By Stacey Hunter, BC Hughes Consulting
As tourism Project Development and Research Coordinator I sometimes get the opportunity to step away from my computer and act like a tourist. Recently while working on Ride the North motorcycle product development, my colleague and I had the fortunate opportunity of travelling through Northeastern Ontario to perform site visits on many attractions, accommodations and restaurants to determine whether they were motorcycle friendly. Our mission was to drive as far north as Kapuskasing, 11.5 hours north of our office in Owen Sound, Ontario. To put this into perspective, and illustrate just how large Ontario really is – we could have driven to New York City in less time.
In this industry it’s very important that we experience first hand what we are promoting to others and if that means living out of a rental car for a week and surviving off greasy food then we’re always up for the challenge.
Our journey started in Little Current on Manitoulin Island, where we met with the rest of our team over a delicious white fish dinner at the Anchor Inn. This quaint town is the gateway to the North Channel and is visited by thousands of boaters every summer (so naturally we spent our night eating ice cream and swooning over boats that cost more then our homes). After seeing the famous swing bridge do its thing we bid farewell to our fellow travellers and wished them safe travels for their site visits along a slightly different route.
Bright and early the next morning we made our way to Timmins with a few site visits along the way. We were impressed at how many businesses were eager to make their location motorcycle friendly. What we weren’t delighted about was to learn that our car was sans breaks in the back left wheel. Luckily, our rental agency was very accommodating, switching our car quickly and getting us back on the road.
We settled in for the night at Cedar Meadows Resort just outside of Timmins. This resort knows how to provide its guests with a great experience. The food was beyond delicious and every night they offer a wildlife tour that gives you the opportunity to feed moose (the only one we saw the entire trip) and elk. Experiences like these make trips memorable.
After saying so long to Timmins we drove two more hours through trees and rocks to the most Northern point of our trip, Kapuskasing, and then on to Cochrane, home of Tim Horton and Ganuk the polar bear. Being on the list of site visits, we headed to JR’s BBQ Ranch for lunch. We were told that JR’s had “the best ribs you’ll ever have”. They were amazing (in our eyes good enough to satisfy a hungry motorcyclist), and to top it all off the service was excellent.
We eventually found ourselves at the Elk Lake Cabins. This quaint resort was one of my favorite stops on the trip. It was set on the water and featured several cabins and plenty of RV and tent sites. An onsite pizza oven means motorcycle guests can easily park their bikes and order in for the night. They claim to have the best pizza in the North and although it was the only pizza we ate during the trip, in my opinion, it would hold its own in any pizza competition. We enjoyed ours while watching the sunset over Elk Lake.
After our mini cabin vacation, we packed up the rental and made the breathtaking drive around Lake Temiskaming and Quebec. We headed to Duhamel-Ouest to check out one of our designated stops for lunch. La Bannik was upscale, served delicious fresh food at a reasonable rate and had one of the most spectacular views I have ever seen. Since motorcycle riders are not just young to middle aged males anymore, La Bannik passed our test for the couple and boomer market.
Unfortunately our week long site assessment trip was coming to an end. After finishing up our operator visits in Mattawa and North Bay we made the long drive home and said goodbye to the North.
As a tourism consultant, this trip not only affirmed motorcycle friendly businesses- it also gave me a greater sense of what tourism in Northern Ontario really is about. Northern Ontario is about wide open roads that span miles and miles, friendly welcoming people who are willing to chat and shy but massive creatures like moose and bear that hide within the trees and rocks that surround them.
KM’s driven, approximately 1,887.
- AY Jackson lookout (minus the bear encounter)
- brushing back to back with Andre from the TV show Departures riding his motorcycle in northeastern Ontario
- Coconut Crème pie at Rolly’s in Ramore
- Highway 633 to Mattawa (windy and thrilling)
Stacey Hunter is a tourism researcher with BC Hughes Tourism Consulting. She has travelled to 16 countries around the world, with the goal to become enriched through experiencing local cultures.