Into the Wild: Escaping to the Algonquin
It was one of those weeks, the kind that makes you question everything, including your sanity. Missed workouts, constant school requests, a looming strike at my husband’s job, and that was just by Wednesday. It was time to get away from it all before I lost it all.
My perfect escape would need to be tranquil, luxurious and not require a lengthy flight (no added stress). After doing my research, I ended up with an unlikely destination: Algonquin Park. Now I’m no camper – I could survive maybe two hours in an outdoor tent – but Algonquin has so much more to offer than simple camping trips.
Situated about two hours west of the Canadian capital, Ottawa, Algonquin Park is a natural wonder with luxury resorts, a lively art gallery and dozens of year-round activities. While it’s a four-season destination, after talking to the locals I realized that you can get a lot more out of an off-peak visit – peak season is late May until mid-October. If the weather cooperates, mid-October really is the best time to visit the park because the fall foliage is unlike anything else you’ll experience, with red, yellow and orange colors covering the lush scenery like a Tom Thomson painting.
But if you want to maximize your outdoor time and do some swimming at the resort, you’ll have to brave the crowds and go in the summer. I was told that winter is still a fairly busy time with all the outdoor activities (dog sledding, cross-country skiing) but all I wanted was to cozy up to a fireplace in a luxury resort and take in the scenery – meaning I could really go any time of year!
Once you’ve decided when to go, the next step is to choose where to stay. If you’re a camper, you can revel in the many camping and cabin options that will fully immerse you the natural beauty of the park. For those less adventurous who require luxury bedding (and a hot shower!) there are several cabin resorts to accommodate your tastes.
For a romantic escape, choose Arrowhon Pines. Their lavish log cabins in the middle of the wilderness feature wood burning fireplaces – instead of a television – providing the perfect tranquil background to rediscover your love. If culinary creations are one of those loves, you’ll be surprised to find local and seasonal menu items served from breakfast, through afternoon tea and dinner. You can even bring the foodie experience home, with a recipe list of their most popular menu items. I am currently mastering the Caramelized Apple Tart – yum!
If you’re looking for something more rustic but still with all the necessary amenities (uhm, bathrooms!) then try Killarney Lodge. The cabins are decorated with a country theme and feature extra treats like personal canoes outside each lodge and actual treats like homemade cookies and fresh fruit.
But the real draw of the accommodations is the scenery, in the heart of Algonquin, surrounded by the serene Lake of Two Rivers. Killarney Lodge also boasts its own mini art gallery – the Tin Moose Gallery – displaying local and Canadian photographs, paintings and sculptors that are also for sale (now that would be quite the souvenir!).
Once you’ve settled into the vast wilderness, even the most weary (and lazy!) will want to take part in one of the many activities. From hiking, to wildlife watching (including moose and many species of birds), and seasonal activities like swimming and skiing – you have to leave at least a couple of days in your escape for exploration.
In addition to what your resort or campground might offer, remember to check out the Algonquin Art Centre. With three wings of indoor gallery space dedicated to nature themed artwork, and an outdoor gallery, it’s a must-stop with a pay-what-you-can admission fee.
Algonquin Park is designed to recharge and renew visitors within a breathtaking natural setting. Customize your escape with a few luxurious extras or the outdoor activities to bring out your inner explorer, to create the perfect break from the everyday grind.