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9 Free things to do In Northern Ontario this summer

Whether day-tripping from Sudbury or Thunder Bay or planning a Northern Ontario road trip, you can experience the area without stretching your purse strings. This part of the province offers incredible wilderness views you must see to believe, and many won’t cost you a dime.   

From tower lookouts, hiking trails, hidden waterfalls and beaches, there are many fun ways to soak up the sun this summer. You’ll want to try these nine free things to do in Northern Ontario.

Pebble Beach

Where: Marathon, ON

Soak in a scene of crashing waves along a glittering shoreline of colourful rocks. You can enjoy the view of polished rocks and driftwood, overlooking Lake Superior from the parking lot or head down a steep trail for a closer look. There is a nearby playground and picnic area to use, and you can turn your little adventure into a hike along Hawk’s Ridge Trail.


Bridal Veil Falls

Waterfall on Manitoulin Island in Ontario Canada at Sunset.

Where: Manitoulin Island, ON

An island waterfall that cascades into a swimming hole might sound like a tropical dream, but these picturesque falls in Ontario are the real deal. You can quickly reach the 35-foot-tall waterfall from the main road via a staircase or access connecting trails to turn the experience into a hike. Remember a swimsuit and sturdy shoes. The site is popular during the summer, so visiting during off times is best. It’s just a 15-minute drive to the Cup and Saucer Trail, which is also free to visit.   

Diamond Willow Amethyst Mine

Where: Pearl, ON

You can hunt for treasure and search for sparkly purple gems at this amethyst mine near Thunder Bay, and admission is free. The season to dig for amethyst from the source runs from May through October, so you have all summer to take advantage of this unique experience. If you want to bring home a souvenir, you can pick your own quartz and fill a two-gallon bucket for only $30 (the price is pro-rated if you don’t fill it).  

Rainbow Routes Trails

Where: Sudbury, ON

Hike or bike throughout the Greater Sudbury region on a network of maintained trails. With both wilderness and urban options, there are over 30 trails within the network to explore.  

Read the Trail Tours Guide for a description of ten trails, including Kelly Lake Trail and Lake Laurentian Conservation Area, to learn more about what you’ll see along the pathways. In addition, there is a separate trail guide for kids to help them engage more in the hikes. Dogs are allowed but must be on a leash.   

One short hike within the network is the Big Nickel Trail, a 0.35-kilometre path that leads to The Big Nickel outside of Dynamic Earth. At 13,000 kilograms in weight and 30 feet tall, they claim that this is the largest coin in the world, so it’s worth the photo stop.   

Duchesnay Falls Trails

John Twynam | iStock

Where: Yellek, ON

Hit the Education Center Trails near North Bay, a looping network almost 12 kilometres long, so you can choose how long you want to hike. Then, go to West or East Duchesnay Falls Trail to view forest waterfalls rushing into a rocky stream. You’ll get the best vantage point of the cascade flowing over the escarpment from the parking lot off Highway 17. There are also trailheads at Nipissing University and Canadore College that lead you into the system of hidden creeks, towering trees and rustic bridges, and a lookout tower in the centre of the trail network.

Hershey Lake

Where: Timmins, ON

You’ll find a dense pine forest just north of Timmins, with a turquoise pond and beach area. The Hershey Lake Promenade is a trail loop that circles Hershey Lake, features a lookout, and ends at the main beach. The Promenade is just one of the multiple trails that connect within the conservation area, where you’ll discover other lakes, lookout points and a variety of plants. You can relax on the spacious beach and soak up the sun; just note that it is unsupervised. 

Mill Market Sault Ste Marie

Where: Sault Ste Marie, ON

Explore and taste the best of the area at a large indoor farmer’s market, open Saturdays year-round, and some special event days. Mill Market features a variety of food vendors, including fresh produce, fish, homemade snacks, preserves and more. You’ll also be able to shop for gifts and other creations. The market is just off Hub Trail, a walking path along St. Mary’s River. After browsing the market, you can admire the locks and the river pier.

Centennial Botanical Conservatory

Where: Thunder Bay, ON

Explore a lush paradise filled with flowers, trees and cacti, no matter the weather. You’ll feel the tropical atmosphere as soon as you walk in, feeling the warm air, smelling fresh greenery and hearing the trickling of water. There are some seasonal features, but the indoor gardens are open year-round. 

Tower Hill

Where: Parry Sound, ON

Wander through a picturesque garden at the base of a 30-metre-tall lookout tower where you can get photo-worthy views of Georgian Bay. Keep your eyes peeled for various blooms depending on the season, a sundial garden, and a goldfish pond. Then, go to the tower, climb 130 stairs to enjoy the water view and spot the Canadian Pacific Railway trestle bridge below. There is a museum at the base of the building where you can learn local history, from shipwreck stories to the logging trade.

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