Cast a Line!
How can any article talk about Lake of the Woods without starting with fishing? With dozens of different game fish in the lake including some of the world's largest muskellunge and smallmouth bass, no wonder there are numerous fishing tournaments on the lake. Depending on your skill and interest level, you can choose to fish on your own with a rented boat, hire a fishing guide, or stay at a fishing lodge. If you have your own boat, there are more than enough launching points to make it convenient for you. You can even choose to do a fly-in fishing camp on a remote lake if you feel a bit adventurous! Every August, the open-to-anyone KBI (Kenora Bass International) is the largest fishing tournament on the lake bringing in hundreds of boats! Even if you come in the winter, you are not stuck as ice fishing is a popular pastime!
Check out Ancient Artwork
Over the 8000 years of habitation, different cultures have come and gone from the area leaving a unique mosaic of history. The Ojibway peoples lived here for centuries before European Conquest and left detailed pictographs (Spirit Rocks) as a way to give thanks to The Creator. While many of them have likely faded beyond recognition or were even destroyed by settlers, a few hundred can still be found around LOTW. They may be tough to spot and almost always require a boat, but if you do find them, make sure to be respectful. If you approach them ensure you have an offering to leave as respect for the creator (Tobacco -not cigarettes- is often a great offering).
Search for Lost Treasures
During the mid-1800s gold was found around the lake and the subsequent boom expanded the city's wealth and population. There are several hundred gold mines around the lake with many of them located on islands scattered around. Up to 135,000 ounces of gold were hauled out of the mines on the lake. The most famous one is likely Sultana Mine on Sultana Island. Most production was in the late 19th century and it employed an average of 50 people during its few decades of operation!
Take a Step back into a Fur Trading Fort
A days boat ride away from Kenora, Fort St Charles was one of the first permanent settlements in the area for fur traders. Built by La Vérendrye for the French along the current US- Canadian border, the fort that stands today is a replica built in the 1900s. The original was built using massive pines from the island and operated from roughly 1732 to 1749.
Check out the City's Longest Running Prank
From Kenora, there are only a few ways to navigate between the island and head down the lake. The Gap, a narrow channel between the mainland and Treaty Island, is one of the most popular ways and has a unique marker at its entrance. The Devils Gap rock was originally painted in 1894 as a prank and has become the main attraction in Kenora. Please note: though it is a painted rock, it is not a Spirit Rock or pictograph.
Feel the Sand between your Toes
With more coastline than the UK, it should come as no surprise that the beaches in the area are fantastic. You have easily accessible ones like Norman Beach and Anishinaabe Park which are both on the mainland, while Scotty's and S Island are popular beaches to go to when heading down the lake. Coney Beach is the common middle ground and a fantastic place to visit. Coney Island is a large island that is visible from most of central Kenora and is a summer and winter home to many residents. The public beach can only be accessed by the water so its a great spot to go if you rent a SUP, canoe, or even a boat. You can also get there by taking the Coney Island taxi shuttle if it is in operation when you are around.
Jump for Joy!
One of the newest attractions on the water, Hoopla Island is a floating jungle gym. With inflatable slides, climbing walls, and jumps, it is the perfect on-the-water activity for the whole family.
Test your Balance!
What do you get when you mix windsurfing, kayaking, and yoga? Stand-up paddleboards (SUP) are the latest craze to take over the lake is not only great exercise but is a pretty unique way to get yourself to Coney Island Beach. Head over to Green Adventures or the Hardware company to grab yourself a board and paddle!
Get Up-close and Personal with the Water!
Long stretches of channels, countless portage-only lakes, and dozens of tributaries in the area make LOTW one of the best spots for canoeing. Whether you are trying to undertake the canoe section of the Great Trail or just an afternoon paddle, canoeing is a fantastic way to get close to the water. While the area of LOTW out front of Kenora may be a bit busy, launching your canoe into the Winnipeg River is a fantastic choice. Rushing River which is about 30 minutes from town gives access to 5 of Ontario's best multi-day canoe routes as well as some great day paddles! Check them out HERE
Feel the Wind in your Sails
Deepwater channels, open straits, and a "royal" yacht club all make Kenora one of the best sailing destinations. The yearly LOWISA (Lake of the Woods Sailing International Association) sailing regatta is a week-long race taking massive boats far down the lake. The multi-person crews and large sails all departing from the harbourfront at one time make it a unique sight!
Rent a Boat
There are quite a few places to rent motorboats, pontoon boats, and seadoos from. One of the most popular is Tall Pines Marina. Rentable by the hour, day, or even week, Tall Pines has a boat to suit almost any need. If you plan to rent a boat, ensure you have your boaters license handy and are aware of the conditions on the water. Remember, just because it's a lake doesn't mean that the weather can't get nasty and outright dangerous!
Learn about the Waters!
Jump aboard and head for a guided tour of LOTW on the lake's largest operating boat! Sightseeing tours take you through narrow channels like the Gap to see the Devils Rock, past gorgeous historic boathouses, and even the Royal Lake of the Wood Yacht Club. Several departure times allow you to cruise during the day where the upper decks give offer fresh air, while evening dinner cruises put out some amazing food and unbeatable sunsets. During the whole tour, an audio guide will help inform you about the history of the area.
Sleep on the Water
While there are many waterfront cabins to rent in the area, a houseboat from Houseboat Adventures is an experience you will not forget. Hop onto the boat with your friends or family and make your way down to one of the few thousand Crown Islands and set yourself up for the evening around a fireplace. Houseboats are the perfect way to combine glamping with a water adventure.
Cruise on the Grace Anne II
One look at this magnificent boat and you understand the price tag that comes along with a ride. The almost century-old wooden yacht was built as a private vessel for Grace Anne and her husband John Forlong who had started cottaging on the lake in the late 19th Century. To read more about its history and the story of how it was transported from Southern Ontario where it was built all the way up to Kenora, click HERE. Today, the Grace Anne II takes you on a similar route to the MS Kenora but eventually makes its way down to their private island where you can spend the night. For a day of pure luxury, the Grace Anne II is your choice on LOTW.
Fly Around on Float Planes
Did you know the stretch of water out front of the Whitecap Pavilion is actually an international runway! During the summer, if you sit along the greenbelt for even a few minutes, there is a pretty high chance you will watch a floatplane come gliding across the sky to land. Coming back from dropping people off at fly-in fishing camps or the remote communities to the north, River air has its main dock just beside the MS Kenora Boarding zone. If you are the adventurous type, you can always choose to take a sightseeing tour aboard a floatplane!