Agate Beach and Other Amazing Thunder Bay Adventures

Wondering where in the world is Agate Beach? A remote beach where the shore is lined with red agate stones? It’s right here in Ontario, Canada. Read on to learn more about Agate Beach and other amazing adventures around Thunder Bay.

Ontario is Hub Central for Amethysts

“Would you like an amethyst?” asked Ian Macadam, my host, presenting a tray of sparkling stones as though they were after-dinner mints.  I was at Sunnyside Beach, on the shores of Lake Superior just outside Thunder Bay and had just enjoyed a glass of chardonnay,  smoked trout guacamole and some Thunder Oak gouda cheese so  I expected to see more culinary goodies rather than Ontario’s provincial gemstone on a dish.

Smoked trout and Thunder Oak gouda are followed by gems

“If you place an amethyst under your pillow, you’re guaranteed a good sleep,” explained Lois Nuttall, co-owner of Lake Superior Visits and my guide to undiscovered Thunder Bay. She seemed to know everyone between Thunder Bay and Sault Ste Marie so I wasn’t surprised to find out she  knew a lot about amethyst.

Take your pick of these amethysts

Amethyst is the most highly valued stone in the quartz group of gemstones and has been revered for centuries. The ancient Greeks wore it as an amulet to encourage sobriety and it was a favourite of officials in the Catholic Church.  Abbess Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), was the first to record prescriptions for using gemstones’ medicinal powers – amethyst being useful for treating insomnia, digestive disorders and addiction to alcohol.

“The  perfect after-dinner  gem, ”  I thought, choosing a large, but not-too-greedy-sized stone from the tray.

Liisa Karkkainen and her native rock of amethyst crystals

I later learned that Brazil, Madagascar, Zambia, Uruguay, India and Canada have the world’s most important deposits of the amethyst. In fact, when Lois and I stopped at the Fish Shop on Highway 17,  owner Liisa Karkkainen, stepped outside to show me the rich vein of amethyst running through her rocky backyard.  She sells jewellery and rock specimens crafted from local amethyst in  shades from pale violet to deep eggplant purple in her carefully-curated gift shop.

Amethyst quartz

Amethyst quartz is known as a stone of contentment

Further along the highway (56  kilometres east of Thunder Bay) is Amethyst Mine Panorama,  the largest amethyst mine in North America. There, you can dig in the rock for your own amethyst and pay by the weight. But watch out. If you discover an amethyst as big as the experts say you might, you may never be able to fit it under your pillow.

 Journey to Agate Beach

As if amethysts aren’t enough, you can head to Nipigon the launching point for exploring Agate Beach, located on Agate Island, a remote spot accessible only by boat. Here, the shoreline is lined with real agates. According to the reference book “A Kaleidoscope of Crystals”, gem fans consider agates to be one of the world’s most powerful stones when it comes to metaphysical properties.

Agate Beach Ontario Credit Michele Peterson

Agate Beach Ontario Credit Michele Peterson

It’s believed that agates can stimulate a person’s analytical capabilities, perceptiveness and precision. In ancient times agate was known for its cleansing abilities and was even placed in water vessels to dispel illness.

In fact, after visiting Agate Beach and exploring its shores dotted with smooth, red-hued agates –some with stripes and others with circular swirls –I thought Agate Beach was such as a unique place, I included it on my list of 7 Natural Wonder Beaches of the World for Travel & Escape channel.

Kayaking the Lake Superior archipelago

Kayaking the Lake Superior archipelago

Where exactly is Agate Beach? First, you need to know that you won’t be driving a car or taking a bus there. This is a journey you need to take by boat, preferably one navigated by someone who knows the waters of Lake Superior. Otherwise you might find yourself lost among Owl Island, Paradise Island and Raven Island and miss Agate Island completely.

The wilderness resort of Bowman Island Lodge offers a guided tour that includes a stop at Agate Beach as well as other ancient beaches on islands that were stopping points for indigenous peoples and you can still see pukaskwa pits dug by prehistoric peoples to preserve and cache their foods. It’s also a fine place to sample fresh-caught pickerel and lake trout.

Here’s a Google map showing the location of Agate Island located south of Bowman Island:

Travel Planner

Amethyst Gift Centre is located at 400 E. Victoria Avenue, Thunder Bay, Ontario   1-807-622-6908

The Fish Shop is at 1960 Hwy 11/17 East at the intersection of Crystal Beach Road,  20 minutes east of Thunder Bay.

Bowman Island Lodge and Charters: This comfortable lodge is open from May to October and is situated within the Lake Superior Marine Conservation Area on the north shore of Lake Superior. It’s accessible by boat ( or air) but they offer a water taxi pickup service from the marina in Nipigon. It’s a scenic journey  through some of Canada’s most beautiful wilderness.

Note: Do not plan to gather or collect agates on Agate Beach as I was advised it’s not permitted to remove them from Agate Island.

Ontario Tourism: Visit the official website for Ontario Tourism for maps, advice on accommodation and other travel information.

Lake Superior Agate Beach

For more about exploring the best food and outdoor adventure in Ontario, check out these posts:

Sleeping Giant Brewing: A Journey North to Thunder Bay 

Taking the Plunge at Le Scandinave Spa in Blue Mountain 

Exploring ice-wine in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario  

5 Things Everyone Should Do When Visiting Toronto 

Recipe: Old Flame Beer and Balsamic Beef Marinade

Updated: April 2017

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Showing 8 comments
  • Colleen Friesen
    Reply

    Great story Michele. I’ve always loved amethysts but had no idea that Thunder Bay was such a source of them. Hope your piece doesn’t mess up your ability to imbibe.

  • Lesley Peterson
    Reply

    The water looks so clear and enticing. And imagine having a vein of amethyst running right through your back yard! Lake Superior really sounds a mythic landscape…

  • P.C.
    Reply

    The lake and fish look great! Would like to visit someday

  • Morgan
    Reply

    Digging for amethysts sounds like fun! I am sorry to admit I usually bypass Thunder Bay between the prairies and “central Canada” but these pictures make me want to plan a camping trip.

  • Ingrid Janssen
    Reply

    Loved this post Michele. I visited T-bay for the first time this past summer. I tasted Thunder Oak gouda cheese, we had breakfast at Hoito and we stopped at the Fish Shop for some delicious smoked fish. We stopped at Kakebeka Falls and Ouimet Canyon, and the drive along the north shore of Lake Superior is at times breath-taking. I didn’t buy any amethysts, so I guess I will just have to go back for another visit 🙂

    • Michele
      Reply

      Thanks Ingrid! Yes, Thunder Bay is surely one of Ontario’s undiscovered culinary treasures! I’d love some more of that cheese ( and the Finnish pancakes, the smoked fish, the craft beer …)

  • sherri
    Reply

    This looks beautiful … and adventurous. I love amethyst.

    • Michele Peterson
      Reply

      Me too Sherri! Amethyst is my favourite gemstone and I’ve never seen such huge outcroppings as I did around Thunder Bay. Amethyst is everywhere

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