Lake Superior Provincial Park protects 1600 sq km of misty fjord-like passages, thick evergreen forest and tranquil sandy coves that feel like they've never known the touch of humankind. The best bits of the park require some level of hiking or canoeing to access, but if you're not so inclined or have limited time, there are numerous picture-perfect vistas just off the highway, which goes straight through the park. Sights and facilities generally open from May to October.
Your first stop should be the Agawa Bay Visitors Centre, 9km in from the park's southern boundary. The interactive museum and park experts will advise you well. There's a smaller information area at Red Rock Lake, 53km further north, if you're coming from the other direction. If you plan to stop in the park, you must buy a permit, but you do not need one if you will be driving straight through on Hwy 17.
Katherine Cove and Old Woman Bay picnic areas, both by the road, have panoramas of misty sand-strewn shores. Budding anthropologists will appreciate the Agawa Rock Pictographs: between 150 and 400 years old, the red-ocher images comprise a spiritual site for the Ojibwe, one of Canada's largest First Nations groups. A rugged 500m trail leads from near the visitor center to a rock ledge where, if the lake is calm, the mysterious pictographs can be seen. Park interpreters are on-site between 11am and 3pm in July and August, weather permitting.
Avid hikers will delight in the park's 11 exceptional trails. The signature hike is the 65km Coastal Trail, a steep, challenging route along craggy cliffs and pebble beaches (allow five to seven days total). There are six access points, allowing you to spend from a few hours to several days tackling a section of the trail. The Nokomis Trail (5km) loops around iconic Old Woman Bay, so named because it is said you can see the face of an old woman in the cliffs. Depending on the weather, wispy beard-like fog and shivering Arctic trees exude a distinctly primeval flavor. The diverse Orphan Lake Trail (8km) just north of Katherine Cove is a tasting plate of the park's ethereal features: isolated cobble beaches, majestic waterfalls, elevated lookouts and dense maple forests.
There's a burgeoning paddling culture here, with canoes available to rent in the park ($10/30 per hour/day). Several charted inland routes range from the relatively mild 16km Fenton-Treeby Loop (with 11 short portages of 150m each max) to challenging routes accessible only via the Algoma Central Tour Train if it resumes its passenger services. Naturally Superior Adventures and Caribou Expeditions run extensive paddling programs in and around the park.
There are two campgrounds close to the highway: Agawa Bay, right on Lake Superior; and Rabbit Blanket Lake, next to an inland lake with less wind and higher temperatures but fewer coastal vistas. Booking through Ontario Parks (www.ontarioparks.com) is essential.