• By: OLM Staff

Ontarians invited to escape from home with these authentic and unique Indigenous experiences

An unintended consequence of Covid-19 is that Canadians who love to travel or tour have refocused on travel at home — and there is a lot to see in this fabulous county. Something that is truly close to home, but far from ordinary, are the many offerings by Canada's Indigenous communities. Cultural explorers, tourists and intrepid travellers alike can visit over 20 Indigenous museums and cultural experiences across Canada. The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC),has a robust campaign "Escape from Home" which promotes regional itineraries that showcase the diversity of Indigenous tourism experiences available and open for business.

There has never been a better time to visit some of Canada’s most unique, compelling, and beautiful places and Escape from Home. Indigenous adventures will help guide you to the trip of a lifetime. Here is a taste of destinations and experiences here in Ontario:

— Manitoulin Island Experiences —

Photo: Ethan Mele for Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada

Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre

The Manitoulin Hotel & Conference Centre is a new and unique property located on the North Channel of Lake Huron on beautiful Manitoulin Island, Ontario Canada. Wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated in contemporary rooms with decor reflecting the First Nations traditions. Waterfront rooms available by request, group rates are available.

Dine in the on-site Wampum Restaurant and enjoy a glass-in view of the LaCloche mountain range and the breathtaking North Channel of Lake Huron. The outdoor patio and indoor dining provide stunning views of the lake and mountains allowing guests to relax and enjoy the natural scenery.

Modern and private meeting rooms capable of hosting group tours, motorcoach and bus tours, business meetings, seminars, workshops, conferences, weddings and just about any type of activity.

Wasse-Giizhik Tours

Head out with the pros to discover some of the best fishing on Manitoulin Island with friendly local guides whose families have fished these waters for countless generations. Choose your adventure: downrigging for Salmon, Rainbow and Lake Trout on Lake Huron surrounding Manitoulin Island or heading out on a flat line adventures for rainbow trout, walleye, northern pike and musky throughout Lake Huron and Manitoulin’s Island Lakes. Wasse Giizhik Tours guarantee that you will not be disappointed, no matter whether you are an avid fisherman looking to land a lunker or you’re a first-timer wanting to take the family on a memorable fishing trip.

Journey through the canoe routes of the Anishnaabek People and learn our history whilst taking in the stunning landscapes on a scenic boat tour. During the Spring Rainbow Run, they offer angler special reduced cottage rental rates, and throughout winter you can experience the thrills of ice fishing on a fully guided trip via snowmobile and ATV on Lake Huron or in-land lakes on Manitoulin Island.

Point Grondine National Park

Point Grondine has over 18,000 acres of scenic natural wilderness landscape, old-growth pine forest, stunning river vistas and six interior lakes to explore. The picturesque water trails flowing along the coast of Georgian Bay invite you to many canoe routes, hiking trails, and backcountry campsites located throughout the interior of the Park. Hike, canoe, or sea kayak along the traditional routes of the Anishnaabek people and be ready to be captivated by this historic and majestic place.

Canoe routes are open throughout the interior; Tri-Lakes which connect to Georgian Bay and Phillip Edward Island area. The backcountry has a total of 26 campsites with 27.9 kilometers of hiking trails, which guides you to Wemtagoosh Falls and Cedar Lake. Park staff include the Wikwemikong Tourism Manager and Tourism team, Point Grondine Park Product Development Officer, Interior Operations Leader, Trail Guardian, and the Wikwemikong Tourism Guides.

Throughout the spring, summer, and fall months explore the park through their Authentic Indigenous Experiences which will connect you to the territory of the original descendants, or just go for the day and self-guide along the trail of Merv's Landing and the Mahzenazing Lake Access Trails.

Manitoulin Brewing Company

Manitoulin Brewing Company was founded in 2014 by Blair, Nishin and Joet. They look forward to creating beers for you, with you and meeting the people that allow them to do this for a living. At their brewing location, you will find the brew house and a retail shop where you can stock up on beer to take home. Or, stay for a while and sample a pint on their outdoor patio. They even have an on-site food truck. 

Tourism Wikwemikong

Located on the eastern peninsula, Wiikwemkoong is home to the people of Three Fires Confederacy: an alliance of the Ojibwa, Odawa and Pottawatomi nations. Wiikwemkoong celebrates its community spirit through several cultural events that draw visitors from all walks of life. Wiikwemkoong is host to the annual cultural festival, fall fair, ice fishing derby, traditional pow-wow, and authentic Indigenous theatre as presented by De-ba-jeh-mu-jig theatre group. Indulge in the vast picturesque wilderness that surrounds Manitoulin’s largest community through one of their many private and community-operated tourism services. The large land base offers plenty of opportunities for wilderness exploration at your own pace while enjoying the culture and traditions of the Anishinabek people.

Ojibwe Cultural Foundation

The Ojibwe Cultural Foundation was created to preserve and revitalize the language, culture, arts, spirituality, and traditions of the Anishinaabe People of the Mnidoo Mnising (Manitoulin Island) and surrounding areas. They dedicate ourselves to nurturing the expression of Anishinaabe culture in all forms, so our art, language, stories, songs, and teachings flourish now and remain strong for future generations

Located in M'Chigeeng First Nation the 11,000 sq.ft. facility is home to a Museum, Public Art Gallery, Gift Shop, Mnidoo Mnising Anishinabek Kinoomaage Gamig (a full Ojibwe immersion early learning kindergarten program), Gimaa Radio 88.9FM (the first all Anishinaabe language radio station), language resources, healing lodge, and a performance amphitheater.

Ojibwe Cultural Foundation welcomes all who wish to experience the authentic expression of the Anishinaabe language, culture, and spirituality. Visitors can also see the timeless and beautiful heritage art forms of skilled Anishinaabek artisans including, porcupine quill boxes, ash and sweetgrass baskets, and antler carvings.

Debajehmujig Theatre Group

The Debahjemuhjig Theatre Group creates original theatre productions that represent Indigenous world views, culture, and history. They build connections between generations using the art of storytelling and are the only professional theatre group located on a reserve. The group also operates a multi-arts centre in downtown Manitowaning the supports the development of Indigenous artists throughout the area. ‘De-ba-jeh-mu-jig’ translates as ‘storytellers’ from the Cree and Ojibway language.

Bayside Resort

Nestled along the shores of Manitowaning Bay, discover one of Manitoulin Island’s best kept secrets: The Bayside Resort. Soak up the beauty and tranquillity of their deluxe waterfront accommodation and enjoy a modern log cabin for the price of an average hotel room. Choose from three gorgeous newly constructed cabins just 30 feet from the water’s edge in dovetail cedar or pine. Open year-round with private patio, propane BBQ, outdoor wood firepit, and much more.

— Ottawa Businesses —

Indigenous Experiences

Sign up for a tour with Indigenous Experiences, and you’ll get a taste of many First Nations cultures from across Canada. You’ll be welcomed by someone playing a hand drum and you’ll watch demonstrations by Indigenous dancers from around the country — a jingle dance, perhaps, or a hoop dance. Try a meal, maybe venison sausage, three-sisters soup (beans, squash, and corn) or wild rice. There’s even a voyageur option, where you paddle down the historic Ottawa River and arrive at the Aboriginal Experiences grounds by canoe, an experience which is a member of the noteworthy Canadian Signature Experiences collection.

“We give people an introduction to Indigenous people in Canada,” says Linda Sarazin, director of operations. “And we explain that Canada is immense and that First Nations culture is not just one culture.” The location, however, is important for myriad people in the country, as it’s on sacred land between Ottawa, Ontario and Gatineau, Quebec at an ancient trading stop on the Ottawa River. From one side of the facility, you can see Canada’s Parliament Buildings; from another, the province of Quebec.

Indigenous Experiences is open from May to mid-October for guided tours with a minimum of 25 people per group. All tours must be booked in advance. (In winter, Indigenous Experiences focuses on outreach to regional schools.)

“People arrive as guests and they leave as friends,” Sarazin says. “We give people the hunger to know more because they learn about how diverse our country is.”

— Toronto Businesses —

Oceah Oceah

Oceah Oceah is the leader when it comes to SUP (Standup Paddle Boarding) in Toronto, providing SUP lessons, SUP tours and SUP yoga. First Nations sisters Jenifer and Sharon Rudski were introduced to SUP in 2009 and immediately fell in love with the sport. With their passion for outdoor adventure, their connection to yoga and love of surfing they conceived Oceah Oceah to share SUP with everyone. Their mission is to connect people and build community on the water in Toronto's western beaches.

Find all of the amazing SUP classes on the website, classes run regularly all season long from June to September. If the scheduled classes don’t coincide with your unique schedule they can arrange private and group classes. Also, follow them on Facebook where we post special events, workshops, retreats and let you know when the surf is up — YES, it’s possible to surf on Lake Ontario!

All Oceah Oceah instructors are Paddle Canada Certified SUP Instructors and paddle yoga classes are taught by Yoga Alliance Certified teachers.

Visit Destination Indigenous to learn more about tourism packages and experiences across Canada!

Photos: Courtesy ITAC