The Grand Algoma tour is as the name suggests, well, grand. It winds its way through some of Ontario’s most iconic scenery from the Lake Superior shoreline to the meandering Mississagi River valley, both of which have been sketched and painted by the legendary members of the Group of Seven. Just think, if these iconic artists found it interesting when they explored this remote wilderness by train over 100 years ago, imagine what today’s savvy motorcyclist will think as they retrace their same routes this time by, iron steed.
The best place to begin the route is in the small community of Thessalon at the base of Canada’s Tail of the Dragon, highway 129. Here you head north toward Chapleau and eventually Wawa for the night. The 129 has three distinct parts. A beginning that features butter-like pavement, a middle that will wear down your chicken strips and an end that gives you zen-like helmet time to contemplate life. It is these three distinctively different parts that make it so much fun. Be wary, you are very remote with limited services. Be sure to have a full tank of fuel and some meat snacks. Yes, there are moose, bear and logging trucks so ride smart.
Once in Chapleau (Ontario’s largest crown game preserve), you can refuel and take a wander around this outpost-style town that serves both the resource sector and the tourist looking to go off-grid.
Next stop Wawa. The home of the goose and pickles. As you roll into town you of course will want to grab that selfie with the goose but also make a pilgrimage to Young’s General Store where you can replenish your sodium levels with a freshly brined pickle from the pickle barrel. You can also stock up on essential sundries, tacky souvenirs, and summer sausage. Nothing makes motorcycle luggage smell better than a chub of summer sausage. Overnight in Wawa at one of the many motorcycle-friendly motels. Supper tip: try the polish pancake at the Best Northern Motel and Restaurant.
The next morning head south on the iconic Highway 17. Leave lots of time for sightseeing as you weave and wind down the shoreline of Lake Superior. This section was voted one of the top 10 drives in Canada by someone important and for good reason. You will want to stop at the Old Woman Bay rest stop, the pictographs at Lake Superior Provincial Park, and the Agawa Bay Visitor Centre. As you close in on Sault Ste. Marie, be sure to drop your kickstand at the Voyageurs Lodge and Cookhouse for one or a dozen of their truly mouth-watering apple fritters. Pack a couple to go to keep that summer sausage company in your saddlebag.
In the Soo, as it’s called locally, you will have time to explore the local sites before you check in to your accommodations. Be sure to visit the Canal National Historic Site, and the Bushplane Museum. There are lots of options to stay in, the only choice is whether you want to stay downtown or uptown on the highway 17 strip. The Soo is also famous for its Italian cuisine and many delicious supper options exist.
The next morning before cutting town be sure to hit up The Breakfast Pig. As the name suggests, they serve breakfast and absolutely everything on the menu is worth ordering. This will give you the necessary energy reserves for the ride home.
If time is on your side then a ride around St. Joseph Island is a must-do. Here you can ride right to the southernmost tip and check out Fort St. Joseph National Historic Site, a great place to gaze longingly into the United States and marvel at the odd great lakes freighter passing by. There is also a unique museum you can also visit on St. Joseph Island.
Oh, yeah, a stop at the Black Bear Café on the island for some massive sticky buns is a must. Don’t give me that ‘I’m full’ routine, you are a tough biker after all. Besides, you will need some reserves to get you home.
For other, great Grand Algoma reads check out:
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