I do a lot of traveling in small town America. If you avoid the interstates it’s easy to pass through many of these small towns. These small towns are just as prevalent in Canada. The main difference between Canada and the United States is Canada does not have an interstate system.
There are areas that resemble the US-based interstate system, but you cannot primarily drive from one side to another side of the country primarily on these roads. The best you’ll get is the Trans-Canada Highway. In many places this is just a two lane highway. It forces you to pass through every little small town along the way.
One of these small towns in Canada is Nipigon, Ontario. You could easily pass through it if you wanted, but I’ve always tried to stop to discover a place or two. The Tim Horton’s is always a good place to get some caffeine. Paddle to the Sea Park is a peaceful place to hang out. In fact, it’s one of my favorite places to just sit and relax.
When I would visit Thunder Bay, I would occasionally drive up to Nipigon to visit a place or two. On my last visit, I really wanted to explore the town and discover small town Canada. My buddy Ryan, who lives in Thunder Bay, was also up for some exploring. You may know Ryan from my blog entry up his show in CILU called, “Lipstick and Leather.” I picked Ryan up and we headed north to Nipigon. It was a little over an hour drive from Thunder Bay.
Our first stop was the Nipigon Tourist Information Centre. Nipigon may be a small town, but there are a ton of opportunities to explore. I see I could spend days here if I really wanted. This is definitely a place you don’t want to just pass through!
I got a map and started my exploring.
Ryan and I headed downtown. It was easy to find a parking spot.
We were hungry so we decided to go to China Gardens. This was the only bar in town and one of the only restaurants.
After eating, a general store caught our eye. General stores are the staple of any small town so we had to visit.
We chatted with the owners of the general store and Ryan bought some catnip for his cat. Our next destination was Paddle to the Sea Park. My previous blog entry on it has a bunch more pictures, but the following are a few more.
We drove around a little more and would stop every here and there so I could take a picture. There were a few small town churches.
We went through a few neighborhoods and then by the post office and a discount shop.
The Canadian Legion had a cool mural on it.
There was also a Beer Store and small grocery store.
A new addition to town was the lookout. It had some phenomenal views of the surrounding nature that hugged Nipigon.
After seeing the views at elevated levels, we got back to the ground and drove around a little more.
We discovered an old school diner that appeared to be opening soon.
We both spotted a payphone. It actually had a dial tone! I know pay phones in Canada are still a big thing. I could see them being a bigger thing in a smaller town with more limited reception. Ryan and I took this as a perfect photo opportunity.
Next to the diner was a pizza place that was being run inside a house.
You can’t be in Canada without hockey. I’m sure in a smaller town like Nipigon this is one of the things that brings the community together. I could see some people going in for hockey practice at the Nipigon Community Centre.
We did a little more driving through the quiet neighborhoods and found a dirt road right in the city limits.
On the way out of town, we stopped by Canada’s smallest Canadian Tire.
While you could get auto service at the Canadian Tire, there was also a cool looking independent garage down the road.
We concluded our tour of the small town of Nipigon.
I can say I really like Nipigon and think it represents small town Canada well. In our visit, we talked to a couple different people and they were insanely friendly. Judging by the small businesses around, there is a good ecosystem of stores and restaurants that provide everything you need. The town is also surrounded in nature and basked in natural beauty. I always got this when I went to Paddle to the Sea Park, but it was even better seeing it from the lookout. I know I’ll be back to Nipigon to discover more. It’s such a great little town!