Looking to learn new skills and meet friendly and interesting people? Interested in exploring themes of wellness, connectedness and growth? Want to challenge yourself in beautiful, safe, and emotionally supportive surroundings? You’re in luck—there’s a weekend retreat, workshop, or trip just for women who seek these things. Whether you are passionate about paddling, hiking, yoga, biking, outdoor skills, nature, art, or are just keen to make new discoveries—and friends—you’ll find the perfect fit in Ontario.
Rock Island Lodge – Lake Superior Retreats
Based on the wild and inspiring shore of Lake Superior near Wawa, Ontario, this intimate eco-lodge offers an ideal setting for small-group adventure and exploration. In late summer and early fall, the restless lake provides an ever-changing atmosphere for Rock Island Lodge’s two women’s retreats. From August 24–30, 2019, Voyage: A Wild Women’s Adventure Retreat combines voyageur canoeing, mindful hiking, and Nia FreeDance (a purposeful movement exercise designed to stimulate creativity and tap into emotional power) workshops. Avid and aspiring wilderness artists should check out the Women’s Painting Retreat from September 20–22, 2019. Host Margie Bettiol leads painting, journaling, yoga and Qui Quong (a movement, breathing and meditation exercise similar to Tai Chi) with a focus on the power of water and its role in personal transformation.
Wild Women Expeditions – North Channel Kayaking
The pioneer of women’s adventure travel—and now the largest female-only travel company in the world—Wild Women Expeditions (or simply WWE to its disciples) has been leading paddling trips in Ontario since it was founded here on the North Channel in 1991. Today, you’ll find their programs in 26 countries worldwide, offering every activity imaginable, but kayaking in the Sudbury area continues to be a staple.
WWE’s eight-day North Channel kayak trip is an accessible foray into expedition-style sea kayaking, winding from one smooth-rock campsite to the next amid the stunning islands of the Whalesback Channel. The journey begins with a half-day of kayak skills instruction and an evening of glamping accommodation, perfect for novice paddle-campers. Trip dates for 2019 are August 18–25.
BushWoman Workshops – Lake of the Woods
The woman behind BushWoman Workshops is Alyssa Lloyd, a photojournalist and avid outdoorswoman who combines her skills to include and connect more women in the outdoors. Her workshops are suitable for all levels of bushcrafters, from beginner to experienced, and combine a photographic theme with an outdoor skills focus, such as paddling, fly and ice fishing, foraging, wilderness first aid, snowshoeing, skiing, or dog sledding. Visit BushWoman’s Facebook page, or contact Alyssa directly, to learn about this summer’s upcoming workshops.
Black Feather – French River Canoe Trip
Renowned outdoor adventure oufitter Black Feather offers a fun, introductory whitewater canoe trip just for women on Ontario’s scenic and historic French River. The four-day journey travels from Wolseley Bay to Highway 69, taking in a superb mix of easy rapids, rock point campsites, clear water, and classic Canadian Shield scenery. All levels of female canoeists can expect to enjoy great paddling, company and, of course, Black Feather’s famously tasty backcountry cuisine. Trips dates for 2019 are July 16–19. Prefer paddling with a double blade? Black Feather also runs an introductory women’s sea kayaking trip on Georgian Bay from August 19–21, 2019.
Vélorution – Sault Ste. Marie Trail Riding
Based in Sault Ste. Marie’s north end with easy access to Hiawatha Highlands’ excellent trail network, Vélorution organizes weekly trail rides in addition to selling, tuning and renting quality bikes of all styles. Voted best bike shop in Northern Ontario by Canadian Cyclist, Vélorution’s weekly women’s mountain bike group rides are among their most popular.
Welcoming female cyclists of all skill levels, these rides focus on learning the trails and developing technique in a fun and positive group atmosphere. Beginner, intermediate and experienced groups mean there’s a pace suitable for everyone. We love everything about these Tuesday rides except the name. Join the Facebook Group to receive updates on meet-up times.
Madawaska Kanu Centre – Women’s Whitewater Week
Acclaimed whitewater paddling school, Madawaska Kanu Centre (MKC), enjoys the perfect location for learning to paddle rapids—their comfortable resort is just steps from the class II–III cascades of the Middle Madawaska River. Every summer, MKC’s Women’s Week pairs inspirational female instructors with aspiring whitewater kayakers and open boaters (canoeists) of all skill levels. In addition to five days of on-river coaching—including a final downriver day trip—participants enjoy delicious food, morning yoga, evening health and wellness workshops, wine and cheese tasting, and a massage. The supportive atmosphere fosters connections with future paddling partners, helps women find their river smile for the first time, and develop their confidence and competence on the water. Dates for Women’s Week 2019 are July 1–5.
YMCA/YWCA Camps – Women’s Wellness Weekends
Women’s Weekends hosted by YMCA and YWCA camps across Ontario offer a taste of traditional summer camp with a focus on fun, discovery, wellness, and friendships. These two-day camps provide an active yet relaxing retreat for women of all ages, and embody the organizations’ spirit of inclusivity and accessibility. Located a boat ride away in the North Channel, the YMCA of Sudbury/North Bay’s John Island Camp hosts their indulgent Women’s Wellness Weekend from June 7–9, 2019. Activities include hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and ropes courses, as well as creativity and fitness workshops and on-site massage therapists and aestheticians.
On the shores of Georgian Bay near Parry Sound, YWCA Camp Tapawingo offers spring and fall colours Women’s Weekends. Dates for 2019 are April 26-28 and September 27–29; both weekends include accommodation in rustic camper cabins, hiking, mountain biking, climbing wall, archery, and a Saturday evening craft and campfire. The fall weekend also features canoeing and swimming.
In the Haliburton Highlands, YMCA Camp Wanakita hosts a fall Women’s Wellness Weekend from September 20–22, 2019, on their 1000-acre oasis on Koshlong Lake. Campers enjoy a full range of activities, including canoeing, kayaking, standup paddleboarding, nature walks, ropes courses, swimming, archery, crafts, campfires, and yoga. For a beautiful winter twist on camp, Wanakita also offers a late-January Women’s Weekend with snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on the camp’s excellent groomed trails.
Women on Water Paddling Festival – Georgian Bay
Co-hosted by Wild Women Expeditions and Ontario Sea Kayak Centre, this annual weekend of kayaking and standup paddleboarding is the largest all-female gathering of its kind in North America. Held in early June (dates this year are June 7–9, 2019), the event brings together Ontario’s top paddling coaches to lead skills clinics and tours of all levels on the sheltered waters of Parry Sound.
As well as first-rate instruction, participants can expect a beautiful natural Muskoka setting and cozy, rustic accommodation at host, Camp Tapawingo, and the pleasure of sharing the weekend with over a hundred like-minded women. Early morning yoga classes, a lively vendor’s marketplace and auction, evening lakeside campfires, mermaid swims, and live music and dancing round out this fun and empowering event.
Celebrate Women’s Adventure and Wellness
Whether you are an experienced outdoorswoman or just looking to test the wilderness waters for the first time, connecting with like-minded women in an all-female environment is a joyful, liberating and empowering experience. As Jennifer Haddow, owner of Wild Women Expeditions, explains: “Outdoor adventure can change the whole idea of your life. Women alone together share their personal stories of healing, their stories of transformation. I think that’s part of the women’s community, the connections we can make.”