Go West, Day 2 – Sudbury, Ontario

Author: Larry St Aubin

A short drive today from Parry Sound to Sudbury. We will stop at French River Provincial Park for breakfast. The park is an hour north of Parry Sound. While at the park, we’ll explore the trail to Recollect Falls.

The Greater Sudbury Area is the traditional territory of the Atikameksheng Anishnaabeg and Wahnapitae First Nation

“The Atikameksheng Anishnawbek are descendants of the Ojibwe, Algonquin and Odawa Nations. In 1850, Chief Shawenekezhik, on behalf of the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, signed the Robinson-Huron Treaty, granting the British Crown and their people (Royal Subjects) a right to occupy and share the lands of the Anishnawbek.” 

We got an early start and the morning was cool so went back to Trestle Brewing to find the Old Bridge. It is part of the Waterfront Trail. The trail takes you along The Sound – one of the deepest fresh water harbours in the world.

Parry Sound is known as the Land of 30,000 Islands – making it the world’s largest fresh water archipelago. The bridge crosses the river Sequin. Artifacts from 7,000 years have been found along the shores.

Time to move on to Recollect Falls but I’m glad we got a chance to see this in the cool morning air. That is Trestle brewery on the right.

French River Trading Post, Hungry Bear Restaurant The Hungry Bear restaurant is just a few minutes away from the park. I was going to stop first but they were not open. We did the hike first then came back to the Hungry Bear.
I told Eve to keep an eye out because I understand that the Hungry Bear and Blueberry Hound come around to the trading post.

After that long hike we needed a big breakfast. I shared it with Eve because she really did a trek. Greta got some sausage to help with the healing.

The trading post has Canadian-made moccasins, souvenirs, local First Nations handicraft, and the famous cream and butter fudge made fresh in-house. I realized on the trail that I needed a walking stick. They had a great selection which I’ll use tomorrow on our next trail

Chocolate Moose came out to say hi. Got them to hold the leashes so I could snap a pic.

French River Provincial Park. Long before explorers such as Étienne Brûlé and Samuel de Champlain, and long before the fur-trading voyageurs paddled the French, the river was a natural waterway for the area’s Indigenous peoples as it flowed westward from Lake Nipissing to Georgian Bay. It is a 105 km route of interconnected lakes and rivers. It became the paddle route for Indigenous people, French Explorers, fur traders and Voyageurs.

The French River became a vital route for the logging industry in the late 1800s, as logs were floated down to saw mills located near the river’s mouth on Georgian Bay. Its historical significance as a transportation corridor led to the French River’s designation in 1986 as Canada’s first Heritage River. In the 1800s, fur traders travelled west in the spring with trade goods and returned to Montreal with furs in the autumn.

French River Provincial Park Visitor Centre. A recipient of the Governor-General’s Architectural Award for public buildings in 2010.

The Visitor Centre’s exhibits showcase the rich history of First Nations, French and English cultures that have lived, worked and travelled these waters over the centuries, as well as the river’s plants, wildlife and unique landscapes. The French River Visitor Centre First Nation and Aboriginal Advisory Committee organizes an annual pow wow open to the public in July.

We got an early start. The visitor centre was closed but we were just doing the trail. After seeing this I told Eve we were sticking to the trail and listening carefully.

Recollect Falls. From the Visitor Centre we follow the Recollect Falls Trail. The falls is a low, wide cascade that can be over 100 m wide. I marvel at the wide gorge the river has formed. The well-worn trail to the falls is about 1.5 km long and takes a little under an hour to hike. It is very scenic and I decide to carry Greta in the pack.

I can picture the travellers who came before me, the First Nations then the French opening up this part of the country.

Recollet Falls was named after the Recollet Fathers, who were a French reform branch of the Friars Minor that Samuel de Champlain brought over to Quebec in 1615. The Recollet Fathers were the first Europeans to use the French River.

The trail makes use of the natural flat rock which is a much needed break from the roots and broken rock.

After a challenging walk, we reach our destination. Greta wondered what it was all about.

Here is a little video showing the falls and the French River. Notice the wide gorge and high walls.

Sudbury’s Science North is an interactive science museum. It was opened in 1984 to compliment the visitors who came to see the Big Nickel. There is also an earth sciences museum called Dynamic Earth. I wanted to take the tour but they closed at 5 and didn’t have time to make it for the tour.

The snowflake buildings are connected by a rock tunnel, which passes through a billion-year-old geologic fault. This fault line was not known to be under the complex when the site was originally selected, and was discovered only during the construction of the building in the early 1980s. It is now part of the mine tour.

The “Big Nickel” has been part of my heritage since learning about it in high school. It was built as a Centennial project in the 1960s to make Canadians and the world aware of our mining history. The Big Nickel is the largest coin in the world. It’s design is based on the 1951 5 cent piece by artist Steve Trenka. It depicts a mining refinery.

I wanted a perspective photo and used the rocks to place the pugs.

The commemorative 1951 five cent piece was issued to mark the 200th anniversary of the naming of nickel and its isolation as an element. This was Canada’s first public design competition for a Canadian coin. It marked the first competition that was open to all Canadians. Over 10,000 submissions were received from across Canada

The base enables the public to walk around and under the 13,000-kg coin, with barrier-free access. It is about 64,607,747 times the size of a real Canadian nickel.

In the 1960s, the Big Nickel was joined by four other over-sized monuments: The Fantasy Penny, The Lincoln Penny, The Kennedy Half Dollar and The Twenty Dollar Gold Piece. These other four monuments were all dismantled in 1984.

The Sudbury Tourism office offered a map for an historic downtown self-guided tour. Unfortunately, most of the buildings have been demolished. I grabbed some historic photos to give a sense of what was there. But first…

I had to visit the Alek Trebek Mural. Alek Trebek was the long time host of Jeopardy. Artist Kevin Ledo completed this mural August 2021. It is located on the wall of Sudbury Secondary School where Trebek attended. Kevin decided on a retro style that was closer in time to when Trebek was in the school.

Trebek, who was born in Sudbury to a Ukrainian immigrant father and a French-Canadian mother, was the world-famous host of Jeopardy! for decades. He was an Emmy Award-winner, a Guinness World Record-holder and an officer of the Order of Canada. By the way, I was born to a Ukrainian mother and French Canadian father.

Market Square and the CPR Ticket and Telegraph Office. 9 Elgin St. In 1883, the land that comprised “Sudbury Junction” was owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company (CPR). The original town plan, drafted in 1886, was designed with the railway at the centre. They both are evidence of the early influence of the CPR on the shaping of Sudbury.

There is nothing left of this important area. I’ve relied on the archives. But we did go to visit and met some charming people in a community housing building.

The CPR Ticket and Telegraph Office, located at Market Square, was once one of the larger CPR offices in Canada. In the 1930’s it housed the Sudbury Public Library on the 2nd floor. In 1914, the CPR found it necessary to construct a Ticket and Telegraph office at 9 Elgin Street South in downtown Sudbury due to the community’s expanding population and growing industrial importance. It was one of the few large repeating offices on the CPR railway line between Montreal and Vancouver, with others located in Fort William, Winnipeg, Swift Current, Moose Jaw and Calgary.

Aerial view of the CPR office showing property line
Market Square, Sudbury

The Grand Theatre. 28 Elgin. The Grand Theatre building occupies a site where an important event in Sudbury’s development took place. Before the theatre was built in 1909, this location was home to McCormick’s Hall. In 1892, approximately 100 citizens signed a petition at the hall asking the provincial government to incorporate Sudbury as an independent town. The Grand Theatre building itself, named the Grand Opera House when it opened, was a very large venue for a town the size of Sudbury and the success it enjoyed furthered Sudbury’s early reputation as a show town.

Early audiences were captivated by a circuit of performances from theatrical productions to musicians, singers to the Lemon Brothers’ circus, a Wild West show, a boxing kangaroo, a psychic, a billiards champion and silent films.

The Grand Opera House opened in April 1909. Its investors were 14 businessmen, including William Bell who shared an optimistic vision for the young city of about 4,200 – neighbouring Copper Cliff’s population was about 3,000. The theatre originally had more than 1,000 seats, three balconies, majestic high ceilings, sophisticated art nouveau decorations throughout and an elegant lobby.

The Grand Theatre, 1947. Courtesy of CBC

During a renaissance from 1987 to the mid-1990s, it booked A-list entertainers such as Johnny Cash, Celine Dion, Tom Jones, Nana Mouskouri, k.d. lang, Conway Twitty, Wayne Newton, Engelbert Humperdinck, Crowded House, George Carlin, the Smothers Brothers, Howie Mandel and the Beach Boys. 

Moses Block. 143 Durham. Built in 1915, the Moses block was the first flatiron-shaped building in Sudbury. It is named after Hascal Moses who ran a bookstore from this location for fifty years before handing the business over to his son Wolfe. The block had an additional story added after a major fire in 1945. Durham St. itself deserves some mention as it was once the premiere business district in Sudbury. It was often referred to as “Main St.” even though Elm St. is Sudbury’s official main street.

Old City Hall. 83 Cedar St. It was originally built in 1913 by the Bell Telephone Company. It was later purchased by the City of Sudbury and converted into the municipal office and public library. The building is also tied to the birth of the city as it stands on the site of Sudbury’s first hotel, a log building aptly named the Sudbury Hotel. It was at this hotel that Sudbury’s first physician, Dr. William Howey, and his wife Florence, enjoyed their first local meal.

On our short tour we encountered some great street art.

Best Western Downtown. Usually check ins for hotels are between 3 and 4. Pet friendly rooms usually take a little longer to prepare – close to 4 pm. In the past I’ve tried to get an early check in, which meant waiting in the lobby with the pugs. This time I’m using the afternoon time to doing some touring – like the historical buildings of Sudbury. When I booked hotels I chose downtown locations whenever available.

Got the pugs fed and settled. After all that exploring they are going to sleep through the night.

Respect is Burning – vintage Italian tavern and home cookery. Okay, the name caught my eye. The menu looked amazing so, for the first night, Italian it is. The sign out front suggested a Mojito cocktail. It was bursting with mint. I ordered a Caesar salad and rigatoni carbonara. I hadn’t any lunch so this was a much needed meal.

The Grand. Following in the footsteps of Stompin’ Tom’s great lyrics, my plan is to head out on Saturday night to one of Sudbury’s iconic music venues – The Grand. After reading about its glorious past, I feel honoured to be able to visit it.

The only other place for live music is Coulson Entertainment. However they had a fire in the kitchen and have had to close temporarily.

However, after seeing a rather shabby Grand today, and that it does not open until 10 pm, I don’t think I will make it. Just have to settle for Stompin’ Tom


  1. Looks like another fabulous day Larry. My mom grew up in Sudbury. She spent a lot of her childhood at the Grand so it was very interesting to learn all about it and to learn more about Sudbury. Safe travels.

  2. Wow, we will have to visit Sudbury again since it’s been a very long time since we were there. Thank you for the historical tour! Give Greta and Eve a pat for us. Thanks for sharing once again.

    • I was surprised how few people there were downtown. I went to a mall and everyone is in the suburbs. It’s just the disenfranchised living downtown. But I will go back just to see Dynamic Earth and Science North. A weekend would do it.

  3. I tell you Larry, you, Greta and Eve certainly get around! Such fabulous info on the French River and Sudbury…thanks! Have been to Thunder Bay (Don, my husband’s birthplace), but never to Sudbury. Loved the street art there and how important the Grand Theatre must have been in those early day, having 1000 seats! Great trip! Love seeing the girls pose on the rocks! Hope Greta and Eve weren’t disappointed at not seeing the Hungry Bear and Blueberry Hound! Think that was a good thing! 😉 Continue on Larry! You are incredible to do this trip with the pugs! Safe travels, love Ann xxx

    • Thanks Ann. The thing with cheap hotels is they have spotty or low wifi. It takes forever to upload files. But I’m enjoying the feedback from people. It makes it a welcome hobby.

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