The Great Northern Route

The biggest city between Ottawa and Duluth, Sudbury (pop. 164,926) lies in the middle of a geological basin that contains one of the world’s largest concentrations of nickel, as well as numerous other precious metals. Originally an Ojibway settlement, the town began to develop after the 1883 arrival of the railroad and boomed when nickel and copper were discovered here three years later. Uncontrolled development followed—mines and processing plants sprang up all over the landscape—and soon the area was a classic industrial-era ecological disaster. No trees grew for miles around, and a haze of toxic smoke choked the inhabitants, who lived in narrow valleys below the mine heads.

In the early 1950s, Sudbury undertook a massive urban renewal and land reclamation project to return the land to its original beauty and clean up the air, with great success. For older residents, the city has changed dramatically for the better; the air is cleaner and trees dot the landscape. Today, Sudbury is still Canada’s most important mining community, producing tons of nickel and copper, but it’s an infinitely healthier place than its polluted past may suggest.

As it passes around Sudbury, the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy-17) bypasses the city’s center, so turn north onto Hwy-80 toward Sudbury’s real visitor draw: Science North (705/522-3701 or 800/461-4898, daily, C$27-50). Located at the edge of downtown Sudbury, along artificial Ramsey Lake, Science North is one of Canada’s most popular attractions, a state-of-the-art science and technology museum featuring many hands-on displays for kids and adults alike. Inside the snowflake-shaped structure, exhibits have included solar system models, wave generators, a diffusion cloud chamber, a honeybee observation hive, and a flight simulator. The newest attraction in Sudbury is Dynamic Earth, which simulates an underground mine. Back in the open air, you can see Sudbury’s famous Big Nickel, moved here in 2003—it’s exactly what it sounds like, a 30-foot-tall replica of a Canadian nickel.

Among the many Sudbury hotels is Travelodge Hotel Sudbury (1401 Paris St., 705/522-1100 or 844/207-7302, C$85 and up), near Science North.

Related Travel Map

Map of the Great Northern through Canada (West).
Map of the Great Northern through Canada (West).

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