7 Scenic Fall Drives in Northeastern Ontario
September is one of our favourite months here in Northeastern Ontario. Harvest season is upon us, restaurants are trotting out their finest seasonal fare, the night sky is showing off, and the leaves are turning.
These are some of our favourite scenic drives to take in the fall for maximum foliage viewing. We’ve highlighted some of the twistiest, turniest roads, with fun things to see, do, and eat along the way. To perfectly time your excursion, click on the Ontario Travel Fall Colours Report.
POWASSAN TO NORTH BAY
Gorgeous rolling hills covered in maples, birch, and other brightly coloured deciduous species make up the landscape of this scenic route along Highway 11.
Pull off the highway into Powassan, home to 3,500 people and numerous farm and antique stores. While you’re there, take a tour of Giesler Boats—a family business of wooden boat makers (artists?) who’ve been crafting these special vessels for generations. Stretch your legs by hiking up Powassan Mountain to get a view of the surrounding highlands.
Continue on up Highway 11 to North Bay, where you can grab a bite, do some shopping, and tour the downtown and waterfront areas. For great photo opportunities, hike Duchesnay Falls on the Laurentian Escarpment, or nab a ticket on one of the Chief Commanda II’s scenic fall colours cruises.
LOOP AROUND LAKE NIPISSING
PORT LORING –CALLANDER – STURGEON FALLS – FRENCH RIVER
One of Northeastern Ontario’s finest fall touring loops circles around one of Ontario’s largest lakes, Lake Nipissing. Connect to this route from any of Highways 69, 11, or 17.
Head south to the nearby community of Callander, home of the Alexander Dufresne Gallery & Callander Bay Heritage Museum. The Callander waterfront alone is worth the stop for its scenic lookouts over the lake. Take your time and stop in at the Port Shores in Port Loring for a quick bite and to check out the local gift shop. Plan ahead and book a scenic boat tour for a next-level experience.
Hungry travellers will want to stop in at Sturgeon Falls on the return portion of the loop to experience great poutine at the RIV.
NORTH BAY to Mattawa
If you’re coming or going from the Ottawa region along the Highway 17 corridor, you’ll find yourself on a stunning route of rolling hills and fall colour splendour.
Mattawa itself is located where the Mattawa and Ottawa Rivers meet. Resting under the gaze of the Laurentian Mountains, this historic community provides ample foliage viewing opportunities to leaf-seekers on its own. The drive to and from is a bonus.
Stop in for a meal at the newly renovated Cardinal Restaurant at the Mattawa River Resort, or spend the night in one of their lovingly restored cabins. If you’re looking for a more outdoors-oriented experience, consider exploring Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park from the comfort of the Canadian Ecology Centre.
Tour down the highway towards North Bay, and consider stopping in at Von Doeler’s Ranch in Rutherglen for a horseback ride to the Talon Chutes through the turning fall forest.
HIGHWAY 11 NORTH
MARTEN RIVER TO TEMISKAMING SHORES
Smooth highways that hug lake shorelines and wetlands make for prime fall colour viewing. As you head north, you’ll notice the colours turn more to gentle golds and yellows.
Make it a weekend and book in at one of the numerous lodges that line the Highway 11 corridor in communities such as Marten River, Temagami, Larder Lake, and Latchford. To get a heightened perspective on the changing fall landscape, climb the Temagami Fire Tower, or book a flightseeing tour with Lakeland Airways for the ultimate view. Photographers welcome and encouraged!
If you’re planning a weekend getaway, we wrote an article about what makes the Lake Temiskaming Tour the ideal fall getaway.
SUDBURY TO TIMMINS
It’s all gold on Highway 144 from Sudbury to Timmins: the leaves; the long history of gold mining the region is famous for. While you won’t pass through many towns between these two northern cities, you’ll pass plenty of boreal forests, golden birch and tamaracks, and contrasting evergreens.
When you’re in need of a break, stretch your legs at the Watershed—the only rest stop along your route, famous for its diner and location at the intersection of the Sultan Industrial Road 560. Why the Watershed? On your journey, you’ll pass one: the exact point where water flow splits and heads both North and South at the same place.
When you arrive in Timmins, there's still plenty of outdoor adventure to partake in. Choose from an extensive list of hiking and biking trails to explore, visit the Timmins Museum National Exhibition Centre, or take a photo op with the famous McIntyre Headframe.
ESPANOLA TO SOUTH BAYMOUTH
While this is a popular road for road trippers during any time of the year, Highway 6 to Manitoulin Island really comes alive when the leaves are on peak. Gentle curves and rolling slopes make for a new view around every turn in the road.
Cross the Swing Bridge into Little Current and sample the beer by Manitoulin Brewing that’s named after it. Then grab a bite in town before continuing your journey south. Make sure to pull off at Ten Mile Lookout—a highlight of any road trip to Manitoulin Island. You’ll see for miles, all the more spectacular with the changing colours and fall sunlight.
From here you have two options: close the Georgian Bay Coastal Loop by booking passage on the MS Chi-Cheemaun to Tobermory, or spend a leisurely weekend on Manitoulin Island exploring its small towns, experiencing indigenous culture, art galleries, and hiking trails.
A winding, 70-km drive down Highway 637 (off of Highway 69) provides scenic seekers with mixed pine and deciduous forests for maximum colour viewing. Wildlife viewing opportunities are plentiful, especially in the early morning or dusk. Remember to stay in your vehicle; pull over safely, and never feed any wildlife!
To really take in the region and foliage, get out on the water by renting a canoe or kayak at Killarney Outfitters. Choose from inland routes or the more open-water, Georgian Bay routes in Killarney Provincial Park.
To complete your day, drive the remaining 3 km down the road to the Village of Killarney. Grab a bite at the top-notch Herbert’s Fish and Chips, or tour the grounds of Killarney Mountain Lodge, take in the views, and grab lunch in the Carousel Lounge. We also recommend stopping in at Artists at Cell Block #9, an original jail building with its cells still intact. Canadian painter Pierre AJ Sabourin is a fantastic storyteller and provides a tour of the jail alongside his works of art.