This article highlights the major points of interest on a road trip from North Bay to Thunder Bay, along Ontario’s Highway 11 Trans-Canada Highway. This route is just one of our complete series of Northern Ontario Road Trips.
Road Trip Itinerary
We’ve broken our North Bay to Thunder Bay route into two sections to help with trip planning.
One Week Road Trip
For a one week road trip, we recommend just the North Bay to Timmins portion of the larger road trip. Drive as far north as Timmins, or to Cochrane’s Polar Bear Habitat, then turn around and drive back home.
More Than One Week
With more time, continue along Highway 11 following the Timmins to Thunder Bay route.
North Bay to Timmins – A One Week Road Trip
Enjoy a day in North Bay ending with a sunset cruise of Lake Nipissing on the Chief Commanda II. Take Highway 11 north to the town of Temagami. Climb the Fire Tower for a panoramic view of the region’s lakes and forest. Check out the Cobalt Mining District National Historic Site, and spend the night in Temiskaming Shores. Hike to Devil’s Rock Lookout then continue on to Timmins. The distance noted in parentheses is the driving distance from the previous stop.
- North Bay
- Marten River Provincial Park and Logging Museum (55 km)
- Temagami Fire Tower (45 km)
- Cobalt Mining District National Historic Site (50 km)
- Temiskaming Shores (20 km)
- Kirkland Lake (100 km)
- Timmins (140 km)
North Bay to Timmins Map
North Bay, Ontario
Spend at least a day exploring North Bay, the “Gateway to the North”.
Enjoy the North Bay Waterfront and cruise beautiful Lake Nipissing on board the Chief Commanda II. North Bay has some great museums and several excellent hiking trails, both in the city and just beyond.
For a complete list of places to visit in North Bay, see our full article What to do in North Bay.
Leave North Bay on Highway 11 north. Be sure to stop at Marten River’s Rock Pine Motel for a photo with the “Welcome Walleye”. This wood and paper mache fish was constructed in the late 1960s. It still welcomes visitors to the Temagami Region, well known for its great fishing spots.
The logging industry is central to the history of the region. The area has some of the best-protected, old-growth white pine forests in eastern Canada. There are a number of places to learn about local history and to experience its amazing forests and lakes.
The Logging Museum at Marten River Provincial Park
Visit a replica, 19th-century, winter logging camp with a camp office, cookery, blacksmith’s shop and more.
The exhibits explain the way of life of the loggers in this rugged area at the turn of the 20th century. See the tools used to harvest the tall white and red pines, which were first cut in the region in 1905. Exhibits of a “crazy wheel”, roller, sleighs and a snow plow demonstrate how logs were moved in the winter to the edge of the frozen lake. After the spring thaw, the logs were floated to sawmills downstream.
The output of these operations was immense. From fall to spring thaw, an average camp of 100 men could yield about 60,000 felled tree trunks for cutting into logs.
The park has several great hiking trails through the old-growth forest.
Marten River Provincial Park
Walk the Transition Trail (1.75 hours) through marshes and stands of old-growth white pine to reach Marten Lake. Follow the inner Old Growth Trail (1.25 hours) to see a 350-year-old white pine. This area was left untouched by loggers when the rest of the region was heavily logged. What a great legacy!
In addition to the museum and hiking trails, the park has three sand beaches. The campground is the perfect base for canoeists, hikers, boaters and fishermen exploring the Temagami region’s lakes and wilderness.
Both Caribou Mountain and Finlayson Point Provincial Park are popular destinations for canoeing and hiking.
Town of Temagami
The town sits at the end of the northeast arm of fifty-kilometre-long Lake Temagami. At the restored train station, see the work of local artists and gather local tourist information from the Temagami Information Centre.
Temagami Fire Tower
Climb this open-air tower at the top of Caribou Mountain to the viewing platform over 120 metres above the town. The panoramic view of the surrounding Temagami wilderness is worth the climb up the 30-metre high tower. Be aware that the steps narrow considerably as you near the top.
Built in 1951, it’s dedicated to Natural Resources’ Forest Rangers who diligently manned the 9 towers that were in this area. The Interpretive Centre, beside the parking lot, has more displays about the history of the forest rangers.
Two viewing platforms, near the base of the tower, give excellent views of the area without the need to climb higher.
A series of hiking trails on Caribou Mountain and in the White Bear Forest start near the parking area. Check out the Beaver Pond just down the road. Access to the challenging Red Fox Trail is available from the pond. Red Fox is about 5 kilometres long and takes 2 to 3 hours to complete.
The Guinness World Book of Records recognized Latchford’s covered bridge as the World’s Shortest Covered Bridge.
The municipal campground, beach and boat launch are located near the bridge, all on the west side of the highway.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Latchford serviced the Northern Ontario Railway which opened up the area to settlement. It quickly became a base for prospectors when silver was discovered nearby in 1906. When the silver ran out, the area’s abundant forests and lumber industry ensured the town’s survival.
Visit the Latchford House of Memories and the Loggers Hall of Fame to learn more about the town’s history and the logging industry in Ontario.
Continue northeast on Highways 11 and 118 for about 13 kilometres to the town of Cobalt, part of a National Historic Site.
In the early 1900’s Cobalt was known as the Silver Capital of the World. Today it’s a shadow of the sprawling 1910 mining town which had a population of over 10,000 people. Learn more at the Cobalt Mining Museum and explore historic mining sites on the Heritage Silver Trail. Its unique heritage designation recognizes the Cobalt Mining Camp as the birthplace of the Canadian mining industry.
Be sure to check out our article Cobalt – A Canadian National Historic Site for complete details about visiting Cobalt.
Leaving Cobalt on Highway 118, the border of Temiskaming Shores is about 2 kilometres east.
An amalgamation of Haileybury, New Liskeard and the Dymond region, this is the perfect summer playground along the shores of Lake Temiskaming.
Enjoy a few of the many things to do in Temiskaming Shores.
Devil’s Rock Lookout
Enjoy the view from Devil’s Rock Lookout high on the cliffs over Lake Temiskaming. The hike to the top of 100-metre-high Devil’s Rock is a “must-do” in the Haileybury area.
These cliffs are a sacred place called Manidoo-Wabikong to the Anishinaabe peoples. Christian missionaries renamed the cliffs Devil’s Rock. Some people see the face of a person jutting from the cliff wall.
There are 2 different routes to reach Devil’s Rock Lookout. A 6-kilometre, out-and-back trail begins at Buckle Park. We chose the shorter, 2-km trail from the trailhead located off Silver Centre Road. Rain can make the trail a bit muddy but don’t let that deter you. The view is spectacular.
Enjoy the town’s huge, sheltered beach and awesome water slide. The walking trail along the waterfront connects the beach, Haileybury Marina and pretty Waterfront Park.
Each winter, in the early 20th century, an ice road began at the south end of the park where the boat launch is today. It stretched across Lake Temiskaming to Quebec.
Take a drive along Lakeshore Road or “Millionaire’s Row”. Many of the large homes were built by the owners of Cobalt’s early silver mines and the lumber tycoons who succeeded during the boom years.
In town, have a pint at the Whiskeyjack Beer Company.
Explore the Haileybury Rock Walk on Northern College’s Haileybury campus. The School of Mines created a winding path lined with rock samples of the main rock types found in Ontario. A sign beside each sample gives details about the rock, its minerals and where the sample came from. For rockhounds, this is a must-do stop (even in the pouring rain!).
The Haileybury Heritage Museum‘s wide range of artifacts provides background into the town’s history and development. See many photographs and historic equipment, including an Ontario Northland railcar, antique fire truck and the M.V. Beauchene. Learn about the Great Fire of 1922, which destroyed about 90% of town.
New Liskeard, Ontario
Walk the Waterfront Boardwalk Trail and enjoy a mile of Lake Temiskaming beachfront. There are numerous picnic shelters along the boardwalk. The whole family will enjoy the mini-putt course. For cyclists, twenty-one kilometres of paved trails connect the communities of Temiskaming Shores.
Chester Falls is the highlight of Pete’s Dam Park. Several trails wind through the woods and along the Wabi River. We hiked the 2-kilometre Pete’s Dam Trail to the waterfall. The beautiful municipal park and nature trails are a local favourite.
A hydroelectric dam was built here by “Big Pete” Farah in 1906, providing power to nearby New Liskeard. Eventually the dam and power plant were sold to the province. The power plant was demolished.
When visiting Little Claybelt Homesteaders Museum be sure to take a selfie with Ms Claybelt the Holstein. She’s a 12-foot-high, 18-foot-long Holstein cow. Discover the story of the early pioneers in this rich agricultural area. The museum displays focus on area history between 1890 and 1940.
This region continues to produce grains and grasses supporting both large dairy and beef industries. Called the “Little Claybelt”, the area has rich, clay soils from glacial deposits on the north shore of Lake Temiskaming. Shaped like an inverted triangle, the belt extends north to just south of Kirkland Lake.
Travel north on Highway 11 to Earlton and a curious road-side attraction, Earl the Bison. The welded, steel sculpture is about 6 metres tall, 8 metres long and weighs 9 tons. Bisons du Nord, the local bison ranch, has produced bison meat products since 1973.
If time permits, visit Elk Lake, 45 kilometres west of Earlton.
With boating, fishing, ATVing, snowmobiling and a number of lodges and tourist camps, Elk Lake has plenty of outdoor adventure options. Wilderness retreats are available through the Elk Lake Lodge & Eco Centre.
The Elk Lake Heritage Museum preserves the memory of its frontier past. The area was used by Indigenous peoples for thousands of years before European fur traders arrived. Lumber camps abounded in the 1870s and the railway arrived by 1900. After silver was discovered nearby in Gowganda in 1907, Elk Lake grew to about 10,000 people. Most of its early buildings are gone.
Instead of silver, it was the dream of finding gold that brought prospectors and miners to Kirkland Lake in the early 20th century.
The Museum of Northern History, located in Sir Harry Oakes Chateau, focuses on mining in the area. The Miners’ Memorial, a tribute to the hard working miners, is nearby.
Sir Harry Oakes had a talent for prospecting. He arrived in 1910 and found a promising area on the south shore of Kirkland Lake. While he didn’t have the money to develop the find, he staked his claim and continued to prospect.
Oakes found another area and teamed up with the Tough brothers. Together they mined the area’s first successful gold mine. Take a guided tour of this mine site, known as the Toburn Gold Mine. A not-for-profit group is working to preserve and maintain the mine.
Oakes used his share of the profits to develop his Kirkland Lake claim. The Lake Shore Mine, operating from 1918 to 1965, was one of the richest gold mines in North America.
At about the same time that Oakes was prospecting for gold in Kirkland Lake, gold was also found on the shores of Porcupine Lake.
Leave Kirkland Lake and continue north to Timmins, to complete this one-week road trip.
Timmins, a city built on the gold mining industry, is another great stop. Spend a day to enjoy the small-city vibe and to learn about its continuing mining heritage. From the Hollinger Open-Pit Lookout, at the top of the hill on the southeast side of the city, look over the edge into the operating, open-pit gold mine. This is just one of many gold mines in the area.
Visit the Timmins Museum to learn how Timmins became a major gold mining centre. Exhibits include Porcupine Camp, a model prospector’s cabin and other mining artifacts.
Try wakeboarding at the Gillies Lake Conservation Area’s awesome wake park. An electric cable system pulls wake riders across the lake without the need for a boat. This is just one of a wide range of outdoor activities available, making Timmins a great base for outdoor adventure.
Check out our full article, Best Things To Do in Timmins, for more details on how to spend your day in Timmins.
After visiting Timmins, turn around and head south to return home, visiting places missed on the way north. With more time, continue with the rest of the North Bay to Thunder Bay route below.
Timmins to Thunder Bay Road Trip
This part of the route is more remote and less travelled by tourists, but don’t let that stop you. The area’s mining and lumbering history and its natural beauty provide lots to see and do.
Be sure to visit the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat. A comfortable day’s journey from Cochrane, Hearst has plenty of overnight accommodations. See part of Canada’s boreal zone between Hearst and Nipigon. The Nipigon area has lots of outdoor adventure options. Finish the road trip with a day or two in Thunder Bay. The distance noted in parentheses is the driving distance from the previous stop.
- Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat (110 km)
- Kapuskasing (120 km)
- Hearst (100 km)
- Geraldton (245 km)
- Nipigon (155 km)
- Thunder Bay (115 km)
Timmins to Thunder Bay Map
For centuries, Indigenous People spent their summers in this area. In the 17th and 18th centuries, fur traders stopped here during their journeys to and from Moose Factory.
When the railway was built to the area in the early 20th century, the permanent community of Cochrane was founded. Learn more about these early years at the Cochrane Railway & Pioneer Museum. See railway cars, engines and other equipment of these early railways.
Hockey fans may know Cochrane as the birthplace of Hall-of-Famer Tim Horton. Visit the Tim Horton Museum, located inside the Tim Horton Events Centre. It is dedicated to his time in the NHL.
Cochrane is best known for the Polar Bear Habitat and being the southern terminus of the Polar Bear Express. They are definitely worth visiting.
Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat
The habitat’s 24 acres of nature is currently home to 3 bears. The bears roam free in very large enclosures. None of these bears would survive if they were released into the wild. This is one of only three sanctuaries in the world dedicated to polar bears.
Learn about the bears, how they are cared for, and the effects of climate change on polar bear habitat at the Interpretive Centre.
Access to the Heritage Village and Snowmobile Museum, which are also on site, are included with admission to the habitat.
Walk the Heritage Village’s picturesque Main Street. It has a number of frontier buildings including a butcher shop, doctor’s office, general store, blacksmith shop and more. Travel back to the early 1900s to discover what life was like when Europeans first came to the area.
Snowmobile lovers will enjoy the Snowmobile Museum. It showcases vintage sleds and unique items of snowmobile history from 1950s to present. We were surprised by the number of sleds.
The Polar Bear Express to Moosonee
Take the Polar Bear Express train north to Moosonee, located on James Bay. Be sure to book tickets for this train in advance. The train leaves from the Cochrane Train Station in the morning and returns by the end of the day.
Stay a night in Moosonee to have enough time to explore the MNR Interpretive Centre, the Railcar Museum and Moose Factory Island.
A water taxi from Moosonee services the island. The Hudson’s Bay Company set up their second North American fur trading post in 1670 about a mile downstream from the island. It was captured by the French in 1686. When the post was recaptured by the British 10 years later, it was burned to the ground and never rebuilt. In 1730, Hudson’s Bay Company built their new post on Moose Factory Island. The Moose Factory Buildings were designated a National Historic Site in 1957.
The Staff House stands in its original location, just west of the intersection of Museum and Front Streets. This 1850’s building is the last remaining HBC officer’s house in Canada. It includes displays on the history of the post. Several other buildings were relocated to Centennial Park on Museum Street just north of the HBC cemetery. The buildings include Turner House, McLeod House, Sackabuckiskum House, a blacksmith shop and the 1865 powder magazine.
Learn more about the Moose Factory Cree First Nation at the Cree Cultural Interpretive Centre.
The road trip continues west from Cochrane. The landscape becomes more rugged and the towns are fewer and further apart.
Check out the UFO Monument at the Moonbeam Visitor Centre. It looks like the stereotypical, saucer-shaped, unidentified flying object. Look below to see the aliens aboard the craft.
Residents reported strange lights in the skies and crop circles in the 1960s and ‘70s. A light pillar is the most likely explanation rather than UFOs. During this optical phenomenon, vertical beams of light appear in the sky due to light reflecting off tiny atmospheric ice crystals. While no one knows for sure how the town got its name, from a marketing perspective, why pass up a UFO connection?
Rene Brunelle Provincial Park, just north of Moonbeam, has a couple of great hiking trails. Learn the story of the bush plane that crashed in this area in 1922.
Make a stop at the historic 1930 Kapuskasing Railway Station. The station is the Kapuskasing Welcome Centre. Parked permanently on the adjacent rail siding are CNR locomotive #5107 and two passenger railcars. This is the Ron Morel Memorial Museum filled with railway memorabilia, a model train and details of Kapuskasing history.
Take a few minutes to read the historic plaques around the grounds especially if not visiting the museum. Learn about the largest World War I POW camp in Canada, which was located in the area.
The town’s main industry and employer is the huge pulp mill nearby.
Mattice – The Missinaibi River
As the highway enters Mattice, a large statue of a Voyageur with his canoe stands in a roadside park. Mattice, on the Missinaibi River, is a launch and supply point for canoe enthusiasts exploring Northern Ontario’s wilderness interior.
The Missinaibi, a Provincial Park, is a protected Canadian Heritage river. It flows north through the Canadian Shield’s boreal forests, over dramatic falls with ever changing channels. It was an essential transportation corridor during the fur trade of the 17th through 19th centuries. The voyageurs transported their goods over 500 kilometres on the river from Lake Missinaibi to Hudson Bay.
Continue on Highway 11 to Hearst, the last “large” town on this section of the Trans-Canada Highway until Nipigon, 400 kilometres away.
Visit the Hearst Information Centre for information on activities in the area and hunting and fishing guides. Watch for its impressive statues of wolves and moose.
Hearst makes a great base for outdoor recreation. Charter a float plane to remote lakes for hunting and fishing trips. There are a number of provincial parks in the area. Fushimi Lake Provincial Park and Nagagamisis Provincial Park have hiking trails and great fishing for Walleye and Pike. Enjoy the walking trails in town along the Mattawishkwia River.
The Ecomuseum, at the corner of 9th and Kitchener Streets, contains exhibits of Northern Ontario’s past.
The Heritage Sawmill Marketplace celebrates the logging and paper industry. See tools from the 1920s and ‘30s and learn about the families who settled in this area.
European farmers came to the area in the early 1900s. The railway arrived in 1914 and the town thrived. The farmers began selling timber from their land to the railway and to the pulp and paper mills. French Canadians arrived in the 1920’s and 30’s to work in the prosperous forestry industry. Forestry and logging became the main industries.
The arrival of the Trans-Canada highway in the late 1940’s brought more people and made transporting the finished materials easier. By the end of the 1950’s, Hearst produced 10% of Ontario’s lumber and continues to be a major Ontario producer.
Due to the early arrival of French Canadians to the area, French remains the town’s main language. In 1978, Hearst was the first Ontario town to become officially bilingual.
In August, the Constance Lake First Nation hold their annual Pow Wow just west of Hearst beside Constance Lake.
The rest area overlooking Klotz Lake is a great stop for a morning stretch or a nice picnic stop for lunch. This rest area is located about 2 hours west of Hearst.
Almost half of drive from Hearst to Nipigon runs through Greenstone.
Greenstone was formed by amalgamating the towns in a 180-kilometre long, narrow ribbon of land along Highway 11. Beginning just east of Longlac, it includes Geraldton, Beardmore and ends just south of Orient Bay.
Greenstone’s lakes and rivers are great for hunting, fishing and wilderness canoeing. The lakes are known for pickerel, lake trout and pike fishing.
Longlac was the site of a North West Company fur-trading post in 1800. Rival Hudson’s Bay Company built their post across the lake at Gauthier Point. The two companies merged in 1821. The railway’s construction from 1910 to 1914 opened up the area to industry, in particular forestry and gold mining. Kimberly-Clark Pulp and Paper began here in 1937.
Walk the interpretive wildlife trail which starts in the parking lot beside the beautiful building on the north east corner of the intersection of Highway 11 and Regional 584.
Ten gold mines operated in the area between 1934 and 1970. Only one headframe, designated a historical landmark, remains from this period. In 1998, a group refurbished the headframe and began cleaning up several local mine areas. An interpretive wildlife trail, a mining trail and an addition to the local golf course were created from rehabilitated tailing piles.
MacLeod Provincial Park is nearby. It’s a great RV camping stop with a popular beach for swimming.
Be sure to stop in Beardmore for pictures beside the World’s Largest Snowman. He stands 10 metres tall and is often dressed for the season. On our fall visit, he had his fishing rod ready to cast.
The shear cliffs around Orient Bay, known as the Palisades of the Pijitawabik, are some of the highest elevations in Ontario.
About a billion years ago, magma oozed into the area’s sedimentary rocks, cooling into horizontal sills of hard, igneous rock. For hundreds of thousands of years, erosion by water and ice carried away the less resistant sedimentary rock. The igneous sills are the top of the towering cliffs of the Palisades.
For an up-close look, hike the Palisades Hiking Trail. The 10-kilometre trail, along the ridge of the palisades, has four lookouts over Orient Bay. The trailhead is at gps coordinates (49.31025, -88.1023).
Another great hike begins about two kilometres south (49.292, -88.0974), across from a gas plant. The trail to Go-Mar Falls (or Gorge Creek Falls) is a short 3-kilometre out-and-back hike. Go east along the power line for about 1.1 kilometres. At a small creek, look for a worn trail on its right-hand side and follow it to the bottom of the falls.
Continue on Highway 11 to Nipigon where it meets Highway 17. Both highways continue to Thunder Bay.
Nipigon to Thunder Bay
Spend a few days exploring all the attractions in the Nipigon area. There are a number of options for overnight accommodation.
Take the Ouimet Canyon Road, about 30 minutes west of Nipigon, to visit Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park. It’s a beautiful spot to see rock pinnacles and deep canyons which the area is famous for.
Enjoy hiking? It’s time to tackle the Sleeping Giant, considered the Best Day Hike in Ontario. Sleeping Giant Provincial Park has over 100 kilometres of hiking trails of varying lengths and difficulties.
Be sure to check out our article Hike Sleeping Giant – Best Day Hike in Ontario for complete details about hiking in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.
The road trip ends in Thunder Bay.
Be sure to spend at least two days in the Thunder Bay area. Visit Fort William Historical Park and the Terry Fox Statue. Explore the local natural wonders of Kakabeka Falls and the Cascades.
For more details, be sure to check out our article Amazing Things To Do in Thunder Bay for the complete list of places to see in Thunder Bay.
When it’s time to head home, take the same route back. But better yet, for a change of scenery, try our road trips from Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay and Sudbury to Sault Ste. Marie in reverse.
Be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Northern Ontario for even more road trips and destinations in Northern Ontario.
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