Many hotels include canoe, kayak and paddleboard rental in their rates, so you can set off along the shores, keeping an eye out for locals such as porcupine, bobcat and wolf. Or scull down the meandering Muskoka River to South Falls for a swim in its cascade-carved pools. In autumn you can hike amid fabulous fall colours, while in winter you can pull on skates and snowshoes for fairytale forest walks.
Algonquin Provincial Park is the quintessence of Canadian wilderness – a vastness of lakes and rugged ridges swathed in pine and fall-inflamed maple, beech and birch. Yet it’s conveniently close to civilisation, around three hours by car from Toronto. Simply driving along Highway 60, the main road through the park, offers good moose-spotting opportunities. However, the only way to explore the interior is by canoe or on foot.
There are over 2,100km of canoe trails. It’s possible to paddle away from the world for days, catching your own fish supper and camping out in the backcountry. Equally, novice boaters can join shorter but still wilderness-probing guided day trips to float along creeks, inlets and lakeshores, scanning for moose, beaver and loon. There are wolves in these forests too – they’re quite elusive, but if you join a ‘Public Wolf Howl’, on which park rangers imitate the creature’s call, you might hear one howl back.
There are plenty of easy-to-access hiking trails too. For instance, follow the 3km Big Pines Trail to visit the remains of an 1880s logging camp, take the easy Spruce Bog Boardwalk for excellent birdwatching or climb the 2km Lookout Trail for some of the most magnificent views over Algonquin.