Northern Ontario winters boast plenty of fresh snow, clean air, beautiful scenery and outdoor adventures—no wonder playing outside delivers an unbeatable mental health boost. This winter, try a new-to-you form of outdoor rec and adventure travel or revisit an old favourite.
These six sites are Indigenous-owned and operated and each one follows safety protocols to deliver lots of fun and lots of memories.
Be sure to check in with each operator to find out about March Break options too.
Manitoulin Island on Lake Huron is the world’s largest freshwater lake island. It’s home to Wiikwemkoong First Nation the island’s largest First Nation Community and Canada’s only officially recognized Unceded Indigenous Territory. Be sure to check out a winter hike or snowshoe on the Bebamikawe Memorial Trail, a 14-km professionally built trail with great scenery overlooking Georgian Bay and the Killarney mountains, as well as interpretative signs.
Experienced or aspiring anglers will love the ice hut rentals at two locations, South Bay (perch, cisco and whitefish) and Manitowaning Bay (rainbow trout and pike). Each four-person hut, available until March 18 (conditions permitting) includes a portable propane heater, propane, an ice scoop and pre-drilled holes. Plus, you can shop the online gift shop to find beading, quillwork, sculpture, birch bark, painting and other works by talented Indigenous artists.
Learn more www.wikytours.com
Thrive Tours is an Indigenous-owned and -operated ecotourism company in Baawaating (the original, Indigenous name for Sault Ste. Marie) that’s passionate about sharing knowledge about Indigenous history and culture. With an experienced guide leading you, take a snowshoe tour to some incredible lookouts in the Algoma region or a trek on Whitefish Island, a national historic site. Your guides provide high-quality snowshoes for you, and after your tour you can enjoy a snack and hot cedar tea or hot chocolate, cooked over a small enclosed fire.
Learn more www.thrivetours.ca
Located on the beautiful north shore of Lake Huron, Sagamok First Nation is a place of vivid legends and history. Explore the terrain with Mukwa Adventures, an Indigenous-owned ATV tour company. With your experienced guides, you’ll be able to discover a wide variety of trails through the snow and ice. Half-, full- and multi-day weekend tours are available, and each tour includes safety and equipment training. Be sure to ask about specific options, like bushcrafting or cultural land-based programming like animal calls, traditional knowledge about plants and animals, archery and medicine pouch-making.
Learn more www.mukwa.ca
Ohswheken is a rural community southwest of Brantford and located within the Six Nations of the Grand River. The area is home to Chiefswood Park, a four-season getaway offering a variety of rustic-contemporary cabin styles (including accessible accommodations) and lots of activities that celebrate Haudenosaunee culture and heritage, like pack basket-making workshops and snowshoeing, as well as recreation like ice skating and tubing. Romantics and history buffs will love a visit to the nearby Chiefswood National Historic Site, the childhood home of E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake, the celebrated Mohawk author, performer and poet).
Its current exhibit features love letters from Chief George Johnson to his soon-to-be-bride, Emily Howells, circa 1848.
Learn more www.sixnationstourism.ca
Manitou Mounds, or Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung, is a national historic site on the banks of Rainy River in northwestern Ontario, near the communities of Rainy River First Nation, Stratton and Emo. As a longtime gathering area for Indigenous peoples, and site of at least 17 burial mounds, it’s a sacred place that continues to be a vital part of the community. You can rent cross-country skis or snowshoes to tour the 10 kms of trails, open Thursday through Sunday (watch for full moon outings that include a bannock and wild rice soup meal too!). Indoors, (restrictions permitting) you can explore the fantastic Visitors Centre, which houses an aquarium, restaurant, interpretative centre, gift shop and space to participate in scheduled cultural workshops
Learn more www.manitoumounds.com
Nestled along the edge of the Bay of Quinte, on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, a 45-minute drive west of Kingston, and a 23-minute drive to Prince Edward County, Lil Crow Cabin Courtyard features a romantic adults-only getaway.
Choose from two “glamping” pods: Instagram worthy rounded wooded cabins, a Bunkie with its own screened in porch, or the main LiL Crow Cabin (with a hot tub, screened-in Gazebo and private courtyard), all on a quiet, treed property with spectacular views of the bay. From your cozy retreat, you can try ice fishing or snowshoeing. Mohawk artist and musician David R. Maracle is the owner, so inquire about booking a private viewing of his work and music at the adjacent Eagle POD Gallery. The Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory offers gift shops, local grocery stores, and more.
Visit the hip wineries, distilleries, boutiques and restaurants of nearby Prince Edward County for a day trip. Sandbanks Provincial Park is open year-round and offers beautiful walks on the snow-swept sandy beach and 10 km of groomed trails, and you may even catch sight of hardy kite-surfers on the lake.
Learn more www.lilcrowcabin.com
This winter, do a bit of a winter road trip to recharge and relax. These Indigenous-owned businesses offer the perfect combination of Ontario winter adventure and quiet downtime.