For 3 days and 2 nights I lived the dream. I was invited with a small group of travel writers to experience the quintessential Canadian wilderness – the pristine landscapes of Canada came to life as I traveled to the region known as Explorers’ Edge, only 2 hours north of Toronto. It was a dream come true!
What do you consider to be the ultimate Canadian wilderness adventure?
- See a moose? or maybe a bear?
- Canoe Algonquin Park?
- Kick back in cottage country?
We did that and so much more!! The best part – Explorers’ Edge is so accessible to anyone, I can’t believe I hadn’t done it before!
As a girl growing up in Ontario, I always imagined canoeing in Algonquin Park – you could say it was something that had been on my bucket list before I ever even had one written down. I had had so many chances to go too – a high school trip, friends who were planning a week on the water or even just a weekend getaway. It was always a case of knowing that I would do it, but never finding the time. Life got in the way. I travelled to Europe, moved to Australia….
Earlier this month, I travelled to TBEX (a conference for travel bloggers) and the Canadian Wilderness trip was top of my TBEX Bucket List. I submitted my application months ago and waited with baited breath for the email that said I was selected! It was like winning the jackpot when I got my confirmation. I was in!
What had me so excited? The description of the trip drew me in like a moth to the flame – I couldn’t believe I was chosen!!!
Did Explorers’ Edge deliver?
Did they ever! The experience was everything I ever imagined and then some! My only regret – as it was a familiarization trip, we rushed through all of the experiences so fast, I longed for more time at each and every stop! I would go back in a heartbeat with more time to really experience that which I only skimmed the surface. There was everything – heart stopping adrenaline (ATVing with Bear Claw Tours) to peacefully paddling through Algonquin Park and on the waters of Georgian Bay. Enjoying the tranquility and natural beauty is something we Canadians often take for granted. It is no wonder the region is recognized internationally and on the bucket lists of people from all corners of the globe.
So, what did we do? It is really a question of what we didn’t do! Our schedule was jam packed with a selection of what the area had to offer.
We started with Stand Up Paddling (aka SUP) with Muskoka Outfitters in Bracebridge. The legs wobbled and tensed as I tried to keep my balance on the board. I am sure I had quite the look of determination as I tried to go against the current, manoeuvring my paddle board along the Muskoka River and avoiding what was certain to be the inevitable giant splash. It was picturesque and perfect as the five of us slowly made our way upstream. It was early in the season and the water was still cool, so we all resolved that falling in was not an option. Come summer, I am sure we would have all been jumping in, splashing about like school kids on summer holidays! Who knows, now that we are all pros at SUPing, maybe next time I will try my hand at SUP yoga! Who’s game?
After a quick lunch it was time to take the adrenaline levels up a notch and mountain biking at the Buckwallow Cycling Centre in Gravenhurst fit the bill. I am an avid road cyclist but have avoided mountain biking since I fell and let my fear get the best of me years ago. I think you could say I had a death grip on my handle bars as we set out on a quick mountain biking tutorial from our patient guide. Buckwallow was perfect for the rookies and nervous nellies (me) of the group. They have a number of trails for all levels of skill and they are meticulously maintained. Even better, they have the option of taking a guide with you. The guides live and breathe mountain biking and are great at getting you around the trails and coaching you through the technical bits. For those of you who have read my travel confessions, you know I can get lost in a grocery store, so having a guide meant that I found my way out of the forest! It was a gratifying experience as I conquered my fears – something I would gladly tackle again now that I know it isn’t so scary!
As if day 1 wasn’t epic enough, our second day out was all about Algonquin Park. Moose spotting was the name of the game as we hit the highway. We were like papparazzi stalking Brangelina – cameras at the ready at the faintest glimpse. Of course, we also had to deal with another of Northern Ontario’s famous inhabitants…the mosquito! Seriously, who didn’t close the van door when we all poured out to take photos!!?? The van filled with mossies and we entertained ourselves on mosquito population control for the rest of the drive. Lessons learned – close the car door and bring bug spray – you are going to need it!
Algonquin Park is massive – one could spend a week exploring and not even scratch the surface. We were given an overview of the park by the people at the original Algonquin outfitters at Lake Opeongo. Loaded up with canoes, lunch and excited bloggers, we hopped a water taxi to get further into the heart of the lake. Was canoeing in the park everything I thought it would be? Definitely. It was tranquil, scenic and felt so natural. There were loads of campsites dotted around the lake – a piece of Canadiana waiting to be experienced. If I closed my eyes, I could see myself sitting around the campfire, cooking s’mores and laughing with friends. A piece of summer paradise.
Our final morning started with the roar of engines….the adrenaline pumping action of ATVs as we were unleashed on 1,000 acres of off road fun. It was exhilarating…you could feel the power of the beast between your legs as it powered its way over rocks and fallen trees, through mud and water. There will be more to come on this one, but like the mountain bikes where I started off nervous and with a death grip on the handlebars…I came back all smiles! I was not ready to surrender my ATV when the tour came to an end! I have Bear Claw Tours to thank – what a rush!
The final instalment of the adventure took us to Georgian Bay and the White Squall Paddling Centre. While canoeing in Algonquin Park just felt right, I am naturally more of a kayak kind of girl. It is so rhythmic and somehow I feel, kayaking is more balanced as you paddle using both left and right sides. We head out onto Georgian Bay and I was surprised by the shear size of the water…I never made the connection from the size on the map to what it was in real life. It was like an ocean without the pull of the current, islands popping up all over. It was bliss to be on the water…it’s no wonder the people who make their lives here are so proud of the region – it was naturally stunning in such an unassuming way. No flash and glitter – just pure beauty.
We covered so much in our 3 days – this barely skimmed the surface. If getting out and enjoying the great outdoor is something that calls to you, you really need to come to Explorers’ Edge. The expanse of space is something that is tough to describe – you have to feel it to believe it. The region is so diverse, from rustic camping in the park to luxury resorts and modern cottages. I want to extend a huge thank you to the people at Explorers’ Edge for sharing their piece of heaven with me for 3 days – I can say with all honesty, I will be back.
- Explores’ Edge – directions to get here and ParkBus
- while on this adventure, we stayed at the lovely Hidden Valley Resort in Muskoka and the fantastic cottages of Sunny Point Resort in Parry Sound.
- Escape – photo essay from the region
- Many thanks to Explorers’ Edge for providing so many great photos from the trip!