Into the Wild: Escape to the Algonquin
Algonquin Park is designed to recharge the weary traveler with its unique scenery and rustic luxury.
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 somewhere I could get lost in nature. 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.
When to go
While it’s a four-season destination in the Canadian wilderness, after talking to the locals I realized that you can get a lot out of an off-peak visit (peak season is late May until mid-October). May and June are great times to visit because the weather is pretty much perfect and kids are still in school (in Canada, the regular school year spans September 1 to June 30). If the weather cooperates, mid-October really is a great 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 I am equally happy doing water sports as cozying up to a fireplace in a luxury resort and taking in the scenery – meaning I could really go any time of year!
Where to stay
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, where you can get your own personal one or two bedroom cabin, right on the water. The lakeside cabins are decorated with a country theme and feature extra treats like personal canoes outside each lodge and yummy treats like homemade cookies and fresh fruit. Their upscale cabin theme is charming and we loved their mini art gallery – the Tin Moose Gallery – which sells local and Canadian photographs, paintings and sculptures.
But the real draw of the accommodations is the scenery, in the heart of Algonquin, surrounded by the serene Lake of Two Rivers.
What to do
The wildlife in Algonquin is a main attraction. There are single and multi-day tours where you can canoe through the waterways and take in the natural wildlife. Seeing moose, deer, and brown bears in their habitats, up close and personal, is a rare treat. The tours are guided so you learn as you go and make friends (furry and otherwise) along the way.
Once you’ve settled into the vast wilderness, even the most weary (and lazy!) will want to take part in several of the many activities available to you. 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. Take a canoe out on a lake and have a romantic water picnic. Hike the Barron Canyon or Track & Tower trails. Go whitewater rafting or horseback riding. Or relax and read (or write!) a book.
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.