These cozy glamping domes at Among the Trees, tucked away in the boreal forests of Birch Island just north of Manitoulin Island, were calling my name. Nestled in with nature with a luxury vibe, they have all the right things to make even me, escaping the hustle of the city for the first time in literal years, feel comfortable.
When my friend Brian, owner and operator of Stillwater Fishing & Tours, told me he was building new four-season luxury glamping domes on an island near his home in Northern Ontario, I pretty much invited myself. Luckily, he was happy to have me! I am a lifelong Toronto girl, and my partner hadn’t left the city since pre-you-know-what. We couldn’t even wait until summer to take a much-needed break from our busy city lives, heading up to Birch Island in June.
Luxury Forest Glamping for Adventurers
My partner and I stayed in the Maple House, the larger of two domes on the property. With 550 square feet of living space plus a huge deck, it was the perfect place to serve as a home base for our Northern Ontario adventure. Each morning we had steaming french press coffee on the private deck while listening to the birdsong. In the evenings we snuggled up in the incredibly cozy bed and were treated to a panoramic display of fireflies set against the darkening sky. When the sky finally went black we climbed up to the loft and lay down under the skylight to marvel at the brilliant display of stars above us.
The large dome also has a cozy living area, a kitchenette and breakfast bar, as well as a bathroom with running water and a super cool propane incinerating toilet. Each dome also comes with private outdoor showers as well as a sauna. Canoes and paddle boards are also available.
Exploring Manitoulin: Waterfalls, Hiking, and Heaven’s Gate
The glamping site Among the Trees is set on Birch Island, which is the territory of Whitefish River First Nation and is conveniently accessible by car. The domes overlook McGregor Bay, a picturesque archipelago of islands among the La Cloche Mountains which boast too many hiking trails to count. We went for a short hike in the Heaven’s Gate Nature Reserve, where we were greeted by a large deer laying in the forest just feet from the trail, and rewarded with incredible views from the top of the rocky peak.
I’d been fortunate to visit Manitoulin Island in 2022, touring a variety of Indigenous cultural experiences* that proved to be so transformative and memorable, that I knew I needed to come back. For this trip, we planned lots of time to explore Manitoulin Island right next door. A 35-minute drive took us to the famous Cup and Saucer Trail along Michigiwadinong (‘bluff in the shape of a spearhead’ in Anishinaabemowin), part of the Niagara Escarpment, offering magnificent views of the North Channel and Lake Manitou and taking hikers past the highest elevation point on the entire island. A 15-minute drive from the trailhead will get you to Kagawong where you can take in the Instagram-famous Bridal Veil Falls.
Authentic Indigenous Cultural Experiences: Powwows, Fry Bread, and Music
One highlight of our trip was a visit to Wikwemikong Unceded Territory. The largest of the many First Nation communities on Manitoulin Island offers many authentic Indigenous experiences for tourists including outdoor activities like canoeing and hiking, and guided educational and interpretive tours to learn about residential school and colonial history, as well as present-day realities of Indigenous life on Turtle Island.
We were so fortunate that our visit coincided with the Buzwah Traditional Powwow, held over a weekend in Thunderbird Park. Featuring a ton of vendors including lots of lemonade and fry bread taco options, visitors can eat, shop, marvel at the beautifully detailed regalia, and watch all the traditional dancers compete to live drumming and singing. The community is welcoming to all respectful visitors. We also made a stop at their newly opened gift shop on the way out for souvenirs! Check out more pow wows happening in the region and be sure to check out this visitor’s guide.
Explore Birch Island and Its Waterways Like a Local
Besides the authentic First Nations culture, and the nature and wildlife this area has to offer (we saw a turtle, sandhill cranes, turkey vultures, an eagle, a fisher, a toad, a porcupine and a black bear!!!), what really made the trip special was the hospitality extended to us by Brian and Kristen, Brian’s wife.
Brian is a lifelong resident of Birch Island and a member of Whitefish River FN—his knowledge of the area is unparalleled. Prior to building Among the Trees alongside Kristen with their own four hands, he ran and continues to run Stillwater Fishing & Tours. As a guest of the glamping domes you’d be remiss not to have Brian take you out in his boat, for a tour on the water, a hike, or fishing if that’s your thing! There’s nothing like being shown the beauty and spirit of a destination by someone with passion for the place they call home.
To plan your own glamping adventure and be one of the first visitors to Among the Trees, use the booking feature below.
For questions or more information call (519) 369-4391 or email [email protected] and get ready to enjoy your own glamping adventure in Northern Ontario!
*My previous trip was with the Indigenous Tourism Ontario team in June 2022 and partially inspired this itinerary.