Top 6 Outdoor Adventure Getaways From Ottawa
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You don’t have to cross the ocean or even the country to find adventure. There are some incredibly diverse landscapes all within the borders of Ontario, and with those landscapes come unique experiences. Rock climb some of the oldest, hardest granite in North America, sail the world’s largest freshwater lake, backcountry camp in Ontario’s crown jewel provincial park, paddle the world’s largest wilderness canoeing area, or explore the waterfall capital of the world by foot—yes, all of this is and more is on offer in Ontario.
From weekend getaways to two-week escapes, there’s a trip to suit whatever length of vacation you’re looking to take. Read on to discover some of the best outdoor vacation packages from Ottawa, all within the province and all with adventure on the menu.
Best Getaway #1: Thunder Bay
Drive Time From Ottawa: 15.5 hours
Flight Time From Ottawa: 4 hours
Package: Rock climbing adventures and courses in Thunder Bay
Why You’ll Love It: Canada contains many rock climbing destinations, but even among those, Thunder Bay is unique. It’s home to an amazing diversity of rock types, including granite, quartzite, sandstone and composite, among others. The climbing is uncrowded, but not for lack of quality. Climbers of all experience levels will be thrilled with this spot. Tell your local rock climbing guide what you want to see and do and he’ll know of something to perfectly suit your climbing dreams. Multi-pitch, cragging and bouldering—this area has it all for climbers. Haven’t climbed much, or at all? No worries, your guide will be happy to plan a trip that suits the skill level of anyone in your group.
How To Make It Happen: Get in touch with local tour guide Aric Fishman, who runs Outdoor Skills And Thrills in Thunder Bay. He’ll create a customized package for you, and will make sure you know what to bring and what will be provided. Choose from half- and full-day adventures. Two-day traditional climbing courses are also on offer.
While You’re There: Outdoor Skills And Thrills also offers guided hikes and tours for those looking to explore even more hidden gems in the area. When it comes to booking a place to stay, look for local cabins rentals like those at Ole’s Adventure Resort Ltd. on Whitefish Lake. Fuel up after your climbing session at La poutine, offering the largest selection of poutine in Thunder Bay with more than 30 poutines, eight gravy options and four different types of cheese.
Best Getaway #2: Wabakimi Provincial Park
Drive Time From Ottawa: 18 hours
Flight Time From Ottawa (To Thunder Bay): 4 hours
Package: Guided wilderness canoe trip in Wabakimi Provincial Park
Why You’ll Love It: For the adventurous at heart, Wabakimi is truly remote. Going here is an opportunity to experience the wilderness of Ontario and paddle waters less than 700 people travel across each year. If it’s your first time embarking on an excursion like this, or if you simply want to take the stress out of planning, a guided trip is the way to go. These trips supply all the equipment, food, transportation, accommodations, park fees and permits, maps and insurance—and of course include knowledgeable trip leaders. Wabakimi can only be accessed by paddle, floatplane or train. Choose from fly-in/train-out, train-in/out, train-in/van-out, fly-in/out and train-in/fly-out trips, ranging from five to nine days in length.
How To Make It Happen: Check out the Superior Country website for lots of great tips on the Wabakimi area, then get in touch with Wabakimi Canoe Outfitters and EcoLodge to book your trip. All trips leave from their B&B on Frontier Trail, just south of Armstrong, ON. To get there from Ottawa, you can either make the long-haul drive or fly into Thunder Bay and drive the remaining 3.5 hours. Self guided and lodge-based fly-in adventures are available with Wilderness North.
While You’re There: Armstrong is a small, rural community with the main attraction being Wabakimi itself. However, there are many interesting stops along Hwy 11 if you’re making the drive from Ottawa. Visit the polar bear statue in Cochrane, the UFO monument in Moonbeam and Guy-Paul Treefall in Iroquois Falls.
Best Getaway #3: Nipigon River
Drive Time From Ottawa: 14.5 hours
Flight Time From Ottawa: 4 hours
Package: Two-day eco tour on the Nipigon River
Why You’ll Love It: This “soft adventure experience” will allow you to experience the rugged beauty of the Nipigon area while enjoying creature comforts afforded by The Lodge. You’ll receive sea kayaking instruction, paddle the Nipigon River, view aboriginal pictographs, see wildlife such as bald eagles, hike the Nipigon River Hiking Trail, take in the view from several lookouts, and enjoy great food and quiet evenings on the deck overlooking Lake Superior.
How To Make It Happen: Book your package weekend with Nipigon River Adventures, located in Red Rock. If you don’t have time to enjoy the beautiful drive, check out Porter Airlines—they’re local to Ontario, and fly into nearby Thunder Bay.
While You’re There: If you’re flying into/out of Thunder Bay (or decide to extend your trip and spend a few days there), make a stop at Ouimet Canyon on your way to the Lakehead. Here you can take in views of a 150-metre-wide, 100-metre-deep gorge. If you’re up for more fun, Eagle Canyon Adventures is also located in the area and is home to a half-mile-long zip line, and Canada’s longest suspension footbridge. Once in T-Bay, visit The Growing Season Juice Collective, a restaurant centered around local food, a healthy menu and, of course, juice!
Best Getaway #4: Killarney Provincial Park
Drive Time From Ottawa: 6 hours
Package: Self-guided, all-inclusive hiking, canoeing or sea kayaking trips in Killarney
Why You’ll Love It: Sit back and relax while your memorable and unique backcountry camping experience is planned and prepped for you. You’ll have the option to sea kayak on Georgian Bay and camp on granite islands, hike the La Cloche Silhouette backpacking trail, or canoe into backcountry campsites in Killarney’s interior lakes. No matter which you choose, you’ll witness the pink granite and white quartzite hills the area is known for and which inspired the famous Group of Seven artists. You’ll be inspired, too—to keep coming back for more.
How To Make It Happen: Contact Killarney Outfitters to book their Sumptuous Outfitting Package, where all you’ll need to bring is your clothes and toothbrush. Note that there’s a two-night/three-day minimum for outfitting packages. They’ll also help you plan your route, reserve permits with Ontario Parks, and supply appropriate maps.
While You’re There: The town of Killarney contains many little gems that are worth checking out before or after your backcountry adventure. Grab some fish and chips at the world-famous Herbert Fisheries, stay a night in comfort at Killarney Mountain Lodge, and browse artisan goods and souvenirs at Killarney Treasures.
Best Getaway #5: Lake Superior, Thunder Bay
Drive Time From Ottawa: 15.5 hours
Flight Time From Ottawa: 4 hours
Package: Full-day sailboat trip on Lake Superior
Why You’ll Love It: Head out onto the cobalt waters of the largest freshwater lake in the world for an unforgettable experience. On this 9.5- to 10-hour tour you’ll have the choice of three destinations, varying in activity level: hiking the Top of the Giant Trail at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park (hard), hiking the Top of the World Lookout at Spar Island (medium), or going for a sauna, swim and hike on Thompson Island (light). This trip is truly an incredible way to treat yourself and experience Lake Superior in a way few others do.
How To Make It Happen: Book your trip with Sail Superior out of Thunder Bay and meet them at the end of Pier 3 at Slip 12 and 13 at Marina Park to embark on your excursion. Be sure to bring food and water, a windbreaker, sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat, and wear soft-tread shoes.
While You’re There: Thunder Bay has an eclectic and charismatic culture. Grab a hot drink at The Habit Coffee and Bakeshop, part of a converted abbey and one of many ingenious ways the Urban Abbey group has converted a historic abbey into community space. Book a stay at the historic Prince Arthur Waterfront Hotel, the idea for which was conceived over a poker game between J.J. Carrick and Sir William Mackenzie in 1908. Finish off your trip by spending an afternoon at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery and viewing unique Northern Ontario art and works by Indigenous artists.
Why You’ll Love It: Like watching a campfire, waterfalls are mesmerizing natural wonders. These all-inclusive guided tours will weave you through the waterfalls along the Hamilton/Halton Region of the Bruce Trail, with plenty of time for taking photos and making memories that will last a lifetime. In the evening, enjoy dinner in one of the area's most historic restaurants sleep in one of the area’s best hotels.
How To Make It Happen: Simply contact Grand Experiences Outdoor Adventure Company in Paris, ON to book your two- or five-day tour. They’ll lead the way on logistics and planning for your waterfall getaway; you just have to show up and enjoy your weekend out of the city. Tours run on designated weekends from May to October. Custom dates are available for groups of four or more.
While You’re There: If you didn’t get enough picture-perfect scenery on your Bruce Trail waterfall tour, you’ll be happy to know the nearby historic town of Paris (40 min drive from Hamilton) is known as the Prettiest Little Town In Canada as well as the Cobblestone Capital of Canada. Eat at Stillwaters and enjoy views overlooking the Grand River. Visit one of the many charming shops lining Grand River Street, including Green Heron Books and The Peddlar. Book an appointment at Ahh The Spahh and explore the trails along the Nith River in Lion’s Park. There is no shortage of quaint experiences to be had in Paris.
Plan your Adventure Vacation Now
From weekend getaways to two-week escapes, there’s a trip to suit whatever length of vacation you’re looking to take. Start planning your outdoor vacation package now.