Never visited Lake Superior?
Let us introduce you to this stunning body of water with a park that showcases how great this lake is: Pancake Bay Provincial Park!
If you’re travelling from the east or south, Pancake Bay is the first provincial park with camping you’ll come across on Superior.
Located less than an hour north of Sault Ste. Marie, this park is perfect to start or cap off your Lake Superior adventures.
Check out these five reasons to visit Pancake Bay Provincial Park:
1. Discover the park’s unique history
In the 1700s and 1800s sturdy French-Canadian voyageurs paddled huge 10 metre-long birchbark canoes across the Great Lakes from Montréal and back, carrying trade goods and furs.
This was the era of the Canadian Fur Trade.
Legend has it that the voyageurs named this beautiful curving stretch of sand beach “Pancake Bay” as it was their last stop before reaching Sault Ste. Marie (where they would resupply) to have pancakes in the morning for breakfast.
While mostly legend, there is some truth to the story — they rarely had luxuries like flour with them, but did on at least one occasion.
The long sandy beach here was a perfect place for the voyageurs to camp — they needed a shallow place to unload their three tons of cargo from birchbark canoes before pulling them up on the beach.
Today, people are still drawn to the beach, and some likely have pancakes now and then, but these adventurers are campers and day trippers.
2. Take in stunning Lake Superior
When it comes to its size, Lake Superior lives up to the name. Did you know that the water from all four of the other Great Lakes could easily fit in Lake Superior? Lake Superior seems more like an inland sea than a lake!
Lake Superior is so big, over 300 kilometers end-to-end, that when you look west across its waters from the shore, you can actually see the curvature of the earth!
At sunset, the sun slowly sinks into the waters of the lake for a sunset that can’t be beat. So where can you catch these views?
As you drive north along Highway 17, Pancake Bay and the stretch of road just to the north of the park is the first place you see the open lake.
There are many ways to experience Lake Superior. Try taking a drive north along Highway 17 for amazing views — the drive along eastern Lake Superior has been considered one of the best scenic routes in eastern Canada!
Prefer to adventure by paddle? Explore Pancake Bay’s incredibly clear waters.
Hike the Edmund Fitzgerald Lookout Trail in the park for panoramic views or one of the many hiking trails in Lake Superior Provincial Park an hour north, but more about trails later — it’s time to hit the beach!
3. Bask on Lake Superior’s longest beach
Pancake Bay is known for its 3.5 km fine, almost-white sand beach rimming the bay.
On a sunny day, the turquoise waters make it look almost tropical!
Lake Superior’s waters can be brisk, but the shallows of Pancake Bay are warmer, and Batchawana Bay (a day use provincial park 10 km from Pancake Bay) is even more sheltered and warmer for swimming.
At 3.5 km (over a mile and a half), there’s lots of room for beach-goers to spread out and have their own space. A section of the park’s beach is even designated as a leash-free pet beach!
For many years Lake Superior Magazine’s “readers poll” named Pancake Bay one of the best beaches on both sides of the US-Canada border!
And to add to those accolades, Sault Tourism named Pancake Bay the best of the best as its top beach in Ontario!
4. Take a hike!
High on a rocky hill above Pancake Bay, the park’s Edmund Fitzgerald Trail takes you to an awe-inspiring lookout.
The trail and the lookout are named for the Edmund Fitzgerald, one of the largest Great Lakes freighters ever at over (700’).
Nicknamed “Big Fitz”, it sank in a terrible November storm while carrying a load of iron ore from the west end of Lake Superior, south to Lake Erie.
Climb the stairs to the two lookout platforms and learn about volcanoes, ferns, and how Lake Superior moderates the climate for the park’s forest.
Once you’re on top at the first lookout, you’ll see how big Superior really is — Whitefish Point in Michigan is visible in the distance, but beyond that is just a huge expanse of blue water.
It’s 300 km to the other end of the lake!
An interpretive panel tells the story of the Fitzgerald and many more ships and boats that have been claimed by the waters of the lake.
At the second lookout, Pancake Bay and its beach lie below, making a long, sandy curve in the distance.
This is a great spot for outstanding fall colour viewing in late September and October, with a wide panorama taking in the Algoma Hills, Batchawana Bay, and Lake Superior’s Whitefish Bay, extending beyond to the horizon.
5. Tour around Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma Country!
Pancake Bay makes a great base to explore Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma Country.
“The Soo” (as it is affectionately nicknamed) calls itself “Ontario’s best adventure town.”
When the city attractions are combined with the scenic landscapes of Algoma’s Lake Superior Coast, you’re in a world-class tourism region.
Check out these must-see tourism opportunities:
Sault Ste. Marie
- Board the Miss Marie for a tour through The Soo’s locks! Discover the history and operation of the locks up close and personal.
- The Bushplane Museum houses a collection that tell stories about the importance of these aircraft to northern Ontario and Canada
- Art Gallery of Algoma — an art collection including paintings of the influential and iconic Group of Seven who formed after painting trips to Algoma
- Ermatinger House and Clergue National Historic Site — interactive exhibits tell stories of the fur trade, the War of 1812 and settlement of Sault Ste. Marie, on the site of two of the oldest stone buildings west of Toronto
- Looking for more activities in the area? The Sault Tourism website can help!
Along the Lake Superior Coast
- Lake Superior Provincial Park — your camping permit for Pancake Bay is good for free day use at Lake Superior, just an hour north on Highway 17. Numerous hiking trails, picnic spots, and an excellent visitor centre are worth the visit!
- Wawa and the Big Goose — this northern town an hour and a half north of Pancake Bay is famous for its roadside attraction: the Big Goose — a selfie-must!
- The Algoma Central Railway leaves Sault Ste. Marie and travels north through the rugged Algoma Hills, with many scenic views and a stop at “Canyon Park,” a favourite painting location of the Group of Seven painters
- Fall Colours – the fall colours in Algoma Country are outstanding. Along with Pancake Bay’s own Edmund Fitzgerald Lookout and Trail, Robertson Cliffs south of Batchawana Bay, and the trails in Lake Superior Provincial Park, fall hiking is as good as anywhere in Ontario. You can also drive and take the fall scenery too!
- For more information on activities and amenities in the area, visit the Algoma Country website
Planning a visit?
Around half of Pancake Bay’s 313 campsites offer electrical hookups. There are a variety of sites to accommodate a range of trailer sizes, as well as five reservable group camping sites.
Three comfort stations with flush toilets and hot showers are located centrally in the park.
Their camp cabin offers comfort and coziness with all the amenities you need to have a relaxing getaway. Pancake Bay’s beach is just steps away from the beach.
Watch the sunset on their accessible deck with transparent front railings.
Pancake Bay is open until October 10, 2023.