The Question: I love canoe-tripping, and my reluctant boyfriend has agreed to test the waters with me this summer. Where – perhaps Central or Eastern Canada to start – would you suggest we go canoeing for a couple of nights that includes a final sleep in luxury? (I need to appease him just a little.)
Picture this: paddling in the mirror-smooth waters of Ontario’s Killarney lakes, camping below the white quartzite mountains favoured by the Group of Seven, and a final feast of whitefish and chips on the Killarney wharf.
It may not be the gourmet-urban escape your boyfriend is used to, but a canoe trip through Killarney Provincial Park ( ontarioparks.com) would make a “truly stunning” first impression, says Graham Ketcheson, executive director of Paddle Canada ( paddlecanada.com).
For exploring the jack pines, clear waters and worn slopes put down in oil paints by the likes of A.Y. Jackson, Ketcheson suggests checking out Killarney Outfitters ( killarneyoutfitters.com). The long-running local business can help you choose from among the dozens of routes and backcountry campsites, as well as outfit you with an ultralight canoe, dry bags and yes, mosquito coils. (For a visual peek at the experience, check out the “Killarney Minute” video on its website. It looks like something out of those old CBC sign-off montages.) For your final sleep, trade the Therm-a-Rest and freeze-dried beef stroganoff for the knotty-pine and screened-porch comforts of the Killarney Mountain Lodge ( killarney.com).
Canada’s oldest provincial park, and a known hub for paddlers, also comes highly recommended: Ontario’s 7,000-square-kilometre Algonquin Provincial Park ( algonquinpark.on.ca).
Ketcheson, who learned to solo canoe at the age of 7 at his family’s Muskoka cottage, polled his colleagues and came up with these suggestions: Rent from the established Algonquin Outfitters (algonquinoutfitters.com) and have your final night in the Lawren Harris suite at Bartlett Lodge ( bartlettlodge.com). Or consider outfitter Algonquin North ( algonquinnorth.com) and end the trip at Moosehead Estate & Retreat (mooseheadestate.com), a century-old summer home whose past guest list has included the Eatons and Roy Rogers.
Vicki Storey, customer service manager for the Great Canadian Adventure Company ( adventures.com), had this to say in the park’s favour: “Lake canoeing is always easier than river canoeing and rarely requires any past paddling experience. Algonquin Park has some of the best lake canoeing in the country.”
The adventure company, which works with dozens of outfitters, lodges and guiding companies across Canada, offers both camping and lodge-based canoe trips in Algonquin that run from three to five days. Its camping option involves paddling, portaging, eating campfire bannock and sharing that very Canadian joy of sleeping in a tent. With its canoe-accessible lodge option, you can paddle, but also go on edible wild hikes, take a sauna, and yes, sleep indoors.
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