7 Amazing Places to Paddle Near North Bay

Easy day trips and challenging overnight adventures await.

North Bay has earned its title as the Gateway City for the way it serves as an entry point to the vast expanses of Northern Ontario. It’s no surprise this vibrant community located less than a four-hour drive north of the GTA is a portal to adventure for paddlers, too, with immediate access to large lakes and historic rivers in Northeastern Ontario. The city’s Lake Nipissing waterfront offers opportunities for sea kayaking in the heart of downtown, while adjoining lakes on North Bay’s eastern perimeter provide connections to the Mattawa River, part of an ancient Indigenous water route that was later adopted by the voyageurs of the Canadian fur trade.

Located at the junction of Highway 11 and Highway 17, North Bay is within an hour’s drive of Algonquin Provincial Park access points, the headwaters of the French River, and the immense Temagami canoe country. Visitors will discover something for every type and skill level of paddler, including short beginner paddles to longer, bucket-list expeditions on wilderness waterways.

Simply put, North Bay is a paddlers paradise. This list is your gateway to exploring Northeastern Ontario by kayak and canoe.

Marten River Provincial Park

Less than an hour’s drive north of North Bay on Highway 11, Marten River Provincial Park draws paddlers with an ancient forest of 350-year-old white pine giants. The park’s namesake waterway adjacent to the drive-in campground provides ample opportunities to get a taste of Ontario’s Temagami canoeing area with easy day trips. Adventurous trippers can use the park as a starting point for longer trips, including lake routes with many portages and the boisterous Temagami River

Lake Nipissing

The city of North Bay embraces the shoreline of Ontario’s third-largest body of water. Paddlers can access Lake Nipissing from Silver Beach Park and Sunset Park, located off of Lakeshore Drive, as well as Champlain Park at the mouth of the Lavase River. Lake Nipissing sunsets from the North Bay waterfront are sublime.

With plenty of open water it’s important to be mindful of the weather; the lake is usually best suited to kayakers and cautious canoeists. The shoreline includes many gentle sand beach landings and sheltered inlets that are excellent for viewing song- and shorebirds, as well as bald eagles. Lake Nipissing kayak fishing is outstanding as well, with ample opportunities to catch walleye, northern pike and perch.

  • Natural Experience and Shockwave Paddle Adventures offer all-inclusive guided kayak day trips and lessons on North Bay’s Lake Nipissing shoreline and other nearby bodies of water.
  • Boathouse Rentals offers kayaks and standup paddleboards and immediate access to the Lake Nipissing waterfront from its location on Memorial Drive. Meanwhile, Cranberry Canoes provides canoe and kayak rentals in Callander, just south of North Bay.
  • Cecil’s Brewhouse and Kitchen is a favourite local eatery with prime rib weekends and seasonal beers. Meanwhile, the Pinewood Park Resort includes a heated outdoor pool, on-site dining and easy access to all of North Bay’s urban attractions.
  • Stretch your legs on the easy trails at Duchesnay Falls, located on Highway 17 in the city’s west end.
Canoe overturned on shore with paddles crossed and leaning against a rock.

The landscape of the French River and Restoule Provincial Park is quintessential Ontario backcountry. Photo: Sami Khan // @samiqan

Restoule Provincial Park and French River

Restoule Provincial Park is located south of the island-strewn south shore of Lake Nipissing, about an hour’s drive from North Bay on secondary highways 654 and 534. The park features many options for paddling, including several day trips ranging from 2.5 to 14 kilometres in length departing from the drive-in campground on Restoule Lake. Scenic highlights include a 60-metre bluff on Stormy Lake.

Meanwhile, the park’s backcountry extends to the Lake Nipissing shores and offers a 4- to 5-day backcountry circuit for more experienced canoeists, including the headwaters of the French River. You could also complete a linear route on the French River from Restoule Provincial Park to Georgian Bay.

Trout Lake

North Bay’s other lake isn’t as large as Lake Nipissing, but it has plenty of room for exploration on canoe, kayak and SUP day trips at the beginning of the historic Mattawa River canoe route. Trout Lake is located on the eastern edge of the city, with plenty of access points from Highway 63 and other municipal roads. Portage Park is located on Peninsula Road just off of Highway 63. Its central location makes for a great place to start a day trip on Trout Lake to experience this body of water’s mix of undeveloped shoreline and cottages. Other launches closer to downtown include Birchaven Cove Park and Elks Lodge #25 Family Conservation Area.

  • Nearby dining options include Average Joe’s and The Portage, both of which serve a mix of pub and Canadian fare with friendly, casual atmospheres and outdoor dining space.
  • Natural Experience offers kayak day trips and instruction on Trout Lake and the North Bay Canoe Club is located on Lakeside Drive, on the west side of the lake.
  • Lake Nipissing and Trout Lake are part of the voyageur canoe route from Montreal to the Great Lakes, connected by the historic La Vase Portages. You can hike these ancient trails and feel your place in history. It’s also possible to paddle (and portage) from Trout Lake to Brandy Lake and Perron’s Pond if you desire a truly authentic experience.

Mattawa River

The Mattawa River is an excellent choice for novice to intermediate canoe trippers, with historic portages, rocky shores and the haunting feeling of paddling back in time. A three- to four-day, 64-kilometre trip starts on Trout Lake (Olmsted Beach and Macpherson Drive make good starting points), just east of North Bay, with several other access points for shorter trips along the way. The river is a non-operating provincial park, meaning camping is free for Canadian residents (non-residents must purchase Crown land camping permits). Most paddlers finish the trip at the town of Mattawa, though it’s possible to continue down the Ottawa River to extend the Canadian voyageur experience.

There are over a dozen short portages on the Mattawa River, as well as several easy rapids that are navigable for experienced paddlers. For a great day trip, launch at Pimisi Bay on Highway 17 and paddle 4 to 6 hours downstream to Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park. In fact, the outstanding campground, beaches and hiking trails make Samuel de Champlain a great base camp to explore the area, with immersive guided voyageur canoe half-day trips available so you can paddle like it’s 1796.

  • Mattawa River vehicle shuttles are provided by Algonquin North Wilderness Outfitter. Rental canoes are also available, along with special outfitting packages for Mattawa River day trips.
  • Looking for a challenge? The Mattawa River Canoe Race is held each summer in late July. Hundreds of paddlers competing in canoe, kayak and SUP categories descend the river as fast as possible, with winners completing the 64-kilometre journey in barely six hours of continuous paddling.
  • Want more comfort? Book a cabin at the Canadian Ecology Centre (located within Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park) and learn more about the region’s natural history. Other Mattawa area accommodations include Nature’s Harmony, an off-grid retreat featuring cabins and camping as well as unique yurt, dome and glamping accommodations.
Woman walks with pack toward overturned canoes on a campsite.

Explore the iconic Algonquin Provincial Park. Photo: Shauna Feehan // @shauna.feehan

Kiosk/Algonquin Provincial Park

The northernmost entry point to Algonquin Provincial Park is located about 75 kilometres east of North Bay at Kioshkokwi Lake. “Kiosk” includes a drive-in campground and access to dozens of canoe route options, accessible via Highway 17 and Highway 630. Take a closer look at the park’s backcountry canoe route map to create your own loops by connecting Kiosk to Mink, Erables and Manitou lakes. Advanced paddlers can also launch from Kiosk and head east to access the headwaters of the Petawawa River, a popular whitewater canoe route. Although this remote entry point receives a fraction of the crowds of more popular Highway 60 locations, it’s still essential to book backcountry campsites well in advance.

  • Algonquin North Wilderness Outfitter is your go-to source for canoe rentals for the north end of Algonquin Provincial Park.
  • The Kiosk Campground is open from the last Friday in April through late October, with 24 campsites and a historic Ranger Cabin available for rent.

South River

The town of South River, located off of Highway 11 about 40 minutes south of North Bay, serves as the western gateway to Algonquin Provincial Park. The backcountry entry point on Kawawaymog Lake boasts fewer crowds than Algonquin access points along the Highway 60 corridor, but it’s still busy in mid-summer. Be sure to plan and book your adventure early to avoid missing out. A multitude of paddling opportunities exist for all skill levels, with route options limited only by your imagination and amount of time.

North Bay Outfitters

Reach out to Natural Experience and Shockwave Paddle Adventures for all-inclusive guided kayak day trips and custom paddling packages in the North Bay area.

Book rental kayaks, canoes and SUPs at Boathouse Rentals on the North Bay waterfront and Cranberry Canoes in Callander. Additional nearby options for renting include Swift Canoe and Kayak in South River and Algonquin Wilderness North Outfitter in Bonfield.  

Visit Lefebvre’s Source for Adventure and Mountain Warehouse for outdoor gear and apparel in North Bay. North Bay Outfitters specializes in fishing.

Discover the Best Kayaking and Canoeing in North Bay

There’s no shortage of great kayaking and canoeing opportunities in and around North Bay. Besides offering excellent local paddling on Lake Nipissing and Trout Lake, North Bay is a gateway to historic canoe routes and wilderness waters that make Northeastern Ontario one of the world’s best places to paddle.

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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