Discover Ontario’s Indigenous Tourism Experiences open in Stage 3

Indigenous culture is incredibly rich and varied. Luckily, the availability of Indigenous tourism experiences is on the rise. Here in Ontario, you can choose from a whole range of options to broaden your understanding of Indigenous history and tradition, from canoe trips to interactive science exhibits to art and cuisine. All these businesses are open under Stage 3 in Ontario and have achieved their Safe Travels Stamp certification from the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, which means they follow worldwide industry protocols.

Be wowed by innovation

Learn how an igloo is built with foam blocks at the Indigenous Ingenuity exhibit, photo courtesy Science North

At the 7,000-square-foot Indigenous Ingenuity exhibit at Sudbury’s Science North you can learn how Indigenous peoples have lived and thrived in a variety of landscapes. Listen to oral storytelling, assemble an igloo with foam blocks, pilot a dogsled, try your hand at harpooning a virtual salmon or get a hands-on feel for the physics of archery. Every visitor gets a scanning bracelet, which allows you to trigger interactive features and gather virtual badges for your “passport.” In the Thunder Bay area? This exhibit travels to the Thunder Bay Art Gallery in fall 2021.

Try a land-based experience

Enjoy canoeing and kayaking with Thrive Tours, photo courtesy Thrive Tours

The Indigenous-owned Thrive Tours in Sault Ste. Marie offers year-round eco-tourism adventures. They promote and maintain local Indigenous practices and philosophies to foster sustainable, earth-friendly experiences. Tours include half-day, full-day and overnight guided excursions and you can take your pick from hiking, canoeing, kayaking or camping. Plus, special family days mean you and the kiddos can try activities like making a nature craft, learning about local trees and wildlife, and how to build a campfire and cook over it.

Paddle the Wilderness

Experience heritage canoe routes with Voyageur Wilderness, photo courtesy Voyageur Wilderness

Rugged and beautiful, Quetico Provincial Park, two hours northwest of Thunder Bay, has been a gathering place and water transportation hub for Indigenous peoples for countless years. Through Voyageur Wilderness, a family-owned outfitter and resort, you can get a taste of the original canoe culture. Head out on a multi-day canoe trip into the wilderness park along heritage canoe routes, and choose from a variety of difficulty levels, ranging from Easy (day trips) all the way up to Challenging (7+ day trips with demanding portages). Begin and end your trip with rustic comfort at the Lodge on Voyageur Island, with spectacular views of Nym Lake.

Discover the history of Indigenous horses

Getting to know the Ojibwe spirit horses at TJ Stables, photo courtesy TJ Stables

In Chatham, TJ Stables is home to a remarkable group of Ojibwe spirit horses. These rugged small horses are thought to be the only existing breed of horses developed by Indigenous people in Canada. Originally found in northwestern Ontario around Lac La Croix as well as northern Minnesota, the horses lived in the boreal forest and were considered both service and spirit animals. Through a variety of guided experiences you can get to know more about the history of these horses and their part in Anishinaabe culture, take a spirit horse on a walk through wooded trails and participate in the food, storytelling and music of a reproduction Métis fur trade encampment.

Find work by artists and artisans

Photo courtesy David R. Maracle

The work of David R. Maracle is on display at his Eagle POD gallery in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in southeastern Ontario, east of Belleville. This “micro gallery” showcases his unique, creative sculptures crafted from natural materials like bone, wood and stone. His evocative and intricate themes include eagles, people, bears and wolves. Maracle is also an accomplished musician who has mastered a number of instruments like the traditional Iroquoian flute, and his talents are on display in a variety of CDs.

Stay and explore

Indigenous cuisine at Manitoulin Hotel, photo courtesy Manitoulin Hotel

A great home base is an essential part of a memorable trip. At the Manitoulin Hotel & Conference Centre on acclaimed Manitoulin Island, stay in comfortable, spacious rooms decorated with First Nations art and other wood and stone décor reflecting First Nations traditions. Dine with a view of the stunning North Channel on Lake Huron and the LaCloche mountain range, and choose from menu items such as an Anishinaabe taco (fry bread topped with bison chili), pan-seared Manitoulin whitefish or Odawa rainbow trout. Your hosts can also direct you to local Indigenous tourism opportunities, such the world’s largest peace pipe, dreamcatcher and drum and the Great Spirit Circle Trail, as well as local hiking and cycling trails.

Kick back and relax with an outdoor courtyard and firepit at Haven Hostel, photo courtesy Haven Hostel

In Thunder Bay, head to The Haven Hostel. This Metis-owned establishment is 8,000-square-feet in a prime downtown location, just steps from hip bars, restaurants and shops as well as the bustling and picturesque waterfront area on Lake Superior. You can book the entire place or opt for private family/group room or a private queen room. Plus, there’s a kitchen and a courtyard with a firepit for kicking back.

Cozy glamping at Lil Crow Cabin, photo courtesy David R. Maracle

The Indigenous-owned Lil Crow Cabin & PODS is found in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in southeastern Ontario. Not only will you find the work of artist David R. Maracle on display in his micro-gallery (he and wife KimberLee are the owners!), you can also check into one of four quirky, artsy cabins with curved ceilings and plenty of natural wood. Considered “glamping,” these cabins come with hydro, a mini fridge, a mini electric fireplace, a private shower room, a firepit and access to a dock, boats and bikes. Rest and relax in this quiet adults-only spot, then explore the Indigenous culture and traditional heritage of the area, including restaurants, cafes and galleries. Or visit nearby Prince Edward County and Sandbanks Provincial Park.

Rest easy with the Safe Travels Stamp

Deepen your understanding and appreciation of Indigenous culture and traditions with this great sampling of experiences throughout Ontario, and rest easy knowing that they are Safe Travels Stamp certified.