Set your watch to lake time
You need a boat to see Lake of the Woods. Motorists don’t properly get the hang of the place. It’s the pelicans, the bass fishermen and the island cottagers who comprehend the intricate tessellation of land and water as they skim past wild shores seeking the next, even more beautiful, angle on the unfolding scenery. For property have-nots though, Kenora town is a welcoming destination. There is a fresh spate of discoveries for ’Tobans desperately seeking dining adventure with some sun, water and wilderness. Here are six prime reasons to visit Lake of the Woods right now.
The 30 min boat ride, spent scoping out eagles’ nests dotting the treed islands, to Crow Rock Fishing Lodge whispers that you’re in God’s country, but circling the last rocky piece of shoreline, it becomes clear that this heavenly place is as much about the destination as the journey to get there. The lodge is perched on Canadian Shield rock, overlooking the water and an impressive rock face. It feels like a secret hide out, but reservations are essential, and dinner is worth the drive. Pre-dinner ceasars (or white wine for the white pant set) while kicking back on Indian red Adirondack chairs are de-rigeur before Jody makes her rounds taking orders for dinner. Ribeye and chicken are on the menu, but anyone you ask will remind you the pan fried pickerel is what you came for. So is the key lime pie. The owners have perfected a light, fluffy version while running their winter fishing lodge in Florida.
Boat transportation from Kenora is provided for guests of the lodge (stays begin at four nights). And if you can’t stay in one of the super cute cabins for the rest of your life, they will graciously take you back too. crowrock.com.
Anyone with even a minor appreciation for fresh picked produce and handcrafted goods will be richly rewarded at Matiowski Farmers’ Market every Wednesday. This happy one-stop shop for items from the city’s top artisans and food purveyors takes place under the big white tent on the harbourfront. Octogenarians and in-the-know hikers head to the hand carved walking stick vendor for the area’s perennial favourite accessory.
Drinking LOTW water is something summer residents avoided—until Lake of the Woods Brewing Company found a way to turn that liquid into gold. Suntana gold ale, that is. Only four years into production, and LOWBrewCo has already out-paced its growth, producing 57,600 litres of small batch craft beer 12 times a year. Blueberry flavoured ale, beautiful servers and a sunny patio that fronts 2nd Street is enough to attract crowds, but the burgers, butter chicken and fish ‘n chips (walleye) are some of the best we’ve had. The fact that this charming theme restaurant is in a former fire station is surely a hint at the city’s new home town heroes. lowbrewco.com
One of the pleasures of visiting a resort destination anywhere in the world is hanging over the water on a sundeck patio, taking in the action going by. The Boathouse, at the end of Matheson Street, is Kenora’s place. Planes, powerboats and kayaks jockeying the waterway, offer the rotating view here. The prime location is only half the reason it should be on everyone’s list, though. The eggs bennie and blue chese and asparagus omelettes are both morning stand outs, and a smartly curated lunch and dinner menu mixes familiar crowd favourites with creative new flavours to keep all satisfied. theboathousekenora.com
Breakfast on Coney Beach
For those aiming to get a bit of lake spirit without the hassle of getting a boater’s license, a pontoon shuttle from the harbourfront to Coney Island zips travellers to Kenora’s most popular beach in about five minutes (between 10 am-6 pm, 1‑807‑407‑4680 for info). On Sunday mornings from 8 am to noon, brunch is served out of the beachfront canteen to waves of resident waffle lovers. Plate sized waffles are topped with locally picked strawberry or blueberry topping for $6—and since you’re at the canteen, there’s no judgement for those wanting to top their waffle with a Revel.
With the smooth intonation of a radio disc jockey, captain Allan Luby hooks passengers of the MS Kenora with stories of intrigue, wealth and royalty. Lake history proves to raise a few eyebrows. For others, sitting back and staring is enough to be lulled into a meditative state as scenery rolls past—until the captain points to an eagle soaring nearby. Cap off cruising with an old fashioned buffet and a prime all-water view window seat, and this two and a half hour ride becomes complete mind, body and soul nourishment. Greens are fresh, fried chicken moist, ribs juicy and roast beef tender. Mashed potatoes and silky Nanaimo bars secure this as a “no counting calories” kind of meal! And it is 100% worth it. mskenora.com