Friday, February 5, 2016

Review: Pancake Bay Provincial Park

Location: 75 km North of Sault Ste. Marie (1hr drive)
Pathway to beach at
Pancake Bay Provincial Park
Website: Ontario Parks
Map: Google Maps
Camping Facilities: Car Camping
Grade: C-
Stargazing: Good on the lake shore
Summary: Highway noise, beautiful beach, radio free sites are a downer
Thoughts: When you're making your way north towards the splendor of the upper regions of Ontario, you may be tempted to make your first stop in Pancake Bay PP for the night. It makes sense - it's about an 8-hour drive from Toronto, 9 hours from Ottawa, which is about as much as any average driver can take in a single sitting. But a good location and provincial park status don't always equal happiness in adventuring in Central/Northern Ontario.

View south along Pancake Bay Provincial Park
You might notice from any map that Pancake Bay is sandwiched between the Trans Canada Highway and Lake Superior. As a result, I challenge you to find a site that doesn't automatically provide you with a complimentary Highway 17 white noise machine to lull you to sleep at night (or wreck any sense of being one with nature). The sites are very close to the highway. Highway noise is even cleary audible in the radio free sites, which are nearly as far as you can get from the highway in this park. I was camped on site 25 near the comfort station at the Hilltop Campground and was pretty disappointed. Radio free sites are not scenic and the ones close to the marsh were very buggy, even in August. But if you have a high tolerance for highway noise, or are positioned close enough to the crashing waves of Lake Superior, you might be able to bear it.

To be fair, the park isn't simply a random sliver of sand wedged between water and pavement. The beach is beautiful albeit a bit narrow. I think it's probably a great place for families, due to the shallow waters on much of the beach and the overall quality of the amenities. For a camper who wants seclusion and peace, look elsewhere.

Pancake Bay Provincial Park
Map of Pancake Bay Provincial Park Campground
(Source: Pancake Bay PP Tabloid, 2015)
View north along Pancake Bay Provincial Park

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