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Two Wheeling The Grand Algoma

A route with epic roads and epic views

Updated: By Martin Lortz

With 49,000 km of Northern Ontario real-estate within its boundaries, Algoma is no stranger to the rumble of an engine. Snowmobiles in the winter, ATVs, and motorboats, are all fine tools to explore the region’s vastness. Come summertime the best view comes from behind the bars and the seat of your motorcycle. With so many amazing roads at your disposal, Algoma’s moto touring potential might be Ontario’s “not so secret”, secret.

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With five pre-planned routes to choose from, three of which can be done comfortably in one day, and the epic Ride Lake Superior loop, there is a ride that will fit into any schedule. That said, if you happen to have a couple of days at your disposal the 682 km Grand Algoma Tour is just the ticket.

Rideable in either direction, my personal choice is to do it counterclockwise with day one including my favourite road and day two my favourite landscape.

We roll east from Sault Ste. Marie along Highway 17, city sights and traffic lights soon are behind us, replaced by farm fields and glimpses of the sparkling waters of the North Channel of Lake Huron in the distance to the south. Breakfast at Bobbers Restaurant in Bruce Mines is a tradition whenever in the area.

Ontario’s Tail of the Dragon

We top up the gas tanks in Thessalon and turn north onto the road which is the reason we are here: Hwy 129. Grins fill our helmets at the expectations of what’s to come, the next 225 km will serve up an abundance of curves and northern solitude.

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It starts with big sweepers through farmers’ fields then the road rapidly descent into a river valley where the curves tighten up and increase in frequency. We settle into a rhythm of lean, turn repeat as the road threads a needle between a rock and a hard place, in this case, it’s towering cliffs on one side and rushing river on the other. Chapleau offers us a chance to refuel for both bike and bodies before we point the bikes west along Highway 101 bound for Wawa for the night.

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In Wawa we do what tourists do, selfies with the Wawa Goose, meet the Moose and cool off with some ice cream at Young’s General Store, then poke around some gravel sideroads in search of the famous Lake Superior sunset. With the tourist cravings satisfied we settle into our comfy rooms, enjoy a dinner out then hang out in the parking lot of our hotel, exchanging stores from the road with fellow moto travellers.

Lake Superior Coastline

At only 230 km, day two won’t leave much of a mark on your odometer but with stunning scenery and many points of interest along the way it might just take a full day to complete. Following the north shore of Lake Superior, this stretch of Highway 17 is unarguably the most spectacular road in Ontario.

We begin our day sheltered by roadside walls of stone and trees, bathed in the morning sun, as the perfectly paved ribbon of tarmac swoops up, down and around the landscape of Lake Superior Provincial Park. You notice the 200-meter cliffs first, towering above, then as the road dips, the blue sparkle of Lake Superior comes into view. And finally, as you round the bend the beach, the full grandeur of Old Woman Bay comes into view. It is this moment of “wow”, an experience that only lasts a handful of seconds as we roll by, but that view, that “wow” is the reason why I ride the Grand Algoma counterclockwise.

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A stop at the Old Woman Bay rest area is a must as is Katherine Cove, to find a Group of Seven interpretive panels. The tree tunnel continues for the next 35 km then it’s lakeside causing all the way to Sault Ste. Marie. Trading Posts and picnic spots dot the route. Partake in some local smoked fish or a scoop of ice cream; shop for artworks by local artists or that special souvenir. Photo opportunities abound as do options to do absolutely nothing. Pick a beach, enjoy the moment, take a nap, there is no rush.

Back in Sault Ste. Marie, we are in no hurry to move on. Accommodations are varied and plentiful as are things to do. We keep the engine theme going at the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre. Take in a local craft brew right from the source and enjoy a delicious dinner out. The Grand Algoma Tour, epic roads and epic views, counterclockwise or otherwise, you won’t be disappointed.

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About Martin Lortz

Martin Lortz is a freelance photographer/writer specializing in the outdoor lifestyle.

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