7 Reasons to Add Thrive Tours to Your Northern Ontario Bucket List Adventure

Offering year-round excursions enhanced with traditional teachings, this Indigenous-owned company takes guided paddling and hiking to a whole other level.

When we think of Northern Ontario, vast forests, rocky shorelines, and pristine lakes often come to mind. There are many ways to enjoy these stunning remote outdoor spaces, but imagine an adventure with an Indigenous-guided tour operator that deepens your appreciation of this magical part of Ontario.

Meet Thrive Tours, an Indigenous-owned and operated guided ecotourism company offering year-round adventures on land and water, with experiences that build on your connection with nature and beyond.

Whenever people ask me for recommendations about things to do in Northern Ontario, planning an adventure with Thrive Tours in Sault Ste. Marie is one of my top suggestions. Whether you’re travelling with family, friends, or solo, I’ll highlight seven reasons you should include Thrive Tours (or make a whole trip to meet them!)

1. Learn About Traditional Practices

a man stands next to a kayak at the edge of a lake
Learning about traditional ways during a trip can enhance and deepen our connection with the land that we enjoy. 

Almost any description of Canada includes mention of Indigenous Peoples living and travelling on the land and waterways since time immemorial. When you plan an excursion with Thrive Tours, you will actively learn about traditional Indigenous practices, specifically Anishinaabe teachings, with Indigenous guides.

Based out of Sault Ste. Marie (traditionally known as Baawaating), owners and operators Amanda (Biimskoonkwaat) and Brad (Ozhaawashkwaa Animikii Binesi) offer various outdoor activities such as canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), hiking, snowshoeing, and more – all while promoting and maintaining local Indigenous practices and philosophies.

Traditional practices like offering Tobacco to the water before heading out on a paddle or smudging are incorporated into activities as learning opportunities while on an adventure.

2. Choose Your Adventure on Land, Water, or Both—and Go in Any Season

canoers and kayakers on a river in the late summer
Thrive trips are customizable so you can go paddling, hiking, or both.

In the warmer months, you can pick your vessel for a guided paddling tour on a scenic lake or a meandering river in the Algoma area. You can rent a canoe, kayak, SUP, or bring your own!

Coming soon, in partnership with Parks Canada, Thrive Tours hosts big canoe tours at Fort St. Joseph National Historic Site

Not into paddling? Thrive Tours also offers interpretive guided hiking and walking tours. Offered all year round, you can join their walking tour on Batchewana First Nation’s Whitefish Island

Their customizable excursions invite all levels of paddlers, hikers, and adventurers and aim to help everyone experience Northern Ontario the way that works best for them.

Roberta Bondar Marina: a small marina with calm blue water and blue sky
One of Thrive Tours’ paddling events starts at the Roberta Bondar Marina, using the easy dock designed to increase the accessibility for paddlers.

3. Sip and Snack on Traditional Goodies While You Adventure

a group of people standing around a small camp fire, talking and cooking on a grassy river bank. Canoes and kayaks sit near the river in the background.
Traditional snacks provide delicious fuel for the next leg of the journey.

Don’t settle for boring mid-adventure snacks! The team at Thrive Tours are also foodies! They will delight your taste buds with tasty but traditional or traditional-inspired treats like homemade berry sauce, Bannock or cedar tea while taking a break during your paddle or walking tour.

TIP – Let Brad and Amanda know that you’re curious about traditional goodies, and they can prepare and plan according to locally available / in-season ingredients, allergies, food preferences, and the adventure!

many smiling people filling their plates at a delicious-looking buffet
Guiding tours isn't the only thing Thrive does well – they also cater. // Photo courtesy of Thrive Tours.

Thrive Tours can also prepare food on a larger scale as they are also a food caterer, taking pride in creating delicious Indigenous foods while being eco-conscious by using biodegradable dinnerware for your next private or corporate gathering.

4. Celebrate Art and Culture Combined With Outdoor Activities

four people in four kayaks, floating abreast down a tree-lined river. One person is singing and playing a drum while the other two listen.
Experience the landscape and wildlife through painting workshops, drumming, song, language and storytelling.

Whether you join Thrive Tours for a paddle or hike, they will add to your adventurous excursion with storytelling, often through drumming and song.

You can even learn Anishinaabemowin names and stories of the wildlife spotted during your tour.

One of the educators and Thrive Tour guides, Lucia Laford, is also a local Indigenous artist who teaches Anishaabe Art and Material Practices at Algoma University. She leads a special Paddle & Paint Woodland-style painting workshop. Participants create their own naturescape paintings while actually out in nature!

5. Make Local Connections

a small cabin on a lake beach, under a cloudless blue sky with setting sun. There are large green and red trees shading it and casting long shadows.
 Sunset & SUP evenings at Ojibway Park are a great way to enjoy and learn about the area.

Whether you’re travelling through Sault Ste. Marie, for the first or hundredth time, and no matter the length of stay, Thrive Tours can introduce you to something new in and around The Soo.

Check out Thrive Tour’s Sunset & SUP evenings at Ojibway Park, a local, Indigenous-owned park in Garden River First Nation. Participants can enjoy a sunset paddle and then enjoy some snacks cooked over the fire with some locally sourced goodies. 

Just passing through town? Look out for Thrive Tours’ recent collaboration with Hogan's Homestead, a family-owned and operated maple syrup production based in Sault Ste. Marie and pick up a jar (or two) of cedar-infused maple syrup!

TIP – Be a ‘tourist’ in your town and reach out to Thrive Tours even if you live in The Soo – you’ll likely learn something you didn’t know about your hometown.

6. Thrive Tours is Group and Family-Friendly

4 people floating down a tree-lined river in a canoe and a kayak
Get out into nature with your family or a group of friends – these tours can accommodate everyone.

Travelling in a large group? Looking for an outdoor adventure the whole family can join in and have fun on? Thrive Tours can tailor their excursions for solo, small or large groups with different abilities and interests.

TIP – Ask the Thrive Tours team about their March Break kids' camps and youth camps with Science North. In collaboration with Ontario Parks, Thrive Tours runs various culture camps at Pancake Bay Provincial Park for folks of all ages. Reach out to them to inquire if you or someone you know want to have fun while learning!

7. Experience the True North From a New Perspective

the edge of a rocky cliff, covered in green foliage, overlooking a broad green forested valley. The photographer's feet can be seen at the bottom edge of the image, as they are sitting on the cliff.
Ontario really is the great outdoors. 

If you’ve never been on a river, a lake, or a hike in northern Ontario’s boreal forests, let experienced guides from Thrive Tours warmly introduce you to the magic that is True North.

If you’ve lost count of the number of visits up north, spend time with Thrive Tours to get a different perspective and new experiences in these treasured spaces.

TIP – Let the Thrive Tours team know what you want to learn or get out of your next Northern Ontario visit. Whether it’s to relax while learning, discover new paddling spots or deepen your Indigenous cultural understanding and connections, the Thrive Tours team has built a welcoming space for everyone wherever they are on their learning journey, combining it with the spirit of nature and adventure.

a smiling person wearing a backpack standing on a rocky cliff, with a broad green forest below and tree branches overhead.
About Diana Lee

Diana Lee lives for adventure, the great outdoors and SUP! She is a certified ISA and WPA SUP Instructor, a librarian, and a reporter for Get Out There Magazine. Find out what she’SUP to @only1phoenixx on Instagram and Twitter.

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