In the early days of Ontario, when the pressures of modern town and city life became too much, citizens were often recommended the “rest cure in a canoe.” Going north, camping, canoeing, sleeping in nature— these activities were seen as therapeutic and necessary in order for the urban dweller to maintain their sanity. Which is why Ojibway Family Lodge, on Devil’s Island in picturesque Lake Temagami, has been welcoming visitors looking to get away from it all since 1904. With limited electricity and no cell phone service, the lodge has become a destination for people all over the world looking to commune with nature. “We encourage our guests to unplug and enjoy where we are — which is spectacular,” says manager Tanya McCubbin. We chatted with Tanya about the lodge and what’s kept people coming back, year after year, for 93 years.
Ojibway Family Lodge is set amidst a fifty-acre island paradise full of cedar and pine trees and accessible only by boat or float plane. With room for 55 visitors in a variety of accommodations including (electricity-free) cabins with indoor facilities, sleep cabins, tents, and guest rooms at the main lodge, the Lodge caters to many kinds of tourists on a variety of budgets. The majority of guests are repeat vacationers from the U.S, with plenty of European visitors from Spain, England, and France, and a host of Canadians as well. “We have many long-term guests who feel very invested and protective of Ojibway,” says Tanya. “Which you might think would lead to them excluding new guests, but it has had quite the opposite effect.” Once people have discovered the Lodge, she says, they can’t wait to share it with others. “I love meeting new people and our long-term guests have become like family.” Ojibway Family Lodge also shares the island with the Keewaydin Canoe Camp (what may be the first and oldest summer camp in the nation). In fact, the lodge got its start as a spot for families to vacation while their kids attended camp—a tradition that continues today. Both properties are owned by the non-profit Keewaydin Foundation.
Originally from North Bay, Tanya has been a part of the Ojibway Lodge operations since 1995. After graduating from the culinary arts program at Canadore College, she began work as a second cook at Keewaydin, returning years later as head cook and food manager, finally taking over management operations in 2012. She recalls her first summer on the island when a mainland forest fire on Devil’s Mountain was growing out of control. “We watched the water bombers picking up water in front of us,” she says. Not a whole lot has changed from those days. Swimming, fishing, berry picking, canoeing, paddle boarding, and hiking still await every Ojibway guest—just as they did almost a century ago.
Tanya’s culinary background is evident in the Lodge’s impressive, locally-sourced restaurant offerings. The lodge incorporates local eggs, chicken, lamb, honey, and cheese into its daily menu as well as making its own jam. The maple syrup is sourced from a former staff member. In the summer, the lodge restaurant hosts themed dinners that attract locals in addition to lodge guests. “Apparently bananas are a favorite food of raccoons,” she says. Just one of the many things she’s learned (the hard way) over her years at Ojibway.
This year the Lodge boasts newly installed solar panels atop the dining room. A former staff member, now working for RESCo Energy in Toronto, suggested a move to solar power to replace the diesel generator on its last legs. The kitchen, store, and office are now solar powered, with a backup generator on call if needed.
Today, in a connected world unimaginable to our ancestors, taking nature’s “rest cure” is even more important for us to remember. For anyone looking to experience a true Northern getaway, make some unforgettable memories, and unplug and decompress, Ojibway Family Lodge is a great place to start.