The Trans-Canada Highway

The Trans-Canada Highway

July 2022

After our side trip to the south of Ontario to the Niagara Falls and the two Provincial Parks Algonquin and Killarney, the real crossing of Canada on the Trans-Canada Highway finally began. The Trans-Canada Highway is a highway system that travels through all 10 provinces of Canada from the Atlantic Ocean in the East to the Pacific Ocean in the West. The main route is 7476 kilometer long and is one of the longest routes of its type in the world. For a big part of our trip through Canada it is the route we are travelling on, with a few (or rather many) side trips. Just for fun, we’ve set the navigation to Dawson City in Yukon … 6000 kilometers to go until the Dempster Highway. Well, today we drove another 100 to Manitoulin Island.


Manitoulin is the largest island in the world situated in an inland lake. About one third is inhabited by indigenous people or First Nations which was the main reason for us to visit the island. We were actually curious to see how the original inhabitants of this country live here. We visited places with names like Wikmewikong and Manitowaning and it immediately becomes clear to you that there are differences. The villages seem poor. The houses could use some maintenance. Unfortunately the museum in the information center of M’ Chigeeng was closed. There is a long history of how First Nations have been treated by the white immigrant over the past 200 years and Canada can’t be proud of that. (If you want to know more about this topic, please read our blog about Indigenous people in Canada.)

We visited the 40 meter high Bridal Veil Falls and to end the day on the island, we did a hike called the Cup & Saucer Trail, where the view we had from the cliff over the island was definitely worth the effort!

View from Cup & Saucer Trail viewpoint

From Manitoulin Island, we continued driving west. We passed the Lake Superior Provincial Park. We chose to jump into the ice-cold water here and then drive on. At Old Woman’s Bay, we pulled the car over one more time for a brief moment of enjoyment of the bay and the lake before we ended the day just past Wawa in the middle of the forest.

Old Woman’s Bay

The Pukaskwa National Park was nicely on the route and for us an ideal stop for breakfast and a walk. The fact that it is sometimes better not to read all the information about the park is once again evident today. If you don’t have high expectations, it can only turn out great. The Pukaskwa is a huge park but as in many national parks in Canada only a small area is accessible, especially if you are only there for a few hours. From the brochure we got at the entrance of the park we combined two hikes and were dumbfounded by the beauty here. Along the white sandy beach dotted with old tree stumps, we walked along the tide line and climbed over the smooth rocks that slid into the water at an angle.

Immediately behind the beach, the trail dipped into the forest. Because of its location near the water and the humidity, the vegetation here was different. There was moss growing on the ground and on trees which gave everything much more color. After the hike we gratefully used the water facilities at the campground and drove on towards Thunder Bay. Out of nowhere a moose suddenly appeared at the edge of the road. Along the Trans Canada Highway there are plenty of signs pointing out that there are moose in the area, but usually one don’t take them into account. 

In Hukett Cove, the sun was slowly setting on the shores of a bay that borders Lake Superior. Overlooking the bay with some shipwrecks behind us, this was one of the better places to spend the night…a successful day!

On our way to Thunder Bay we had a quick stop in Terrace Bay at the Aguasabon Falls and we visited the Ouimet Canyon which was quiet and deserted. We were the only ones and enjoyed the vertical walls on both sides of over 50 meters high. On the viewing platforms you stand over the edge of the ravine, nothing for people with fear of heights.

Aguasabon Falls
Ouimet Canyon
Ouimet Canyon

Just before Thunder Bay, we passed a special memorial. Terry Fox was a young man from British-Colombia who was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 18. After having his right leg amputated, he decided to run across Canada to raise money for a cancer foundation. His “Marathon of Hope” began in Newfoundland on April 12, 1980 and he was running the distance of a marathon, 42 kilometers, every day. After 143 days and 5373 kilometers run, the cancer returned. Terry was forced to stop running in Thunder Bay. 10 months later Terry died. The annual Terry Fox Run, first held in 1981, has grown to involve millions of participants in over 60 countries and is now the world’s largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research; over 800 million CAD has been raised in his name as of April 2020.

Where the towns on this route often have no more than 1,000 residents, Thunder Bay felt like a big city with its 100,000 residents. We went in search of Fort Williams, an open-air museum just like Saint Marie Among the Hurons that we visited earlier. A trading post with 40 buildings has been completely reconstructed as it stood on this spot around 1800. Here you will be explained live how the indigenous people and the Europeans traded. The ‘actors’ did a great job and the story is very interesting! We found this a very nice experience.

Slowly we came to the end of Ontario, the province we had been driving through since leaving Montreal. The temperatures have varied considerably over the past few days. Two days ago Romy was still walking with a cap on her head. Now we dived into Dixie Lake just before Kenora for the necessary cool down.

During the trip, from the beginning we only have a global itinerary in our mind. Somewhere at the end of July we would like to arrive in Dawson City. Which roads we use for this is not yet fixed, but is now becoming more concrete. We decided that we want to visit the popular parks Banff and Jasper on our way to Alaska (instead of afterwards) and therefore choose a more southern route through Calgary instead of Edmonton. Before we reach the Rocky Mountains, however, another 2000 kilometers of Prairie lie ahead of us and we are curious to see what awaits us after more than 8000 kilometers of forests and lakes.

Eddy and Romy van Es © 2020, All Rights Reserved.

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