Ontario, We're Onto You: Scoping Out Fall Getaways Along Lake Superior's Northern Shore

Batchawana Bay at sunset (Photo:  Wikimedia Commons )

Batchawana Bay at sunset (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Whenever I pull up Google Maps and peer at the vastness that is Canada, I cannot help but wonder what in the world is up there. I mean, just think about it: Canada is the second-largest country in the world by land area (behind only Russia) but when it comes to population density, it ranks very near the bottom at 228th. That means a majority of its 3.8 million square miles are devoid of human life — indeed, most of the roughly 37.5 million people that live there inhabit a southern belt that straddles the U.S. border.

That being the case, there are still stretches of southern Canada that can feel just as remote as some of the country’s northern reaches. These sparsely-populated areas make for relaxing getaways most anytime of the year, but especially in early fall when the colors are in full force. Though I haven’t made the trek myself, I’ve spent plenty of time pouring over the map, looking for hideaways sprinkled in between Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay along the northern shore of Lake Superior in Ontario. And from the looks of it, there are plenty of options worth looking into.

Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, may be a city with a population topping 70,000, but keep following the Trans-Canada Highway north and things get rugged real quick. Past the Hiawatha Highlands, the pitstop that is Heyden, and the small community of Goulais River, you’ll find Havilland, where the highway first meets the oft-chilly waters of Lake Superior. Here, you can fuel up at Lorri’s Country Kitchen, and then walk off your meal by sauntering along the sandy shoreline of Havilland Shores Beach.

If you wanted to stay right there in Havilland, that’s a possibility — Lorri’s sits right next to McCauley’s Motel (not to mention the Misty Mountain Fly Shop, for all you anglers out there) — but if your mission is to go even further off the grid, I might suggest heading west on Havilland Shores Drive, along the bay. Before doing that, however, it might be a good idea to figure out where you’re staying, either by relying on our old pal Airbnb or by perusing the homes, cottages, cabins, and what-have-you on Canada Stays.

A quick glance on the former’s website reveals a handful of attractive spots in and around Horseshoe Bay, which can be found about 7 miles down the road from the highway. Two that stand out are Daniel’s “Hideaway at Lake Superior” and, a bit further down the road, Lisa’s “Cottage Summer Vacation Paradise” (which can be rented during any season of the year, despite the name). Over on Canada Stays, there are precisely two options in the area, both of which appear idyllic and cozy.

A scene along the Agawa River, which runs through a southern portion of Lake Superior Provincial Park (Photo:  Wikimedia Commons )

A scene along the Agawa River, which runs through a southern portion of Lake Superior Provincial Park (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Just up the Trans-Canada Highway from Havilland is a little place called Harmony Beach. There you’ll find Harmony Beach Resort, which has a seasonal campground but also year-round apartment rentals, and Harmony’s Hideaway, a secluded cabin in a farm-like setting. Perfectly good options, of course, but then so, too, are the accommodations that can be found in Batchawana Bay. Two spots that would be tempting for any fall traveler are the very-appropriately named “Bet-Cha-Wana-Stay Deer Cabin” and “Bet-Cha-Wana-Stay Moose Cabin,” which, of course, come outfitted with fitting decor.

Nearby Batchawana Bay, you start getting into park-designated areas: Pancake Bay Provincial Park, which, located right along the highway on Lake Superior, comes equipped with a healthy bit of shoreline and plenty of space to pitch a tent; Batchawana River Provincial Park, which follows the waterway for a good 16 miles or so and provides canoeing and fishing opportunities aplenty; and Lake Superior Provincial Park, which covers almost 400,000 acres between Montreal River Harbour and Michipicoten, and contains miles and miles of backcountry trails, campsites, and access to plentiful rivers, streams, and inland lakes.

(There are over 100 designated parks in the province of Ontario. You can find a full list at ontarioparks.com.)

From Michipicoten all the way to Marathon 100 miles up the road, the highway swings inland, giving you opportunities to veer off onto Ontario Highway 101 at Wawa, Highway 631 in White River, and Ontario Highway 11 just before Nipigon, but staying the course on the Trans-Canada Highway does eventually take you all the way to Thunder Bay, less than 40 miles from border with Minnesota. I could list any other number of places to stop before getting there, but the possibilities are truly endless.

Armed with Airbnb, Canada Stays, and a fishing pole or two, I’m sure you’ll be able to figure something out, though.