7 Family-Friendly Places To Explore in The Seven

Great family vacations have two main ingredients: awesome places plus awesome company. We've got the first part covered for you.
Some smiling children and a man sit on rocks next a lake on a sunny summer day. One child has their legs in the water and there are pine trees in the background.

It’s no surprise that Northeastern Ontario features plenty of outdoor options for adventurous families. But there’s more than camping, cycling, paddling, hiking and skiing in this vast and diverse region. Our list highlights great attractions for the entire family, including one of Canada’s best science centres, a place to encounter amazing wildlife, resorts and cabins on the edge of the wilderness, and—of course—healthy servings of fresh air (and freshwater) activities. Isn’t it time you planned a family trip to The Seven? Here are some suggestions to get you started.

A boy laying in a hammock strung between two trees, looking upward. His bicycle is propped up next to the hammock and there is forest and a campground road in the background.
It's time for a family camping trip they'll really remember. // Photo credit Joey Panetta

1. Go Off-Grid in Mattawa

Located just outside the town of Mattawa, Nature’s Harmony Ecolodge offers unique, all-season accommodations and outdoor activities on a 485-acre wilderness property set in the rugged Laurentian Hills of Northeastern Ontario. Family-friendly accommodations range from private campsites to a 12-person chalet, with everything in between—including glamping, yurts, geodesic domes and cozy cabins. It’s all powered by wind and solar energy, making Nature’s Harmony a perfect place to discover sustainable living and experience a modern homestead with your kids.

Of course, there’s more than environmental responsibility at Nature’s Harmony. The eco-resort hosts fun, family-friendly activities like winter tobogganing and kicksledding (think a hybrid of dogsledding and cross-country skiing, without the dogs) and swimming, paddling, hiking, mountain biking and more in the summer. It all adds up to a family vacation spot you won’t soon forget.

  • While in Mattawa be sure to check out Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park, a magical oasis of tall pines with great trails, swimming spots and an interactive visitor centre on the historic Mattawa River.

2. Get Up Close With Polar Bears in Cochrane

Did you know that Ontario is home to 900 to 1,100 polar bears? The province’s polar bear population patrols the ice floes of James and Hudson bays hunting for seals, and mother bears give birth to their young in the remote lowlands of Ontario’s far north. Needless to say, you can count yourself extremely lucky if you ever get the opportunity to see a polar bear in its native habitat!

The next best option for polar bear viewing is the town of Cochrane, in Northeastern Ontario. The Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat is home to three polar bears, and it is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2024 as the world’s only sanctuary that cares for and rehabilitates majestic polar bears. Bring your family to view the current cohort of polar bears (named Ganuk, Henry and Inukshuk) in a natural boreal forest setting, along with an underwater enclosure pool for intimate glimpses (and amazing photographs) of swimming bears. On-site interpreters share interesting polar bear facts and explain how this facility is supporting wildlife researchers from Canada and the US to help conserve this iconic species.

  • Cochrane is also the jumping-off place for Ontario Northland’s Polar Bear Express, which offers passenger rail service to the remote community of Moosonee, on the shores of James Bay. There’s a great hotel in the train station.
A  smiling man pushes a child on a kicksled through the snow. There is conifer forest in the background and snow is falling. Two small children watching through glass as a polar bear swims with a barrel underwater just in front of them. The child on the left has his hand on the glass as though trying to touch the polar bear.
Nature's Harmony and the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat offer families a way to have fun while connecting over the fascinating natural world. // Photo credit Goh Iromoto (left), Kendra Marjerrison (right)

3. Urban Adventures in the City of Lakes

Sudbury is Northeastern Ontario’s largest city and it strikes an impressive blend of outdoor adventures and urban charm for the whole family. Visit Kivi Park for year-round adventure sports, including mountain biking, hiking, paddling, cross-country skiing and ice skating. Sprawling across 480 acres of Canadian Shield and mixed forest terrain, Kivi features over 55 km of trails and peaceful Crowley Lake. On-site bike, watersport, ski and snowshoe rentals are available.

Sudbury is also home to Science North, one of Canada’s greatest science centres. Families can easily spend a full day at Science North, participating in interactive exhibits to discover northern wildlife, geology, outer space and more. The facility is located on the shores of Ramsey Lake, with trails, beaches, picnic areas and an amazing winter skating path that leaves no doubt as to why Sudbury is known as the City of Lakes.

  • Book a unique Family Falconry Experience at Talon and Bark Falconry, which offers close encounters with amazing birds of prey about 20 minutes west of Sudbury in the community of Chelmsford.
Two adults and two children hold hands in a line as they skate across a frozen pond in late afternoon on a sunny winter day. Their shadows stretch long behind them.
Science North gives opportunities for both outdoor and indoor family fun. // Photo credit Goh Iromoto

4. Camp in Temagami's Wilderness Edge

Northeastern Ontario’s Temagami region is a world-renowned canoe country for good reason: the area is graced with a myriad of crystalline lakes and flowing rivers. A network of provincial parks helps protect the area’s amazing 2,400-km network of ancient canoe routes. Families can get a glimpse of the Temagami wilds at Finlayson Point Provincial Park, which features a drive-in campground that accommodates tent campers, trailers and RVs and provides access to sprawling Lake Temagami. The peaceful campground is graced by towering white and red pine trees. Along with great swimming and paddling, it’s an easy drive to the quaint town of Temagami and the family-friendly hike to the historic fire tower on Caribou Mountain.

  • Contact Smoothwater Outfitters and Lodge, located just off of Highway 11, to plan a family backcountry canoe trip in Temagami. Smoothwater also provides waterfront cabin rentals, camping and decadent meals. Meanwhile, Temagami Outfitting offers a range of guided canoe trips.
A high shot looking down on a family in a large cabin sitting room, sitting on couches around a coffee table. There are tall windows that fill one wall, and outside there is green grass, forest and canoes.
Smoothwater Outfitters makes a perfect home base for a family canoe trip.

5. Experience Wild Georgian Bay

It’s no wonder the glacier-sculpted rocks, scraggly pines and brilliant quartzite hills inspired Canada’s most famous landscape art. Northeastern Ontario’s Georgian Bay area remains much the same since members of the Group of Seven artists immortalized it a century ago. Today, families can make great outdoor memories at the Avalon Eco Resort, which offers cozy off-grid cabins on the doorstep of scenic Killarney Provincial Park. Avalon is the perfect gateway to relaxing paddling adventures on crystal-clear lakes and hikes to stunning viewpoints.

While Killarney impresses with tall peaks and austere quartzite geology, the nearby French River is a labyrinth of polished granite and windswept pine. Book a stay at the Tilted Toque Wilderness Lodge at the river’s outlet on Lake Nipissing. Besides offering world-class fishing for walleye and northern pike, Tilted Toque’s family packages offer options for canoeing, kayaking and swimming—all from the comfort of your own private waterfront cottage.

  • Point Grondine Park bridges the gap between Killarney and French River and offers backcountry paddling and hiking for adventurous families. The park is part of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory and is managed through Indigenous stewardship. Guided packages and canoe rentals are also available.
3 smiling people hiking down a tree-covered rock bank in front of a large lake in Killarney Provincial Park.
Hiking in Killarney Provincial Park makes for a beautiful day together. 

6. A Taste of Northern Luxury in Timmins

Timmins is a bustling northern city bisected by big rivers and surrounded by boreal forest wilderness, located about 300 km north of Sudbury. Cedar Meadows Resort and Spa is the perfect choice for an upscale Timmins stay. The resort features 49 suites and 10 chalets, set on a 175-acre property that doubles as a wildlife preserve. Book a chalet for your family for the truly unique experience of “sleeping with the wolves”:  picture-perfect cabins are set in a large enclosure that’s home to a pack of wolves! Guided wilderness tours are available—along with an onsite spa to wind down afterward.

  • Be sure to check out downtown Timmins to get a sense of this vibrant community. The Radical Gardens is a local favourite for lunch. Can’t get enough of the outdoors? The trails at Hersey Lake Conservation Area, just minutes from the city core, are well-marked and surrounded by boreal woods—with options for hiking, mountain biking, swimming and having a picnic.
two adults and a small child in outdoor winter clothing smile as they reach over a fence to feed an elk with their hands. There is snowy forest in the background.
Cedar Meadows Resort and Spa is a one-of-a-kind setting for wildlife experiences unlike anywhere else. // Photo credit Goh Iromoto

7. Visit a Bike Town

North Bay has always billed itself as the Gateway to the North, and that reputation is stronger than ever today. The city has made huge investments in cycling trails—ranging from the easy cruising Kate Pace Way, which winds its way along the Lake Nipissing waterfront, through the heart of downtown North Bay, to the brand new Three Towers mountain bike trails, an impressive network of smooth, machine-built trails with something for kids and adults alike. Stop by local bike shops CycleWorks or Cheapskates for a sense of what’s available.

Two boys on bikes ride down a paved bike trail along Lake Nipissing on a summer day.
Take everyone on a lakeside bike tour on North Bay's Kate Pace Way.
  • Bike-friendly hotels in North Bay include the Best Western and Comfort Inn, both located on Lakeshore Drive with immediate access to family-friendly paved trails. The nearby waterfront community of Callandar features one of the region’s best dining experiences at 1886 Lake House Bistro, a reclaimed cottage featuring local ingredients and a great kids’ menu.
About Conor Mihell

Conor Mihell is an award-winning environmental and adventure travel writer based in Sault Ste. Marie. Read his work in the Globe and Mail, Explore, Cottage Life, Canoe & Kayak, ON Nature, and other magazines and newspapers. He's been a sea kayak guide on Lake Superior for close to 20 years, and has paddled from Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay. 

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