The Experience of Sailing the World's Biggest Lake

Spend a night on a sailboat docked at a small island on the world’s biggest lake.

In the first few days of summer, the water in Lake Superior was surprisingly not that cold. Though I had sat in the sauna at Thompson Island in Lake Superior for a few minutes before making the plunge, the cobalt blue water was crisp, cool and refreshing. The warm breeze rustled the trees overhead as steam poured out of the sauna. I could have been anywhere, I thought, but I was spending the night on a sailboat docked on a small island in the world’s biggest lake.

Big Lake Adventure on Superior

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Rock Cliffs Pie Island 660

When it comes to exploring Northern Ontario, Lake Superior takes center stage.  With an abundance of islands, bays and coves, the north shore is an unparalleled destination for freshwater sailing.

Aboard the Varua with Sail Superior Captain Heroux, we set sail from Thunder Bay for a three-day adventure. A few days earlier, I had seen the north shore from the front seat of a seaplane from Wilderness North, but the view from the water was different and the islands really came alive. With steep cliffs plunging deep into the lake, Captain Heroux sailed close to the shore’s edge. We spotted a bald eagle perched on a cliff high above and its nearby nest, we saw an abandoned mine shaft and found secluded cobblestone beaches.

gormet dinner onboard varna 660

Freshwater Conservation Area - World's Largest

The freshwater area around Thunder Bay designated to be established as the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area stretches 140 kilometres north and east from the Thunder Cape at the tip of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park to Bottle Point in the East and south to the Canada-US border. It is the world’s largest freshwater conservation area and is home to more than 70 species of fish, numerous species at risk including the heron, the peregrine falcon and the bald eagle.

Overnight Stay at Thompson Island

Moored Wray Bay Thompson Island

The first night we stayed at Thompson Island’s Wray Bay, which is located on the southern tip of the island; few people visit this quiet spot. The dock was originally built in 1979 from driftwood, but over the years, devoted visitors have improved the dock and built a sauna.

Before sunset, I headed up the hiking trail for a quick walk around the island. The trail circles the island and offers a spectacular lookout point. You can see the nearby Pie Island and as far away as Isle Royale (actually located in Michigan but off the Minnesota shore). The trail eventually loops around to a cobblestone beach on the south shore before returning to the boat camp.

Thompson Island 660

A Stop to Hike The Giant

The next day, we met up with Epic Adventures kayak guide Michael Elliot at Silver Islet, a small hamlet at the tip of the Sleeping Giant, for a guided kayaking trip to the Sea Lion before heading to Tee Harbour for the night.

giant kayaking
Monica kayaking near the Sea Lion at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park // Photo by Greg Heroux

Tee Harbour is another secluded spot that is an ideal base camp for exploring Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. In the morning we hiked up the Top of the Giant trail. The route climbs more than 900 feet, ending in some pretty awesome lake views.

Sail Superior- Tours and Cruises

sailing superior prelle 660

Sail Superior’s multi-night trips on the big lake can be customized to your preferences by destination and activities, though most trips sail where the wind blows.

You can actively participate, learn to sail on a customized multi-night trip, or kick off your sandals and enjoy the ride. You have the option to hire the services of a chef for your sailing adventure; a chef and three delicious meals a day are highly recommended!

Day trips, sailing lessons, and harbour cruises are also available. Book your sailing adventure today. For more information visit Or contact Captain Gregory Heroux at (807) 628-3333 or by email.

About Monica Prelle

Monica Prelle is an outdoors, wine and travel writer. She is the camping editor and writer for Monica’s adventure travels have taken her sailing on the world’s biggest lake, mountain biking in the Colorado Rockies, wine touring in the Napa Valley, road tripping in Mexico and surfing in Fiji. Her writing and photography has been published in Alaska Airlines Magazine, Backcountry Magazine, Bespoke Magazine,  and online at the Matador Network and the Active Times.  Monica lives with her husband and dog in California’s eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains.

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