So basically I needed to get out.
It had been three months of basically complete social isolation beyond Zoom meetings and vaccine clinics and I needed to get out of this tiny town. Also, Ontario had been in Step 1 of re-opening for a couple weeks and I was starting to lose my mind with the FOMO of seeing my friends in Southern Ontario out at patios and starting to hang out again.
The closest cute little town to Sioux Lookout is Kenora, although it feels funny to refer to it as a little town when it’s the second biggest town in the northwest. It was sold to me as “the Muskoka of Winnipeg”. If you’re not from Ontario you probably aren’t familiar with Muskoka, but it’s the summer destination for the upper-middle class to wealthy (depending on the exact lake) of the Toronto area. I had also started following a few really cute shops on Instagram and was really hankering to visit them and drop some cash.
Now I say drop some cash, but I was trying to be as cheap as possible with the actual trip and the AirBNB situation is interesting. It seems to be mostly various camps, which would be super cute for a couples or girls trip, but I don’t love the idea of camping alone, even in a cabin or adorable trailer by myself just didn’t seem the safest or wisest. Also I like sleeping places with showers. I can appreciate camping, but I like showering. The hotels in town aren’t great, there does seem to be a better one, the Clarion, but it caught fire a couple years ago and appears to still be under reservation. The construction didn’t look active, but they could have been taking the weekend off, so I can’t say for sure. It definitely looks the best though, it’s right on the water, has a nice looking restaurant, and boat docks so that you can boat right up to it.
The boat docks all along the town was one of the cutest things, it made me feel like I was in a television town (i.e. my recent viewing of Dawson’s Creek), because you could boat around every where and people clearly did. It was super cute. You could also rent houseboats, which seemed like a super great idea, but they were really big, like 16 people and could only be rented for a week at a time.
I didn’t take any pictures of the drive but it was absolutely stunning. There was a surprising patch of farmland out the other side of Dryden, it kind of looked like down around Stratford, Ontario area a bit. Then it turned back into classic Canadian shield landscape, trees and rocks and water, but absolutely gorgeous. There were a lot of semi trucks on the road so I didn’t pull off to take pictures, but it was absolutely stunning. It’s about a 2.5 hour drive there, so it’s not bad for a weekend trip.
To be honest, I thought there would be more there. I know that COVID has been rough on businesses, especially up here, where most tourism is from Americans, but this didn’t look like just COVID. It seemed like it had been on a downturn for a bit and was now starting to come up again. There are a few new shops that are really cute and Lake of the Woods Brewery has become very successful. A lot of tourism up here seems to be very fishing/hunting based and some of them barely even come into town, I think that is the reason why Sioux Lookout is the way it is, there’s a ton of tourism in the area, but it’s not the visit cute towns kind of tourism. It’s experience the woods, kill some animals kind of tourism.
Anyways, once I got there I went to Shoppers Drug Mart. Such a vacation move lol, but it was honestly kind of thrilling. It was the first time I had been in one since probably November? December? I kind of blacked out and lost my mind in the skin care aisle. It also helped me get my bearings, figure out where to park, and where some of the stores I had followed on Instagram were.
My first stop was a bookstore, it ended up being a used bookstore/antiques store/art gallery with the sweetest old man at the counter. We probably talked for about half an hour – it was the most not-work-related human contact I had in weeks, it was glorious. The store was also massive, there were 4 small rooms of antiques and art and then three massive rooms at the back of used books. You could have spent days wandering through and looking at all the books. Also, because all the books were used it ended up being far less expensive than it would have been if I had placed the Indigo order I have in my cart (which I am still tempted to do lol).
Then I wandered up and down the street and that is when I realized that there wasn’t as much to Kenora as I originally thought. There was a really cool water sports shop, it had stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, and then like surf and skate brands of clothing. It was definitely the biggest shop on the street and clearly one of the busiest, it was pretty picked over. I was very tempted to buy a stand-up paddleboard, but then I remembered that I don’t have a great centre of balance.
My next stop was the store I had really come for Clay Moon and Co. It is so cute and their Instagram is so appealing. The owner is also super cool and suddenly inspiring me to reconsider whether I can’t have the store I dream about and continue to have a health care job. She is a mental health professional full time, open Friday and Saturday, and then takes Sundays off. So cool.
I had so much fun there and could have spent so much money. It was also nice because I had been looking at buying more of the True Earth laundry strips after running out but the shipping was expensive. I had also been looking at the big claw clips after being influenced by Julia Berolzherimer, but hers were from Amazon and I didn’t really want to buy something non-essential from Amazon. I have also been wanting brass candlesticks for my kitchen table and while not exactly what I had in mind I love this one, and it’s a lot easier to move off the table when I’m eating than the dozen or so I had pictured in my head. Also I’m starting to wonder if I have a candlestick problem, can you have too many? Is 5 too many?
There were also a couple cute clothing stores on the street, but I was feeling very hot, sweaty, and sticky and did not want to try on clothes. So I went and got lunch at the Lake of the Woods Brewing Company. It was so good. I’m not typically a beer drinker, but it was so nice to sit on a patio with with a flight and a pizza and people-watch and read one of my new books.
Then I pulled the ultimate vacation move. I went back to my hotel and took a 3 hour nap. It was the best. I think I may have had a little bit of heat stroke but it was one of those sun naps, like after a day at the beach.
Then in the next move of the ultimate vacation game, I went to eat again. I went to this place called The Boathouse, it’s the only restaurant on the water, and it is definitely THE spot in Kenora, during normal times I bet it turns into a bar around 9-9:30, it was bumpin’. There was live music and it seemed like everyone under the age of 35 from Northwestern Ontario was there. They sat me around the side, where it was quieter and there were only two-tops and I sat with my book and was able to watch the fun. I am fine going out to eat by myself, but going to a bar by myself is way beyond my comfort zone. So I left around 9pm, but if I ever to get to go back with friends in the after times, it will be a lot of fun.
I then went back to my hotel and watched TLC and then went to sleep and slept for nearly 12 hours. It was glorious, and I have to admit that I laughed at myself typing that, it’s so lame and I’m so okay with it. The only thing that could have made it lamer would be if I had taken my needlepoint with me.
The next morning I took myself to breakfast at The Hungry Pug and I didn’t take any pictures of it. It was really good and I texted my college best friend about it because she is dog and pug obsessed and now she has to come visit!
Overall, Kenora wasn’t exactly what I expected it to be. But I think if you rented a cottage with a bunch of friends for a long weekend and coming into town was a side activity not the main activity you would have a great time. Also, slightly better weather. The drive back was slightly terrifying the rain was coming down so hard. But I will definitely be back, especially because it’s the closest branch of my bank and I can’t stop thinking about this little green bamboo table in the bookstore.
It was honestly the perfect first weekend and outing for a new area and in a hopefully forever post-lockdown world.
If you’ve travelled in Northwestern Ontario I would love to hear your destinations and tips, my next destination will either be Thunder Bay or Winnipeg depending on how COVID goes.