An Unearthed Gem in Mattawa

After being shuttered for 20 years, this classic Canadian outpost is once again open for business. Meet the Mattawa River Resort: Ontario's newest snowmobile destination.

Snowmobilers now have a new destination in Mattawa Voyageur Country. At the beginning of February, I had the honour of visiting and staying at the newly reopened Mattawa River Resort with our What a Ride and Ontario Tourism team. Motivated new owners bought the resort in the spring of 2017 and are completely renovating absolutely everything. This is the first winter it has been open in over 20 years and it is perfect for snowmobilers.

Riding the A112A trail just outside the Mattawa River Resort

Mattawa River Resort offers their own private groomed snowmobile trails as well as being located right near the A112A OFSC trail in Mattawa. That means easy access to all the OFSC trails to the greater North Bay area, the RAP tour around Algonquin Park, and destinations beyond. They welcome snowmobilers and offer special packages to accommodate including lodging with towels and bedding, and a meal plan with three meals from their Cardinal Restaurant: breakfast, a packed lunch if desired, and a three-course dinner.

Steak dinner is just what we were looking for after a day on the trails

The lodging at the resort consists of 12 separate cottages and cabins of various sizes, which sleep two to 12 people—and they are very cottage-chic!

We couldn't ask for a cozier home away from home.

Amenities include a full kitchen, propane barbeque, wood burning fireplace, dining and living space.

Walkway between the cabins at Mattawa River Resort

The cottages on the lower level are all connected by a wooden pier boardwalk with riverside views of the Mattawa River and the Laurentian Mountains—absolutely picture perfect.

The soon-to-be-opened Cardinal Restaurant

The Cardinal Restaurant is set to open March 5, 2018, as they are currently finalizing all the last details. Nothing beats homemade and that is evident in their menu and food.

Room for big groups of hungry riders inside the Cardinal Restaurant

While we stayed at the resort the restaurant wasn’t open to the public but we got to try out some of their fresh, handmade menu items including a lumberjack style breakfast, charcuterie boards, homemade bread and buns with Romanian ketchup, grilled steak (cooked to your liking), and a decadent chocolate turtle brownie dessert, to name some. Trust me, you won’t leave hungry!

The charcuterie board really hit the spot

The Cardinal Restaurant will be open year-round to guests and the public, making it a dining destination for everyone. Their claim to fame, hence the name, is Cardinal, a Canadian crime drama television series which was filmed at their resort in the spring of 2017.

Inspiration for the name of the Cardinal Restaurant

Besides being a snowmobiling destination, in winter there is also ice skating on the river, so bring your skates; you can also enjoy some cross-country skiing, including rentals.

Fun times at the Mattawa River Resort

Upcoming projects for the resort include opening a spa and offering dog grooming (they are already pet-friendly). They will also be offering live music and performances in the lounge—check out their activities calendar for upcoming dates. Spring, summer, and fall at Mattawa River Resort are all spectacular too, with their pristine waterways for swimming, boating, and fishing; forest hiking trails, and lots of ways to just get away and relax.

I can never get enough of the beautiful scenery in Northeastern Ontario

While I was in Mattawa for this snowmobile trip we took in a variety of things to see and do. We rode the OFSC District 11 trails to the Mica Mine on the A112A, about 32 kilometres north of Mattawa. The massive icicles at this trailside stop are a must-see. Amazing! Marking Canada’s 150th anniversary, a newly carved statue of Big Joe Mufferaw was erected in downtown Mattawa to replace the previous one—he was a legendary lumberjack in the Ottawa Valley in the early 1800’s and his real-life story became that of folklore even inspiring a Stompin’ Tom Connors song. Mattawa is once again known as a ski town with the reopening of Antoine Mountain Ski Resort in 2015, and trust me, the views of the Ontario/Quebec border from the top of the ski hills are breathtaking. 

Atop Antoine Mountain and overlooking Mattawa Voyageur Country

Besides eating at the Mattawa River Resort, I also had lunch at Valois’ Motel and Restaurant. It’s an icon of the town, established in 1934 on the shores of the Ottawa River—they have hearty, home-cooked meals to satisfy your appetite and 42 rooms to house snowmobilers because they’re more than welcome in the winter.

Katie Erb, Jackson Picard and Jeff McGirr at the Valois

It was great to finally meet Brian Dykstra, the owner of Valois’—he’s very involved with the Mattawa and Area Snowmobile Club, promoting and maintaining trails. Mattawa’s District 11 snowmobile trails are vast, with expansive lookouts, rolling hills, winding forests, high-speed lakes, and rail beds all groomed within the network.

The next time you’re looking for a great snowmobiling destination, consider Mattawa River Resort and Mattawa Voyageur Country. You won’t be disappointed by the hospitality, opportunities for adventure, views, or food! 

About Katie Harris (Erb)

Having travelled 34 countries around the world, Katie is most at home riding snowmobiles in Northern Ontario. She's also passionate about trucking, travel, geography, and other motorsports.  

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