Canada Close to Chicago.
February 16, 2007 8:42 PM   Subscribe

We live in Chicago. We'd like to take a trip to (scenic) Canada once it warms up a bit. Where should we go that is within a reasonable driving distance?

My girlfriend and I want to take a five day trip sometime in May/June to escape the city and visit the wide open spaces of Canada for the first time. Here's our ideal trip: An 8-10 hour drive from Chicago, clean but relatively cheap accommodation, plenty of good hiking/outdoor activities, and lots of scenery. We looked into heading east and crossing around Detroit, however, the consensus seemed to be that the landscape in that region was rather dull. We are now leaning toward heading north toward the Sault Ste Marie area and beyond. Where should we go? What should we see?
posted by Dalton to Travel & Transportation around Chicago, IL (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Montreal, or Quebec city, if possible! A vast contrast to Chicago, much more so than English cities in Canada - a whole different culture. Distinct, some might say. Hiking trails in the Province of Quebec.
posted by fish tick at 8:57 PM on February 16, 2007

Another option would be to cross at Port Huron / Sarnia and go up the Bruce Peninsula towards Tobermory. My bride and her sister spent a week up there last summer and loved it. Glorious pictures -- hills and shores and islands and shocking blue water and wild critters of all sorts.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:06 PM on February 16, 2007

Yeah, if you're really looking for "wide open spaces" you'd probably have to go at least as far as Tobermory, which is a great place to visit. Making a loop around Lake Huron, over Manitoulin Island, and crossing Georgian Bay on the ferry would make for a good road trip. You'd be in suitably awesome Canadian Shield wilderness all the way from the Sault to the Bruce Peninsula.
posted by sfenders at 9:52 PM on February 16, 2007

Things in and around the Sault. Visit the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre. Cruise through the Canadian and American Locks or visit the locks themselves. Take a day to do the Agawa Canyon train tour. It won't be as stunning as a fall run but it is amazing rugged country well worth seeing.

Maybe head north to Lake Superior provincial park. Unbelievable beauty.

At the north end of town is Kinsman park with trails to hike. pic pic

Hang out at the Downbeat and eat at A Thymely Manor on Albert St (no web site).

Lots more help here.

If you do want to do a loop around lake Huron do take the ferry.

pic pic pic

In late May or early June the nights can be about 10 or 12 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than in Chicago so bring a warm jacket. Don't forget bug repellent.
I grew up in that area so if you have more questions use the e-mail in my profile and I'll try to help.
posted by arse_hat at 10:28 PM on February 16, 2007

Wide open spaces can definitely be found north of Sault Ste Marie. I have only been in the area once, last summer when we hiked the coastal trail in Lake Superior Provincial Park

It's quite rugged and absolutely stunning.

The area directly across from Detroit is definately bland, if you drove a few hours north from there up to Tobermory you would find a national Marine Park considered by some to be the premier freshwater scuba diving destination with 22 or so shipwrecks and glass bottom boat tours.

If you're near tobermory, the Bruce Peninsula National Park is close by and very popular. If you're there be sure to hike to the Grotto. You can swim from a cave underwater into the bay. (popular activity, but know your limits, may be longer than it looks to the underwater eye etc.),_Ontario

I can't speak for indoor accomodations as I've only camped in both places but camping facilities are inexpensive and clean (showers/bathrooms)
posted by skinnydipp at 10:32 PM on February 16, 2007

Opps, second Kinsman pic was suposed to be this one.
posted by arse_hat at 10:32 PM on February 16, 2007

No no no, keep away from the Canadian Shield. Head northwest to the Cypress Hills in Southern Saskatchewan and the nearby Qu'Appelle Valley.

It might be more like a 12 hour drive but hey.
posted by Rumple at 11:19 PM on February 16, 2007

I nth the Tobermory/Manitoulin island suggestion. It's beautiful up there, and there are many reasonably priced B&Bs. The hiking is great, too. I try to head up there every long weekend I can.
posted by drycleanonly at 5:23 AM on February 17, 2007

Montreal will be more like 15 hours. I'm going to vote for Lake Superior Provincial Park and the North of Superior region. I'm glad it was mentioned -- totally amazing and totally underrated. It's so quintessentially Canadian. You will not see geography like this elsewhere and it will probably stick with you.
posted by loiseau at 6:02 AM on February 17, 2007

If you're there be sure to hike to the Grotto. You can swim from a cave underwater into the bay.

Might be a bit cold for swimming in May and June. I don't know exactly how cold the water would be, but maybe still below 60 degrees in June, I guess. The warmest place to go swimming around there is Dorcas Bay (aka Singing Sands), a shallow sandy beach, often much warmer than the other side of the peninsula. Probably still pretty cold though.

Lake Superior Provincial Park is on a larger scale. More wilderness, more challenging hiking trails, much less convenient tourist stuff.
posted by sfenders at 6:30 AM on February 17, 2007

If you love hiking, then the Bruce Trail is your best bet. It extends from Niagara to Tobermory, and there are many campgrounds and B and Bs along it. You obviously can't hike the whole thing in 5 days, but many segments are going to be between a 10-15 hour drive from Chicago, and it is incredibly beautiful. If you want to really get away from cities, the two northern-most sections are the best; however, they are also going to be longer to drive to.
posted by carmen at 7:13 AM on February 17, 2007

My wife and I spent our 5 year anniversary on Mackinac, which would get you a little Canadian exposure (if you also decided to visit Sault Ste. Marie as well). If you drive it, you're in for a treat, as the entire Upper Peninsula of Michigan section of the drive provides you with lake-view vistas.

Make sure to buy me some fudge while you're there, Ok?
posted by thanotopsis at 7:23 AM on February 17, 2007

I would discourage you from entering Ontario from the South.

Driving through Wisconsin and following the north shore of lake superior is gorgeous. There are also ferries which are expensive, but a whole lot of fun.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:12 AM on February 17, 2007

I used to work at Lake Superior Provincial Park and couldn't recommend it enough... if you like that sort of thing. I previously described it in these pages in response to a similar question.
I hope you enjoy your trip, wherever you end up going.
posted by Flashman at 10:48 AM on February 17, 2007

Chicago to Southern Saskatchewan (where I am) would be a heckuva lot more than 12 hours, but don't let me dissuade you.

I'd repeat the recommendation to head up through Wisconsin... and when you hit Duluth/Superior, keep on going to Thunder Bay.
posted by evilcolonel at 3:27 PM on February 19, 2007

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