The Best Place to Ride in Ontario is Highway 17

We asked our most avid motorcycling friends to tell us definitively: What's the best place to ride in Ontario? Here's what they said.

We love riding in Ontario. And we love debating the best routes, roads, and destinations. To finally settle the score, we reached out to our most avid motorcycling friends and asked them to tell us definitively: What's the best place to ride in Ontario? We got a lot of passionate replies—from a truck stop to a city of waterfalls. Which one is your fav?


Open road alongside Lake Superior on Highway 17

There’s a stretch of road that is calling me. In fact, it’s not so much a road as a region, a geography, and ultimately, a state of mind. Highway 17 from Sault Ste-Marie to Thunder Bay is the perfect antidote to urban and suburban life. Its quiet solitude, big skies, towering pines, rolling mountains, and majestic lookouts over Lake Superior will cleanse you of your day-to-day concerns—exactly what a vacation should be. Add to that the freedom of the motorcycle and the simplicity of camping, and you have a sort of paradise. 


Highway 17 over the top of Lake Superior is 700 kilometers of immaculate roadway. There are very few tar snakes, potholes, and other imperfections, a remarkable accomplishment for the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, given the remoteness of the highway. The trade-off, however, is that you will likely encounter a few sections of roadwork, which really only amounts to a brief wait as the highway reduces to a single lane. There’s relatively little traffic on this open road to hold you up. 

The road has a speed limit of 100 km/hr and is generally two lanes wide with passing lanes every few kilometers, usually on the steep hills so the struggling trucks can pull over. And there are hills! This is mountainous geography and the road climbs and descends as the sweepers follow the northern cliff shoreline of gichi-gami, Ojibwe for “The Great Sea.” You will see the vast body of water off your shoulder for most of this ride, but be sure to pull off at the lookouts so you can safely drink in the vistas that inspired Lauren Harris and others in The Group of Seven. 

Morning, Lake Superior by Lauren Harris

If the lookouts are not enough, you can stretch your legs off the bike by doing one of the many hikes in the area. Most bring you to the top of a mountain for a similar view to what Harris saw. 

View from the Awausee Trail, a 10km hike in Lake Superior Provincial Park.


There’s not a lot of development in this region, and that’s its charm. But it means that accommodations are clustered in the small cities and towns you will pass through, like Sault Ste-Marie, Wawa, Marathon, and Thunder Bay. A roadside motel with a soft bed is great at the end of a long day of riding, but if you are riding this highway, you’ll want to do some camping so you can experience the natural beauty of the area in the evenings off the bike. There’s nothing like a campfire or a stroll along a beach at sunset to really unwind, so be sure to pack a tent, a camp stove, and a few cooking essentials. 

Fortunately, this section of highway contains two excellent parks with campgrounds: Lake Superior Provincial Park and Pukaskwa National Park. Both are inexpensive, clean, well-staffed, and quiet, with hot showers and other facilities available. A real treat and must stay is Agawa Campground, situated on the shoreline with its own long sandy beach.

Stay overnight at Agawa Campground and relax on its sandy beach.

There are front-country and backcountry hikes available, including the Coastal Hiking Trail at Pukaskwa that leads to the White River Suspension Bridge 23 meters above Chigamiwinigum Falls.

Towering pines at Agawa Campground, Lake Superior Provincial Park.


One highlight not to be missed is Agawa Rock. Located just west of Agawa Campground in Lake Superior Provincial Park, the rock contains a series of ancient pictographs still clearly visible and reminds you that this place, however remote, has been special to many others for hundreds of years. The pictographs are 150-400 years old and tell the stories of Ojibwe legends, local wildlife, and historical wars. If the surrounding rugged wilderness doesn’t humble you, these visible reminders of a greater historical context will. The Agawa Rock is a sacred place that inspires awe and reflection. 

The pictographs at Agawa Rock are only accessible with good footwear and when the lake is calm. 


You can ride from Sault Ste-Marie to Thunder Bay in less than eight hours, but why would you? That’s like wolfing down your double chocolate mousse cheesecake. You’ll want to budget at least three days to savour this stretch of spectacular landscape. If you are travelling east to west, you could spend one night at Lake Superior Provincial Park, your second at Pukaskwa, and your third in Thunder Bay. This way you’ll have short daily rides and lots of time to relax on the beaches, hike the mountains, and view Agawa Rock. If you are up for it, you can also spend some time canoeing, kayaking, and fishing in the parks. 


You’ll find food in the cities, but when passing through Wawa, be sure to stop at Kinniwabi Pines Restaurant. This family-run restaurant has an elegant rustic décor and a large menu, including Lake Superior trout, salmon, and pickerel. It’s in keeping with the region and you won’t get a nicer view from your table if you choose to be seated on the terrace. 

Kinniwabi Pines Restaurant on Highway 17, Wawa.


If I had to choose a soundtrack for this ride, it would be something calming and soulful, like any of the opening tracks of Beck’s Morning Phase. But what I think of when I imagine this region is American poet Sylvia Plath’s lines describing her first experience of Canadian wilderness. In “Two Campers in Cloud Country,” she writes, “I lean to you, numb as a fossil.” For Plath, who suffered from anxiety her whole adult life, the image is positive as she leans in to husband Ted Hughes, enjoying the erasure of self and civilization in the midst of such raw wilderness and natural beauty. 

Planets pulse in the lake like bright amoebas;
The pines blot our voices up in their lightest sighs.

Around our tent the old simplicities sough
Sleepily as Lethe, trying to get in.
We’ll wake blank-brained as water in the dawn.

It’s one of the best expressions of the sublime in contemporary poetry and captures well the mood and atmosphere of this remote stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway and my favourite spot to ride in Northern Ontario. After the demanding year it’s been, I’m very much looking forward to loading up my bike next week and heading again for this little piece of paradise.

About Kevin Bushell

Kevin started riding in 2015 and quickly took to off-roading and adventure touring. He has travelled extensively across Canada and the northeastern states. In addition to writing about his travels, he writes poetry, and his book Invisible Sea—a collection of poems on the theme of flight—is published by DC Books. He is an English teacher at Vanier College and lives with his wife and border collie in Montreal.

Related Articles

Ontario Motorcycle Events

Let's Ride!

A Fair To Remember

Cruising Canadian Medieval & Renaissance events in 2023.

It's Bike Night in Ontario 2023

The complete list of this summer's motorcycle meetups and bike nights. Get out there and have some fun!

Ontario Motorcycle Clubs

The Big List

Get Your Gear Here

Ontario's Motorcycle Swap Meets

Ontario Motorcycle Rentals

Get yourself a ride and hit the road!

How To Get A Motorcycle License in Ontario

The info you need.

Ontario's Best Twisties

Where to go to get the blood pumping!

Thrills close to Home

Forks of the Credit Motorcycle Route

Training Wheels

The Big List of Ontario's Motorcycle Training Schools

Long Sault Parkway

The formation of the St. Lawrence Seaway created a fun place to ride

Ontario's Top Twisties

Winding along Snake Road.

Where to Ride

The Top 10 Motorcycle Routes for 2018

"Enjoy Your Stay"

Tips for crossing the U.S./Canada border on a motorcycle.

Riding the Loyalist Loop

Two riders set off from Montreal to enjoy the autumn colours and discover Southeastern Ontario’s Loyalist history.

Kawarthas vs Muskoka

Where would you rather ride?

Is this the way?

10 Motorcycle Maps for Ontario

Top Motorcycle Routes for 2020

Where to Ride in Ontario this Year

Algoma's Highway 129

Ontario's best roads

Rally to the Valley

The Top 5 Destinations in the Ottawa Valley Area