Ontario is a paddler’s dream. Whether you’ve been paddling for years looking for extreme backcountry routes or you are a complete beginner, Ontario has something for everyone.

Paddling Ontario

Ontario is a paddler’s dream. Whether you’ve been paddling for years looking for extreme backcountry routes or you are a complete beginner, Ontario has something for everyone.

Unlike Canadian paddling legends Kevin Callan or Hap Wilson, my husband Dave and I are more like the weekend warriors of paddling. We love a good adventure, but we prefer to paddle with a guide and learn from the experts. We prove that you can go on epic adventures even if you are not overly skilled. With the help of world-class outfitter, accomplished leaders, and professional courses, we’ve explored a lot of the province while taking on thrilling challenges.

Paddling Ontario

Last year we had the pleasure of doing a lot of paddling trips in Ontario and it all started with a five-day intensive kayaking course at Madawaksa Kanu Centre in Barry’s Bay. This is an excellent way to gear up for the summer paddling season to give you the skills and confidence you need to discover Ontario.

Paddling Ontario

The course teaches everything in a progression that makes you feel comfortable in your kayak. You spend your first morning learning how to paddle in a straight line, practicing braces and turns and then you finally move close to shore where the wet exit training begins. I was quite afraid having to flip my kayak upside down into cold water while strapped under my spray skirt, but the first time they make you flip, they take the skirt off to allow you to easily swim out of the boat.


Repetition is key so you spend the rest of the afternoon flipping your kayak over and over again until you are comfortable. By day-three we had mastered the roll, and had already begun to run rapids. By day 5 we were running the river in class 2 and 3 rapids fun with our newfound skills.

Paddling Ontario

It’s the most amazing feeling to conquer your fears and accomplish something few people in the world are even willing to try! By the time we left the course, we fell in love with whitewater kayaking and couldn’t wait to go on our next paddling adventure.

Lucky for us, we didn’t have to wait long because we joined wildlife photographer Rob Stimpson in Algonquin Park to search for moose. Nothing is more Canadian than exploring the backcountry of this iconic park in a traditional canoe.

Paddling Ontario

Our trip began at the Voyageur Quest log cabin where we spent the afternoon practicing our silent paddling skills. When approaching moose you want to be as quiet as possible and if you splash while paddling, they’ll run off before you can get anywhere near them. At the cabin we met the rest of our safari party and joined a backcountry safety and information session with naturalist Robin Tapley. The log cabin is a gorgeous wilderness retreat that transports you back in time to the days of the early explorers. It’s lit by candlelight and gas lanterns and warmed by the heat of the fire. The log cabin is a perfect way to set the mood for the journey ahead. Plus, the good night’s sleep is needed because the next few days are filled with adventure!

Paddling Ontario, sunrise at Algonquin Park

We loaded up our gear in the early morning and joined our guides for our two-day photography adventure into the Ontario wilderness. Dave and I have paddled Algonquin Park before, but we’d never taken a guided tour so this was exciting for us. Rob has been exploring the park for years. Each year he runs tours early in the season to give people the best opportunity to spot moose while offering photography tips and tricks.

We cannot tell you where our campsite was because for one thing, we don’t remember, but for another, this is Rob’s secret spot that not many people know about. During our two days on the lake we saw 19 moose including a mother and her calf and a large bull moose. It was outstanding.

Paddling Ontario

Once we witnessed moose in their natural habitat we were ready for more wildlife paddling adventures so we drove way up North to Wawa, Ontario where we joined Naturally Superior Adventures for a 5-day paddle around the Slate Islands. The Slate Islands are a cluster of islands located 13km off the coast of Terrace Bay on the North Shore of Lake Superior. It’s an incredible destination that is home to the highest concentration of woodland caribou in the province!

Paddling Ontario

Our guide Jen knew exactly where she wanted the captain of our shuttle boat to drop us off as she had seen caribou at a particular campsite all summer long. Sure enough, within 10 minutes of arriving, a large male caribou ran right through our campsite.

We spent the next 2 days exploring the interior of the islands viewing sights like an ancient Pukaskwa Pit, and one of the largest shatter cones in the world! The beauty of kayaking the Slate Islands is that no matter how rough the waves are on Lake Superior, it’s calm within the seven islands.

8 a kayaking in front of shatter cone

By day three, it was time to circumnavigate the largest of the Slates, Patterson Island. We paddled for two days visiting Lake Superior’s highest light house and camping on long sandy beaches, while feeling very small surrounded by high sea cliffs on one side, with endless water on the other.

Paddling Ontario

We saw 9 woodland caribou during our trip, including a mother and calf that walked leisurely through our camp plus a young curious male that nearly licked Jen’s hand he was so close! It’s one of the greatest adventures in Ontario.

But independent paddling isn’t for everyone and maybe you want to have a thrilling weekend that involves only a little prep and planning. That’s where the Ottawa River comes in.


We love whitewater rafting and one of our favourite places on earth is on the Ottawa River. We’ve been all over the world and guides often tell us that Ottawa is one of the best. Famous for its wide, deep, and big water runs it is a must when visiting the nation’s capital.

Owl Rafting offers two options for rafting. For those new to the sport, the larger 12-person raft is a good choice for feeling more comfortable you navigate through massive rapids like the Garburator, The Butcher’s Knife or the Coliseum III. For the more adventurous or experienced rafters, you can take a weekend and do both options. We started off on the large raft on day one of our weekend adventure and then upgraded to the small 6-person sport raft on day two.

Paddling Ontario

It makes for a perfect two day getaway as you can stay in the cabins or camp on the grounds and take advantage of the facilities like the sandy beach, the kayak and canoes or just have a relaxing drink on the Muskoka chairs as you watch the sun go down.

Ontario really does have it all. Blessed with some of the best waterways in the world, the possibilities are endless when it comes to exploring them. With proper instruction and planning, you can enjoy a safe and exciting summer exploring remote destinations in an untouched wilderness. So get out there and discover Ontario now!

About the authors:  Dave and Deb are well-known travel personalities in both online and mainstream media. Their highly acclaimed website, The Planet D, won the 2014 Gold Medal for Best Travel Blog by the Society of American Travel Writers. Dave and Deb founded ThePlanetD in 2008 after cycling the continent of Africa and since then they’ve travelled to more than 100 countries on all 7 continents.  Follow The Planet D on Twitter /// Instagram /// Facebook.


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