The sheer size and beauty of Canada’s Algonquin Provincial Park boggles the mind. With more than 2,400 lakes and 750 miles of streams and rivers crisscrossing its 2,955 square mile area, The park has so many romantic spots that couples are bound to fall in love with the surrounding nature as much — if not more — as with their partner.
Located 200 miles north of Toronto and about 125 miles west of Ottawa, the first provincial park in Ontario is a perfect lovers’ vacation.
The name, Algonquin, refers to a member of a North American Indian people living in Canada along the Ottawa River.
The park offers dozens of year-round outdoor activities including canoeing, kayaking, hiking, walking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, fishing, swimming, mountain biking, horseback riding, bird watching, and camping. At the same time, it caters to couples who prefer snuggling up in a luxury cottage and peering out at the picture perfect panoramas through the window.
While the Bahamas, Jamaica or Bali might be the first destinations to pop into your head when thinking of a romantic getaway, five-star resorts alongside Algonquin Park know that the Canadian wilderness is actually a very
romantic destination. There are even a number of resorts in the area catering to couples only.
“A romantic getaway in Algonquin Park can be the ideal date provided both persons have a love or interest in the
outdoors,” says Mark Rubino, a travel blogger (www.markinthepark.com) who devotes all his downtime to tripping into the park’s interiors. “Getting away to Algonquin Park can provide many opportunities for couples to interact; to learn about each other’s traits while providing a degree of privacy while exploring shared interests.”
“Founded in 1893, Algonquin Park is the oldest provincial park and one of the most popular.” Named a National Historic Site of Canada in 1992, it boasts a unique mixture of forest types of coniferous and deciduous, and an amazing wildlife population. Visitors often catch sightings, including 40 types of mammals, 30 kinds of reptiles and amphibians, 130 breeding birds, wolves, bears, moose, beavers, gray jay, boreal chickadee, and the common loon.
There are 19 walking trails, ranging in difficulty and length from half a mile to 8 miles, three backcountry backpacking trails, and a visitors’ center museum detailing every thing you’d ever want to know about this magical
Summer is peak season at the park. Even though there are over 1,900 camping sites, booking ahead is a must. The same holds for making advance reservations for the cottages-for-rent both inside the park and just outside
Canada’s official summer sport is canoeing (hockey is the winter sport) and with 1,200 miles of canoeing routes peppered throughout the park, locals make a Mecca-like pilgrimage here in July and August to the rugged beauty. Canoe rentals must also be booked ahead of time.
In winter, the snow covered trees and trails offer a quiet and serene atmosphere. It is crucial to read up about the park before a wintertime visit as some trails and areas are closed November to March. If you do go for the deep snow, expect a wonderful ski trail network, ice skating options, and easy viewing of wildlife.
Spring is a great time for fishing fans with some of the best Brook Trout and Lake Trout fishing in the province. It’s the best season for moose viewing, too. As the snow melts, spring wildflowers bloom. A visit in the fall will afford visitors stunning postcard scenes of red, orange, and yellow trees. Large numbers of travelers come from around
the world between mid-September and early- November to enjoy the spectacular colors of the Sugar and Red Maples, aspens, Tamaracks, and Red Oaks.
“I recommend Algonquin Park to everyone who tells me they’re going to visit Toronto,” says Vered Levy, an Israeli tourist who made her inaugural visit to the park during early fall of 2012. “The changing color of the trees was like
being in heaven. I also loved the trails through the forests and the beautiful lake views. I can’t wait to go back.”
The backcountry of Algonquin Park is by the far the most pristine. But since not everyone is a hardcore paddler (and the only way to access the backcountry is by canoe or kayak), easier nature viewing options are plentiful for daytrippers.
The Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail, for example, is an easy mile-long loop trail that gives visitors a close-up look of two typical northern spruce bogs. The Two Rivers Trail — a 1.3 mile loop trail — takes walkers through a pine-clad forest. Or there is the popular Peck Lake Trail, a 1.2 mile loop trail that winds through a wooded area and around the shoreline of Peck Lake.
“Our family loved the Peck Lake Trail so much that we did it twice, one day after the next,” Levy says. “The trails are well-marked and clean. You and the nature become one.”
While canoeing enthusiasts can spend six weeks in the park, less active visitors should allocate at least three days to really get a feel for the area, says travel blogger Rubino.
“Getting away from city life and immersing oneself in a natural-like environment like Algonquin Park for a few days has been known to bestow very positive effects on a person’s well-being. People become more relaxed and feel rested,” he says.
Dozens of cottage rentals and resort hotels are found in the little townships circling Algonquin Park. There are also resorts in the park itself. The more luxurious accommodations, and especially the couples-only ones, include spas, gourmet restaurants, and four-poster beds.
While one of Ontario’s premiere romantic getaways, Algonquin Park draws everyone to its enchanted wooded areas. As well as appealing to couples, it offers a wonderful family holiday spot and ideal solo traveler’s site.
The Visitors’ Center is a central meeting point. There’s a museum, café, shop and information booth here, as well as an amazingly positioned veranda overlooking the treetops below.
There are no kosher restaurants in the Algonquin Park area but if you’re coming from Toronto, stop in the town of Gravenhurst (an hour-and-a-half from the park) to load up on kosher groceries (it’s even better to buy them in Toronto though where the selection is much bigger). Gravenhurst is the biggest town in the Muskoka region. The
area is famous for its local produce including wild blueberries, peaches ‘n’ cream corn, and cranberries. While all restaurants in Muskoka and near Algonquin Park will happily create vegetarian dishes (call ahead), if you’re stricter than that when it comes to dining out then your best bet is the grocery store. In Gravenhurst, Irvine & Sons Fine Foods deli packs kosher picnic hampers during the summer.
Two major freeways, Highway 60 and the Trans- Canada, run through the park, making it easy for travelers to stop and take a look around. You won’t want to leave.
Three R&R resorts in the Algonquin Provincial Park
Couples Resort & Spa
Voted Ontario’s number one romantic hotel by TripAdvisor, Couples Resort is an adult-only getaway in the heart of nature. Rooms are fitted out with fireplaces, Jacuzzis and premium beds. There’s also gourmet dining and a full spa experience. The hotel is located along the shores of Galeairy Lake, a seven-mile long lake that extends mostly inside the boundaries of Algonquin Park. The resort itself is just outside the provincial park but remains the top romantic destination for those in the area.
Arowhon Pines Resort
The definitive Canadian getaway, Arowhon Pines Resort gives visitors a feeling of the wilderness with soft cushion support. This hotel is located in Algonquin Park and makes reconnecting with nature a simple task. From walking trails to swimming in the lakes to boating, access to outdoor activities is made easy and comfortable at this resort. The gourmet kitchen serves up fresh and local food.
The Algonquin Mists Guest Home and Retreat is a 20-minute drive from the Algonquin Park entry gate but still one of the best places to stay when planning a trip there. It’s a four-season, threesuite romantic retreat that meshes spectacular views of Peninsula Lake with world-class golfing, hiking trails, and, of course, gorgeous nature. The
guest home sits on three acres of private land.
Viva Sarah Press, a Canadian-Israeli, is an associate editor and writer for ISRAEL21c.org. She has penned numerous travel articles from around the globe, and in the name of a good story has jumped out of planes, glided with birds, abseiled off cliffs, rafted down rivers, and ridden on numerous uncomfortable mammals. Follow her via www.facebook.com/VivaSarahPress