As a military kid then spouse, I can’t remember how many times I’ve crossed the country by car. It seems all the postings were from East to West or vice versa. I won’t bore you here with the wheres to wheres – If you read my book Camp Follower One Army Brat’s Story by Michele Sabad, you know what I mean. Suffice to say, now that I live in Quebec but my father lives in Manitoba, I still do the road trip through Ontario once a year.There are a couple of options to make it through. The main road, the southern Trans-Canada route via Sault St. Marie then Thunder Bay then Kenora is the most often travelled. But in summer (also known as construction season) this busy trucking route and tourist track can be stressful. At least there are plenty of pit stops, ie, Tim Hortons. Another fun and exotic route is through the States. I like going this way – the roads are all 4-laners and it’s a foreign country to enjoy! But the Canadian dollar sometimes means it’s a little pricey so..There’s a northern Trans-Canada route through Ontario. Starting from Gatineau you head north, to Rouyn-Noranda. An unexpected touristy town with great cafe restaurants and a downtown waterfront walk. A lovely weekend getaway-type town.
After Rouyn-Noranda, you leave la Belle province for your days and days of driving through Ontario. But the Northern route is wonderous IF: you enjoy peaceful driving, picnic pit stops on little lakesides, wildlife views: we saw a bear, a coyote, a skunk (not roadkilled) deer of course, herons and many unidentifiable birds including raptors with red beaks and white necks- eagles?
I would recommend booking ahead for nightly accommodation as it is limited and fills up early during the summer driving season. We stopped in Geraldton one night and were lucky with a motel that served dinner, homestyle.
Now after Nipigon(do stop at the new observation tower for views) and Thunder Bay, you can continue towards southern Manitoba via either Kenora or south through Lake of the Woods. Everyone should do the Lake of the Woods drive sometime. It’s remarkable for the variety of woodland and lakeland around every twist and turn. It feels like a lost part of Canada; it’s not well-known or travelled.
Finally you’ll hit the flat prairie 4-laner that announces Manitoba. You’re ready for it. Take a big breath, get back to cell coverage and ordinary mosquitoes (did I not mention the clouds of black flies of Northern Ontario?)
Enjoy the journey. Then do it again and try a different route 😉