By: Mike Jacobs
A steadfast weekend motorcycle loop is the Lake Temiskaming Tour—up to North Bay from anywhere in the south, then take Highway 11 to the City of Temiskaming Shores, then back south on the Quebec side of Lake Temiskaming, looping back to North Bay via Mattawa.
It's a great weekend or long weekend route as you can add a couple of interesting diversions on great riding roads to make it a bit longer, if you have the time, and it also fits perfectly into a Friday evening, and Saturday/Sunday days if you’ve only got the weekend.
But last year, the people who keep the Temiskaming Loop alive decided to add a fascinating twist to the route—the introduction of a passport tour. Essentially, riders use a “Passport” which lists attractions to stop at all along the route. At those attractions, riders will get their passport marked, and any rider who hits at least 12 of the 20 attractions is entered to win a couple of great prizes.
A stop to climb the historic Temagami Fire Tower is a must.
What we truly love about the Temiskaming Loop is the direct contact with nature—riding through the Canadian sheild, into the Little Clay Belt in Temiskaming Shores, around massive Lake Temiskaming, and all of the other smaller lakes dotting this region.
But what’s often missed when we travel by bike through here are all the amazing little stops that tell the story of this region: that this places was chosen by people for thousands of years as a way of travelling—north to the wealth of resources, and south back to the transportation channels that led back to cities and to other countries.
This is what makes the Passport tour a stroke of genius: without it, there’s no perfect way to know exactly where the best stops are, as most of these are a few minutes off the beaten path. But to have all of them listed in one spot, with a prize for visiting them—it's the icing on the cake.
The three antique train stations that house local museums: The North Bay Museum, The Bunker Military Museum in Cobalt, and the Temagami Train Station. Each one is a stunning example of the iconic Northern Ontario train stations that used to exist all over the north. These are perfectly preserved and house incredible local collections.
The Fort-Témiscamingue National Historic Site is probably the most faithful recreation of what life was like in a fur-trade fort. This spot was heavily traveled by both the French and English fur traders of the time, as well as the Indigenous people of the region. The road up is pretty beautiful, and the Fort looks over the lake in a particularly serene spot. The restaurant on site, La Bannik, is gourmet quality and perfect for lunch or dinner.
Various bikes at La Bannik restaurant, Duhamel-Ouest, Québec.
Marten River Provincial Park is great for a picnic if you feel like eating on the beach, and the Mattawa Travel Center sits on Voyageur Point at the meeting of the Ottawa and Mattawa rivers, with a spectacular view of the Laurentian mountains—a great place to stop before your last leg home.
Currently, the website hasn’t been updated for the 2020 passport tour, but you’ll find everything you need here when it does launch: https://www.laketemiskaming.com/passport.cfm
Signing up is pretty simple. Either order the Passport itself, download the PDF, or download the app. At each stop you’ll ask the attendant to click off your passport, or look for the QR code to scan with the app.
Once you’ve finished your tour, you can submit your passport and be entered to win their prizes. Last year there was a second prize of a local products gift basket, and a first prize of one of three tourism packages, presumably so you can visit the area again.
Art at the Bunker Military Museum in Cobalt, Ontario.
But the Passport is just a way to get you off the beaten path—and you’ll be glad you did. There’s so much to see here, you’ll never be disappointed, and in the end, it’ll make your trip all the more memorable.
So have a great ride, and enjoy some of the culture of the region you’re riding in. This is the easiest way to get in a weekend ride with a bit of a twist!