Guide to Kayak Trips on Lake Superior

Don't miss out on some of the finest touring in the province.

Sea kayaking on Lake Superior delivers scenery and solitude that rivals Canada’s saltwater coasts. Glide across crystalline waters suspended between azure depths and towering cliffs in Lake Superior Provincial Park. Play lightkeeper at historic lighthouse stations perched among the remote islands of the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area. Or put your skills to the test on Lake Superior’s ultimate wilderness challenge, a 10-day exploration of the relentlessly raw and majestic Pukaskwa National Park.

Stretching hundreds of kilometres across Northern Ontario—the largest expanse of freshwater found anywhere on Earth—Superior is truly an inland sea, with famously frigid waters and the ever-present possibility of ferocious wind, massive waves and pounding swell. Summer sees the most settled weather, with late June through early August being the calmest time to paddle Lake Superior. Even so, be prepared to enjoy the view from shore one day out of every four. Kayakers who venture onto these waters must be honest about their skills, keep a close eye on the weather, conservative with decision-making, and patient with itineraries.

Fortunately, Lake Superior’s experienced kayak outfitters make it easy to enjoy a trip on the lake safely. Guided trips are also a great way to make a meaningful connection with the area by learning more about Lake Superior’s fascinating natural and cultural history. Many who have discovered Lake Superior find themselves returning year after year to paddle each and every one of these wow-worthy kayak routes.

Lake Superior Provincial Park

This easily accessible provincial park is located barely an hour’s drive from Sault Ste. Marie. Lake Superior Provincial Park offers some of the most varied shoreline geology you’ll find anywhere, ranging from fine sandy beaches to Technicolor cobbles and dramatic, pink granite cliffs. Kayakers can enjoy short tours from numerous access points along Trans-Canada Highway 17, or embark on a multi-day trip exploring the park’s 105-km coastline end-to-end.

For an introduction to Lake Superior Provincial Park's spectacular coast, head to the Gargantua (pronounced “Gar-gan-twa”) area where a scattering of sandy beach backcountry campsites make for an unforgettable weekend basecamp. From here, you can explore a clutch of rocky and remote isles scattered around the Gargantua headland when the weather allows. Glide silently beneath the cliffs at Devil’s Warehouse Island and you may be treated to a display of aerial acrobatics by resident peregrine falcons, or witness an avian of a different sort—the faded form of a Thunderbird high on the rocks, painted there ages ago by an Ojibwa artist.

  • Naturally Superior Adventures’ all-inclusive Spirit of Superior Weekly Escape guided kayak trip includes 6 days of wilderness camping and paddling. Shuttles, rentals, outfitting, lessons and lakeside accommodation are also available.
  • For those short on time, day trip options abound: for beautiful sand beaches, head to Sand River or Katherine Cove; for breathtaking cliffs plunging into jade green waters, paddle out from Sinclair Cove or Old Woman Bay.
  • Reserve a campsite at the park’s Agawa Bay or Rabbit Blanket Lake campgrounds; the latter offers private sites on a peaceful inland lake, while the former boasts mesmerizing Superior sunsets and one of the greatest beaches on the lake.
  • Stay overnight at Twilight Resort, located at the mouth of the Montreal River just minutes from the park’s southern gateway. Comfortable cabins and tent or RV sites overlook a gorgeous Lake Superior cobblestone beach.

Gros Cap

Marking the eastern terminus of Lake Superior, Gros Cap is an immense headland of forbidding cliffs and inviting gravel beaches that makes for some spectacular sea kayaking just 20 minutes west of Sault Ste. Marie. Head to the end of Highway 550, where you’ll find an official launch on the Lake Superior Water Trail, then follow the shoreline west.

With the seemingly infinite horizon of Superior to your left, experienced sea kayakers equipped for cold water and exposed coastal conditions can continue 10 km along the shore to Red Rock. Despite its proximity to Sault Ste. Marie, this is very big water; be sure to check weather conditions in advance and only head out if the forecast is calm. 

  • Get on the water with Great Lakes Outfitters, a locally owned outdoor store that has recently invested in a fleet of sea kayaks, canoes and standup paddleboards with a plan to offer rentals in 2023.
  • Based in nearby Goulais River, Forest the Canoe specializes in small-group interpretive tours that connect paddlers with the natural wonders of Northern Ontario. Guided half-day and full-day Lake Superior trips, as well as rentals and logistical support available.
  • Stay overnight at Sault Ste. Marie’s comfortably appointed Water Tower Inn, offering spacious rooms and suites, pools, spa and free canoe and kayak storage for guests.
Ladies sit arm in arm looking out at calm water.
Start out from Michipicoten Bay for many incredible trip options.  Photo: Virginia Marshall

Michipicoten Bay

Many first-time Lake Superior kayakers dip their toes in the waters at the mouth of the Michipicoten River, just minutes from the town of Wawa and home to the region’s premier paddling centre, Naturally Superior Adventures. When the lake is calm, novice paddlers can enjoy a rewarding day trip to beautiful Driftwood and Sandy beaches, or venture up the Michipicoten River to view cascading waterfalls when Superior is too rough to paddle.

  • Book a Guided Day Tour with Naturally Superior Adventures; kayak tours include basic instruction and packed lunch.
  • Reserve an overnight stay at Rock Island Lodge; choose from cozy lakeside rooms, beachfront glamping in a unique geodesic dome, or peaceful beach camping. The sunset views are made even better by nightly loon serenades.
  • Visit Young’s General Store in Wawa, where creaking wood floors, famous summer sausage (and ice cream), and the town’s original oversized goose deliver funky frontier vibes.
People perched on a rock near the water.
Denison Falls should be at the top of your list. Photo: Virginia Marshall

Denison Falls

Few Lake Superior kayaking trips can rival the journey to Denison Falls for beauty, solitude and accessibility. The 5-day trip from Michipicoten Bay, near Wawa, to the Dog River and back includes a mixture of stunning sand beaches and rocky headlands along a wonderful wilderness coastline, with many landing options making it suitable for novice and expert kayakers alike. The highlight of the trip is standing in a cloud of mist emanating from jaw-dropping Denison Falls, a 40-m cataract hidden at the end of a two-hour hike inland.

Kayaker next to shore on a misty day.
 Fall in love with Pukaskwa's rugged coast. | Photo: Virginia Marshall

Pukaskwa National Park

Stunning scenery and sheer isolation put the wilderness coast of Pukaskwa National Park at the top of many sea kayakers’ bucket lists. The park’s pristine 100-km coastline offers experienced paddlers an unforgettable string of sublime campsites on sand and cobble beaches overlooking aquamarine waters. Add in cascading rivers with paddle-to waterfalls and the potential to see wildlife such as moose, otter, black bear and bald eagles, and it’s little wonder this is Lake Superior’s quintessential sea kayaking trip.

Many paddlers choose to combine Pukaskwa Park with the adjoining Superior Highlands Conservation Reserve to make a 190-km, 10- to 14-day sea kayak expedition. Boat transfers are also available to the remote south end of the national park for paddlers with less time.

  • Make this dream trip a reality with Naturally Superior Adventures; their all-inclusive Pukaskwa Wilderness Coast is a 10-day ode to some of Canada’s greatest wilderness camping and sea kayaking.
  • Linger a few nights longer at Pic River Guest Suite, a cheerful self-catering suite on the edge of Pukaskwa National Park in the Indigenous community of Biigtigong (Pic River First Nation).
  • Short on time? Launch your kayak at the park’s Hattie Cove Visitor Centre for a half-day exploration of the cove and adjacent Pulpwood Harbour
  • Book a glamping stay in a cozy Parks Canada oTENTik tent cabin at Hattie Cove.

Neys Provincial Park

Departing from the sprawling fine sand beach at Neys Provincial Park, experienced kayakers can paddle south around the imposing headland of the Coldwell Peninsula to a remote island trifecta. First up is the sweeping topography of Pic Island—inspiration for some of the most famous paintings by Canada’s Group of Seven artists. Continue east to the sensuous smooth-rock shores of Foster Island and the raised cobble beaches of Detention Island—where millennia-old Indigenous structures have outlasted any traces of the island’s World War II prisoner-of-war camp. Be prepared for undeveloped, wilderness camping and always follow the principles of Leave No Trace.

  • Experience all three islands—plus ghost towns and plenty more outstanding scenery—on an all-inclusive 6-day kayaking trip with Naturally Superior Adventures.
  • Reserve a campsite at one of Neys Provincial Park’s three beachfront drive-in camping areas.

Slate Islands

The Slate Islands archipelago offers paddlers a sheltered oasis in the heart of the mighty lake. Lying more than 10 km offshore from the town of Terrace Bay, this compact cluster of islands is renowned for its bizarre geology, superb lake trout fishing (in June and July) and one of the most southerly populations of woodland caribou found anywhere.

Thought to have formed some 450 million years ago from a massive meteorite impact, the islands’ circular arrangement creates a protected inner harbour with peaceful backcountry camping. When the lake is calm, adventurous paddlers with big-water experience can venture around the exposed south coast of Patterson Island to view fascinating rock formations, remote beaches and a spectacularly situated lighthouse. Boat shuttles make the Slate Islands surprisingly accessible from Terrace Bay.

Rossport Islands

A wonderfully undeveloped archipelago anchoring the eastern end of the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area, the stunning Rossport Islands are accessible to day-trippers and kayak campers from the sleepy village of Rossport. Spot peregrine falcons and bald eagles above the cliffs of Quarry Island, visit one of Lake Superior’s most spectacular lighthouses at Battle Island, or stick to the sheltered passages of the inner islands, home to some of the oldest rocks on earth. There’s something here for just about everyone.

Two kayakers on a lake on a foggy day.
The possibilities in the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area are endless. Photo: Virginia Marshall

Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area

The Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area is a sparkling crown of gem-like islands and burnished waters. The world’s largest freshwater marine park stretches nearly 150 km from Lake Superior’s iconic Sleeping Giant to just east of Terrace Bay, containing hundreds of wilderness islands and a lifetime of exploration for intrepid kayakers.

The classic Silver Islet to Rossport island-to-island route offers challenging open water crossings and a varied coastline of craggy cliffs and inviting cobble beaches for expert sea kayakers. Highlights include visiting historic lighthouses, rock-hounding on remote agate beaches and steaming tight trapezius muscles into submission at a smattering of rustic saunas hidden along the boreal shore.

  • A guided kayak trip is the best way to experience this remote and logistically challenging area. Naturally Superior Adventures’ all-inclusive 9-day trip includes an overnight stay at Porphyry Island Lighthouse, or choose an all-inclusive 8-day trip with Such A Nice Day Adventures.
  • Less ambitious itineraries—including a guided 5-day kayak trip exploring the Island Nation of Nirivia (the story of this enchanted place is as outlandish as it sounds)—are also possible.
  • Don’t miss the guided tour of Porphyry Island Lighthouse, and cap it off with a steamy lakeside sauna and bracing dip. Staying in the restored lighthouse keeper’s residence is a great way to start or finish your paddling trip.

Sauna Islands, Thunder Bay

Near Thunder Bay, a chain of offshore islands known to some steam-happy kayakers as the “Sauna Islands” stretch southwest from the imposing ramparts of Pie Island. Little Trout Bay Conservation Area offers the closest mainland access to these boreal beauties. Plan to camp a night or two in the islands to get the most out of your visit; you’ll need calm conditions and fair weather to make the one- to four-km crossing. Highlights include the Top of the World lookout hike on Spar Island, Thompson Island’s cobble beach camping, lakeside sauna and abandoned mine shaft, and Pie Island’s skyscraping tableland mesas.

  • Visit the islands on a full-day sailing adventure with Sail Superior; custom day tours can include kayaking excursions at the islands.
  • For kayak rentals in Thunder Bay, check out Wilderness Supply.
  • Reserve a cottage rental at Mink Mountain Resort; these cozy homes-away-from-home boast spectacular Lake Superior views and easy water access to Thompson and Spar islands.

Discover world-class kayak trips on Lake Superior

Thanks to the vast inland seas of Lake Superior, Ontario is home to some of the finest kayak tripping in all of Canada. Whether you are seeking to escape for a day, a week or even longer, Lake Superior’s friendly paddling experts can help you plan the perfect trip.

About Virginia Marshall

Virginia Marshall is a freelance outdoor adventure writer, photographer and editor with roots in Muskoka and Lake Superior. Read her work in Adventure Kayak, Canoeroots, Rapid, Paddling Magazine and Backroad Mapbooks.

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