About this series: With COVID-19 restrictions expected to ease over the next few months, Wheels wants to inspire you to get ready to explore — but only when it is safe to do so. This series of daytrips and weekend drives highlights great experiences you can have in the province once conditions allow and show you why Ontario is “Ours to Discover” this summer and beyond.
Sudbury has long been known as an important Canadian mining centre but there’s more to northern Ontario’s largest city than the Big Nickel (although, at a weight of 13,000 kilograms, the colossal coin lives up to its famous reputation). With hundreds of freshwater lakes, excellent tourism attractions and an intriguing dining scene, Sudbury’s diverse attractions reward road trippers in search of outdoor adventure, culture and good eats.
In the morning: Leave Toronto, driving north along Hwy. 400 to Hwy. 69. Depending on traffic, the drive should take about four hours. This route will take you through Parry Sound, a pleasant port town set on the shore of Georgian Bay. Stop for a break and a food fuel up at Parry Sound’s Country Gourmet Cafe, a cheerful spot that offers homestyle fare and includes a small local art gallery.
In the afternoon: After a morning cooped up in the car, you’ll be ready to stretch your legs. Enjoy some fresh air once you arrive in Sudbury at Bell Park, the city’s largest urban waterfront green space. Go for a walk on the Bell Park Walkway, a gentle trail that runs along the scenic Ramsey Lake shoreline, enjoy a swim on Bell Park Main Beach or take your activity level up a notch by booking a hydroflight lesson—where a jet of water propels you in the air — with Flyboard Sudbury.
After leaving the park, make a photo stop at Canada’s largest mural. Spanning 74,000 square feet, this multi-hued, wash-style mural covers the exterior of the city’s old St. Joseph’s Hospital building and was completed as part of the 2019 Up Here festival.
Before checking into your hotel, take a detour to Huckleberries Chocolatiers for a sweet snack. This cute confectionary shop carries handmade Belgian truffles and creative treats like chocolate-dipped licorice, making for satisfying nibbles as you continue on to your hotel (or a tasty souvenir to take home).
In the evening: For convenient access to downtown Sudbury’s attractions, check in to the Hilton Garden Inn Sudbury. This mid-range hotel, which opened in early 2021, has an onsite salt-water pool and its tidy rooms come with mini-fridges and microwaves. If you’re looking for a more distinctive accommodation option, and don’t mind basing yourself a short drive from downtown, try the Hacienda Bed and Breakfast. Set on a five-acre estate, this charming property features Mayan- and Spanish-influenced decor and fresh breakfasts are included in the rate.
Once you’ve settled into your hotel, it’s time for dinner. Respect is Burning is a local favourite known for its rustic Tuscan cuisine — antipasto pastas and pizzas — and lively atmosphere. After, swing by up-and-coming hot spot Wander Food & Wine for a nightcap. This stylish wine bar offers an extensive selection of Old and New World vino by the glass, bottle and flight.
In the morning: Kick off your second day in Sudbury with a morning pick-me-up at Kuppajo Espresso Bar. Whether you prefer a sweet and savoury treat, or a caffeine-only start to your day, this plant-filled cafe has you covered with coffee and espresso-based drinks, homemade baked goods and breakfast choices ranging from avocado toast to sandwich-style bagels.
Next up is one of northern Ontario’s most well-loved attractions: Science North. Explore four floors of hands-on exhibits spread across two buildings — from above they look like snowflakes — connected by an underground tunnel carved through the rock of the Canadian Shield. Take in the mighty 20-metre-long whale skeleton found on the main floor, watch science demonstrations in the Discovery Theatre or interact with live butterflies in the F. Jean MacLeod Butterfly Gallery.
After lunch, gain a deeper perspective into Sudbury’s mining heritage with a visit to the A.Y. Jackson Lookout. In addition to its geological significance, the site is known for having inspired Group of Seven artist A.Y. Jackson with its natural beauty. A riverside trail leads to the lookout, which offers lovely views of High Falls and its 55-meter plunge into the Sudbury Basin. The basin was created 1.85 billion years ago by a huge meteorite strike, which is responsible for the region’s wealth of mineral resources.
In the late afternoon: No trip to Sudbury would be complete without seeing the city’s iconic Big Nickel. This nine-metre-high replica of the 1951 Canadian nickel was erected in 1964 and honours the city’s mining heritage. The nickel is located on the grounds of Dynamic Earth, an immersive museum dedicated to earth science and mining that’s worth checking out if time allows.
Ask you make your way south on Hwy. 69 back to Toronto, consider a pit stop at French River Provincial Park’s visitor centre and see its dramatic suspension bridge before bidding farewell to northern Ontario.
COVID-19 need to know
Some attractions may be closed or operating at a limited capacity, so it’s best to contact individual businesses ahead of your trip to confirm your plans. For more information on local restrictions, consult Public Health Sudbury & Districts (phsd.ca)
For the drive
Get familiar with northern Ontario’s movers and shakers by listening to the “Behind the Bench” podcast on your drive. Now in its third season, this Sudbury-based podcast’s early episodes focus on interviews with notable northern Ontario sports figures like hockey player Rebecca Johnston and swimmer Nina Kucheran. Later episodes branch out to feature other local talents like TikTok creator Eric Struk and actor Colton Gobbo.
- 8 a.m. Leave Toronto
Drive north on Hwy. 400
Continue on Hwy. 69 to Sudbury
- Side stop: Parry Sound for brunch
- 1 p.m. Explore Bell Park
- 4 p.m. Canada’s Largest Mural
- 4:30 p.m. Huckleberries Chocolatiers
- 5 p.m. Check-in to hotel
- 6:30 p.m. Respect is Burning
- 8:30 p.m. Wander Food & Wine
- 10:30 p.m. Return to hotel
- 9 a.m. Kuppajo Espresso Bar
- 10 a.m. Science North
- 1 p.m. Tucos Taco Lounge
- 2 p.m. A.Y. Jackson Lookout
- 3:30 p.m. Dynamic Earth
- 4 p.m. The Big Nickel
- 4:30 p.m. Drive back to Toronto
- 5:30 p.m. French River Provincial Park
NOTE: Times are suggestions only