Hillside hikes, calm canoe rides, and cramped tents all scream summer, but year after year standard lake activities can start to lose their lustre. If you’re antsy for an epic summer adventure, try heading to Canada’s wildest regions for a more extreme excursion. While none of these options are cheap, they’re great ways to turn average outdoor activities into once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
In recent years, glamping (glamourous camping) has exploded in popularity, allowing more particular outdoor enthusiasts the chance to snuggle up with nature without sacrificing comforts like beds, hot showers, and cooked meals. WildExodus is just one Ontario resort catering to classy campers. You can “rough it” in the Arctic watershed and Boreal Forest near Timmins, Ontario, with fully furnished, safari-style tents and fine dining at a formal table. Or head down to Dunnville, Ontario (between Niagara and Hamilton), for Oakwood Escape’s cozy getups on the Grand River. Tents are set on raised wooden platforms with real beds decked in hotel-style linens and duvets. They’re also equipped with private barbecues for cooking meals, flushable toilets, and hot showers. (Private bathrooms and showers are coming soon.) For more examples of where you can go glamping in Canada, see “Where to go glamping in Canada.”
If you get excited spotting a deer by the side of a road, imagine getting super close to some of Canada’s biggest (and scariest) wildlife. Frontiers North Adventures’ Big Five Safari package puts you right in the path of moose, black bears, bison, polar bears, and beluga whales over the course of eight days spent around Winnipeg and Churchill, Manitoba. Zoom around Riding Mountain National Park and Churchill’s tundra by buggy, and board a zodiac boat to search for belugas in frigid waters.
If the rock bass you caught last summer is your best “fish story” to date, imagine telling your friends you hooked a 1,000-pound white sturgeon. British Columbia’s Fraser River is well known for its mammoth fish, boasting the world’s largest white sturgeon populations. Some of the sturgeons caught here over the past two years are thought to be the biggest fish ever caught in North America. Just this past June, a father-son fishing duo from Atlanta, Georgia, caught a massive one that clocked in at more than 11-feet and weighed almost 900 pounds. The pair was on a Great River Fishing excursion, whose fitting motto is “where big game is the only game.” Great River Fishing offer various day trips and multi-day charters for reeling in sturgeon, Pacific salmon, trout, and more.
Kick up your usual cottage hikes by being whisked away by helicopter and dropped off for guided treks to glacier fields and mountain summits. Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH) offers a range of three- and six-day heli-hiking packages in British Columbia and Banff, Alberta, along the majestic Canadian Rockies and Columbia Mountains. For heli-hiking with a culinary twist, try the Gourmet Getaway package (CAD $2,949) from Sept. 1-4, 2014. It offers three days of adrenaline-packed heli-hiking around Lake Louise but at night, chefs dish out gourmet tasting menus and mountain specialities in the Bobbie Burns backcountry lodge.
Think a big fish swimming past you is a thrill? Imagine a dip with a whale. West coasters can sea kayak with orcas around Vancouver Island. Wildcoast offers a four-day Orca Camp adventure in the sparkling Johnstone Strait, next to the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve where plenty of orcas and humpback whales spend their summers. When you’re not paddling the waters with killer whales, you can fish, hike, and lounge on the beach, or curl up in safari-style tents. Over in Newfoundland, you can get right in the water and swim with humpback whales with Ocean Quest Adventures’ “Close Encounters” tours. Half-day snorkelling tours (CAD $199 per person) take you out and into the Atlantic Ocean where you can wade in wetsuits with the massive mammals and even get too-close-for-comfort with their unforgettable whale breath.
Hit the rails for a unique, multi-day canoe tour in remote regions only accessible by train. Caribou Expeditions’ Agawa River, Algoma three-day journey (CAD $595 taxes included) guides you across 50 kilometres of pristine Northern Ontario wilderness. Board the train in Sault Ste. Marie and get dropped off in the forest. Then paddle the Agawa River down to Lake Superior, gliding over Class II rapids and portaging across the 75-foot high Agawa Falls. Trips are limited to spring and fall when waters are running high.