More than 20 years ago, Nadene and Jordy McBride decided to create a back-to-nature retreat that was a little off-the-beaten path.
Located 45 minutes from Kenora and three hours from Winnipeg, Minaki Yurt Adventures sprang out of the couple’s involvement in a not-for-profit group maintaining a trail network in the small northwestern Ontario community.
Inspired by the round tent-like structure used by the nomadic peoples of Mongolia, they ordered away for drawings from the Yurt Foundation of Maine and began erecting their own.
“The whole idea was to put some along the ski trails,” said Nadine. “We followed the exterior design to a tee, but we just had different floor plans.
“We wanted it to be a home and a facility that people can use.”
Instead of using canvas, they built with wood and over the years have created a unique set of comfy and cozy lodgings that operate year-round on their two-acre property.
“It’s still the traditional form of the round building,” said McBride, “The design of the main yurt has a wall that angles out so you don’t get the direct sunlight and it stays naturally cool. The ceilings are lower, so it stays a bit warmer and you’re not heating a vaulted ceiling.”
A land-use permit allows them to arrange activities on Crown land.
The business began as a summer camp for kids, but has since diversified to accommodate a variety of clientele for friends’ getaways, sports groups, honeymooners, family reunions, and corporate teambuilding events.
“We have a wedding scheduled for September,” said McBride. “It’s the fifth one we’re doing and we’re starting to get a few yoga clinics where groups are coming in.”
With five yurts and a tipi in their stable, accommodations range from the secluded and modest two-person Lakeside Yurt – with wood-burning stove, sitting area, basic cooking essentials and complimentary canoe – to the largest structure, the Mee-nah-kee Yurt, an 1,800-square-foot tri-level lodge building with full bathrooms, dining area, living room space for 12, and all the fully-wired amenities of home.
“There’s a luxury element to it, if you want it, but there’s also a backcountry element if you want to be farther out into the woods,” said McBride.
They also regularly schedule entertainment with house concerts in their largest yurt.
“About thirty people will show up and it’ll like a very closed and intimate performance with the band inside and the crowd around them.”
In the past, the McBride’s offered mountain biking, kayaking, rock climbing, and repelling packages to attract guests but decided to scale back, preferring to provide equipment rentals, guides and customized adventures to suit a group’s needs.
They can arrange a meal plan for groups of 50 to 60, including their specialty pizza from their wood-fire masonry stove.
“It’s a whole build-your-own adventure,” said McBride. “You can float on an air mattress on the lake and read a book, or you can go rock climbing, mountain biking, kayaking; the trails are right outside your door.
“There’s really something for everyone here, unless you really don’t like being out in nature.”