Many of us are city people at heart. We like being close to all of the action, feeling cosmopolitan, living in a cool apartment, and being within walking distance of anything and everything we need. Yet despite our love for the urban lifestyle, we often still crave an escape from the city to spend time under the sun, be out in nature, and breathe in the fresh air.

Lucky for Greater Toronto Area residents (or ambitious visitors!), these escapes are possible and right in The Big Smoke’s backyard. Travel just over an hour to reach Burlington, Ontario, where you can yourself as you explore the surrounding Hamilton-Halton-Brant region for a weekend.

Your Experience Canoeing The Grand River

Grand Experience Voyageur Canoe

Voyage Into Paradise offers an easy weekend getaway from the hustle and bustle of Toronto. It includes a stay at a luxurious hotel, gourmet meals, First Nation storytelling, and guided Voyageur canoe tours.

Get Started With Canoeing The Grand River

Grand Experience Voyageur Canoe

Your first canoe journey begins in the cute town of Paris, Ontario with Grand Experiences. Headed by owner Jamie Kent, his company offers canoeing, kayaking, hiking, and cycling adventures in the area.

The first day of your Voyage Into Paradise experience will have you jumping into one of these Voyageur canoes, where you and a small group will be transported 15 kilometers down the beautiful Grand River. Before heading out, you’ll be given a life jacket and brief instructions about handling yourself on the boat.

My tips? Wear a hat and apply sunscreen to any exposed skin. Reapply frequently. Stay hydrated and bring along a bottle of water.

What It’s Like Canoeing The Grand River

Grand Experience Voyageur Canoe

Expect your arms to get a workout as you spend the morning and afternoon paddling along the gentle flow of the river. I’ll be honest, I did not do as much paddling as others on my boat. I got to play the “photographer card” and spent my day snapping photos for this blog post.

Like me, you’ll be thankful that Jamie and his friendly staff are manning the boats, expertly steering us through the shallow and rocky water, shouting out instructions, and from time to time even having to use brute strength to pull us back into deeper parts. Not only that, they tell you all about the history of the area as you traverse the river, as well as point out different types of wildlife you see along the way.

Being back out in nature felt fantastic. The pretty southwestern Ontario landscape, where I grew up, tugged at my heartstrings. Since moving home to Toronto after having lived in Berlin, I’d been back to Europe on multiple occasions, taking in more exotic destinations like Iceland or Italy. It was nice to explore my “home and native” land for once. It was relaxing, wholesome, and most of all fun!

We passed by others who were spending the day kayaking, doing self-guided tours with family and friends (which can easily be booked through Grand Experiences).

Grand Experience Voyageur Canoe

Lucky for us, we also had several wildlife sightings. We spotted blue herons, turtles, bald eagles, ducks, turkey vultures, and these adorable Canadian geese with their (Ryan) goslings. 😊

Stopping For Lunch At The Brant Conservation Area

By early afternoon, we’d worked up quite the appetite. We stopped at the Brant Conservation Area where we had an aboriginal-themed lunch of salmon, bison, vegetables, wild rice, and crepes in this extremely lovely setting. The bison was cooked to perfection; it called for a second helping!

After getting some rest, reapplying sunscreen (you’ll need a lot), and fueling up on food and water, it was time to get back on the Grand River.

Making Our Way To Turtle Island

Grand Experience Voyageur Canoe

Our final destination was Turtle Island, where we were treated to Six Nations storytelling. Dressed in traditional hand-sewn attire, they regaled us with stories, song, and dance.

Grand Experience Voyageur Canoe

Afterward, we made our way back to the Brant Conservation Area where our canoeing experience ended for the day.

On Sunday, we made our way to the Royal Botanical Gardens to canoe through the marshes at Cootes Paradise. Read more about day 2 here.

Good to Know About Canoeing The Grand River

1) Visit Grand Experiences to secure a booking now. Accommodation, meals, and transportation are included in the cost, which was $449 Canadian per person (at the time of publication).

2) You’ll likely stay at the Waterfront Hotel in downtown Burlington. Breakfast is included each day.

3) Check out other accommodation options in Burlington.

4) On Friday night, I ate dinner at the Beaver & Bulldog located within the hotel itself. Once the restaurant closes, it turns into a happening hot spot for locals. Seemed to cater to a mature crowd. On Saturday, we had dinner at the Water Street Cooker.

5) If you’re looking into other local activities while in and around Toronto, book a tour.

6) If you like traveling through North America, check out some of my related content.

* DisclosureMy Voyage Into Paradise experience was complimentary. Any opinions expressed about my love of canoeing through the Canadian wilderness are entirely my own. This post also contains some affiliate links. If you book a tour or hotel through any of these links, I’ll earn a tiny commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support!