Exploring South Algonquin: Welcome to True Wilderness
Updated: Mar 3, 2022
Embrace true Canadian wilderness and venture north to South Algonquin - an escape to the region just beyond the big cities of Toronto and Ottawa with stunningly wild, untouched landscapes and tranquil beauty year round.
G’day! (That’s how we say ‘hello’ here.)
If this is your first time exploring South Algonquin, allow us to extend a very warm welcome from the South Algonquin Business Alliance (SABA).
If you’ve never heard of our quaint little township before, don’t worry - the fact that it is largely undiscovered is one of its many charms. We’re not all that flashy. But we’re also not a flash in the pan - Ask anyone who’s been to Algonquin Park and they’ll probably tell you they’ve been to Whitney or Madawaska. We’re kind of like an older brother or sister - they’ve always been there and it’s hard to remember life without them.
Located at the southernmost border of the Nipissing District and snuggled between the Muskoka area and Renfrew County, you’ll find us on the map between Algonquin Provincial Park’s east gate and the town of Barry’s Bay.
Settled in the 1890s, South Algonquin was originally home to several sawmills owned by Canadian lumber baron J.R. Booth. Now with a population of about 1000 people living across five wards, the township covers more than 800 square kilometers of land. Bordered by Algonquin Park in the west and north, you’ll find flowing rivers, tranquil lakes, and serene untouched wilderness sprawling east along highway 60, the major highway connecting the towns of Whitney and Madawaska.
Whether you are a budding explorer, a seasoned adventurer, a family looking for the right spot to introduce your young forest-lovers to true nature, or a peaceful soul looking for the perfect place to rest, this humble, undiscovered gem is where you need to be. You will not leave disappointed.
Sights to see in South Algonquin
The Best Place for Stargazing
For those with stars in their eyes, South Algonquin has minimal light pollution, which means you get gorgeous views of the night skies all year long. Come watch meteors flash across the black backdrop of space and the surreal glow of the Northern Lights. If you’ve been waiting on a falling star to cast a wish into the universe, those who keep their eyes on the skies will have their chance here.
Venture over toFour Corners Algonquin - a dark-sky friendly Glamping site designed for stargazer activities during your visit to South Algonquin. Follow their site for updates on weather and anticipated space events like meteor showers or planetary activity!
A Hiker’s Paradise
Is outdoor sport and recreation more your wheelhouse? South Algonquin’s 800 ft2 region gives you access to more than a hundred kilometres of walking and hiking trails through Canadian Shield forests. Birds, moose, coyotes and more critters large and small find solace between trees that paint the soul with colour all year long: from rich hues of leaf-green, to evergreen, to the golds and reds of autumn, to a thousand dazzling shades of brown and grey, the forest of trees invite you to walk among them. Watch for upgrades to these trails over the next few seasons. We’ll be widening the trails, re-grading them, and making them available for multi-use and multi-season.
Hike the trails of the Spectacle Lake/Bear and Burnetts Mountain system and stop at the Lookout to appreciate the beauty of the world you’re wandering through.
Or hike the Old Rail Trail which runs from Whitney all the way to Madawaska and beyond - over 25km of mostly flat groomed trail. Cross the trestle bridges in Whitney and at Rapid Lake. Pass by the infamous turtle crossing - the section of trail that’s closed to ATV’rs and Snowmobilers to preserve the ability of turtles to reach the Madawaska River safely during breeding season.
Wrap up your visit in Algonquin Provincial Park by walking the Logging Museum Trail, or take your camera along to Beaver Pond Trail.
There are so many trails to choose from that you can fill whole days with hiking if that’s your wish. Discover loops that will connect you to multiple trails and pack a picnic lunch to enjoy along the way!
A Great Lake Escape
If you’re more of a water lover, our lakes are sparkling and serene for swimming and teaming with fish to catch. Our cotton candy sunsets in the summer can only be outdone by the snow crunching beneath your boots as you cast your lines down through holes in the ice in winter. A thermos of your favourite beverage will be your best friend no matter the season.
With beaches and parks in Whitney on Galeairy Lake, in Madawaska on the river and at Bark Lake’s Millennium Park, there is no need to go elsewhere for safe, swimming fun and sandy beaches.
On-lake and on-shore fishing is also a must whether you’re seriously looking for alocal stocked lake or just playing around with your kids. You can borrow fishing gear for free through our localTackleshare sites, or rent canoes atOpeongo Outfitters or Bound Outdoor.
South Algonquin doesn’t lose its beauty with the first frost. During the daylight hours, strap on some skis, skates or snowshoes and head over to our breathtaking and exhilarating rinks, lakes, and trails, with ranges of difficulty from easy to difficult so that you’ll find something to enjoy no matter your skill level. We have public skating rinks at the Lester B Smith Community Centre in Whitney, and at the Community Centre in Madawaska. You can also read more about the Leaf Lake Ski Trail or Mew Lake Campground amenities here. Don’t miss the February Festival of Outdoor Rinks!
Pack some snowshoes and explore the silence of a frosted forest in the winter dark. Or make your trip even easier by renting cross-country skis or snowshoes at Camp Bongopix. Sit around a warm, starlit fire toasting marshmallows in the crisp evening air while you listen to the wildlife still active in the woods.
Where to say in South Algonquin
It’s hard to go wrong when you’re choosing between picturesque cottages, friendly bed and breakfasts, and beautiful campgrounds. Each location has natural charm and plenty of appeal. No matter where you stay in South Algonquin, your doors will open to the undiscovered beauty of the landscape all around you.
If your travels take you to the east side of the township, consider booking your stay at Four Seasons Algonquin Cabins nestled right in the heart of Madawaska and very near the Madawaska public beach, or to Spectacle Lake Lodge with gorgeous lake views. Just a twenty-minute drive from the amenities in Barry’s Bay and Bancroft, these properties treat you to the best of the wilderness just a hop away from a larger community.
If your destination is closer to Algonquin Park, settle your head at one of our local Airbnbs, or the Dream Catcher Motel, the Bellwood Inn Bed and Breakfast, or the Rolling Rapids Motel,all located in Whitney, Ontario, each with gorgeous sights to see through every window. Explore each location and what they have to offer - every site comes with its own unique views, friendly staff and guest accommodations. Algonquin East Gate Motel offers newly updated and AODA accessible suites
If you want to stick as close to nature as possible through day and night, book a camping or glamping site at Four Corners Algonquin, where they offer a comfortable experience for beginners and experienced campers alike, with a focus on redefining what outdoor experiences mean to people of all ages and abilities. Or if it’s a romantic getaway you seek, try out Couples Resort or Adventure Lodge.
What to do in South Algonquin
A Day at the Museum
Check out the Algonquin Park Logging Museum, or the nearby Algonquin Park Visitors Centre to learn more about the area. While away a day in an art gallery with a visit to the Algonquin Art Centre.
Water and Wheeled Sports
If you want to roam more widely than your feet can carry you during your visit to South Algonquin, you can pack or rent canoes and kayaks to venture out into the beauty of the waterways scattered around us. Wheeled transportation may be a more enjoyable if you’re trail bound, which makes a visit to Opeongo Outfitters, Algonquin East Gate Motel or Algonquin Outfitters a must before you hit the bicycle trails. If beach or trail wheelchairs will help you, your friends or family get out and about, visit Four Corners Algonquin.
Campfire Cuisine to Gourmet Dining
Do you like outdoor cooking over a crackling fire, dining al fresco, or multi-course and multi-star meals? South Algonquin has everything your taste buds are hoping for..
If eating over the campfire is your thing, Madawaska’s Country Store, and Whitney’s Freshmart have you covered for food and supplies you don’t want (or forget) to bring with you. You’ll also find your local LCBO at the Madawaska Country Store, or here in Whitney.
If you’d rather skip the food prep labour, check out The Mad Musher, the Algonquin Lunch Bar or the Lakeside Smokehouse at Spectacle Lake - one of our many one-stop-shop locations for very tasty, family-friendly food. Wine and beer are also available at LCBO locations in both Whitney and Madawaska. Or stop at one of our food trucks at Perry’s Pitstop or Avery’s Chip stand to enjoy sweets, ice cream, or fish & chips.
Fine dining is available by reservation at Couples Resort, Killarney Lodge, and Arowhan Pines. Bartlett Lodge offers a free water taxi from the parking lot to their resort and restaurant, which amps up the adventure for young and old alike.
If Barry’s Bay, Bancroft, or Huntsville is too far to drive for your favourite brew, try visiting the Algonquin Lunchbar, MadMusher, Opeongo Outfitters, Perry’s Pitstop, or the Madawaska Country Store for your hot cuppa coffee or tea.
If it’s a sweet treat you’re after, Whitney’s best loved pop-up bakery is available by preorder only. Pies, cookies, scones, cakes, whatever your pleasure, keep an eye on Little Bear Bakes in the Woods for your next opportunity to put your hands on the best home baked goods in the region, made with high quality ingredients and farm fresh eggs.
Cosily nestled in the natural world, South Algonquin is also home to mom and pop shops and businesses available to you for your browsing and purchasing pleasures. You can also browse The Great Canadian Wilderness site to see more suggestions for fun family-friendly or solo adventures in and around South Algonquin.
Stay on top of what we’re up to by following us on our site! We’ll be updating our website soon to keep you up to date on natural and human events as they happen – like the Perseid meteor shower in August that you won’t want to miss, or our annual Family Day Winter Festivities!
Eager to plan your itinerary for your next trip? Read our list of the Top 12 Things to Do in South Algonquin Year Round, and start planning your next stay no matter what season you travel in.
On behalf of SABA, we can’t wait to welcome you to our community to share the wonders of our perfect little patch of wildly unexplored wilderness.
See us in the news!
The South Algonquin Business Association is proud to share that we recently received a visit from Minister Raymond Cho (Ontario’s Minister of Seniors and Accessibility) after seven businesses involved with SABA applied for and received nearly $500,000 in EAF (Enabling Accessibility Fund) funding for projects to increase accessibility in the township of South Algonquin.
Want to see what SABA is working on for 2022? Read about our project plans for the new year in this article published in the Toronto Star.