Need an eco-friendly getaway?
The transition of seasons has arrived. The sun starts to set earlier, the air begins to feel crisper and the cool weather seems to have settled in for the long haul. Meanwhile, we’re dreaming about the coziest, most sustainable places to escape to across Canada—from luxurious cabins and glamping tents in Alberta’s Kananaskis Country; sphere-shaped domes in Quebec’s Laurentians where you can watch the stars from overnight; and cozy log chalets overlooking an eco-reserve on a lake in the Gulf Islands.
All of these destinations are easy on the environment, put you at one with nature, and instill a feeling of calmness you only find in the remote, Canadian wilderness...
1. Mount Engadine Lodge, Kananaskis Country, Alberta
It seems all of the most worthwhile places to visit are found at the end of a long, dirt road—and Mount Engadine Lodge is no exception (a 30-km road at that). Two hours from Calgary and an hour from Canmore, it’s one of Canada’s few backcountry lodges you can drive right up to. The lodge is Ecostay Certified, part of a program that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by tracking eco-attributes. It’s indeed remote—naturally, so there’s no cell service, only Wi-Fi in the main lodge, and you won’t find a TV in sight.
What you will find though, is one of the coziest, rustic-yet-modern feeling lodges in Alberta, with the perfect amount of luxury in just the right places. Including the afternoon tea served from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. daily, complete with champagne, local charcuterie board full of Alberta’s finest beef, game, pork and cheeses. Dinner is served family-style (with obvious modifications as of late to individual tables during COVID-19) and a set, three-course meal is served every night.
We enjoyed roast duck with a delicious demi-glace the first night, and filet mignon the second—which you know is a must while in Alberta. The views from the Whiskey Jack Cabin (our personal favourite) are sprawling across the valley and are surrounded by the unmistakably jagged and towering Rocky Mountains. There are also luxury glamping tents with hot water, electricity, and in-suite fireplaces, if that’s your style.
Take a paddleboard down the creek, or tackle one of the many trails surrounding the lodge—anything from 8 km to 15 km with trail access from your room. In the summer, you can rent bikes and kayaks and once the snow falls there are snowshoes, cross-country skis, and fat bikes available. Plus, they’ll provide a delicious trail-ready lunch for you to take on your adventure (all meals are included in the room rate). Keep your eyes peeled for big horn sheep, elk, moose, deer, black bears and the somewhat elusive king of the Rockies—a grizzly bear (Note: don’t forget to stop in on Grizzly Paw Brewing Company in Canmore if you’re coming from that direction).
2. Green Acres Resort, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia
Every once in a while, you find a place that simply makes your soul feel calm, and your heart at ease. Everywhere on Salt Spring Island feels pretty magical—filled with local artisans, farm-to-table meals, oceans teeming with marine life, including whales, especially in the fall. But Green Acres Resort, on Saint Mary’s Lake—the largest on Salt Spring—feels extra special.
The family-owned and -operated resort was taken over by new owners, Sven and Judy Larsen two years ago, and they’ve proudly renovated and upgraded all the cabins. The resort faces an eco-reserve and has 12 lakeside and lake-view cabins as well as eight log chalets. The chalets are picture-perfect log cabins nestled into their own cedar forest, complete with full kitchens, a bathroom with a tub, a bedroom downstairs and a luxurious loft and bed upstairs with plush white linens, from which you can watch the sun rise over the cedars, turning the sky an unforgettable shade of pink in the early hours. They and have wooden stoves and a full chest filled with firewood for use at your leisure.
It’s the perfect place to spend a weekend, or settle in to work remotely for a couple of weeks amongst nature. Take a canoe out for a paddle—the on-site boathouse has kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and paddleboats for use at the guest’s leisure. Local tip? Grab a bottle of Kutatás wine (the Pinot Noir is full-bodied and delicious) or of Salt Spring Wild Cider’s ginger cider, some local charcuterie, Salt Spring Island Cheese, and Salt Spring Kitchen Co. Jam and take it all out with you for an afternoon in a canoe. Take in the tranquility as blue herons fish and a family of deer graze by the shoreline—reminding you to slow down.
3. Le Village Windigo, Les Laurentides, Quebec
Set along the banks of the Baskatong Reservoir, Le Village Windigo offers everything from luxurious cabins to unique transparent dome structures called Sphair-Domes set up right along on the riverside. Inside the two Sphairs, you’ll have a 270-degree view of the starry sky above, constellations, shooting stars or falling snow from the comfort of your bed—a nature lover’s paradise. The cabins are large and luxurious with full kitchens, soaker tubs that have air jets, and a wood-burning fireplace set up with logs, firestarters, and kindling. Most importantly, they have sprawling views of the river, and big windows that let the light stream in, and a cozy patio to enjoy the sounds of the rushing river.
There are lots of walking trails and great hikes in the summer as well as canoeing and kayaking, and snowmobile and cross-country skiing trails in the winter. In the mornings, enjoy homemade breakfast—Quebecois style—or press your own waffles and enjoy them with homemade preserves
4. Étoile ready-to-camp, Parc national d'Opémican, Quebec
A lone wolf howls as we sip wine around a roaring campfire under a star-filled October sky in Canada’s newest National Park—Parc National d'Opémican—which opened to the public last June in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region of Quebec. Inside the park there are cube-shaped Étoile ready-to-camp installations, a hybrid between a log cabin and a canvas tent which sleep up to six people in bunkbeds. It’s perfect for families, couples or groups of friends looking to camp, but without needing to lug so much gear. It feels a bit like glamping—but stripped back to the basics. There’s lighting and enough electricity to charge your phone (though, don’t rely on it and bring a portable charger if you need one), a space heater, a BBQ outside, a small fridge and everything you need to cook a simple breakfast or a gourmet meal.
While in the region, don’t miss out on visiting Refuge Pageau, a retreat near the northern Quebec town of Amos, where more than 100 injured wild animals come each year to heal and rehabilitate before being safely released back into their nearby natural habitat. There are orphaned baby moose, bear cubs and beaver kits, injured birds of prey, wolves, foxes, owls, and even a narcoleptic deer. It’s a really spectacular and humbling experience to look a vulture straight in the eye and connect. One animal who won't be released though is Chewbacca, a porcupine who decided he prefers humans over returning back into the wilderness—he’ll steal your heart.