There’s this lake in Canada. It sits in a gorgeous, lush area where the air is so fresh you can’t help but breathe deeply, where the people are so friendly you can’t help but keep a smile on your face and the views are so stunning, you’ll want to keep coming back for more. It’s a lake that divides two provinces but manages to bring them both together in a completely unique and fascinating way.
Three cultures, two provinces, one lake. It’s called Lake Temiskaming but to us, it is one of the most fascinating destinations and experiences we’ve had during our travels.
Where Still Waters Run Deep
Lake Temiskaming is aptly named after the Algonquin word Temikami, or Temiskaming, meaning deep waters as the lake can reach depths of 709 ft. But it’s not just the water that runs deep, the communities living on the lake have untold depths we only scratched the surface of while we were there.
It seems as though no matter where you are on the lake, you’ll find the influence of all of the surrounding communities – you’ll encounter a mix of French and English in language and heritage and a growing integration and influence of native culture around the lake. It’s fascinating to visit from town to town and see that each has its own vibe yet are also all intrinsically connected. Whether you spell it Temiskaming (a decades-old error), Timiskaming, or Temiscamingue depends on where you are around the lake and which language you are speaking but to us, they all refer to an area that is as peaceful and beautiful as it is complex and rich in character.
We were extra fortunate to be able to explore the lake with locals, especially a couple (Vivianne & Roger) who are pillars of the community and who have incredible knowledge about the lake, both past and present. They were our keystone from which we were able to connect to the whole and through them we saw how interconnected everyone was and what a beautiful place it was to be – thanks to the people, the cultures and the landscape.
It was with them that we were able to delve deeper into life on Lake Temiskaming and experience so much of what the area has to offer for both residents and tourists alike. It was also with them that we got to witness first-hand the connectedness of the communities through Vivianne and Roger, and all of those we met along the way.
It truly is a phenomenal place to visit and if you get a chance, here are some things to do whether you’re on the Ontario side, Quebec side or plan to make your way to both:
Ontario Side of Lake Temiskaming – Temiskaming Shores
Temiskaming Shores makes up a large portion of the Ontario coast of Lake Temiskaming and is where we spent our time while on that side of the provincial border. It’s here that we found an interesting bilingualism of French and English in a way we’ve not seen anywhere else, spoken in soft accents, at times not noticeable no matter the language used. We also found a lively atmosphere, full of friendly people who all seemed to know one another… or at least have very few degrees of separation.
What To Do
There’s so much to do in the area but here are some of the highlights of our time there!
Vivianne and Roger were instrumental in getting us out onto the lake and in showing us some of the best spots to enjoy. If you’re able to venture to the lake with a motorboat there are some interesting sights to see, like the ancient cliff called Devil’s Rock, and many islands to observe, like Farr Island. It’s truly a pleasure to spend some time on the water and with marinas located in various towns in both provinces, you’ll even be able to dock and explore (i.e. Haileybury on the Ontario side and Ville-Marie on the Quebec side).
Tip: For now, if you’re looking to rent a boat or boating equipment, like kayaks or canoes, you’ll have to plan on your way into the area by stopping at one of the larger cities or rental places along the way and bringing it with you the rest of the way. For those travelling north into Temiskaming Shores, a stop in North Bay would be perfect.
One of our most memorable outings was our hike and picnic at Devil’s Rock. We had seen this giant cliff from the water below while boating but it wasn’t until we hiked to it and got to see the view from the top that we truly appreciated it. It’s easy to pick out Devil’s Rock from below – rising 300 ft from the lake, one of the top peaks of the escarpment looks very much like a face. We took a hiking trail that led straight to the cliff and enjoyed a picnic with one of the most stunning views in the province.
If you plan your time in the area right, the craft beer festival – North on Tap – is a great local event to attend. Featuring Ontario craft brewers, as well as some local fare and music, the festival is a ton of fun and a great way to get a taste of the community, both literally and figuratively.
Where To Stay
Some of the accommodations in the area also offer boating experiences. Presidents’ Suites is a collection of historic homes that have been restored and reopened as B&Bs. They will also take you over to Farr island where you’ll find some of the many activities they offer. While there is treehouse glamping available for those that want to stay on the island, they are looking to build and open several glamping cabins in the near future.
We had the pleasure of staying at the Waterfront Inn which, as its name suggests, sits right on the lake and offers a spectacular view. It was such a great room with a perfect location and we were thrilled to be able to open our patio doors and literally step out to the lake whenever we wanted. They were also closeby to a lot of the areas we wanted to see, as well as the marina.
Where To Eat
Not only did we enjoy our accommodations at the Waterfront Inn, we also loved their restaurant: Rooster’s Bar and Grill. Casual dining with a patio overlooking the lake and some really great tasting food made it a go-to spot whenever we were in the hotel around meal-time.
Cafe Meteor Bistro was another favourite of ours. Located in Haileybury, this cafe-at-day/bistro-at-night was brilliantly put together by the same owners of Presidents’ Suites which meant it was not only serving some amazing food but also jam-packed with history. Their food is made from fresh, locally sourced products when possible and offers an insight into the uniquely grown and raised culinary ingredients of the region as well as the cultural influences in the cuisine. The decor revolves around, and is based on, the famous S.S. Meteor passenger steamboat which was an integral part of lake life in the late 1800s until 1926 when it caught fire.
One of the local recommendations for the New Liskeard area was Ali’s Bar and Grill and it did not disappoint with it’s diverse menu large portions and delicious food. Though we enjoyed everything we tried, we really liked the firecracker shrimp and
Finally, if you’re looking to taste more of the local cuisine and see exactly what this area produces, you’ll want to check out the Riverside Farmer’s Market during the warmer months. It’s here you’ll see all the different kinds of food and produce grown and created around Temiskaming Shores.
Quebec Side of Lake Temiskaming – Temiscamingue
While native culture permeates Temiskaming Shores and all three cultures coalesce along the lake’s coast, it’s in Quebec where you’ll find the core of Timiskaming First Nations and the Timiskaming First Nations reserve. We were so fortunate to be able to speak with an incredibly talented artist on the reserve, Karl Chevrier who not only creates stunning works of art in all different kinds of mediums and materials but also teaches art forms to local students. His words were moving, his artwork enthralling and we learned so much from him about the history of his people and his community.
After Ontario, we got to explore First Nations culture and then head further along the Quebec side of Lake Temiskaming. Exploring this area – Temiscaminque – meant we only added to the list of things to do and see while on the lake.
What To Do
One of the best things to do on the Ontario side, is also one of the best things to do on the Quebec side – get out and enjoy the outdoors. Boating on the lake can take you to waterfalls and islands or you can kayak and take your time to enjoy the nature surrounding you. There are also recreational trails for hiking or biking in the summer and snowmobiling and winter activities in the colder months.
While it was an unplanned stop, we were so happy that we took the time to visit Fort Temiscamingue National Historic Site. It was this trading post that played an important role in the history of the area and of the country and its fur-trade. There’s also a significant number of displays and exhibits focusing on the thousand-year presence of aboriginal peoples.
One of the coolest things we did was visit the Fossilarium and got hunting for fossils of our own. The area is rife with fossils of living organisms that were previously living underwater but, over centuries, are now fossilized and exposed throughout the area. After learning about what used to inhabit the area and seeing examples of their fossils, we got to go on an excursion ourselves and find our own fossils. Not only did we find some, we were able to keep and preserve them before they became crushed or eroded by human activity.
Every year people from across the lake and all over come to attend one large food festival – Foire Gourmande – and if you’re able to go we highly recommend you do. Food from all over the region and northeastern ontario, craft beer and art by local artists are all available at this weekend-long festival. We had a chance to taste so much of the local food and produce and enjoy some truly fantastic music as the live bands played late into the night each day. This is something that unites the entire lake together while at the same time reaching to other areas of both provinces and beyond.
Where To Stay
We were able to stay in several different accommodations on the Quebec side of Lake Temiskaming and while we were impressed by all of them, two stood out to us. Miwapanee Lodge in Kipawa was a perfect B&B for a getaway. Beautifully appointed rooms, absolutely amazing food (Ask for the pancakes for breakfast. You won’t be disappointed!) and a beautiful setting on the lake. It was both private and romantic and we have already talked about going back.
Domaine TemiKami had us in another piece of wilderness paradise as we stayed in a cabin by the water. Here we had a fully equipped kitchen, an outdoor hot tub and a peaceful view. We loved that it was located close enough to Ville Marie to get to the town, restaurants and the Foire Gourmande Festival but was secluded enough so that we could truly enjoy nature and the beauty that is Temiscamingue.
Where To Eat
If you’re visiting during Foire Gourmande, you’ll have a bunch of food to taste and try but if you’re not, there are a few places that we tried and highly recommend.
If you look up or go to Station Centre-Ville, you’ll probably be a bit confused as to why we would suggest it. Yes, it’s a gas station but it’s not just a gas station. It was the vision of the owners to create something more and be something more in the community. Here you’ll not only find the best (and cheapest) selection of craft beers from both sides of the provincial border, but you’ll also find some gourmet, ready-to-eat meals like sandwiches and pizzas.
At Le Bistro Elle et Louis Bistro, you’ll find two menus playing off the name of the restaurant: one directed to men (Louis) and one directed to women (Elle). While you’re not limited to whatever menu you get, it’s fun to see who orders what in a larger group of both men and women. Both menus are packed with dishes that offer a fusion of flavours of the area and we especially loved their gourmet burgers and poutine.
L’Eden Rouge is a truly interesting restaurant on the site of a vegetable farm meaning the produce makes it to the table extremely fresh. Though they change their menus frequently, they are truly inspired and we ate every bite of each dish we were served.
We kept hearing about the restaurant La Bannick no matter where we were on the lake – Ontario or Quebec – so we knew we had to make it there for at least one meal. While we heard a lot about how good dinner is, we only managed to sneak in a Sunday brunch buffet but if that was anything to go by, it’s definitely a great place to eat! La Bannick also offers campgrounds and cottages, a spa and other outdoor activities if you’re looking for more than just a good meal.
If you’re looking to explore the area, you can always check out their Lake Tour Passport. While the contest is over, the passport map is a great guide for hitting up some of the great stops all around the lake!
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