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Circle tour offers Superior travel experience; splendours of Gichigami abound – CP

by ahnationtalk on April 3, 2017731 Views

Source: The Canadian Press
Apr 3, 2017 

By Colin Perkel


TORONTO _ It might not have the must-do cachet of California’s Highway 101, of South Africa’s Garden Route or of the Rockies.

Yet a voyage around the world’s largest freshwater lake, the big sea they once called Gichigami, reveals a sublime and in-your-face spectacular natural wonderland unrivalled anywhere.

The 2,000-kilometre “Circle Tour,” done over multiple visits or for the more adventurous in one go, is to be savoured like one of the fine Group of Seven paintings the area north of Lake Superior inspired.

“It’s like every piece of shoreline is different and unique in some way,” says Dan Bevilacqua, executive director of Superior Country. “It goes for the communities as well.”

There are the Ontario city splendours of Sault Ste. Marie or Blues Fest in Thunder Bay. At its most westerly point, travel Bob Dylan Way through a charming Duluth, Minn., perched above the lake at the start of Highway 61, near the place from where the famed poet-singer hails.

In between, find out where a bear cub named Winnie-the-Pooh began his long journey to literary fame, check out the motel where renowned pianist Glenn Gould would get away from it all, or take in the striking monument where a cancer-stricken Terry Fox gave up his one-legged trans-Canada run.

Stop and admire the revamped main street of Terrace Bay, or on the south shore _ which the Americans call the north shore _ meander through picturesque Marquette or breeze past Christmas on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Mostly, however, it’s about a lake that splits its sparkling waters between Canada and the United States.

Indeed, as the largest of the Great Lakes, Superior offers seemingly boundless shoreline _ log-strewn beaches, gentle river mouths, pristine sunbathing sands, rock cliffs and waterfall trails _ all replete with oceanic vistas. In fact, it would be easy to confuse the greatest of the lakes for an ocean _ were it not for its glass-clear water that on serene summer days makes for a bracing, salt-free swim.

At other times, however, that water can turn ferocious _ with steely-grey waves two or three storeys high. Moodiness and power both awesome and breath-taking. Stop and look out over where the Edmund Fitzgerald sank in a November gale in 1975 just a few kilometres from safety _ a tragedy immortalized in song by Canadian singer-songwriting legend Gordon Lightfoot.

Getting a sense of scale is difficult. At its longest, Lake Superior stretches some 560 kilometres as the eagle flies, abutting one province and three states. By some counts, if you poured out its water, it would flood the entire continents of North and South America to a depth of 30 centimetres.

The shoreline of twists and turns that runs to about 2,780 kilometres offers stunning views and unsurpassed magnificence around most every corner _ not to mention stupendous motorcycling or driving territory for the enthusiast.

Everywhere there are surprises, some steeped in indigenous history that traces back as far as 10,000 years, such as the Ojibwa pictographs at Agawa Rock. There is the delight of Old Woman Bay, where river meets lake, or places whose very names are the lure: Rabbit Blanket Lake, Pinguisibi Falls or Kakabeka Falls, nicknamed Niagara of the North.

Hunt or fish. Walk or cycle innumerable trails. Camp out in well-equipped provincial or federal parks, or stop by at hotels, motels, inns or lodges along the way. But mostly, says Bevilacqua, stop and talk to the locals for their advice on what secret treasures their communities might offer.

“There’s lots of little hidden gems,” says Bevilacqua, whose Superior Country not-for-profit puts out a Circle Tour guide full of ideas. The guide can be picked up at tourist information spots or ordered online.

“The one thing that we strive to do is not make it an inexpensive journey, but to make it an experience that you want to do no matter what,” he says.

The route, he says, appeals to baby boomers, RVers and motorcycle enthusiasts, although increasing numbers of younger adventurers are discovering the excellent hiking or kayaking opportunities. Others prefer to do the circumnavigation by boat.

More and more, Bevilacqua says, there’s a move toward event-based travel, with people asking, “What’s happening here at this time?”

One answer, for example, might be the three-day Live from the Rock Folk Festival in Red Rock, Ont., south of Nipigon and its striking suspension bridge over the Nipissing River that joins east and west along the Trans-Canada Highway.

This year, Superior Country has revived a “passport” program for both lake and auto travellers. Visitors can collect stamps along the way and, ultimately, a certificate of completion if they get all the way around. It’s also an opportunity for the organization to gather intelligence on who exactly is doing the touring.

“It’s absolutely fascinating how many people are interested in doing the Circle Tour,” Bevilacqua says.


If You Go…

_ Plan stops, don’t rush and remember to carry a passport if crossing the border.

_ Check out the Circle Tour guide at

_ Get provincial park info at



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