Connect with Nature and Yourself - Auberge Inn Yoga Retreat

Many people book vacations online, travel in their own car, and stay at large hotels. While enjoyable, these trips often don’t nurture much of a connection to the local landscape – natural or human. I often find when traveling that the most rewarding part of a getaway is the genuine interactions with long-time residents who give a place its special flavour.

I just had such an experience at the Auberge Inn in Providence Bay on Manitoulin Island while visiting for their Yoga Retreat Weekend (held in June and September). The Inn is run by the very friendly and proud transplants to Manitoulin, Nathalie and Alain. You’ll enjoy learning about the island, eating delicious and healthy meals, and talking to the other guests at this hostel – that is when you’re not striking a yoga pose on the beach or meditating while perched on an ancient rock outcrop.

While visiting on a cycling trip a few years ago, Nathalie and Alain fell in love with Manitoulin’s natural beauty, its opportunities for outdoor adventure, and quiet, tight-knit communities. When they opened their hostel (known as an auberge in Europe), they chose Providence Bay, a lakefront community on the southern end of the island. (The Inn’s logo is an eggplant – if you say Auberge Inn fast, it sounds like aubergine (the French word for eggplant), a nod to the couple’s bilingual skills.)

Auberge

The family home has two guest rooms upstairs – one with three bunks beds and a private room with a double bed – with a shared bathroom. The main floor has a kitchen/dining room and a living room with board games and comfy couches. There’s also an indoor yoga studio in a renovated outbuilding on the property, which is used on rainy days.

My trip to Manitoulin began, as it does for most people, with a 2-hour ride from Tobermory to South Baymouth on the famous Chi-Cheemaun car ferry. (Visitors coming from the north will drive over the Little Current Swing Bridge en route from Sudbury.) There are villages and activities across the island that are worth checking out, including the Bridal Veil Falls in Kagawong, First Nations guided tours with the Great Spirit Circle Trail in M’Chigeeng, and the Cup and Saucer hiking trail. Also, Nathalie and Alain are great resources for recommending local activities and putting you in touch with the right people to make plans.

When I arrived at the Auberge Inn, the six other women on participating in the yoga retreat were already there (they came in groups of two from places such as Temiskaming and Toronto). We quickly got to know each other over a delicious feast laid out by Nathalie and Alain: smoked trout spread (a local delicacy), baba ghanoush, summer sausage, and an expertly chosen selection of cheeses, to name a few delectable treats. The whole weekend was filled with delicious, healthy food prepared by Alain, with a French Canadian flare, and served on the long wooden kitchen table with heaping serving dishes passed from person to person.

Natalie

Our first yoga outing was at sunset to Providence Bay’s sandy beach on the shores of Lake Huron. We spread out our mats as Nathalie led us through an hour-long practice. I had never practiced yoga outdoors before and the oranges and purples of the summer sunset was a perfect introduction! Nathalie, who is a certified instructor after completing 200 hours of training in Nicaragua, adjusts her instruction to suit each class. Some of the women had a bit of experience at yoga and some none at all, but all were able to participate fully in the classes.

Another memorable yoga experience during the weekend was a trip to Misery Bay Provincial Park. Yoga mats in hand, we hiked along a forest trail to the alvars – flat, white rocks marked with fossils and signs of prehistoric activity. Contrary to its name, Misery Bay was a beautiful place to meditate and flow through a series of poses as the sun warmed our faces.

Yoga

The Auberge Inn hosts a variety of themed weekends throughout the year, including chocolate-making workshops, cycling trips, and canoeing trips. When the warm weather beckons, it’s a great time to head to Manitoulin Island for a memorable trip to connect with yourself, nature, and local company.

About Caitlin Carpenter

Caitlin Carpenter runs Days Out Ontario, a trip planning website and travel blog. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

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