STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS

“We’re almost at the top!” I exclaimed out loud — more so to motivate myself than my dad who appeared to be effortlessly leaping up the top of the Giant trail, whereas my legs felt like I had bricks strapped to my shoes with each step upwards. Standing on the shores of the Thunder Bay marina, it’s easy to make out the outline of the Sleeping Giant in the distance, but the sheer magnitude of the natural landmark truly comes to life when you’re faced with climbing some of the tallest cliffs in Ontario. According to an old Ojibway legend, the giant is Nanabijou, who was turned to stone when the secret location of a nearby silver mine was revealed to greedy white men. Today’s mission, climbing to the top of the mesa to reach the Giant’s knees, is no small task — the trail is 22.4 km round trip — but as I get a bird’s-eye vantage of Lake Superior shimmering in Caribbean-like hues between a dramatic gorge from nearly 1,000 feet below, I get the overwhelming sense that every single step of the elevation gain was worth it. Out of hundreds of kilometres of trails found in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, this is the view that continues to draw people in from far and wide. Howling winds on a crisp November morning mean we don’t linger too long, but I know that this shared experience will stay with us for much longer. The following afternoon, I’ve come full-circle settling in for a rewarding flight of beer in the Sleeping Giant Brewing Company’s taproom next to a wall lined with an assortment of beer bottles from around the world. The craft brewery utilizes locally-sourced fresh water from Lake Superior and malt from Canada Malting Co. to create its flavourful beers. For anyone looking for inspiration for their next great post-pandemic road trip, Thunder Bay, should be a top contender. While people often drive through the city on the way out West, it’s worth more than just a stopover.

WALK IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE GROUP OF SEVEN
The impressive landscapes in the region are what first drew the legendary Group of Seven to the north shore of Lake Superior nearly 100 years ago. Today, some of the places that inspired the iconic artists can be discovered along a new self-drive route that traces the places and scenery that inspired their paintings. “Having experienced the rugged beauty of Algoma from 1918 to 1921, Lawren Harris and A.Y. Jackson decided to push further on to the north shore of Lake Superior in the fall of 1921,” explains Art Historian and Artist Michael Burtch. “From revelling in the riot of autumn colour on Superior’s east side to meditating on the broad mystical expanse of sky and inland sea on the north shore, Harris and Jackson, along with many other members of the Group of Seven, continued their annual painting expeditions to the region until 1928, and there produced many of their most iconic works, including Harris’ celebrated ‘North Shore, Lake Superior’ in 1926.” The Group is renowned for paintings that are inspired by the Canadian landscape, and initiated the first major Canadian national art movement. “Driving the route today from Marathon to Thunder Bay, the breathtaking beauty of the many vistas over the lake make it easy to understand the Group’s fascination with the region,” says Burtch. “The constantly shifting moods of the lake, the dramatic sky and the towering, majestic landscape make the north shore one of the most scenic areas in Canada.”

NORTHERN DELIGHTS
While it may be the scenery that attracts travellers to this part of the country, there are no shortage of delicious things to taste while here. One local delight is the Persian, a pastry that the owner of Bennett’s Bakery and The Persian Man says can best be described as a rich cinnamon bun with an incredible icing topping. “This pastry has been a staple in Thunder Bay since the 1940s and has grown from there,” says Danny Nucci. “People that have lived here and moved away, have not forgotten [Persians]. They phone our office wanting us to ship Persians to them. We have shipped them all over the country.” On the average, the bakeries produce 100 dozen Persians a day from a secret recipe. The story goes that the treat was meant to be named after General Pershing of the First World War. Despite the wrongful spelling, the name stuck, and it indeed has nothing to do with the Middle East. Another must-try is Heartbeat Hot Sauce Co., a local business that started off as a hobby and quickly developed into a full-fledged small batch hot sauce production company. These also make for a great gift to bring back for friends and family back home. Finally, a notable option for those seeking a meal out on the town is Tomlin restaurant, which works alongside local producers to create seasonal family-style sharing plates. At the beginning of the pandemic, the restaurant got a plug from Brian Baumgartner, the actor who played Kevin Malone on The Office.

 

IF YOU GO…

A WALK IN THE PARK

Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, which was founded in 1944 as Sibley Provincial Park, has 200 campsites at the Marie Louise Lake Campground suitable for tents and RVs that make a great home base for embarking on hikes. The Park is also home to five full-service cabins that can be rented for a minimum of two nights that are available year-round. Advanced reservations are recommended, especially during prime summer season. For those seeking a shorter alternative to the Top of the Giant trail, which provides spectacular views of Lake Superior and the surrounding area, consider the Sean Lion trail, a 2.4km round trip from the parking lot to a unique geological feature that got its name for resembling a sea lion.

CHASE WATERFALLS

While the 40-metre-high Kakabeka Falls are the most wellknown waterfalls in the region and mark the second highest in Ontario, don’t miss out on the adjacent Little Falls, while visiting the Provincial Park. Those seeking a lesser-known spot to discover should head over to Silver Falls Provincial Park, which is known for its Holocene-era features. For the opportunity to stand behind a waterfall, visit Wolf River Falls.

DO IT FOR THE ‘GRAM
Situated on the north shore of Lake Superior near Nipigon — about 100km from Thunder Bay — Ruby Lake Provincial Park is a non-operating park that is like discovering a hidden gem. The trail offers multiple stunning viewpoints overlooking the lake and Lake Superior from steep cliffs. Another surefire bet is the Kama Cliffs trail, which also offers sweeping views of the surrounding area.

Story and photos by ANN RUPPENSTEIN

ST. JOHN’S DAY & NIGHT

Day | Night

A city to steal your heart, St. John’s is small in size, but big in personality. There’s a photo-op on every corner – a bustling downtown core, side streets stacked with jellybean coloured row houses, Cabot Tower looming in the background, all set on the cusp of the windblown Atlantic ocean.

SUNRISE Start the day a short drive from the city at Cape Spear, the continent’s easternmost point, to see the sun rise before anyone else in North America. BRUNCH One of the best restaurants on the east coast, Mallard Cottage (mallardcottage.ca) is owned and operated by chef Todd Perrin. The brunch menu features mostly savoury plates, like the seasonal seafood quiche with dreamy, salty, crispy potato wedges. Splurge at the dessert table filled with cakes and breakfast pastries. Reservations recommended. STROLL Meander through downtown taking in the sights of the working harbour, imagining what’s inside the colourful row houses, and popping into cute shops, galleries, and cafés. Highlights include local favourite Rocket Bakery (rocketfood.ca) for coffee plus pastries; HOME on water street, a beautifully curated home decor shop; Le Boudoir Lingerie (leboudoirfit.com) featuring high-end swimwear and helpful sales staff; and the Newfoundland Chocolate Company (newfoundlandchocolatecompany.com) with local chocolate bars dressed in colourful row house wrappers. LUNCH Don’t be fooled by this modest east coast chain restaurant, Piatto Pizzeria + Enoteca (piattopizzeria.com) is a stylish and friendly place doing Neapolitan pizza right. The “Stephanie” is a stand-out with a combination of goat cheese, prosciutto, caramelized pears, and balsamic glaze. Get the pizza and soup or salad lunch special for an absolute steal at only $14. HIKE Cabot Tower, atop Signal Hill, is the site of the first transatlantic transmission in 1901 and is a relatively easy 20-minute up-hill walk from downtown. Offering incredible city, harbour, and ocean views, there are a variety of longer trails available for eager hikers. At the foot of the hill, take a moment to reflect at the Terry Fox monument, where the 21-year-old embarked on his Marathon of Hope after dipping his artificial limb in the Atlantic ocean.

Day | Night

It’s the famous hospitality of the people of St. John’s who bring the city to life. From shouts of “sociable!” to roaring kitchen parties and twangy fiddle music, these are the sounds of Newfoundland at night.

LEARN Open late on Wednesdays and Fridays, early evening is a great time to explore The Rooms (therooms.ca) a public cultural space exploring the history, art, and traditions of Newfoundlanders. DINNER The Merchant Tavern (themerchanttavern.ca) features a tall-ceilinged, wood-panelled industrial dining room that exudes sophistication and warmth. From the menu try fresh catch and bistro classics, or the 5-course Chef’s Tasting Menu. If you’re looking for a little romance and a lot of refinement, find a reservation at Raymonds (raymonds restaurant.com). Elevated east coast cuisine in an elegant setting. REVEL Head to the historic, pedestrian-only George Street district for some late night fun and lively entertainment. Packed with bars, pubs, and clubs, George Street boasts crowds and live music every night of the week. Check georgestreetlive.ca often for updates on special events and annual festivals. SLEEP The exquisite Ryan Mansion (ryanmansion.com) is a 5-star boutique hotel in the heart of old St. John’s. The grand staircase, centrepiece of the inn’s dramatic entrance hall, was a custom commission by the same craftsmen as the grand staircase on the ill-fated Titanic. Capturing the spirit of this connection, Ryan Mansion offers Titanic themed dinners and getaway packages. But if tranquility is what you’re craving, head an hour out of town to stay in style at The Doctor’s House (doctorshousenl.ca). Recently updated, the 30-room inn sits on a 100+ acre oceanfront estate. For old-world charm book The Chestnut Suite, for something more modern, try a room in the new Lavender Bungalow, families seeking privacy should book The Guest House. Complete your stay with a trip to the spa, a walk among the wooded trails, and fine fare at the Secret Garden Restaurant.

Story by ASHLEY ROCHEFORT

WINTER WONDERLAND

STAYING CLOSER TO HOME LEAVES PLENTY OF ROOM FOR ADVENTURE
 
The first snowfall of the season is typically when Canadians across the country start daydreaming about jetting off for a sunny escape. But could this be the time to embrace the winter wonderland in Canada instead of escaping for the hot, hot, heat? We talked to four travel experts for some inspiration on how to embrace winter travel in Canada. After all, there’s no place like home…
 

THE NORTHERN LIGHTS Have quintessentially Canadian experiences in the comfort of your backyard this winter, like the awe-inspiring northern lights in the spectacular Northwest Territories. “Many Canadians have not experienced the wonder of Canada. This year, we’re suggesting unique destinations of Canada that may not be on the radar, such as Haida Gwaii, Northwest Territories, Rocky Mountaineer, and the list goes on. Canada has so much to offer and now is the best time to explore our own country.” Kemp Travel Group kemptravel.com

SHEILA KEMP

GO WEST Why not venture west this winter? Tourism Vancouver Island welcomes all Canadians, encouraging them to get on island time… Vancouver Island, that is, especially the snowbirds who typically flock to Florida, Arizona, and California in the wintertime. “With our temperate winter climate, Vancouver Island is a natural alternative for Canadian Snowbirds. We are committed to supporting the 3,000+ tourism businesses in the Vancouver Island region by strengthening the visitor economy.” Tourism Vancouver Island Tourismvi.ca 

ANTHONY EVERETT

ONTARIO IS YOURS TO DISCOVER Instead of moping around this winter, set your sights on short-term trips around Ontario. Take the hassle out of your Ontario travel plans by booking a local tour with a travel agent. “We have a complete Canadian short trip program with day trips to Muskoka, Canada’s Wonderland, Kingston and the 1,000 Islands, Niagara Falls, the ever popular winery tours to Prince Edward County, as well as CanaDream RV rentals.” Marlin Travel marlintravel.ca

MARY LAROCQUE

POLAR BEARS, OH MY! So many Canadians still have the desire to travel, but so many more Canadians are simply more comfortable staying a bit closer to home this season. Luckily, we’ve got Churchill, Manitoba, a destination for travellers from all over the world who come to visit our mighty polar bears. “With so many amazing experiences right in our own backyard, it’s a fantastic time to take advantage of travel within Canada, whether it be a food tour of Vancouver Island, experiencing the majestic Rockies, a camper rental travelling with those within your own bubble, or enjoying a villa with family. Being from Manitoba, we have one of the most unique opportunities that people come from all over the world to enjoy – that being Churchill.” Travel Quest travelquestmb.ca  

CAREY DUNCAN

Story by ANN RUPPENSTEIN