We did so many things during our vacation that I can’t fit it all into one post! I’ll highlight a few of the more interesting or useful destinations and attractions we encountered along the way.
For once, our vacation planning worked out well! Matt’s time off entailed a weekend for travel, five days off, the next weekend off as usual, another five days scheduled off, and the following weekend for travel back home. We had no idea what to expect, driving with M, and at the last minute I decided to book us some hotel rooms on the way down so we wouldn’t get caught in an accommodation-less wasteland in the wee hours of the day.
We left on the Friday, once Matt got home from work, and travelled as far as Thunder Bay before stopping at the TownePlace Suites. We usually stay at the Valhalla Inn, but our last experience there before our trip to South Carolina was not very good and the TownePlace Suites were supposed to be clean, new, and well put together. I was glad we stayed there and Matt has already referred to it as “our new hotel” so if you’re looking for Thunder Bay hotels, you may want to check it out! We got in late and had to be up early, but M was wired from her car ride, so we spent an hour or so playing in the room before she crashed.
The next day we grabbed our complementary breakfast and hit the road again. We had a room booked in Sault Ste. Marie, setting us up for an eight hour drive without stops. I figured it’d take us about 12 hours to get there, and I was pretty much bang on with that guess. But, those were 12 fun hours, and M did really well in the car! We pulled over for food and changes and stretches, as well as to check out any interesting sights calling our names.
The Aguasabon Gorge was one of those places — very picturesque for a diaper change!
We also stopped in White River at the Winnie the Pooh statue. Did you know Winnie is Canadian, with some roots in Northern Ontario? Along with Winnie there’s a neat little playground, old train equipment, and a covered, clean picnic area where we had our lunch. Packing food in the cooler is not something we normally do but it worked really well to have it, with baby in tow. We were able to stop and feed her healthy snacks wherever we wanted rather than relying on fast food or attempting to feed her in her car seat.
During the drive through Lake Superior National Park we stopped at the Agawa Bay beach, which also has an interesting vistors’ centre/gift shop which we visited going the other way when we went home. I don’t think I have ever seen Lake Superior so calm on the Canadian side of the water, and it was an absolutely gorgeous way to spend half an hour stretching our legs and feeding M. No matter how many times I drive through that area I marvel at the scenery. It’s one of my favourite parts of Ontario!
No trip on the Trans-Canada is complete without a stop at the Wawa goose (the word ‘Wawa’ means goose!). For the record, Matt was standing right out of the frame when I took this photo so M wasn’t really all by herself. That goose has seen better days and we’re always wondering, when we drive by, if this is the year they’ll finally install a new bird. There was drag racing going on nearby, at the town airport, while we were stopped, and Matt was sad we didn’t have more time so he could watch the cars.
In the Sault we stayed at the Comfort Suites — it’s clean and easy to find, and one of the cheapest non-motel/cabin options. If you’re in the market for a Sault Ste. Marie hotel I would use Expedia to book because the price I heard the front desk quote as their lowest was higher than what we paid. We ordered takeout from Wacky Wings, which is apparently a small franchise. They have a zillion crazy burger combinations and for us hungry travelers they all sounded delicious.
The next day we had a shorter drive ahead of us, to Manitoulin Island. We drove pretty much straight there, with our most picturesque rest stop happening just over the swing bridge onto the island, in Little Current. It looks like a really interesting city! We were only there long enough for M to nurse but the harbourfront area was beautiful.
We were hosted by wonderful family, Matt’s aunts and uncles, who had all kinds of beautiful gardens and interesting animals for us to behold. The island has gorgeous lake views and farmland all mixed in together. We would have loved to see more and we’ll have to go back some time to get the full experience! We really enjoyed visiting the Bridal Veil Falls, and another highlight was walking on a beach boardwalk late at night — there were no mosquitoes despite it being evening, with no wind, beside all kinds of vegetation, a fact Matt is still trying to wrap his head around.
We spent the night at Matt’s aunt and uncle’s camp, were treated to a farm-style breakfast (with eggs from the backyard chickens!), then raced off to catch the MS Chi-Cheemaun ferry over to Tobermory. Of course we were running late, and of course they take your reservation away if you’re not there exactly an hour prior to loading, so we found ourselves in a huge lineup of vehicles racing across the island to make their reservations. We made it with a few minutes to spare, and then had an entire hour to kill while waiting for the boat to arrive. Note to travellers: don’t buy the food at the dockside restaurants. We paid something close to $30 for a plate of fries and two beers. But it was a beautiful location!
The ferry ride itself was kind of crazy. Because we drive a compact car we were crammed into the belly of the boat, lifted up on a deck and ushered within inches of the car ahead’s bumper. Matt squeezed his way out of the driver’s seat, and got M out of hers, but I had moved to the back passenger side seat to calm M down as we loaded… which meant I was stuck, because the car door would literally not open more than two inches. I had to crawl over the car seat diagonally into the driver’s seat before I could inch my way out. I have no idea what large people who drive small cars do, because if we had eaten a bit more for breakfast we’d be SOL.
We spent the first half of the ride inside drinking ciders while letting M crawl around on our seats in the lounge, but we wanted some fresh air. Open, moving water mixed with a squirmy baby makes me anxious but we found a few empty chairs outside and M snuggled right in to watch the waves go by. The ferry has built-in Muskoka chairs painted in fun colours sitting right on the edge of the deck! Getting back into the car was still crazy, because everyone was rushing the stairs and squeezing past one another, but disembarking was quick and we were back on the road in no time once we hit the mainland.
Tomorrow I’ll pick up where we left off, on our way to Orangeville!