The summer we spent in Ontario was one of the most adventurous, exciting and thrilling summers we’ve ever had! Ontario has it all. Diverse landscapes, unique wildlife, cozy outdoor lodges and wild adventures. There’s something for everyone, and here are the top activities we had the chance to take part as we explored the best of the outdoors in Northern Ontario.
Whitewater Kayaking & Rafting
We never thought in a million years we’d have the guts to face rapids in icy waters, but once we took a course at the Madawaska Kanu Centre in Barry’s Bay, we not only felt up for the challenge, we loved it! There’s nothing better than facing your fears and not only conquering them, but winding up loving the activity you were afraid of trying in the first place. This intense one-week course teaches you how to paddle properly in whitewater, how to do a bow rescue, a wet exit and even a roll. It’s the most exhilarating feeling to stand on the side of a raging river, pick your line and hop in the kayak to face class 2 and 3 rapids at the end of the week. The adrenaline is pumping and energy is at a high. Once you complete the course, you’ll be planning all your future travels around whitewater destinations.
If you aren’t up for a week of whitewater kayaking, you can always head over to MKC’s other resort, Owl Rafting for some guided whitewater rafting trips on the Ottawa River!
Moose Safari Algonquin Park
The most quintessential Canadian moment has to be seeing a moose in the wild. There’s no better way to do that than to join Rob Stimpson on a moose safari with Voyageur Quest in Algonquin Park. Early in the summer season, Rob takes photographers and nature lovers out to his secret location to spot moose roaming in the wild. We saw 18 moose during our canoe trip and spent a night camping in the wilderness of one of Canada’s most iconic parks. Seeing a mother and calf chomping on tall grass in the marshy waters of a shallow lake was a moment we’ll never forget. Ending our time at a quiet cabin in the middle of a lake made for the perfect Canadian getaway.
Hike the Pukaskwa Coastal Trail
It’s considered one of the most challenging hikes in Canada and the Pukaskwa Coastal Trail doesn’t disappoint. We spent seven days on Ontario’s most remote backcountry trail with our guide Brendan from Naturally Superior Adventures. You can trek the 60 km route in 5 days, but with such extraordinary scenery before our eyes, we were happy to have extra time to snap as many photographs of the rugged Lake Superior shore as we could. There are well maintained campsites along the route that come complete with bear boxes, fire pits and very pleasant outhouse toilets. The Pukaskwa consists of a mixture walking along the coast on beaches, over rocks and even along high cliffs, but it also turns inland to a forest trail through mossy clearings and tree covered trails. It’s a challenging hike that offers a lot of diversity so you never tire of walking the trails. You may spot a moose or two on the trail too. We did!
The Great Spirit Circle Trail
Learning about Aboriginal culture has been a fascinating journey for us this summer. We had the privilege of making new friends and meeting interesting people. Traveling along the Great Spirit Circle Trail on Manitoulin Island gave us the opportunity to be immersed in the culture of the Anishinabek People. We took part traditions such as a tobacco and smoking ceremony. We learned about traditional song and dance and we even made our very own drums.
The highlight for us was taking a hike up the Cup and Saucer Trail with our guide Falcon while he talked to us about traditional herbs and medicines and told us of the local folklore as we looked out over the Niagara Escarpment from 70 metres high. There are enough Aboriginal experiences to keep you occupied for a week, and it is the perfect way to explore the largest freshwater island on earth.
Learning to Fly Fish
Dave and I have never been ones to do a lot of fishing but when we learned that we could have the opportunity to try our hand at fly fishing in Sault Ste Marie we jumped at the chance. Joining expert angler Bill Spicer, we put on our waders and faced the raging rapids of the St. Mary’s River. It’s a popular spot for fisherman looking to catch steelhead. Thanks to the guys at the Soo North Fly Fishing Shop saving our space from the wee hours of the morning, we had a prime location on the river right in the middle of it all. We learned the basics of casting before we were left on our own to perfect our technique. Fly fishing is a relaxing hobby that is all about finesse and grace. Most fly fishermen catch and release their fish.
Fly in Lodges
Once we learned how to fish on a river, we hopped on a floatplane after a short stay at the White River Motel to stay for a few days at Timberwolf Lodge. Being taken around the quiet waters by classic teak boats was a beautiful experience. The silence of the north combined with the natural beauty of the wilderness makes for a perfect getaway for fishermen or nature lovers alike. We even had a bear pay us a visit in the middle of the night. Lucky we were tucked away safely in our comfy cabin behind locked doors.
Circumnavigating Lake Superior
One of our most epic challenges of the summer began early in the season. We started the summer of by taking a motorcycle course with Motorsoul Riding School in Toronto. After taking our motorcycle exam and getting our license, we were set free to ride our Honda Motorcycles on a few practice rides throughout Ontario as we prepared to ride around Lake Superior! After a couple weekend trips around the province, we set off from Sault Ste Marie to begin our journey around the world’s largest freshwater lake. Looking good in our Parts Canada gear, we crossed the border and drove through three US States before re-entering Northern Ontario at Thunder Bay. Stopping at such iconic sites as the Terry Fox Memorial, The Winnie the Pooh Statue and the Giant Canada Goose of Wawa is a rite of passage for all good Ontario residents. Riding the Lake Superior Circle Tour was one of the most beautiful and diverse drives we’ve ever taken. From the sandy shores of the south to the rocky cliffs of the North, it is a ride you will never forget.
Caribou Sightings and Kayaking the Slate Islands
We didn’t know that there was a place to see caribou in the wild in Ontario before our summer travels. It wasn’t until we took a kayaking trip around the Slate Islands on the North Shore of Lake Superior that we discovered that it is not only inhabited by caribou, there’s a good chance you’ll see a few of them too! After loading our kayaks onto a boat in Terrace Bay, we took a 20-minute shuttle out to The Slates to begin our five-day kayaking trip in and around the islands. It’s a perfect kayaking trip for all levels as if the weather is rough, you can stay in the sheltered bays of Patterson Island, or if you are feeling up for it, you can make your way out to the open waters of Lake Superior to circumnavigate the outer coasts. You can camp anywhere along the way and there are many sights to see besides caribou such as the tallest lighthouse on Lake Superior, the world’s largest shatter cone, ancient Pukaskwa pits and unique Arctic plants. It’s a cool destination indeed.
Once we finished our travels through Ontario this summer, we truly felt like we had seen it all. We had the perfect blend of culture and adventure, mixed with astounding beauty and striking scenes.
As a couple that has traveled to over 80 countries around the world, having the opportunity to explore our own province in such depth was an experience of a lifetime. Coming home made us realize just how special Ontario is and how the rest of the world needs to see more of it too. Ontario is truly a remarkable destination that has it all.