Struck by wanderlust after reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novels, Joe Kowalski decided to kindle his own passion for adventure by exploring the uncharted rapids of the Ottawa River with a group of fellow college students. There they discovered a multi-channel paradise—the six-mile-wide river churned through dozens of islands, jutting rocks, secluded beaches, and gorgeous waterfalls, as well as calmer paddling runs. Their stories and videos attracted guests, spurring the loosely organized group to band together in 1975 to become Wilderness Tours. To date, they have guided more than one million people safely down the river.
Today, the guides spend most of their time on white water rafting day trips, pausing in their runs to lead body-surfing and cliff-jumping adventures at some of the river's calmer spots. A riverside lunch is also provided to refuel paddlers for the second half of their run.The main resort also makes use of the stunning topography and forests that surround the river during rock-climbing, bungee jumping, and mountain biking excursions. The Wilderness Tours Adventure Resort offers luxury accommodations alongside a restaurant and bar.
Hips start swiveling with grace at White Sands Golf Course & Practice Centre, where golfers hone their form at a nine-hole executive course, extensive practice facilities, and academy classes. On the 1,477-yard course designed by Graham Cooke, golfers can choose from three tee options and finish rounds in less than two hours. To gear up for the water hazards and serpentine sand bunkers that stud the fairways, players can sharpen their technique at the extensive White Sands practice facility. Here, 30 fibre mats and 42 grass tees await along the driving range, and players can work on their victory half smiles after chipping out of the practice sand trap onto a green.
White Sands Golf Course & Practice Centre is also the site of the Graham Gunn Golf Advantage School, whose head is a member of the European Senior Tour and spent a decade as head professional at the Carleton Golf & Yacht Club. Gunn teaches clinics and offers private coaching for students who don’t want to be overheard asking how long you have to sit on a golf ball before it hatches.
RiverRun Rafting & Wilderness Resort, a once humble 12-raft outfit, has grown into a 165-acre resort that accommodates all levels of outdoorsmen with a variety of lodgings. But whitewater rafting remains the focus of the resort, with guides leading trips ranging from high-adventure surges through foaming rapids to gentle floats down the Ottawa River's middle channel. And because the resort is located on a 4,000-foot stretch of shoreline, each trip ends on the resort's beaches, meaning that rafters get more time on the water since there isn't a second round of transport back to the resort.
River Run Rafting's staff of experts even pioneered a six-person sport raft dubbed the Ultimate Adventure Sports Raft, which is capable of turning back up river eddies, reentering rapids from the side, and suspending atop whitewater the way a surfer rides a wave. Upgrades are available for an additional cost.
After a three-year renovation by renowned course architects Graham Cooke and Stan Brigham, Gatineau Club de Golf unveiled a sleek new course layout in 2010. The site boasts championship-calibre credentials, including a total distance of more than 7,000 yards from the back tees and large bent-grass greens that punish poorly struck approaches with treacherous putts. Generous fairways reward precise bifurcation with excellent lies, but players guilty of errant drives will be pleasantly surprised to find plenty of room to make a bold go at the green. Water makes its omnipresence known as early as the 395-yard second hole, where players must tee off over a pond, negotiate with a creek that crosses the fairway 100 yards in front of the green, and avoid the water that buttresses the green to the left and rear. The 18th hole makes a 90-degree dogleg right around a massive reservoir and a pond stretching alongside the entire right length of the fairway, demanding the same precision as the moat around a driveway.
Bonnechere Caves give explorers a rarely seen glimpse into early days of the earth. Encased within the limestone walls lie fossils of coral and other marine life that are estimated to be between 400 and 500 million years old, predating both dinosaurs and the Walkman. Despite their advanced age, the caves were [unknown until 1955, when the subterranean channels of the Bonnechere River were cleared, revealing the ancient passageways carved out by eons of currents. Today, tour guides lead explorers of all ages into the caves' earthly halls, home to a sinkhole, a waterfall, and stalactites?rock icicles that form at a rate of 1 cubic inch per 150 years?all illuminated by electric lights. Occasionally, a snoozing bat makes an appearance or steps out to take in his trash cans. To heighten the experience, guides sometimes host special events such as fossil hunts, and visitors can also take advantage of the picnic grounds just outside the caves, as well as activities such as dining, golf, and museums in the surrounding area.
Dunnderosa Golf Club’s par 3 course lets golfers swing and putt their way through tree-dotted hills that look out on the scenery of nearby Gatineau Park. With greens that are reachable in one shot on every hole, the course invites players who are still seeking out their first hole-in-one or trying to arouse jealousy in their driver by spending more time with their short irons. Dunnderosa Golf Club also features Dunn-D’s mini-golf course, which wreathes around a central waterfall for 18 holes of tricky putts and scenic landscaping. Lined by brick rails and peppered with rocky obstacles, each hole presents geometric challenges, forcing players to carom balls around 180-degree turns and steer them through craggy outcrops before sweeping them into holes positioned on devious slopes. The mini-golf course’s front nine is designed to be accessible for players with reduced mobility, offering a competitive venue for clubbers of all ages and those intent upon playing with their shoes tied together.