Coulson’s Hill

Highway 11 Ontario Coulson's Hill highway11.caAs you travel on Yonge Street / Highway 11 from Bradford, you’ll pass through two hamlets, both home to two churches, sitting atop a hill.

Churchill is one.  Coulson’s Hill is the other.

On the way up to Coulson’s Hill you’ll pass three farm stands, a garden centre, and a farm with a sign advertizing “Nonna’s Firewood.”

The town site for Coulson’s Hill is actually just off Highway 11, one turn west.  That’s where you’ll find the two churches – one Anglican, one Presbyterian – a cemetery, and a few houses.  I know that these churches draw from the surrounding farm country, but with a swath of churches 10 minutes south, in Bradford, another two churches up in Churchill, maybe ten minutes north on Yonge Street, you can’t help but wonder how big their congregations are.  What keeps these churches going?

There is also a really big Garden Gallery just north of Coulson’s Hill, possibly in Fennell.  Fennell was was a dot on my map but I never saw a town sign for it.

Coulson's Hill, one of two churches in town, Highway 11

Church #1

Church in Coulson's Hill, Ontario off Highway 11

Church #2

Apple farm stand, Highway 11 Ontario near Coulson's Hill

Driving along Highway 11 in northern Ontario, almost each town has some big weird thing on the side of the road – sometimes a snowman, sometimes an animal, sometimes a curling rock. I don’t know if this apple counts.

Kernel Simpson's Farm Stand, Coulson's Hill, Ontario, Ontario Highway 11

For a while I was into wearing baseball caps with minor league baseball because the logos were so often so bad. This corn dude reminds me of the Cedar Rapids Kernels hat I wore proudly for age.


17Barclay - Star trekI swear that I’m not a Trekkie.  Really, I’m just a casual fan.  It was a nice part of a childhood Saturday night – maybe we’d get a bit of pop with our supper, if we were lucky we’d make a pizza, and then we’d watch Star Trek before settling in for Hockey Night in Canada.  That nostalgia may be the reason that every time I see the word “Barclay”, immediately this guy springs to mind.

OK, back to the content.

Barclay is another one of the dots on the map along Highway 11 that contribute to the municipality of Innisfil.

There is some other stuff in Barclay – the Innisfil municipal hall, a gas station, the Innisfil recreation centre that the Ontario Gaming Corporation has been promoting the heck out of in a not-so-subtle bid to convince Torontonians to build a casino downtown.  But to my recollection Barclay is more a smattering of services than a little village that hugs Highway 11, like Churchill or Stroud.

Barclay is also home to the southern-most woodpile that I saw along Highway 11, although I think it was a result of someone logging their back forty rather than being a permanent local fixture like the woodpiles in that dot more northern communities.

Barclay, Innisfil, Ontario highway 11 feed and grain elevator

You know you’re in rural southern Ontario when the village has a feed and grain elevator…

Barclay, Innisfil, Ontario, speedway on Highway 11

…and a motorsports facility…

Model home centre, Barclay, Innisfil, Ontario, Highway 11

…but is still under pressure to accommodate suburban residential development.

Ontario Highway 11 Innisfil Recreation YMCA OLG

Innisfil’s super-swish YMCA, of OLG commercial fame.

Barclay speedway, Ontario, Innisfil, Highway 11

Whenever I see a speedway, I just feel so country.  I expect to see Brad Paisley jump out at me or something.

Barclay, Innisfil, Highway 11 Ontario feed

Barclay, Ontario, feed and grain elevator, on Highway 11

Port Sydney / Utterson

MK-09-PortSydney-Sign2Sometimes I think I’m really bad at being away from home.  Despite having a travel blog, I’m actually not much of a traveller.  But despite being not much of a traveller, the number of opportunities I’ve squandered while being out of town are embarrassing.

  • I once turned down the chance to hike a mountain in Grand Teton National Park because I was too lazy to pack a lunch.
  • I could have come into some incredibly fine handmade Cree moose-hide gloves, complete with beadwork, but I was worried about landing in Timmins without any cash.  (What if the bank machine is out?)
  • I once passed on a hands-on biologist’s tour of state-of-the-art cattle grazing practices, based on the traditional grazing practices of buffalo, in Montana because I was sore from an hour’s horse ride.
  • I caused my wife to miss the biggest antiques festival in Ohio only to find out that Cleveland puts the “Little” in “Little Italy.
  • I missed out on what will probably be a once-in-a-lifetime the chance to visit my grandmother’s original hometown near Budapest because I was too worried about whether the cabbies in Hungary would know enough English to get me from the airport to the city, so I opted to go to more English-speaking Sweden instead.
  • I bailed early from a hell-raising American Legion singles party in Massachusetts because, well, ok it wasn’t just me – me and my friends we were young, from Canada, and all got a little nervous at the potential prospect of being further hit on by some really strange people.
  • I didn’t get to visit the Idaho Potato Museum because I was hell-bent on getting a milkshake from a Salt Lake City fast food place I’d seen on TV.  It turned out it was closed on Sundays.

OK, so maybe that last one wasn’t the biggest missed opportunity in the world.  But anyway, you’d never expect it, but Port Sydney is also one of these times.

Port Sydney is a small little town about 20 minutes south of Huntsville.  It isn’t on Highway 11, but I’ve included it because it’s close, and I once got lost looking for the Huntsville Swiss Chalet and ended up in Port Sydney instead.

Yeah. I got really really lost.

I’d promised my companion one restaurant meal in exchange for her agreeing to spend a valuable long-weekend day-hiking the Opeongo Trail.  And I’d been to the Swiss Chalet once before – seeking refuge from a bad biology trip in university with some other non-nature-inclined suburban students.  So I figured I knew where it was: one exit south of Huntsville of Highway 11.

Not so.  And after two hours of driving backroad after backroad, u-turn and u-turn, detour after flailing detour, I ended up on a tidy road that hugged a small lake.

People were everywhere.  The street was packed.  Boats were on the water, kids in it.   Kids were lining up for games.  Parents were milling about in sandals holding ice cream, sausages, roast corn, beer.  We were in the middle of nowhere and people were everywhere.  I’m pretty sure there were fireworks planned off in the distance.

Someone was motioning me to pull over. “You can park up the hill a bit” he mentioned when I lowered my window.  He was surprised to see me inch on through.  “Got plans tonight then?” he said, or something to that effect.  He waved for me to move up into the parking but I just kept going forward, slowly, saying nothing.  Eventually he cleared a path of kids and I continued on my way.

It was Port Sydney’s annual festival.  Too nervous to be found out as a non-cottager, I passed it up to go to Swiss Chalet instead.

The Port Sydney area has been settled since 1861.  Albert Sydney Smith founded the town ten years later when he took over an abandoned mill and a dam.  A plan for the village was created and it grew with the logging industry, until the railroad decided to bypass the town for Utterson.  Logging then dwindled in importance and the tourist trade took over.

Port Sydney is really quite cute and is situated on a nice bit of waterfront along Mary Lake.  There is a dam nearby, rapids, and the beach in town is the largest in the Muskoka area.  There are bed and breakfasts and lodges in and around Port Sydney.

Port Sydney also had the oldest church in Muskoka until it was recently destroyed by arson.  A new church has been built in its place and there is a plaque commemorating the old one.

Port Sydney, Highway 11, Ontario

Lake and islands near Port Sydney, Ontario, just off Highway 11

At the junction of highway 141 and old Muskoka Road, Utterson is just west of Highway 11 and not far from either Port Sydney or Huntsville.  Utterson was a stop on the old Canadian National Railway, and pretty much made nearby Port Sydney switch from lumber to tourism after the railway passed it by.

Utterson has a golf club, Muskoka Motion Boat Rentals, at least three bed and breakfasts (Secluded Trails, Streeter’s Landing, and Accents of Muskoka), Wilson’s Lodge, Sandwood trailer park, and a bunch of others places in the area to stay.  Mile Lake is nearby and there is a lot of fishing and camping in the area.  I’ve only passed through Utterson, so I don’t have too much to say about it.  If you know of it, have any photos, or have anything at all to add please email me:  info (at) highway11 (dot) ca

Port Sydney, Ontario muskoka

Dock at Port Sydney

Scotia / Novar / Melissa

You’d think that this stretch of Highway 11 would be a bit more populated being in cottage country, but it’s not.  I guess once you get north of Huntsville, northern Ontario beckons.

Melissa, Ontario, Muskoka, Highway 11

View of the fall colours from Highway 11, near Melissa, Ontario

Scotia is another hamlet that I know I have driven past, and maybe even through, but haven’t stopped long enough to take out the camera and the notebook and make a stop of it.  I couldn’t find anything on the web since searching “Scotia” or “Scotia Ontario” just brings up the province or the bank of the same name.  In October of 2008 I veered off Highway 11 to check out Emsdale, Scotia, and Novar. I didn’t end up seeing a sign for Scotia, although I did pass a dirt road named “Scotia Road” which had a barn and a couple of houses on it.

Novar is a collection of three or four little streets north of Melissa founded in the late 1800s.  Novar has walking and hiking trails to the local rapids.  There is also snowmobiling, canoeing, and kayaking as well, just preferably not in the rapids.  There is also access to the Seguin Park to Park trail.  St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church is also a sight as it was built in 1895.  There is a historical cemetery as well.

Novar has a little grocery store with an LCBO outlet, a gas station, the Tea Kettle Campground, and a bed and breakfast called the Country Colonial.
I’ve driven through the area a number of times, and recently I went off Highway 11 to explore Novar. It was pretty small though, and being mostly houses, I didn’t feel totally comfy taking photos, so I don’t have any photos.

Melissa is a bit confusing as there are two Melissas in Ontario – one near southern Georgian Bay, and one in the Muskokas.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything on the internet about Muskoka Melissa (Doesn’t that sound like the title of a bad April Wine song?).  I didn’t remember driving through it or seeing any signs for it past Huntsville.

I drove through the area recently, and there is a sign on Highway 11 for the town. The town is to the west of the highway. I didn’t take a detour, since I had made stops in Sundridge, Emsdale, Burk’s Falls, and North Bay on the same trip.

Katrine / Emsdale

Katrine is one of a few tiny hamlets south of Burk’s Falls.

Katrine, Ontario, highway 11

Katrine Winter Carnival

Katrine is bordered on one side by Highway 11 and on the other by Doe Lake.  Katrine holds a number of little festivals during the year, including Summerfest, Octoberfest (I’m not sure if it’s a fall fair or a beer fair), and the Katrine Winterfest Karnival.  Doe View Cottages offers lodging.

There is a nine-hole golf course on the Magnetawan river just outside of Katrine.  The area also offers fishing, camping, and swimming at the Doe Lake beach.

Emsdale, Ontario, Highway 11South of Katrine is Emsdale, a little cluster of houses just a bit off Highway 11 north of Huntsville.

The main attraction in Emsdale is Brooks (not Burk’s) Falls, which has a park, a picnic area, and some hiking trails.  Clear Lake, which is just south of the community, has a public beach and a number of nice housekeeping cottage rentals.  There is a flower farm nearby which specializes in lilies.  Emsdale also has the Perry Old Timer Museum just outside of town.

Booker’s Clear Lake Cottages and Penbrook Resort offer some backroads accommodation near Emsdale.  I’ve read that there is a historical cemetery in town.  Potential activities include ice fishing, cross country skiing, canoeing, bass and trout fishing, and the Seguin Park to Park trail.

There is a gas station just outside of town on the highway. In Emsdale, there is Two Jacks Pizza, although on my drive through I couldn’t tell if it was still open.

Feel free to send me an email or post a comment below if you have anything to add.

Emsdale, ontario, Highway 11

Yes, I took a photo of a garage in Emsdale. No, I don’t not know why.

Highway 11 in Ontario, near Emsdale

Hills near Emsdale, Ontario, just off Highway 11. (Photo: User P199 at Wiki Commons.)

Tilden Lake / Cooks Mills

I first heard of Tilden Lake when my local Rotary Club donated a firetruck to the community.  About six hours north of my hometown, the community is about 40 kilometres north of North Bay in Temagami cottage country.Tilden Lake, highway 11 ontario

Tilden Lake is a community of about 400, which swells in the summer as the cottage population increases.  It offers cottage, camping, boating, and outfitting opportunities.  There is a beautiful cottage for sale near Tilden Lake that comes up every time I do a google search for the community.  It is gorgeous.

Tilden Lake has an old MNR fire tower that is no longer maintained, so don’t climb it. Tilden Lake north of North Bay, Ontario on highway 11

(Credit: User P199 at Wiki Commons)

Cooks Mills is just south of Tilden Lake – the first dot on my map on Highway 11 after North Bay.

After wondering for about 45 minutes when we were going to hit Cooks Mills, and wondering just how long this drive really was, we came upon Tilden Lake.


We’re detouring off Highway 11 for a bit, this time onto Highway 65.

Kenabeek is a cluster of houses 20 kilometres west of Thornloe on Highway 65 in the Temiskaming Clay Belt.
Kenabeek, Ontario off Highway 11Kenabeek is very very small.

There’s not much of a town, at least on the highway itself, although I assume that there are more houses and farms as you venture off onto the area’s dirt country roads.

As for services, it’s really all about the Kenabeek General Store, which has gas, food, and an LCBO outlet. However, another site I was on stated that the only gas on Highway 65 is in Elk Lake and Matachewan. A few months ago, someone posted on this site that diesel and gas are avialable at the Kenebeek General Store, but I accidentally lost the comments when I was changing some site details. I did see pumps, but didn’t stop in when I explored the area last. There is also Twin Bear Camp Resort offers hunting, fishing, camping, cottaging, canoeing, and even dog sledding nearby
Kenabeek hosts its annual fall fair, the Kenabeek Fun Fair, the last weekend in August.Kenabeek, Ontario

I’ve been told that there is a small conservative Mennonite community, which farms in the Kenabeek area. In order to sustain the community, it has not been unheard of for young men and women to marry into the community, traveling from more established Mennonite centres such as Wellington County in Southern Ontario, and even from Pennsylvania.

I’ve only visited Kenabeek once (in fall 2008), so maybe you can help fill me in on the community. Email me to add to this page at info (at) highway11 (dot) ca.

Oh, and if you can fill me in, how do you really pronounce Kenabeek? Every time it’s come up in coversation with me, I’ve heard (and used) “Ken-ah-beek.” On the Englehart and New Liskeard radio stations, I heard it pronounced “Ken-ah-beck.” If you know, let me know.

Charlton and Dack

Charlton is a small anglophone village in Dack Township in the northern part of the Temiskaming Clay Belt, near Englehart.  Charlton is not on Highway 11, instead just west of it on Highway 547 by about five minutes.Charlton, ONtario jsut west of Highway 11The surrounding area is largely rural and agricultural, made up of beef and dairy farms. When the whole township is taken into account, the population of Charlton and Dack is about 600.

Charlton is a pretty tiny village, but it’s peaceful, quiet, and well-kept.
I’ve only been through Charlton once. There is a general store, a gas station, a United Church, the Timberline and Moose Haven Lodges for accomodations and activities, and the D&R Variety and the Burger Barn for food. There is also a local Legion, and, of course, some houses. There is also a nice little river and waterfall, with a commemorative plaque about the Charlton Powerhouse. There is also a nice waterfront park with boat luanch access, a playground, and a little beach.Charlton, in northern Ontario

I did some searching on Charlton and Dack Township history, but couldn’t find much. So I don’t have too much to say.

Oddly enough, I also found an online listing for the Charlton Medical Marijuana Club.

You can see some more photos here and here.  Email me to add to this page at info (at) highway11 (dot) ca.

Charlton River, northern ontario

Charlton River

Kenogami Lake

Kenogami Lake – where Kirkland Lake goes to find a lake.

Kenogami Lake, Ontario Highway 11Ok, that’s not the town motto.  Kenogami, which means “long lake” in Montagnais or “long water” in Cree, (or neither, according to a comment below), is a river about 15 kilometres north of Kirkland Lake on Highway 11.  Kenogami used to have a little sawmill, I didn’t see any homes in Kenogami Lake, per se, but there were lots of cottages along the beautiful river with numerous little piers and boat docks along the shore.  The river crossing is a nice little break from the forests and truckstops of the highway, and makes a nice stop if you’ve been travelling far and don’t plan on stopping in Kirkland Lake.

Kenogami Lake Inn on Highway 11, with a waterfront patio

Waterfront patio? Torontonian heads would explode for this (Credit: User P199 at Wiki Commons.)

The Kenogami Bridge Inn has wing nights every Monday and Tuesday.  I was there on a Monday night and there were eleven cars while I was there.  I didn’t venture in but things sure smelled good, and the patio would be absolutely serene were it not for the traffic on Highway 11.

Kenogami Lake, Ontario Highway 11There’s a marine shop across highway and I’ve seen ads on the highway for Kenogami Trash n’ Treasures, which sells some old cast iron cookstoves among other things.  South of the bridge over the Kenogami River there’s Delean’s Restaurant, a gas station, and an old chocolate factory that I’m told went bust when its owners, a married couple, unfortunately split up.  Further south there is MacPherson’s General Store, which sells munchies, liquor, and gas.

There’s also – get this – a gun shop in Kenogami.  Yes, a gun shop.  Maybe my existence up until then was too sheltered, but this is only the third gun shop I’ve ever seen in my life (the others being Fred’s Gun Repair and Buy-Sell-Trade in Delhi, and Giovanni’s Gun Shop on Wilson in Toronto, those two I remember passing in the car as a kid.)  We’ve all seen the rifles locked away in Canadian Tire, but when I read ‘gun shop’ my mind went ‘huh?’ until I realized that we’re in the middle of hunting country.

Pretty and calm, Kenogami Lake is a nice spot to stop and admire the handsome beauty of northern Ontario, before hitting the washrooms and hitting the road.


Sesekinika is a small line of about a dozen houses and cottages on road 570, five minutes east of Highway 11.  I would call it a hamlet, but it’s probably more of a cottage or camp area.

Sesekinika borders the lake of the same name, giving it some quite pretty views – for which my photos definitely do not do justice.Basketball by the lake in Sesekinika, Ontario

Sesekinika Resort offers some lake-front accommodation and activities just south of town on Highway 11.  Sesekinika was also home to Circle Square Ranch of 1980’s mid-morning Canadian children’s television fame (I see now that there are multiple Circle Square ranches in Canada, which makes its location in Sesekinika a lot less cool than I originally thought) but according to a comment below, the ranch has since closed.

Similar to Sapawe in the far northwest, Sesekinika is the official divide between the Atlantic and Arctic watersheds (Sesekinika falls into the former.)

Small camp in SesekinikaI drove as far as the road was paved and then promptly turned around.  Just as I finished my u-turn I found a massive Dodge Durango staring me down through my rear view mirror. My heart started beating. I briefly wondered if I was about to be run out of town for snooping around with a digital camera…and then…the couple in the car…waved and smiled.

I guess I gotta get out of the city. 😉

For an archive of the 40 comments that were posted to’s profile of Sesekinika between 2008 and 2012, please click here.