Lodge placing a premium on adventure tourism: Upscale accommodations for Europeans, corporate travel is the new direction for Wawa lodge.

Author:Ross, Ian

Lake Superior lodge owner David Wells had to convince himself that going upscale was the way to go.

Ever since he acquired the rustic Rock Island Lodge in 1994, the Wawa-area entrepreneur always cultivated a family-oriented and communal atmosphere for paddlers, hikers and whitewater thrill seekers drawn to the rugged shore of the big lake.

But as with the evolution of any business, Wells wants to diversify his customer base by attempting to lure affluent Europeans to the unspoiled shores of Lake Superior while undertaking some renovations to entice the corporate crowd to come for training seminars and staff retreats.

"It's hard for me personally because I'm developing it into the kind of place I could never afford to go to," laughed Wells.

"We love our American visitors but I think it's important to diversify."

The four guest-room B&B lodge is located a three-hour drive north of Sault Ste. Marie and eight kilometres east of Wawa on a small peninsula where the Michipicoten River empties into Michipicoten Bay on the scenic eastern shore of the lake.

Over the years, the lodge and Wells' side company, Naturally Superior Adventures, have garnered numerous accolades from Lake Superior Magazine for best resort, and in 2007 National Geographic named them among the top 100 Best Travel Adventures Companies on Earth.

Naturally Superior Adventures' niche has been a laid-back, interactive experience between paddling instructors and their guests. And Wells has always managed to retain its folksy charm. The lodge is renowned for its house concerts from travelling musicians who drop in every 10 days to two weeks during the summer, some of the cover charge proceeds going to a local food bank.

Despite offering a one-of-a-kind outdoor experience, Wells has been working with tourism marketing groups to appeal to a broader customer base with plans to upscale his lodge into becoming a "boutique" travel destination.

During his peak May-to-September period, his place is usually booked solid with paddlers.

Wells and his staff specialize in providing instruction in sea kayaking, stand-up paddle boards, whitewater canoeing and will take their guests out on extended paddling and hiking excursions of the headlands and shorelines between Lake Superior Provincial Park and Pukaskwa National Park.

For the slower spring and fall shoulder seasons, amateur shutterbugs come to the wind-whipped bay or hike through solemn Canadian Shield landscape, made famous by the Group of...

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