Island-hopping in the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area

Compared to Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay, Lake Superior is notably devoid of islands. Along the rugged coastlines of Lake Superior Provincial Park and Pukaskwa National Park, islands are rarities. Paddling out of our base near Wawa, we’ve grown accustomed to the wide-open horizons that make Lake Superior a true Inland Sea. However, the coastline takes on a more Georgian Bay-like feel on the northernmost shore, where a 125-kilometre-long archipelago connects the Sibley Peninsula almost all the way to the town of Terrace Bay, making this area a special treat for sea kayakers.

This is the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area, the world’s largest reserve of protected freshwater. The NMCA includes about 600 islands, ranging from tiny gravel islets to St. Ignace, the largest island on Lake Superior’s Canadian side. Besides the plentitude of islands, the scenery here is different: Distinct landforms like the 1,000-foot-tall sandstone cliffs of the Sleeping Giant, the rounded hills of The Paps and the flat-topped, mesa-like hills of Fluor Island set this area apart.

Our weeklong wilderness sea kayak adventure begins in the quaint cottage community of Silver Island. We cross Black Bay and enter the archipelago, making short crossings between landmasses and paddling intimate channels between the islands. Campsites here are less developed—at abandoned lighthouses, on sweeping terraced beaches and in quiet coves. The area’s unique first-come, first served saunas are a special treat. Agate Island, near the trip’s midpoint, was recently listed amongst the best beaches on the planet. Finally, we explore the bizarre basalt geology of Simpson Island and enter the scenic Rossport group of islands.

Perhaps because of its varied geography and multiple route options in and around the islands, the Sibley to Rossport trip is one of favourites for repeat customers. Whether you’re a Lake Superior veteran or first-time explorer with moderate sea kayak experience, the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area lives up to its world-class reputation.