Located near the Ontario/Manitoba border, Kenora is often seen as a quick stopover on a longer road trip to visit Winnipeg, Manitoba. But we quickly learned that it had so much more to offer than that! With a beautiful lakefront view, beaches, hiking trails, and boating, Kenora is an ideal getaway for anyone who enjoys spending time outdoors.
It also holds a lot of historical importance. Kenora, Ontario, offers many opportunities to learn about the indigenous people who initially settled here, as well as both the French and British settlers who each called the location home at one time. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing getaway, reconnecting with nature, or interested in enjoying the many things to do in Kenora each season, we’ve got you covered! In this guide, we’ll share our recommendations for places to stay, incredible places to eat, and attractions you don’t want to miss during your visit.
History of Kenora, Ontario
- Initially, this was the territory of the Ojibway people.
- Settlers first named the location Rat Portage (Portage-aux-Rats), taken from the Ojibwe name Wazhashk-Onigam, roughly translating to “Country of the Muskrats.”
- It served as a French trading post until the area was lost to the British in the Seven Years’ War.
- Gold was discovered in the area in 1850, starting a local gold boom. At one point, as many as 20 gold mines operated within 24 km of the fort.
- It was renamed to Kenora in 1905 by combining letters from its name with those of nearby towns Keewatin and Norman.
- An ongoing boundary dispute had the provinces of Manitoba and Ontario fighting to claim the area until it was officially named part of the province of Ontario in 1889.
- It served as a popular smuggler’s route during the Prohibition era.
Directions to Kenora, Ontario
The trip to Kenora from Toronto can be driven, but prepare for a drive that would be nearly 20 hours long without stops. To do this, you would take ON-400 N to the Trans-Canada Hwy/ON-69 N before taking the ramp onto Trans-Canada Hwy/ON-17W. If your schedule allows, there are many great places to stop to break up your trip including Barrie, Parry Sound, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, and Thunder Bay.
Public transit is available, allowing you to take a bus or train. Ontario Northland bus lines will take you directly into Kenora. However, you must transfer in Sudbury, Sault Ste Marie, and Thunder Bay. You can see the Kenora bus schedule on their website. The trip will take approximately 30 hours and cost $575 or more for a roundtrip ticket, depending on ticket type and baggage.
VIA Rail doesn’t travel directly into Kenora, but it does stop in nearby Redditt. The trip is estimated to last 1 day and 6 ½ hours at a cost of approximately $220 for Economy or $700 for Sleeper Plus Class. From Redditt, you will then take a 30-minute taxi ride to Kenora.
For flights, you could travel from Toronto to Winnipeg. WestJet runs a direct flight that will take 2 ½ hours one way. A roundtrip ticket will cost approximately $840, including taxes, depending on when you book and any additional luggage costs. You would then have to consider transportation from Winnipeg back to Kenora.
Accommodations in Kenora, Ontario
One of the first considerations for many when booking a hotel is where to rest their head. Your hotel is often a “home base” for exploring, so you want to ensure you’ll be comfortable! Here are three options in and around the Kenora area. Alternatively, there are many Airbnb options and cabin rentals in Kenora to explore if you would prefer to book an entire cabin or house for your stay.
Clarion Lakeside Inn and Conference Centre
470 1st Ave S
The Clarion Lakeside Inn and Conference Centre was long considered one of the best hotels in Kenora until a major fire shut it down in January 2020. After a complete interior overhaul, the hotel portion of the building has officially reopened, with the restaurant and event spaces to follow in the spring/summer of 2024. The rooms are comfortable with the option of a stunning lake view.
Nature’s Inn Kenora
1505 Erie St, Keewatin
We stayed at the Nature’s Inn on our last trip to the area. This family-founded brand is dedicated to offering a “home away from home,” and we could feel precisely that during our stay. The rooms were clean and comfortable, and the staff was incredibly friendly. In addition to the nice rooms and suites, at one end of the building, you will find a cozy community patio with a BBQ available to all guests.
805 Hwy 17 W
Another example of the cozy accommodations Kenora offers is the Timberland Inn, which is a short walk from Keewatin Beach (which we will discuss later) and other popular local attractions. The vibe here is very “rustic cabin” with timber-frame construction and wood accents. Located near the water, you can enjoy the surrounding nature with access to a patio and garden area. As an added perk, you can order dinner from the adjoining Chinese food restaurant to be delivered directly to your room.
Best Restaurants in Kenora
There are many incredible restaurants in Kenora to explore, offering a wide range of different flavours, types of food, and tasty beverages to enjoy during your visit. Here are a few of the restaurants and breweries that we recommend from our last trip:
310 Matheson Street South
Located directly on the water, The Boathouse offers a delicious menu and a stunning lakefront view. You can stop in for a signature burger, sandwich or wrap for lunch, or enjoy one of the mouthwatering options on their dinner menu after 4:30 pm, such as the Maple Glazed Salmon dinner or Dockside Sirloin Blue Cheese. They have both vegetarian and gluten-free options available.
Cottage Time Public House
129 Bernier Drive
The area’s largest outdoor patio, Cottage Time, offers an incredible mix of Indigenous and Canadian-inspired food and drinks. This relatively new addition to the restaurant scene in Kenora was established in June 2022. The name was inspired by Canadian Rock and the music of the late Gord Downie (The Tragically Hip). Enjoy a delicious homecooked-style breakfast, or stop in later for a standard Bacon Cheeseburger or Pulled Bison Tacos.
206 2nd Street South
This family-owned Greek restaurant was first established in 1982, focusing on bringing quality and delicious food to the area. Dino’s Restaurant has a lunch and dinner menu, as well as a special menu for seniors. If you have dietary concerns, they can work with you to meet your needs. However, they do ask that you contact them to discuss any specific accommodations in advance.
HoJoe Coffee & Eatery
103 Main Street South
Of course, no road trip is complete without coffee! Whether you’re searching for a simple caffeine fix or a fancy coffee experience, HoJoe Coffee & Eatery has you covered. They have an extensive list of flavoured syrups and premium coffee or tea drinks for you to enjoy. Pair your drink with a tasty treat from their long list of baked goods, or make it a meal with a soup, salad, panini, wrap, or breakfast item.
Lake of the Woods Brewing Company
350 Second Street South
A significant piece of Kenora’s history, Lake of the Woods Brewing Company originally opened its doors in 1898. While they closed briefly during prohibition, it didn’t stop this popular Kenora brewery from returning to the community in 1954. If you’re interested in the history, book a brewery tour. Or just stop in to enjoy a cold beer and a bite to eat off their pub-inspired menu featuring wood-fired pizza.
Sweet, Lake of the Woods
712 Lakeview Drive
Do you have a sweet tooth? If so, you need to check out Sweet, Lake of the Woods while visiting Kenora. Here, you will find an assortment of delicious, sweet treats, including truffles, chocolates, and seasonal goodies. Grab a special dessert, a late-night sweet treat, or snacks for the drive home.
The Vault Social House
154 Main Street South
With a warm, welcoming environment, a delicious menu of pub-style food and an assortment of cold beer on tap, The Vault Social House has everything you need for an evening out with friends or family. Depending on when you plan to visit, you may be able to belt a tune for karaoke or show off your knowledge on trivia night. Make sure to ask about their daily special before ordering.
Things To Do In Kenora
Now that you have a comfortable place to spend the night and all your meals have been accounted for, it’s time to fill your schedule with the many Kenora attractions and events available. The area offers plenty to do regardless of your interest levels, including learning about the area’s history, shopping, hiking, or kicking back in the sand for an afternoon at the beach. There really is something for everyone!
History, Culture, and Other Attractions
With such powerful historical significance in the area, it’s no wonder that there are many opportunities to learn about Kenora’s past while also celebrating the culture and community that allow the city to flourish today. Here are a few popular Kenora activities to explore:
City of Kenora – City Hall
1 Main Street South
This historic building once served as the area’s post office. Today, it is carefully maintained with pride and functions as City Hall. Its beautiful architecture makes it a popular photo stop for those visiting the area. But be warned, the clock at the top of the tower is often incorrect – so don’t set your watch by it!
Husky the Muskie
This 40-foot-tall sculpture of a muskellunge (otherwise known as a muskie) was first constructed in McLeod Park in 1967 as part of the Canadian Centennial. It quickly attracted attention from across the country due to its size and, before long, was referred to by locals as the city mascot. Its name resulted from a public naming competition submitted by winner Bill Brabooke.
If you’re planning to come to Kenora during the month of August, Harbourfest is a long-standing summer tradition in the area. The largest music festival in Northwestern Ontario, it brings together both famous and up-and-coming musicians, along with great food and drinks, a classic car show, and more. It’s a family-friendly event with a little something for everyone to enjoy.
Jarnel Contracting Pavilion
Located on the Kenora Harbourfront, the Jarnel Contracting Pavilion is home to many local events, including Harbourfest, fishing tournaments, farmers’ markets, and live entertainment. Even if there isn’t an event during your visit, the pavilion’s unique architecture and stunning waterfront views are worth the visit.
Lake of the Woods Discovery Centre
931 Lakeview Dr
Home of Tourism Kenora, this is the ideal place to kick off your visit to the city. Here, you can learn about the latest attractions and events from those who have their thumb on the pulse of Kenora activities. It’s also home to seasonal and educational displays, including North America’s largest outboard motor collection, art displays, a freshwater fish exhibit, nautical knot-tying lessons, and the Discovery Forest, an interpretive walk where you will learn about the local tree species and how they were used by Indigenous communities in the area.
Lake of the Woods Railroader’s Museum
Lakeview Drive & Norman Drive
The city of Kenora played an essential role in the history of railroading in Canada, serving as a key stop along the Canadian Pacific Railway in the early 1900s. At the Lake of the Woods Railroader’s Museum, you can learn about this history, see railroad memorabilia through the years, and enjoy a creative model railroad with multiple trains.
The Muse – Lake of the Woods Museum & Douglass Family Art Centre
224 & 300 Main Street South
Another excellent opportunity to learn about Kenora’s history, The Muse is comprised of two popular Kenora attractions dedicated to sharing the area’s history, culture, and art – the Lake of the Woods Museum and the Douglass Family Art Centre.
The Lake of the Woods Museum, founded in 1964, is home to displays, artifacts, and photographs illustrating the history of the City of Kenora from the Indigenous peoples who first inhabited the area to modern times.
The Douglass Family Art Centre allows you to enjoy the area’s vibrant arts scene, including work by local artists, Indigenous artists, and aspiring artists. In addition to the art display, they host programming dedicated to inspiring a love of the arts for all ages, such as art classes for kids, teens, and adults. Check the event schedule on their website to see if something is scheduled during your visit to the area.
Redditt Bottle House
Created by reusing glass bottles, this is a small “village,” including tiny houses and windmills built from 1973 to 1979 by Hank Deverell for his wife, Myrtle. The Redditt Bottle House and other structures are made from 25,000 bottles and 1700 pounds of mortar and then furnished with dolls to create a fun and whimsical display. There is even a glass bottle wishing well. You won’t see anything like it anywhere else, making exploring it a fun stop. It’s amazing what can be made with these recycled materials and some imagination.
Are you hoping to do some shopping during your visit to the City of Kenora? The area has some fun, unique, and one-of-a-kind small businesses. Here, you will find fun gifts for family/friends as well as a little something special for yourself!
Boreal Paddle + Apparel
339 2nd Street South
This store is the perfect place to grab all your gear for Kenora camping, hiking, paddling, or spending time at the beach. They have curated various products and brands, all dedicated to encouraging a lifestyle of outdoor exploration and respecting the environment. While you can shop many products on their website, we recommend visiting the brick-and-mortar store to take it all in first-hand.
The Hardwear Company
106 Main Street South
Another store that will help you find all the gear you need for your favourite outdoor activities is The Hardwear Company, dedicated to biking, skiing, and paddle sports. In addition to carrying quality equipment, they have a bike shop with experienced mechanics to help keep you up and moving, whatever you enjoy most.
137 Main Street South
This artisanal clothing and gift store is dedicated to bringing together products and brands that support fair wages and sustainable practices. At Sure Thing, you’ll find one-of-a-kind clothing, hats, purses, home décor, and more. We were impressed by the wide selection.
Turtle Beach Clothing
152 Main Street South
Initially founded in 1985, Turtle Beach Clothing is dedicated to protecting the environment, specifically preserving the local waterways. That is why a portion of the proceeds from each sale is donated to local charities with that exact mission in mind. For example, their Save Our Lakes Line supports the Lake of the Woods District Stewardship Association. It’s a great way to give back to this beautiful area and help maintain it for future generations.
Beaches, Parks, Nature, Boat Tours, and More
If you enjoy spending time outdoors, there are many parks, hiking trails, and beaches in Kenora to explore. Here are a few of our favourite options:
Miikana Way & Golf Course Rd
A great option for those interested in camping in Kenora, Anicinable RV Park and Campground offers full-service trailer sites, partial-service trailer sites, and tent sites. There are also several Boler and Beachcomber trailers that you can rent; just bring your own bedding and camping equipment. There are also boat docks and a beach to enjoy during your stay.
10th Street, Keewatin
This public park is a nice place to spend the afternoon. It features a picnic area, bandstand, and cenotaph. There are also beautiful flower gardens that offer a perfect photo backdrop. While there are no docks in the park itself, it is very close to the boat launch at Portage Bay.
Garrow Park Beach
Another park, found at the end of Birchwood Crescent on Rabbit Lake, Garrow Park, offers many fun activities, including outdoor exercise stations, a picnic area, the Rabbit Lake Trail, pickleball courts, a play structure for the kids, and, of course, the beach. It’s a great place to spend the day if you’re travelling with the whole family.
Mosswood Adventures & Rentals, found at the park, offers a variety of rental options, including water bikes, kayaks, paddle boards, and pedal boats in the summer. During the winter months, mobile ice bikes are also available.
Norman Beach and Park
Another sandy beach in the Kenora area, Norman Beach and Park is a great family-friendly stop. The Kenora Rotary Splash is a perfect place for young children on a hot day, while Hoopla Island, an aquatic sports park, offers older children (6+) and adults a climbing wall, swing, trampoline, jumps, and slides out on the water. When you’re finished, grab a snack at the Dairy Queen or visit the Lake of the Woods Railroaders Museum.
Coney Island Beach
If you’re interested in spending an afternoon at one of the beautiful Kenora beaches, Coney Island is well worth the trip. The beach is only accessible by boat. However, you can take the Coney Island Shuttle Service for $10 per person for a round trip. Children 3 and under ride free. For those who prefer paddle sports, rental kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards are available.
Beach Road, Keewatin
Located in Keewatin, this is a smaller beach but still well worth the visit. Docks are available for short-term boat docking and as a place to dive off. A playground at the park is perfect for younger children. Change rooms and public restrooms are available.
6th Street, Keewatin
Formed by erosion due to glacial ice, the Keewatin Rock-Holes are four cylindrical holes in the bedrock ranging from thirty inches to several feet in diameter. They appear to be man-made at first glance due to their smooth and uniform shape as if they had been drilled into the stone. A plaque near the holes explains their formation in detail for those interested.
Mink Bay Wetland Trail
1823 Trans-Canada Hwy
For those who enjoy hiking, the Mink Bay Trail is a beautiful trail system that winds through provincially designated wetlands. There are just over four kilometres of trails ranked as easy or moderate in difficulty, including trails suitable for hiking and mountain biking. In the winter, the trails are available for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Here, you will enjoy beautiful views of grassy wetlands and peaceful forests.
M.S. Kenora Cruise Boat
This daily cruise is a fun way to explore the Kenora area and see the many sights in the Lake of the Woods area. The M.S. Kenora cruise runs for approximately 2 to 2 ¼ hours, showcasing Coney Island Beach and beautiful private waterfront homes. If you’re lucky, you’ll also catch some of the local wildlife in its natural habitat. Brunch, lunch, and dinner cruises are available with a delicious premium menu.
If your trip to Kenora has been planned to celebrate a special event or occasion, the M.S. Kenora can also be booked as a venue for weddings, birthdays, reunions, and more.
Enjoy the Many Things to Do in Kenora, Ontario
Whether you’re looking for a fascinating weekend, learning the history of the Kenora area, from the original Indigenous peoples in the area to the modern developments or an adventurous vacation hiking and exploring the natural beauty of our province, Kenora is the perfect getaway.
Grab a bite to eat at one of the many incredible restaurants or tour a local brewery. At the end of the day, kick back and watch the sunset over the lake for a memory you’ll never forget.