7 Reasons to Visit the Seven in 2024

With its pow wows, hiking trails, museums, and sustainable cuisine, combined with its stunning Boreal wilderness, Northeastern Ontario is the place to visit this year.
a woman crouches to get a closer look at a cluster of flowers growing in a rock pool next to a huge lake. The water is reflecting the sky which is lit up with a soft orange blue and pink sunset.

Many people in Ontario don’t realize just how massive Ontario really is. For many, the areas north of the Ottawa to Sarnia corridor mark an end to the province as they know it.

There are gas stations, a Tim Hortons, and maybe a few grocery stores for the small communities in the north, but is that it?

But there’s another side to the province, a land of big cities and small towns, vast forests, countless lakes, rushing waterfalls, and landscapes of insurmountable beauty that lie beyond. A place where small-town hospitality meets big-city culture.

Where you can rest your head in a high-end hotel in the morning, and dine by campfire under the aurora at night.

The Seven, some might say, is where Ontario truly begins.

This vast land features an ocean of pine trees that seem to go on forever. There are lakes so clear that, as you walk along their sandy bottoms, you can see the fish flitting around your toes. And at night, if you look up, a million stars blanket a sky that’s free from the light pollution of the big cities.

This is Northeastern Ontario, one of my favourite places on earth, where your adventure is waiting to be discovered.

It’s a land where waterfalls line the highways, lakes hide legendary shipwrecks, and weekends come alive with Indigenous pow wows and community festivals.

If you’ve never experienced the wonders of Northeastern Ontario, come with me on a journey where we explore the 7 reasons to travel to the Seven.

1. Friendly Communities

Elliot Lake Lookout Tower; an octagonal wooden gazebo-style lookout with steps leading to its platform, and segments of high wooden fence on either side, all painted white and red. The small tower sits at the edge of a steep cliff overlooking a wide forested valley. Two people stand in the center of the tower looking out over the view.
Elliot Lake Lookout Tower // Photo credit Kevin Wagar

Destinations are defined by the people who live there. The communities, restaurants, shops, and trades create a window to the souls of those who live there. Northeastern Ontario’s heart pounds to the beat of friendly, hard-working people.

Tucked away at the gateway to the North Channel, the tiny town of Killarney represents the beginning of the vast Northeast. Oozing small-town charm, take a walk along the quiet main street where visitors are tempted with locally-made ice cream, famous fish and chips, and regional delicacies like haskap berry jam. Pop into Pitfield’s General store, and you’ll find friendly faces ready to share stories of the village's rich fur-trading past and give you a glimpse into Killarney's unique heritage.

Once a booming uranium mining hub that supplied much of the world’s energy and medical industries, the town of Elliot Lake is one of the most beautiful and exciting destinations north of Seven. Offering excellent hiking, lakefronts, and outdoor experiences, Elliott Lakes' pride and joy are the breathtaking panoramic views from Fire Tower Lookout high above the town. The town’s soul is on display through a series of captivating murals that decorate the city’s downtown core. While you’re there, dive into local history at the Elliot Lake Museum and learn about the city's fascinating rise and transformation.

The “Gateway to the Arctic” is the town of Moosonee, where Ontario crashes into the waves of James Bay. The iconic Polar Bear Express delivers travellers eager for adventure to one of Ontario’s northernmost communities. A land where the northern lights dance year-round above the waters of Moose River. Pay a visit to historic Moose Factory Island, accessible by water taxi during the summer and by ice roads in winter. This former Hudson's Bay Company post shares the tales of fur trading in a bygone era.

Learn more about Northeastern Ontario’s small-town gems.

2. Delicious Food

A golden waffle garnished with artistically carved fruit, next to an omelet on a white plate. browned scallops wrapped in bacon and garnished with a green sauce next to a colourful spinach and tomato salad on a white square plate.
Photo credits Gloria’s Restaurant, Bella Vita Cucina

Famed chef Anthony Bourdain once mused that “Good food is very often, even most often, simple food.” And I am in wholehearted agreement. In my travels through Canada and around the world, I’ve found that the use of fresh ingredients paired with time-honoured recipes passed down from generation to generation tends to create the most enduring culinary experiences.

Northeastern Ontario is one of my favourite foodie destinations for simple, delicious, and authentic Canadian cuisine. I’ll travel north just for the food. Simple food, done with experience bordering perfection.

Consider the town of North Bay, where jaw-dropping sunsets over Lake Nipissing can be enjoyed at Shabogesic Beach along with vegan burgers from East Oak Fusion.

In Mindemoya, on Manitoulin Island, the quiet streets of Mindemoya are home to Mum’s Bakery, a local institution where I regularly work to beat the crowds to the limited supply of flaky butter tarts, pies, and breads. If you don’t mind waiting a minute, join them for their breakfasts, one of the best on the island.

Sudbury, the largest city in Northeastern Ontario, is exploding with amazing restaurants. I could go on and on just on the flavours in the city, from Gloria’s to Cara’s Deli.

One Sudbury restaurant that my family flocks to while in the city is Bella Vita Cucina.

This family-friendly Italian kitchen tucked away on Kathleen Street serves up authentic tastes of Italy, like delicious homemade pasta and, my personal choice, Gnocchi Scamorza. The restaurant's relaxing atmosphere sets a scene where diners tend to linger and talk after their meals, experiencing an evening of la dolce vita.

3. Nature, Camping, and Peace and Quiet (The Six Could Never)

A boy laying in a hammock strung up between two trees at a forest campsite in Kap Kig Iwan Provincial Park. The trees are a lush green and there is a bit of campfire smoke floating in the air just past the boy. He is looking up at the trees overhead with a smile and has his hands clasped behind his head.
Camping at Kap Kig Iwan Provincial Park. // Photo credit Kevin Wagar

The outdoors is my happy place. And if there’s one thing that the remote stretches north of Seven have in droves, it’s nature.

From the wild stretches of the Boreal Route, part of the world’s longest uninterrupted stretch of forest, to the dramatic curtains of some of Ontario’s most beautiful waterfalls, one could spend an eternity exploring the wilds of Northeastern Ontario and never visit the same place twice.

This vast playground boasts endless opportunities for adventure, all conveniently accessible. Imagine crystal-clear lakes reflecting endless skies, your paddle dipping into the water as you glide through Killarney Provincial Park's turquoise haven.

Hike the scenic trails of Kap Kig Iwan Provincial Park, where the sound of rushing water from dozens of falls creates a postcard-perfect stop around every corner.

Challenge yourself on the iconic Cup and Saucer Hiking Trail on Manitoulin Island and be rewarded with panoramic vistas that stretch for an eternity.

Discover the best hikes, biking trails, and lakes to explore in the Seven.

the Kap Kig Iwan Waterfall; a large, turbulent waterfall ending in a whitewater pool, with a large amount of spray misting up over it. It is surrounded by green forest on all sides and a steep rockface to the right. Cup and Saucer Trail; a young boy in a red shirt sits cross-legged on a rock clifftop, gazing out into the distance at a view of a lush forested valley and a large lake.
Kap Kig Iwan Waterfall and Cup and Saucer Trail // Photo credits Kevin Wagar

4. Wildlife Experiences

A polar bear lounging on its belly on some large rocks next to a pool, surrounded by green grass.
At the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat. // Photo credit Kevin Wagar

Driving between Timmins and Kirkland Lake, I encountered three bears, a moose, and a handful of northern white-tailed deer. Wildlife is abundant north of Seven. The light traffic and lack of crowds mean that many of nature's creatures haven’t fled for quieter places.

But not all animals here are completely wild. In fact, there are a few unforgettable animal encounters in Northeastern Ontario that are worth the drive all on their own.

The town of Cochrane, Ontario, is home to the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat. This rescue centre houses three beautiful polar bears that were injured or orphaned along the shores of Hudson Bay.

These animals are not able to be released back into the wild, but visitors are welcome to watch them swim and play in their large habitats and learn all about one of Canada’s most iconic animals. Check out Cochrane's Bearfest this summer—all proceeds go towards supporting the polar bear habitat. 

Not far from Cochrane lies one of Northeast Ontario's most unique farms.

At Dream Acres Alpacas, Jo-Anne and Gary Burton have been raising adorable fluffy alpacas since 2008. They currently have 23 of these South American animals, 18 females and 5 males, that guests can visit, feed, and pet.

For those who want an even more intimate experience, there’s also on-site camping available. 

Check out more alpaca farms to visit in Northern Ontario.

A woman and her two sons smile into the camera. Behind them is an enclosure with 10 alpacas of varying colours, grazing on green grass or standing near a barn in the straw. Beyond the enclosure is green forest.
Spending the day at Dream Acres Alpacas. // Photo credit Kevin Wagar

5. Primo Fishing

There are more than 250,000 lakes in Ontario, and many of those are in the Seven. Most Ontarians can’t fathom the quality of fishing that exists in Northeastern Ontario, yet nearly 400,000 anglers travel to the province each year with fishing on their mind.

I had the opportunity to discover why during a three-night fishing adventure at Mar Mac Lodge. I not only experienced some of the best fishing of my life, but I also had the chance to experience why generations of families make Northeastern Ontario fishing a yearly tradition.

6. We've Got Waterfalls

When TLC sang, “Don’t go chasing waterfalls,” they must not have experienced Northeastern Ontario. This is one of the best regions of Ontario for this very reason.

Onaping Falls, near Sudbury, offers a brilliant introduction to the beautiful waterfalls North of Seven. In fact, the waterfall overlook is called A.Y. Jackson Lookout in honour of the founding member of the famed Group of Seven, as his painting, “Spring On The Onaping River,” is among his most famous brushwork.

Onaping Falls in the summer; a long, gently cascading waterfall that runs down a brown rock embankment in the middle of a green forest.
Onaping Falls, inspiration to A.Y Jackson. // Photo credit Kevin Wagar

Chutes Provincial Park, just outside of Massey, Ontario, stuns with cascading waterfalls and hidden gorges carved by the mighty Mattagami River. Hike along scenic trails, cast a line in the cool waters, or kayak along dramatic rock faces.

Head to the town of Kagawong on Manitoulin Island for one of Northeastern Ontario’s most famous waterfalls.

Cascading over a small cliff, just off of the roadway, Bridal Veil Falls is a beautiful curtain waterfall that you can actually walk behind. This is one of the island’s most famous attractions and a place that I’ve journeyed to countless times to swim in the cool waters at the waterfall's base.

7. Arts + Culture  Experiences

a pow wow dancer in beautiful traditional regalia made of colourful fabrics adorned with ornate beadwork and feathers dances to the beat of the drummers seen behind him. It is a sunny summer day and lush green forest, a log shade structure with a roof of green branches, and vibrant blue sky are in the background.
 Pow Wows on Manitoulin Island are unforgettable. // Photo credit Kevin Wagar

Community, food, nature, and adventure all come together among the broad strokes of Northeastern Ontario’s cultural offerings. The educational and inspirational museums, galleries, and Indigenous experiences offer a way to immerse oneself in what it truly means to be North of Seven. 

Plan to attend one of the region's many pow wows this summer for a truly unforgettable experience. 

Located in the town of Cobalt, Ontario, the Cobalt Mining Museum offers a chance to dive into Northeastern Ontario’s mining history.

This small but important museum takes visitors on a self-guided tour of the town's rich silver mining history. Explore a network of exhibits showcasing the town's history of the silver rush, including the world’s largest display of native silver ore.

The Ojibwe Cultural Foundation in M'Chigeeng on Manitoulin Island is more than a museum—it's the beating heart of Turtle Island.

Dedicated to preserving the Anishinaabe language, art, and traditions, this Indigenous cultural centre offers workshops and art galleries and fosters a cultural understanding of Ontario’s Ojibwe communities.

Science North in Sudbury ignites curiosity in people of all ages—it’s also Ontario’s second-largest science museum. Interactive exhibits make science fun and spark a love for discovery. From exploring the human body to gazing at the stars, this science center is a beacon of education and inspiration for current and future generations of Northern Ontario's scientists and dreamers.

A visitor at Science North looks at a large skeleton on display, backlit by white light from the window behind it.
Discovery at Science North. // Photo credit Kevin Wagar

Are You Ready To Head to the Seven?

Northeastern Ontario isn't just a destination, it’s the soul of this great province. From the vibrant communities brimming with friendly faces and delicious local fare to the untouched wilderness teeming with wildlife, waterfalls, and world-class hiking, this vast region offers a glimpse into an area of Ontario often forgotten by those further south.

Immerse yourself in Indigenous culture, learn about the fascinating history of the region's many small towns, or simply unplug and reconnect with nature.

No matter your reason for visiting, Northeastern Ontario promises an unforgettable adventure that will leave you yearning to return. So, pack your bags, embrace your sense of adventure, and discover the magic that awaits.

About Kevin Wagar

Kevin Wagar is a family travel expert and award-winning travel writer and photographer. He explores the world with his wife and children seeking out adventurous experiences, cultural immersion, and opportunities to learn from the local people that he visits, and shares his stories on his website Wandering Wagars - Adventure Family Travel. Kevin is also a co-founder of Ultimate Ontario, a digital publication with a passion for sharing the stories of Ontario's travel, food, and beverage experiences.

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