For six years, my son (now 10) has been asking to go camping. Every year, I give him the canned “maybe” Mom answer while noncommittally looking everywhere but into his eyes. It’s not that I’ve never been outdoorsy…it’s just that I haven’t been in a long, long time. The answer? Wild Adventures Canada.
We did the three-day family canoe adventure in mid-August and it was incredible, even though I’m now happy to take a year-long hiatus from the tenting part of things.
Think of the Wild Adventures Canada experience as a guided, all-inclusive outdoor adventure. One where you simply show up at Algonquin Park with a day pack full of clothing, swimwear and footwear for three days (use my family canoe trip packing list) and someone else is prepared with everything else — right down to hors d’oeuvres served on a canoe paddle.
A lot. Most important, your canoe and paddles! Then there are also dry bags with a tent big enough for your entire party (or more than one tent if there are several of you), along with a sleeping bag (plus liner) and air mattress per person. If you indicate ahead of time that you’d like to fish, fishing rods and bait will also be procured.
Your provincial park entrance and parking permit are also part of the deal, so no need to stop on your way into the park.
These necessities, along with your food barrels and filtered water for the weekend, are piled into your canoe once you’re in it with help from your guide.
Speaking of the guide — you get a fun, knowledgeable guide for the entire duration of your Wild Adventures Canada excursion. For me, this is the no-brainer part of the deal because there’s no chance in hell I could navigate a foreign body of water, find an appropriate campsite, cook and, well, NOT DIE.
Our guide, Ben, despite being just 22 years old, had mad outdoor and survival skills. He was familiar with the area and was able to take us to a private beach, hidden rapids and go off in search of moose. He cooked the most gourmet “camp food” I’ve ever seen. And he helped the kids become more independent by teaching them how to bait a fish hook and cast a line, turn a tree into a tarp pole and wash dishes in the great outdoors.
But beyond that, Ben shared his Indigenous roots with us in the most special, magical ways. It was otherworldly to learn about native traditions (and, yes, I confirmed that native is not considered an offensive term). He told Aboriginal stories, passed down from his father, as we canoed for hours, built fires and ate s’mores under the stars.
One of the most memorable moments we had was canoeing at dusk to a lookout point on Rock Lake and watching the sunset perched on a rock high above the water. The view was one that my kid will remember forever:
Ben also helped the group bond deeply. Our second night, the seven of us sat in a line on our private island looking at the lake as it turned from blues to pinks. Ben pulled out some sage and set one end on fire, leading us through an intimate meditation that connected us each in a way that I could never properly explain.
I’ve never experienced anything like it before, and likely never will again. Ben’s touch on this trip went far beyond guiding in the traditional sense, and he created a series of very special moments for everyone.
We ate like royalty! Seriously…I knew the food was part of the deal, but I never imagined we would have tuna canapes, freshly sliced grapefruit, fajitas, pizza, hummus wraps, brownies and strudel.
It also never occurred to me that I’d be able to enjoy my weekend jolt of caffeine, either. Much less a mocha! The kids enjoyed hot chocolate, too.
Ben wouldn’t even let us lift a finger — though he didn’t mind us washing the dishes.
If you go hungry during a Wild Adventures Canada trip, point that finger at yourself.
Skill + physical fitness
If you’ve never canoed in your life, the first part of the trip will be spent getting used to the canoe, the paddle and how they work together. You will have plenty of practise time in a small bay beside the parking lot, so don’t feel like you need to arrive having ever paddled before.
Our group had all been in a canoe and knew how to propel ourselves forward and steer so we pushed off to look for a campsite pretty quickly. But know that the trip will be based around the least experienced canoeist, so you won’t be doing a 3km portage if you’re with a group of kids who aren’t capable of something that intense. (We didn’t portage at all in the end.)
While you don’t have to come with any paddling expertise, I wouldn’t recommend this trip for anyone who isn’t generally in good shape. You’ll need to paddle for up to two hours just to find a campsite on day one, and then you might do five hours or so of canoeing each day.
And if you’re like me and have a kid who’s a lackadaisical paddler, you’ll be doing all of the work yourself unless your guide takes pity on you and occasionally hops in to help.
All this to say, if you’re pretty active overall, you won’t find it too challenging beyond the extra arm strength you’ll need to muster just to keep the paddling rhythm consistent.
If you’re completely immune to physical activity, I’d ramp up on the cardio for at least a month or two to prepare.
Kids need to be age 5+ to participate and ideally should be able to manage moderate hiking paths and be able to swim wearing a life vest.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve never fished before either — your guide will teach you. And your kid will probably be HOOKED (see what I did just there?).
You might be solo, or you might be with two or three other families. The groups remain small in the grand scheme of things but if you want a guaranteed private trip, that’s more costly.
We lucked out with the loveliest family from the UK. Both boys were into Fortnite so they hit it off immediately. The wife and daughter were into musicals and we were all recent Hamilton-goers, and obsessed with the show. The husband was a fascinating ex-military man with stories that had The K Man in awe. Truly couldn’t have asked for a better match for us (especially since they were much more outdoorsy and helped us pitch and pack our tent!).
Wild Adventures Canada tours take place from May through October, and the opening and closing dates are weather-dependent. We went during the third week of August and it was excellent…few bugs and no intense heat.
I think a September/October trip would be amazing and I’d consider that for next year — though I really doubt there’s a bad time to go.
Could you camp and canoe in Algonquin Park for less money than you’ll spend with Wild Adventures Canada? Sure. That is, as long as you own a canoe, paddles, life vests, emergency kits, water filtration systems, portable cooktops, dry packs, sleeping bags, air mattresses and floating food bins and know your way around the massive park.
No dice for us. We reveled in the comfort of having a trusted guide, and equipment that we knew was safe and not ours to maintain after the trip was over.
It’s $499 per adult and $399 for children 12 and under for the three-day family canoe adventure with Wild Adventures Canada. That’s $1,436 for a family of four with two kids who are 5-12 years old. We have certainly spent more than that on weekends in NYC or skiing. Heck, it costs nearly that much to stay at Great Wolf Lodge for three days!
So yeah…I’m a fan. And your kids are gonna LOVE it. I mean, just look at this face:
DISCLOSURE: Wild Adventures Canada provided this trip for my son and me to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own, of course.