With our new Only in Ontario feature, we’ll be taking a look at some of this province’s best edible adventures, Canadian Signature Experience members and Feast ON designees. Located in the heart of Algonquin Park, Northern Edge Algonquin offers its guests a truly unique outdoor experience.
Purchased by the Lucier family in the early 1990s, Northern Edge Algonquin began life as a cottage before the family started inviting school groups to the property for Outdoor Recreation programs. A few years later, a stroke of good fortune brought former mason Gregor Waters to the cottage to install new stone floors. Gregor quickly fell in love with the property and impressed the Luciers with his hearty, rustic meals. When the family made the leap to offering outdoor experiences to the public a few years later, Gregor donned a Chef’s hat (more of a toque really) and took up residence preparing and serving guests his beautiful back country meals.
Today, Northern Edge Algonquin is a multi-faceted business specializing in experiential tourism. Visitors interested in going to the Edge can choose from a variety of activities, including canoe trips into Algonquin Park, yoga retreats, wildlife safaris and “Trails, Tales and Ales” – a 3 or 4 day autumnal adventure that has been recognized by the Canadian Tourism Commission as a Canadian Signature Experience. Two of the most popular programs at the Edge are the year-round Explorers’ Cabin program, which includes biking and hiking; and Quest for Balance, which pairs yoga with stand up paddle-boarding and sea kayaking lessons.
With such a large selection of experiences (each with their own level of intensity) on offer, it’s no surprise that the Lucier family welcomes a diverse consumer base interested in sustainable adventure travel. (Sidenote: Not sure what type of adventure you’re suited to? They’ve got a quiz for that). Through the CTC program, TripAdvisor and other social review sites, Northern Edge has gained exposure in international markets. Coordinator Tim Lucier estimates that 70% of Edge visitors come from the GTA, with the other 30% travelling from around the world.
Delivering a truly unique, authentic experience is something Northern Edge Algonquin prides itself on. To achieve this, the Lucier family works with local tour guides, educating them to provide a great customer experience and to share the invigorating Edge spirit with guests. Tim Lucier describes it thusly: “We want our guests to feel like they are visiting the home of a friend. We spend a great deal of time making sure our guides have all the tools to facilitate this feeling.”
Partnerships, such as the one Northern Edge has with local tour operators, is one of the hallmarks of any tourism Best Practice. They haven’t stopped there though, the Edge also works with local craft brewery Highlander Brew Co., a yoga studio, and Sugar Dogs, a nearby dog-sledding company. These partnerships have allowed Northern Edge to expand their offerings, leverage additional audiences and foster a sense of community that is immediately evident to their guests.
In the kitchen, Chef Gregor sources from local farmers and producers to ensure he is showcasing a seasonal, regional bounty on each plate. He has also struck up a relationship with Near North Locavores to put on an annual 100km dinner in South River. Psst…did you know Northern Edge is a Feast ON designee?
As the Edge enters its impressive twentieth year of operation, the Luciers are finding that providing these delicious “tastes of place” are becoming a huge draw:
“Eating local food is becoming more important to people – they are starting to look for that in the experiences they choose.”
Chef Gregor’s passion for local food makes it a safe bet that you’ll enjoy a great meal when you head for Algonquin Park. And you’ll need one – the Edge’s rugged experiences are guaranteed to work up an appetite. We’re fans of their dog-sledding adventures (see above), but they’ve got plenty of cold-weather activities on offer too. While it’s tempting to put on long johns and hide under the covers with Netflix until spring hits, Northern Edge makes some pretty compelling arguments to get outside and enjoy the season.
Find your perfect “Only in Ontario” experience and embrace the incredible, edible outdoors this winter!
Originally published as part of the Only in Ontario series on OntarioCulinary.com