Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Pancake Bay Provincial Park - Bachawana Bay

Pancake Bay beach at sunset.
Pancake Bay Provincial Park is located along the eastern coast of Lake Superior about halfway between Sault Ste. Marie and Wawa.  It is a medium sized campground with 325 sites but it feels like a smaller park because of the way it is laid out.  The campsites are laid out in a long narrow strip parallel to the beach which means that you are never more than about a three minute walk from the beach.  Our campsite was about smack dab in the middle of the park so that also meant that we were not far from the comfort stations, amphitheatre, picnic pavilion, office or hiking trails. 
A swim in the chilly water.
The main attraction at the park is the lake which is huge, clear, and cold.  We were there in August and it was still so cold that my kids were usually the only people in the water.  They loved it but they couldn't last long before they had to come out and warm up on the beach.  The beach has beautiful white sand and beach grass and the whole area is ringed by trees, so this was no hardship.  My kids loved playing in the sand and going for walks along the beach.  Lake Superior really is quite a thing to behold.
Going for a nice walk along the beach... with complete strangers.
When we were there during the week, the park was half empty and quiet. This created a laid back atmosphere that was very enjoyable.  How laid back?  You could show up at the beach and the only other people there would be a group of long haired hippies strumming guitars.  So laid back that my kids wandered off with said hippies for a nice walk along the beach and it wasn't until they had been gone twenty minutes that it dawned on me that I didn't have a clue who those people were.  I swear, I was not stoned.  I obviously failed to heed the wise words of Jack Donaghy
A painting class on the beach.
Besides the beach the best thing about Pancake Bay Provincial Park is the programs for kids.  While we were there they had a movie night at the amphitheatre, an ask a naturalist event, a painting class, a star gazing party and a Saturday morning kids session where they learned about voyageurs (Pancake Bay was a frequent stop for the voyageurs back in the day). 
The star gazing outing on the beach.  Note to self, figure out how to use the night setting on my new camera.
When I asked my kids what they liked the best about our vacation (we went to Science North, Dynamic Earth, Killbear, Pancake Bay, Lake Superior Provincial Park and the Bushplane Museum), my youngest daughter picked the kids programs at Pancake Bay.  So, shout out to Mara and the other two young women who ran the programs (whose names I suddenly forget -  Caitlin?  Candace?  sorry!) UPDATE!  Her name is Celeste.  I think
Eating slightly sandy pancakes. 
There were two other community events at the park while we were there; a pancake breakfast and a fish fry. The servings at the fish fry were enormous (and delicious). Now, if you say to me that there are pancakes for breakfast and I don't have to cook them, this will be my reaction.

Needless to say, we were at the pancake breakfast with bells on.  My kids loved this, but a word of warning, the pancakes were ever so slightly sandy.  So, then I was like...

Friends, it was a roller coaster ride of emotions for me that morning because I think we can all agree that getting my hopes up (PANCAKES!) and then dashing them cruelly (more like SANDCAKES!) is not cool. 
On the very wet hiking trail.
Moving on!  There is also a great hiking trail in the park that takes you through forests and fens.  It turns out that I love fens.  Who knew?  You learn something new about yourself every day.  It is about 4 km and takes about 90 minutes with kids.  When we were there it was very wet and full of mosquitoes.  You really want to cover up/douse yourself in bug spray before heading in but it is worth it.  There is also a longer trail just across the highway which will take you to a lookout over the spot where the Edmund Fitzgerald sunk. 

Making voyageur sashes with...Chelsea? Cameron?  Apparently the voyageurs were a jaunty bunch.  
Things to keep in mind:
  • The park is right by the beach but it is also right by the highway.  You can't see it as there is a stretch of trees between the park and the highway but you can hear it. 
  • There is a good number of showers and laundry facilities in the park, especially if you are there during the week when it is half empty. 
  • There is no store where you can buy food in the park (you can buy firewood and souvenirs at the park office) but there is a big store about .5 km up the road.  You can buy some (overpriced) grocery items as well as gifts, ice cream, stamps and phone cards. 
  • There is a dog beach which is actually quite lovely.
  • If you have a valid Ontario Parks permit you can actually visit any provincial park which is actually handy in this area because there Bachawana Bay Provincial Park is just a short way down the road in one direction and Lake Superior Provincial Park is about 40 minutes up the road in the other direction.  The drive to Lake Superior Provincial Park from Pancake Bay is gorgeous and worth the time in its own right.
  • There is no bike trail per se in the park but the road around the camp ground is paved and not busy (at least not when we were there) and everyone seems to treat it like a de facto bike trail and drive accordingly.  My kids rode all over the camp ground with all of the other kids in the park and never had a problem.  


  1. This was helpful as we are heading there in just under a month. Thanks!

    1. How did you find the park? Did you enjoy it? Has anything changed since we were there?

  2. I'd never heard of Pancake Bay. It sounds like it might be worth a trip.

  3. It is! It is one of the best campgrounds we have been to in terms of activities and programs.