A Northern Ontario road trip is a bucket list item for many people.

(And if it’s not on your bucket list, you should add it!)

Stunning scenery and quiet highways, along with plenty of opportunities to get outdoors, makes Northern Ontario the perfect place for your next road trip.

Two boys looking out over Lake Superior on the Northern Ontario road trip
Pukawaska National Park

This ultimate Northern Ontario road trip takes you on a circular route from North Bay to Thunder Bay and back south to Sudbury. You can drive the route in either direction, beginning in either Sudbury or North Bay. Both cities are around a 4 hour drive north from Toronto.

While the drive along Lake Superior is one of the most scenic drives in Canada, the Hwy11/TransCanada route is not to be missed either.  Stunning scenery awaits whichever way you look and you may even see some true Canadian wildlife alongside the road.

Accommodations: Booking.com | Hotels.com | Expedia
Rental Car: Discover Cars
Travel Insurance: SafetyWing
Tours and Activities: Viator | Get Your Guide
eSIM: Airalo

This Ultimate Northern Ontario road trip is divided into two sections.

The first part of this Northern Ontario road trip begins in North Bay and heads north along Hwy 11/TransCanada Highway.

For those who would like to explore a bit more of Northern Ontario or experience some fantastic outdoor experiences, this part of the road trip is for you!

This part of the itinerary takes you through Temiskaming Shores, Cochrane, Hearst and some great provincial parks before heading back south along Lake Nipigon and continuing on to Thunder Bay.

Read more | 17 Fun Stops on a North Bay to Thunder Bay Road Trip

The second half of this itinerary is a more popular route along Lake Superior.

It’s an amazing drive with stunning scenery and one that you definitely don’t want to miss!!

This part of the ultimate Northern Ontario road trip will take you from Thunder Bay south along Lake Superior to Sudbury.

How to Do This Northern Ontario Road Trip

You can do this ultimate Northern Ontario road trip two ways: you could drive it as a circular route, as we did, or you could choose one section of the itinerary and drive it there and back.

(Or you could use one section of the itinerary to get to Thunder Bay before continuing on to Kenora and Manitoba.)

If you choose to do the same route there and back, I suggest picking a few stops to do on the way to Thunder Bay and choosing the others on the return trip.

We have included ALOT of stops, especially on the return route along Lake Superior. You definitely don’t have to do all the stops that we have included; choose a few that interest you and plan those in to your itinerary (and then on the return drive, stop at some of the other highlights that we mentioned, to keep your drive interesting!).

Whichever way you choose to do this Northern Ontario road trip, the scenery is stunning and you won’t be sorry that you did this Northern Ontario road trip.

Side note: I drove this road trip with two young kids, so included a few more stops than you might if you were travelling with only adults. I’ve also driven this trip a few times solo, pre-kids, and usually made it from Toronto to Thunder Bay in two days, with a stop overnight in Wawa.

But now, let’s get on with this ultimate Northern Ontario road trip!

Ultimate Northern Ontario Road Trip

Suggested Itinerary for a 7-10 Day Road Trip:

  • North Bay to Cochrane
  • Cochrane to Hearst (hotel) or Fushimi Provincial Park (camping)
  • Hearst or Fushimi to Thunder Bay
  • Thunder Bay to Neys Provincial Park (camping) or Marathon (hotel)
  • Neys P.P or Marathon to Wawa
  • Wawa to Sault Ste. Marie
  • Sault Ste. Marie to Sudbury

North Along Hwy 11/ TransCanada Highway

North Bay

North Bay is the perfect place to start this Northern Ontario road trip. Known as the “Gateway to the North”, North Bay is situated on the shores of Lake Nipissing.

Stroll along the pier, grab an ice cream and enjoy North Bay’s waterfront.

Marathon Beach is a great place to spend the afternoon or watch the sunset in the evening. There’s a large playground for kids and changing facilities if you choose to take a dip in Lake Nipissing.

For those looking to get out and stretch their legs, Duchesnay Falls is a great hike for families and a chance to see the Duchesnay Falls up close. You can find information on other conservation areas here.

If you are arriving in North Bay from elsewhere in the province to start this Northern Ontario road trip, there are plenty of accommodation options. We personally use and recommend booking.com for our travels. Check for available accommodations here.


Heading north from North Bay along Hwy 11/TransCanada, you’ll reach Temagami.

Temagami makes a great stop for lunch or a snack. For those who are adventurous, take a quick detour from the highway and climb the Temagami fire tower. You’ll be rewarded with an impressive 360° view of the surrounding area. It’s one of the few remaining fire towers left in Ontario that you can climb. The climb is NOT for the faint of heart though, as it is quite high (although my kids seem to be less intimidated by that than I was).

Temiskaming Shores

Continuing north, you’ll pass through Temiskaming Shores. This is another great spot to stop for lunch or a snack if you haven’t already!

But if you can wait another few minutes, you’ll see Thornloe Cheese on the side of the Highway. This well-known cheese shop sells locally made excellent cheeses, along with other baked goods and snacks and has an ice cream counter, offering some unique northern flavours.

There is also a food truck in the same parking lot, serving up fries and burgers, including bison burgers.


Cochrane is known for polar bears. While it’s not in the Arctic, it is home to the Canadian Polar Bear Habitat. Stop in for a visit and see the 3 orphaned polar bears who call Cochrane home.

Cochrane sign and polar bear statue - the first night's stop on this Northern Ontario road trip

Cochrane is about 4 hours from North Bay and a perfect place to stop for the night.

There are several motels and a hotel in Cochrane – check for availability on booking.com.


Hearst is known as a vibrant francophone community, with three museums and an art centre along with plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities. With many lakes and rivers nearby, Hearst is a perfect place to paddle or fish, or simply be outdoors.

Time your visit right and you may be treated to an awesome display of the Northern lights!

For those who are camping, continue a few minutes past Hearst to Fushimi Lake Provincial Park. Set on Fushimi Lake, it’s a great spot to fish, boat or just enjoy the outdoors.

One of the beaches at Fushimi Lake Provincial Park - A great spot to stop on a Northern Ontario road trip if you are camping.
Fushimi Lake Provincial Park

Greenstone Region

From Hearst, continue west along Hwy 11/TransCanada Highway towards Longlac.

This is a long stretch of your Northern Ontario road trip but there are a few interesting roadside attractions and several small towns to stop in along the way.

If you are camping, MacLeod Provincial Park is along the TransCanada, about 2 hours from Hearst.

The highway starts to turn south and head along Lake Nipigon. The scenery is stunning here, with forests and rock faces on one side of the highway, dropping off to calm lakes on the other side.

Stop off at one of the many rest areas or lookout points for some impressive views and photo opportunities.

(Unfortunately there was severe smoke and haze from forest fires while we were driving along this part of our Northern Ontario road trip, so I have no photos to show you how gorgeous it is. You’ll just have to go and see it for yourself!) 


Arriving in Nipigon, you’ll see a lookout tower, just off the side of the highway. Pull in here and climb the tower for a view of the surrounding area.

Nipigon Lookout tower - Northern Ontario road trip

If you are travelling with kids, continue into the town of Nipigon and visit the Paddle-to-Sea playground. It’s an excellent playground, complete with a splash pad and 12 different stations, representing the voyage down the waterways from Nipigon through the Great Lakes.

Stop off in Nipigon for the night or continue driving for another hour to Thunder Bay.

Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay is the largest city in Northern Ontario and the halfway point across Canada. It’s well worth spending a few days here to really explore all that Thunder Bay has to offer.

Read our full post on the Best Things to Do in Thunder Bay.

Be sure to visit Kakabeka Falls, the second-highest waterfalls in Ontario and called the “Niagara of the North”. Step back in time at the Fort William Historical Park, wander along the Marina waterfront, eat some Finnish pancakes and visit the Terry Fox monument, where you can also get a fantastic view of the Sleeping Giant.

View of Kakabeka Falls in Thunder Bay. It's worth a stop on a Northern Ontario road trip!
Kakabeka Falls

If you’re interested in some fantastic hiking, there are plenty of great trails in and around Thunder Bay. Trowbridge Falls and Cascades Conservation Area both have nice trails where you can also take a dip in the water, but by far our favourite was hiking the Top of the Giant Trail in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. This 23km hike was not easy but the views from the top were worth it!

view of Lake Superior between a drop off in the cliffs at the Top of the Giant trail in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
View from the Top of the Giant

There are plenty of accommodation options in Thunder Bay. We stayed at the Days Inn & Suites, conveniently located right off the Harbour Expressway.  There’s also the Prince Arthur Waterfront Hotel, which is close to the waterfront and has really large rooms. Close to the airport you will also find plenty of options, but it is a few minutes’ drive from the downtown area.

Check for available accommodations on booking.com here.

South Along Lake Superior

Thunder Bay to Marathon

Start your drive early in the day, as there are plenty of stops and things to do on this part of the drive.

As you head east towards Nipigon, detour off the highway to visit Ouimet Canyon. One of Ontario’s natural wonders, it’s a must-see stop. There’s a short 1km loop trail that takes you to two viewing platforms, where you can admire the length and depth of this canyon.

View of Ouimet Canyon from the lookout platform
Ouimet Canyon

A few kilometres from Ouimet Canyon is Eagle Canyon, home to Canada’s longest suspension bridge! For the adventurous, it’s worth a visit!

There are two suspension bridges, high above Eagle Canyon and a trail that takes you to the bottom of the canyon where you can see just how high those suspension bridges really are!

View of Eagle Canyon Suspension Bridge from below

Rainbow Falls Provincial Park

Whether you plan to camp overnight or just stretch your legs, be sure to stop at Rainbow Falls Provincial Park. There’s a short, easy hike along the boardwalk to view the falls, although there are some stairs involved. You may not see a rainbow, but the pink rocks that the falls flow over make for an interesting sight.

Aguasabon Falls

Continuing east, take a slight detour just before Terrace Bay to see the Aguasabon Falls and Gorge. There’s a short hike from the parking lot to a viewing platform, for a great view of the falls and gorge.

Terrace Bay

As you drive through the town of Terrace Bay, you’ll notice a lighthouse beside the highway! Instead of being on the water, this one is the middle of town and you can climb to the top for a view of the surrounding area.

Neys Provincial Park

Whether you are camping or just visiting for the day, Neys Provincial Park is well worth a stop!

White sand beaches, dotted with driftwood, stretch along Lake Superior’s shore. It’s a great beach to spend the afternoon or hike to the rocky point for a great view of Lake Superior.

The beach at Neys Provincial Park - a fantastic spot to stop on a Northern Ontario road trip if you are camping

Neys Provincial Park was also a former POW camp. Stop by the Visitor Center to learn more and see a model of the former camp. There are several remnants of the camp left, including the stones outside the Visitor Center that used to surround the flagpole.


The town of Marathon is a few kilometers from the highway. It’s one of the larger towns in the area, with a few stores and one of the larger grocery stores around, so be sure to stock up on some groceries and snacks! Then head down to Pebble Beach and dip your toes in or just relax at the beach for awhile.

Marathon is approximately halfway between Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie. If you’re not camping, this is a good spot to spend the night. Check booking.com for available accommodation.

Pukaskwa National Park

Situated on Lake Superior and just a few kilometres from Marathon, Pukaskwa National Park is a great spot to spend the day (or a few days!).

Experience the local Anishinaabe culture, visit the camp with its wigwam and then head out to explore the boreal wilderness.

Walk along the shoreline or spend the afternoon at quiet Hattie’s Cove, where you’ll experience blue-green Caribbean-looking water combined with the rugged rock and tree shoreline of Lake Superior.

There are plenty of hiking trails, from short 1-2km trails along the shoreline to a longer 18km trail that takes you to a suspension bridge over White River. You can also hike the 60km Coastal Hiking Trail, stopping to camp overnight along the way.

Campsites are also available, but are first come, first serve, so arrive early!


Leaving Lake Superior, the highway heads inland for a few hours. Make a quick stop at White River, which is known as the birthplace of the bear that inspired Winnie-the-Pooh. There is a statue of the beloved bear standing alongside the highway. Stop for a photo and a chance to stretch your legs before continuing on to Wawa.

Home to yet another popular roadside attraction, Wawa is well-known for its famous Goose monument! After visiting the Goose, head into downtown Wawa, walk along the waterfront and be sure to stop by Young’s General Store for some treats, souvenirs or excellent hand-scooped ice cream.

The wawa goose - northern ontario road trip
Wawa Goose

Wawa also has a few motels and accommodation options, making it a good spot to stop for the night and rest before driving through the stunning Lake Superior Provincial Park.

Check for available accommodation on booking.com here.

Lake Superior Provincial Park

Just south of Wawa, you’ll enter Lake Superior Provincial Park. The Trans-Canada Highway passes through the park but you won’t want to drive straight through!

Stop at Old Woman Bay and spend some time at the beach or hike the Nokomis Trail for some excellent views of Old Woman Bay.

View of Old Woman Bay from the Nokomis Trail in Lake Superior Provincial Park. It's a great 5km hike to do on a Northern Ontario road trip
Nokomis Trail

Continue on to Katherine Cove, another excellent sandy beach with warm water. Have a picnic, spend some time at the beach or take a short hike along the coast to reach Bathtub Island. Walk out to the island, take a dip and the requisite photo before heading back to Katherine Cove.

Bathtub Island in Lake Superior Provincial Park. It's a bit of a hike to get there but worth it!

Towards the south end of Lake Superior Provincial Park you’ll reach Agawa Bay. Stop to see the most famous pictographs in Canada, although be sure to wear good footwear, as the rocks can be slippery!

Read more | 9 Fun things to do in Lake Superior Provincial Park with Kids

Agawa Bay is also where you will find one of the two campgrounds in Lake Superior Provincial Park. (The other is at the north end of the park close to Old Woman Bay).

This is an excellent place to spend the night (or more!) if you enjoy camping. There are even some excellent lakefront sites, where you’ll have a front row seat of the spectacular sunsets.

Lake Superior Provincial Park to Sault Ste. Marie

Lake Superior Provincial Park is probably the more well-known park along this stretch of the drive, but there are a few other parks that are well worth a stop!

About 40 minutes after leaving Lake Superior Provincial Park, you’ll come to Pancake Bay Provincial Park. Sheltered in a cove from the rougher waters of Lake Superior, Pancake Bay is a great spot to swim or enjoy a picnic lunch on the beach.

With 3km of white sand beach and shallow, calm water, you might think you’re in the Caribbean, not Northern Ontario.

The white sand beach at Pancake Bay Provincial Park - a must-see stop on a Northern Ontario road trip
Pancake Bay Provincial Park

Whether you choose to camp overnight at the provincial park or just spend the day on the beach, you won’t be disappointed!

Another 10 minutes along Highway 17 brings you to Voyageur’s Lodge and Cookhouse, which is said to have THE best apple fritters! Pick up a treat and then head to Batchawana Bay Provincial Park, where you’ll find the warmest water on Lake Superior, another fantastic beach and some gorgeous views.

Just before you reach Sault Ste. Marie, stop in a Chippewa Falls. While the falls are impressive, it’s also the midpoint of the Trans-Canada Highway. You can take a short trail down to the water for a closer view of the falls, which were the inspiration for a famous Group of Seven painting.

Sault Ste Marie

With several museums, a great waterfront trail and plenty of parks to stroll around, Sault Ste. Marie is a great place to spend a few days.

Visit the Sault Ste. Marie Canal, a National Historic Site, and then take the trail over to Whitefish Island. Stroll along St.Mary’s boardwalk and enjoy the views of the river. Be sure to visit the Bushplane Heritage Museum and if you are travelling with kids, a visit to Bellevue Park is a must!

Sault Ste. Marie has plenty of accommodation choices. We stayed at the Days Inn & Suites, which is in a great location, just across from Station Mall. It’s an easy to walk to the boardwalk and many of the attractions in Sault Ste. Marie.

Check for other available accommodations here.

Head East towards Sudbury

Heading east from Sault Ste. Marie, take the 17B highway into Echo Bay, stretch your legs on the boardwalk and take a photo with the giant Loonie!

Just one kilometre from the highway, be sure to stop in at Chutes Provincial Park. Chutes is home to an impressive waterfall and is a great spot to stretch your legs. Take the boardwalk path to the viewing platform or continue along the trail for a longer hike. For those who like to camp, it’s a great spot to stay overnight!

Chutes Provincial Park is a great spot to stop and stretch the legs on a Northern Ontario road trip

  Read more | Chutes Provincial Park

Onaping Falls

Just before you reach Sudbury, take a slight detour off the TransCanada Highway to visit Onaping Falls.

Also known as High Falls on the Onaping River, it was a favourite spot of Group of Seven artist A.Y.Jackson.  

Visit the A.Y. Jackson Welcome Centre and then head down to the viewing platform for a glimpse of the falls. If you’re up for an interesting hike, there’s a trail taking you closer to the falls.   

Onaping Falls in Sudbury has a great hike or just stop and view the falls.


As Northern Ontario’s largest city, Sudbury has plenty to do!

Spend some time outdoors at the many conservation areas in the city and be sure to visit Kivi Park, especially if you are travelling with kids!

Go underground at Dynamic Earth, visit Science North, admire Canada’s largest mural and walk along the waterfront trail.

And of course, snap a photo of the Big Nickel!

Read more | Top Things to Do in Sudbury

Sudbury covers a large area and accommodations are spread throughout the city. There are several hotels near the highway if you are just stopping for the night but if you are staying in Sudbury for a day or two to explore the city, we would recommend finding a hotel closer to downtown. We stayed at the Clarion Hotel, which was a fantastic hotel but a bit of a drive to downtown.

Check for available accommodations here.

Tips for Driving in Northern Ontario

  • Wildlife is common alongside the highway. Be alert and drive with caution, especially if you are driving in the early morning or late evening.
  • Cell service is not always strong and in some places, may not be available.
  • Distances between towns and gas stations can be long! So fuel up when you see a gas station and make sure you have food and snacks handy as it may be awhile between stops. Expect to go a few hours sometimes, without seeing anywhere to stop, other than roadside rest areas. These roadside rest areas are pretty frequent, but they are just a place to pull over, stretch your legs and often have picnic tables for a quick snack break.
  • Gas Stations are not open 24/7. Many close in the evening, so make sure to fuel up during the day. Speaking from experience on that one, as one time, I was running out of gas and didn’t realize gas stations closed at 7pm, so we had to sleep in the car on the side of the road until the gas station opened in the morning. DON’T make that mistake – fuel up when you can!

FAQ’s: Northern Ontario Road Trip

How much time do I need for a Northern Ontario road trip?

Ideally, if you have the time, we recommend taking two weeks to fully experience the best of this Northern Ontario road trip, as it covers A LOT of ground.
However, if you do minimal stops and drive longer distances each day, you could do this trip in 7-10 days. (Staying overnight in Cochrane, Hearst, Thunder Bay, Wawa, Sault Ste Marie and Sudbury.)

Which highway is better, Hwy 11 or 17?

Highway 17 is more scenic, but Highway 11 is quieter, with a flat route that may be easier to drive.

Can you drive through Northern Ontario?

Northern Ontario is huge and there are some places that you cannot reach by car, but there are many places that you can drive to. This road trip highlights some of the amazing spots in Northern Ontario that you can drive to!

Final Thoughts: Northern Ontario Road Trip

A road trip through Northern Ontario is an unforgettable adventure that offers stunning scenery, plenty of outdoor activities and a chance to connect with nature. Whether you have one week or more to explore, Northern Ontario has so much to offer that I’m sure you’ll want to come back another time! I know we do!

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For more tips and inspiration on travel in Northern Ontario, be sure to check out these posts:

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