Wonderful Rock Island Lodge near Wawa, Ontario, plus changes in Sault Ste. Marie
WAWA, ONTARIO - My last night on the shores of Lake Superior, and it was quite something.
The Rock Island Lodge is a small, cozy affair directly on the shores of the greatest of Great Lakes, a short drive down an easy to handle dirt road outside of Wawa. I stayed in a basic but perfectly fine room off the main dining room, with a nice bath and views out to the lake.
It's part of the Naturally Superior Adventures paddling centre, which offers everything from paddleboard lessons to short canoe rides on the next-door Michipicoten River to long kayak treks along the shores of Lake Superior.
I arrived late afternoon and spent a good hour soaking up the sun on the sundeck, which has brightly painted Muskoka chairs in blue, red and yellow and sits just a few feet from a small beach and a beautiful set of rocks alongside the lake. Kids were scrambling on the rocks and playing games on the beach and others were paddling about in the sheltered bay behind the lodge.
One of the great things they have are music nights, with top-notch artists coming in. On Tuesday night this week they had a man and a woman from the Kitchener area playing foot-stompin' folk tunes to an appreciative audience. The concert came after our dinner at communal tables, where I chatted with a lovely couple from Toronto and a family from Michigan and Washington D.C. They served up huge portions of chicken breasts smothered in roasted peppers, onions and cheeese, plus veggies and salad and bread and desserts.
The next morning I had a great, one hour canoe paddle up the Michipicoten, learning about the Hudsons Bay Co. trading post that once sat a few hundred meters from where the lodge is today.
It's a beautiful spot on a lovely stretch of the lake, and a great place to polish your paddling skills. Or enjoy some fine music and then see a glorious sunset or roast marshmallows under the stars.
I didn't have much time to see Wawa, but I did find a sign at the Columbia Restaurant in town, offering up a wings night for $5.99 that features a pound and a half of wings and fries. Try finding that deal in Toronto.
Of course, I had to stop to see the Wawa Goose, which rises up high in the sky alongside the Trans Canada Highway. The poor thing is in need of major repairs due to a half-century of rust, but it's still impressive. And fun to see.
The drive along the lake in these parts is tremendous, with fabulous views in places like Old Woman Bay and Pancake Bay, where the beach stretches on forever.
I spent Wednesday night in Sault Ste. Marie, enjoying a nice meal at the Docks on the shores of the St. Mary's River. They've done a nice job creating parkland along the river, with cycling and walking trails and nice trees and such. They also have some historic buildings up near the bridge to Michigan that they hope to start restoring soon.
I also got a tour of the Bushplane Museum, where you can learn a ton about how they've learned to fight fires in the north and about the techology of bush planes; a huge part of our heritage. It's a fun spot and they also have 3-D movies and a small collection of old cars, including a Stanley Steamer.
I always like to check out iconic lunch or breakfast counters in cities, and you can't do much better than Ernie's coffee shop in the Sault. For $5.99 I had two scrambled eggs, home fries, three pieces of toast and three immensely thick, tasty slices of back bacon. It's a classic diner where the waiters give you sass but then quickly fill up your coffee cup and it's definitely worth a stop.
More to come next week on my Ontario trip, including a sensational spot south of Sudbury on the French River called the Lodge at Pine Cove.