Cottage Guide

The Social Cottager | Find your sense of ‘shanti’ on Wolfe Island

Don’t own your own getaway? No matter! Our 4-part series explores unique retreats, be that sipping a fine vintage, doing battle with zombie hordes, seeking nirvana or something deep in the woods. 


Located at the mouth of the entrance to the St. Lawrence River, the Shanti Retreat on Wolfe Island is just minutes from Kingston but feels worlds away from civilization

Shanti Retreat, Wolfe Island

Set your watch to island time. With hammocks swinging lazily between the willows and a Balinese-style thatched hut perched above placid Brown’s Bay, Shanti Retreat (shantiretreat.ca) is an oasis of serenity. That’s exactly the way hosts Darin and Wendy Madore intended it — shanti is the Sanskrit word for “peacefulness.” Wolfe Island is located at the mouth of the entrance to the St. Lawrence River just minutes from Kingston, making the retreat easy to reach via the Wolfe Islander Ferry. The free ferry leaves Kingston pretty much hourly from 6:15 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Veg out. Vegetarian buffet meals offer up healthful whole grains, local organic eggs, and greens from the on-site gardens. Sunday brunch zeroes in on all things local, seasonal, and organic, and with a week’s notice, the retreat can cater to vegan and gluten-free diners, as well as those with minor food allergies.

Practice Yoga. Or Don’t. Shanti Retreat takes pride in ensuring that its “yoga yurt” — a tent-like structure built in the style of the nomads of the Mongolian steppe — is a welcoming environment for yoga newbies. With a no-pressure approach to learning, guests can participate in as many yoga sessions — or as few — as they choose.

Slack off. Sure, Shanti Retreat offers typical cottage stuff, such as swimming, canoeing, and bouncing on the water trampoline, but it breaks the mould with its labyrinth meditation garden and a slackline on which yogis can take that core strength they’ve been working on for a test drive.

Dance your cares away. Conscious Dance sessions seek to shift brain-wave patterns by using music, movement, and breath to attain an insightful alpha state that allows participants to alter reality at will. Sound a little flaky? Well, you probably don’t travel with your dancing shoes anyway.

Rub it in, why don’t you?  Try a Thai yoga massage from host Darin. With roots in Ayurvedic medicine and Buddhist spiritual practice, these fully clothed massages apply pressure along the body’s energy lines and pressure points to enable the free flow of healing energy within the body to help restore equilibrium and relieve discomfort or emotional problems.

Break the cycle. With rolling farmland punctuated by 125-metre-tall wind turbines, avian-rich wetlands, and around 1,400 year-round residents, Wolfe Island is a haven for cyclists. Shanti Retreat’s Sunday Cycle and Stretch program includes a ride on one of the local bike routes, a 60-minute yoga-for-cyclists session, and an alfresco lunch.

Look before you leap. Shanti Retreat hosts a variety of themed retreats on weekends, run by practitioners from nearby urban areas as well as by hosts Darin and Wendy. Check the website to see which upcoming sessions suit your interests or whether any rooms or cabins are available for one of the mid-week getaway packages.

If not here, then … If Shanti Retreat doesn’t sound quite right for you, check out Yoga Garden Retreat just northwest of Wakefield or Tanglefoot Lodge in the Kawarthas (705-877-8564).

Homemade vegetarian meals highlight whole grains, local eggs, and greens