Ontario and Lake Superior
It is the third time that we combine Canada and the USA in one big tour. The reason for this is primarily Lake Superior, the second largest inland lake in terms of area and the largest freshwater lake on earth, 600 km long and 290 km wide. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to take a look at the northern side first in Ontario, Canada, and then drive back south on the American side.
In fact, on this extended tour we will also follow Lake Erie along its entire southern shore and visit Lake Michigan and Lake Huron along the way. Finally, we will meet the last of the Great Lakes, Lake Ontario, at the beginning and at the end of this trip.
We start in Toronto and head north, via Barrie on Lake Simcoe, past the famous Webers Burger Grill and via Gravenhurst on Lake Muskoka to North Bay, Gateway of the North. Here we turn west; we expect 1.800 km through the lonely forests of Ontario, across the Canadian Shield and through the landscape characterized by countless lakes.
A first detour takes us to Sudbury, where we take a look at Canada’s largest mural – a huge former hospital, now painted in rainbow colors. The traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway is noticeably decreasing and the sights are becoming fewer. A quick stop at the red Adirondack and the Loon Dollar Monument in Echo Bay, then we have already reached Sault Ste. Marie. We will explore this beautiful city by bike – a novelty on our journeys through North America.
We follow the shores of Lake Superior, do some hiking in Pancake and Lake Superior Provincial Park and spend the night in Wawa, the first of a few supply stations on this route (3,000 inhabitants is already a lot up here). Via White River, hometown of Winnie the Pooh, and Pukaskwa National Park with its rugged cliffs right on the lake, we reach Terrace Bay with a beautiful lighthouse and the Aguasabon Falls.
Nipigon features two attractions, the modern Nipigon Bridge and the nearby Lookout Tower. Things get really exciting in Eagle Canyon, where the company of the same name operates what is supposed to be Canada’s longest suspension bridge at 597 feet (182 meters). But that’s not true – the inconspicuous suspension bridge in Souris, Manitoba, which we visited a few years ago, is a whole seven feet, or more than two meters, longer!
The next two days we spend in Thunder Bay, largest city in northwestern Ontario. The waterfront at Prince Arthur’s Landing, Fort William and of course Kakabeka Falls, the Niagara Falls of the North just outside the city, are worthwhile destinations. Behind the city, the Trans-Canada Highway splits; we follow the northern route across the Arctic watershed.
In Upsala there is a giant mosquito, otherwise the roadside attractions are limited. Dryden offers supermarkets and hotels for overnight stays, Vermilion Bay a stone Inukshuk near the highway and, what one would hardly expect here, a small coffee roastery. Only in Kenora with Husky the Muskie you get back the feeling of being in a real city again.
The last section on the Canadian side leads us south through some Provincial Parks. The small Norlund Chapel in Emo is worth a picture; then we reach Fort Frances and the border to the USA.
Through the Rust Belt along the Great Lakes
The first destination in the United States is the Coffee Landing Cafe in International Falls, Minnesota. Just a few miles further is Voyageurs National Park, which is less suitable for hiking than for canoeing. In Virginia, the Great Loon is already put away for the winter, and Eveleth is home to the world’s largest field hockey stick. In Duluth, we are back at Lake Superior’s westernmost point. Canal Park with the Aerial Lift Bridge, the city’s landmark, offers everything for an enjoyable day trip, including lighthouses, lake promenade and interesting works of art.
The next section of our journey takes us through Wisconsin, where we make a stop in Ashland. Huge murals dominated the city’s image; Gabriele’s German Cookies has been offering German cookies, stollen and cakes for 20 years. In Ironwood we have already reached Michigan; here we find Hiawatha, the largest Indian figure in the world (16 m high).
A little further, in Wakefield, we can admire one of the 74 wooden “Whispering Giants” by Peter Wolf Toth; there is at least one of these figures in every American state and in seven provinces of Canada. We spend the night in Marquette, the largest city on the Upper Peninsula; iron ore is still shipped here on a large scale.
Lakenenland, a sculpture park directly at Lake Superior, is so fascinating that we dedicate a separate page to it. After a detour to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, we cross the peninsula and pass the northernmost point of Lake Michigan. This is followed by Castle Rock, popular with tourists, and St. Ignace, which we experience this time with sunshine, just like “Mighty Mac“, the 8 km long bridge that crosses the “strait” between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.
For the next few days, we’ll swap forests, parks and solitude for the large industrial cities of the Rust Belt, the industrial region along the Great Lakes that has seen better days. We can expect historic buildings, exciting history and some of the best art museums in the United States.
First city is Lansing, the only American capital on this trip. Downtown is dominated by the huge State Capitol; the Riverwalk and the Community College both feature modern works of art. This also applies to the college town of Ann Arbor, which we visit mainly for the University of Michigan’s Museum of Art. Our hotel for the night is in Allen Park, not far from the world’s tallest car tire at 24 meters.
Detroit is considered poor and dangerous; however, we cannot confirm this impression on our walk through downtown. On Hart Plaza, visitors can find a lot of history that is mainly about the automotive industry in this city. The Guardian Building is considered the most beautiful Art Deco building in the world, the gigantic Michigan Central Station is the heart of the new Ford Campus, and the Detroit Institute of Arts is one of the country’s leading art museums.
Toledo, the next city on our journey, is already in the state of Ohio. Our destination is the sculpture park of the Toledo Museum of Art – a first class park. And while we’re here, let’s also visit Cleveland, city of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with an interesting downtown. Nearby Coyahoga Valley National Park is not a closed park, but a conglomerate of nature reserves between the large industrial cities.
Erie is already in Pennsylvania; only the Bicentennial Tower on the lakeshore is worth a visit. We cross the border into New York State and reach Buffalo, the easternmost major city in the old industrial belt of the Great Lakes. City Hall, once again built in the Art Deco style, is one of the tallest public buildings in the United States at 115 meters. In the harbor, be sure to visit Shark Girl and the plaque for Theodor Fontane’s poem “John Maynard.”
Finally, from Buffalo it’s just a short hop to the top highlight of any trip to Canada and the USA: Niagara Falls. It’s our second visit, and this time we spend most of our time on the American side. We return to Ontario via the Rainbow Bridge.
Our tour ends where it began, in Toronto on Lake Ontario, which means that this time we really visited all five of the Great Lakes. It is our second visit to Canada’s largest city; we take two days to explore Downtown, the Riverfront, the Toronto Islands and the Distillery District. At Pearson International Airport, this eventful trip comes to an end.
|01||Toronto Airport (YYZ)||Barrie||000 m / 100 km|
|02||Barrie||North Bay||000 m / 250 km|
|03||North Bay||Sault Ste. Marie||000 m / 430 km|
|04||Sault Ste. Marie||Sault Ste. Marie||000 m / 000 km|
|05||Sault Ste. Marie||Wawa||000 m / 240 km|
|06||Wawa||Terrace Bay||000 m / 300 km|
|07||Terrace Bay||Thunder Bay||000 m / 270 km|
|08||Thunder Bay||Thunder Bay||000 m / 050 km|
|09||Thunder Bay||Thunder Bay||000 m / 080 km|
|10||Thunder Bay||Dryden||000 m / 360 km|
|11||Dryden||Fort Frances||000 m / 360 km|
|12||Fort Frances||Duluth||200 m / 320 km|
|13||Duluth||Marquette||300 m / 480 km|
|14||Marquette||Gaylord||245 m / 395 km|
|15||Gaylord||Allen Park||275 m / 440 km|
|16||Allen Park||Cleveland||195 m / 315 km|
|17||Cleveland||Erie||195 m / 315 km|
|18||Erie||Buffalo||100 m / 160 km|
|19||Buffalo||Toronto||110 m / 175 km|
|20||Toronto||Toronto||000 m / 000 km|
|21||Toronto||Toronto||000 m / 000 km|
|22||Toronto||Toronto Airport (YYZ)||000 m / 020 km|
|Total||000 m / 5.060 km|