: www.naturallysuperior.com
(Photo credit: Rob Stimpson Photography)
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