Although the Grand Algoma Tour can be completed in 1 day, we recommend 2 days, or even extending to a third day as there are lots of things to see and do on the route. Find out why in the Final Part 3 of the blog series!
Highway 17 East is a stretch of highway is one that I joke about being to “drive with my eyes closed”. I travel this section of highway a lot, so many places are familiar to me, locations and stops ingrained in my mind.
Coming down to the end of Highway 129, we did see wildlife. We literally stopped the vehicle dead in its tracks because a young black bear was crossing the road! When traveling the route, especially early morning and early evening, be on the look out for animals. (The bear safely crossed the road and we took his picture from inside the car.)
Thessalon to Sault Ste. Marie and Everything in Between
On this portion of the Grand Algoma Tour you’ll find communities, restaurants, shops and interesting attractions, as well as awesome views and opportunities to enjoy the North Channel of Lake Huron.
In A Road Trip Around the Grand Algoma Tour Part 2, I mentioned visiting the Heritage Park Museum (open July & August annually) and visit the Little Rapids General Store located on the 129. The next community on the route is Thessalon, a pretty waterfront community that enjoys excellent boating in the North Channel of Lake Huron and of course, fishing.
Five Things to Do in Thessalon and Area:
1. Enjoy the park-like setting of the Marina and have a picnic on Frost Island
2. Go to the beach on Lakeside Drive
3. Visit the shops
4. Hike on the Voyageur Trail
5. Take a side trip and see the Cordukes/Weber Barn in Sowerby
Food: Carolyn Beach Inn & Restaurant, Sinton Tavern and Restaurant, Sunset Beach Family Restaurant
Shopping: Barb’s Embroidery, Creative Basket, Forestland Clothing & Gifts, Stedman’s V&S Department Store, Main Street Pharmacy (giftware), Sowerby Farmers Market (Saturdays first weekend in June – first weekend in October)
Fuel: gas stations in town
Overnight: Carolyn Beach Inn & Restaurant
Cruising west out of Thessalon on Highway 17, stop at the giant Muskoka Chair nicknamed “Algomy Red”. There’s a small staircase so that you can climb up into the chair. This is a really fun place to take photos.
Continue following the roadway through rolling farmland. There are many working farms in Algoma Country and don’t be surprised if you encounter a horse-drawn wagon or carriage on this stretch of highway. Many Mennonite families live in the area. Often you’ll see signs to purchase at farmgate, or you can buy products at the local farmers’ markets.
The first copper mine in Canada opened in Bruce Mines in 1846; this town is your next stop on the touring route. Learn about mining at the Simpson Mine Shaft (open July & August) and you can even go into the original mine sloop. Visit the Bruce Mines Museum to explore lots of different artifacts all with interesting stories and history behind them.
Things to Do in Bruce Mines:
– Walk on the waterfront front and seek the shade of the gazebo
– Visit the Red House Ice Cream Shop
– Self-guided walking tour: Historic Mine Trail. More tours: Bruce Mines Chamber of Commerce
– Visit the antique & flea market shops, gifts shops
Food: Bobbers Restaurant, Bavarian Inn, Sportsman’s Grill, Wyz Gyz Chip Wagon, Copper Bean Cafe
Fuel: 2 gas stations in town
Overnight: Bruce Bay Cottages & Lighthouse
I mentioned earlier about visiting farmers; markets in the area. One of the biggest markets is the Johnson Farmers’ Market in Desbarats where you can find a wide variety of farm-fresh and locally made products. Seasonal fruits and vegetables, honey, maple syrup, baking, handmade wool products, meats and cheese from Northern Ontario. A nice leg stretch is the walking trails at Foster Parkland.
Food: Ije’s Place: Cafe & Bakery
Fuel: gas available in Desbarats
The last big thing you need to stop at is the Loon Dollar Monument in Echo Bay. The monument is dedicated to Robert R. Carmichael, the artist who designed the Loon Dollar image on Canada’s One Dollar coin. Mr. Carmichael was from the area.
Extending Your Stay
If you’re thinking about adding an extra day to your road trip, or maybe you like to change your plans on the fly, this next part of the route is for you. The turn-off to St. Joseph Island is on your way to Sault Ste. Marie. The toll-free bridge takes you from the mainland to the Island. There are many outdoor activities, attractions, festivals and events that will keep you busy at St. Joe’s. The open country roads mixed with rolling farmland, coastal views of Lake Huron and tree-lined roadways alone will keep you moving.
Attractions: Fort St. Joseph National Historic Site, St. Joseph Island Museum, Adcock’s Woodland Garden, Island Springs Golf Course, shops in Richards Landing and Hilton Beach
Outdoors: beaches, fishing, walking trails, cycling
Food: Island Bar & Grill (Hilton Beach Inn), Tilt’n Hilton, Camille’s Café, Black Bear Cafe, StJos Diner
Fuel: Esso at the St. Joseph Island turnoff on Hwy 17, Kentvale General Store
Stay Overnight: Stonefield House Bed & Breakfast, Hilton Beach Inn, Fred’s Trailer Park, Clansmen Motel, Maria’s Cabins
Fast Facts About the Grand Algoma Tour
How long is the route?
– 616 km / 382 m, we recommend a minimum of 2 days.
Is the road paved?
– Yes, the route follows highways that are paved. You may encounter gravel roads when you pull off to visit scenic spots.
Are there places to stay? Eat?
– You have many choices from motels, cabins, bed & breakfasts and camping. There are lots of cafes, restaurants, food trucks and bakeries. You’ll even find flavours from around the world.
Is the route motorcycle friendly?
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