There is nothing I like better than finding a really unique Air BnB experience. I have favourite folders of tree houses, farm stays and yurts all over the world that I may not even get to, but one can dream.
I enjoy roughing it a bit and find camping pretty fun. My friends and I can forgo electricity and running water for a long weekend to cook over an open fire and take a dip in the lake.
In May, some girlfriends and I booked a property I’ve had my eye on for a long time, the Buffalo Farm. It’s about a 4 hour drive from Toronto, located in Mattawa, Ontario. We’d be staying in Canada’s only 2-storey yurt, which mean no electricity, no running water, no cell service and if we wanted coffee, we had to boil water over a campfire. I really enjoy taking breaks like this from the hustle and bustle of real life. It can seem like a challenge at first, but once you’ve got it down, it was pretty easy to fall into a pattern.
We arrived to a gracious host (and her dog, Noah) who were happy to check us in, provide some firewood, jugs of fresh water and show us how to get to the Yurt. There had been an incident months prior where guests started a small fire in the yurt with the wood burning stove, so unfortunately that was no longer available for cooking. As a replacement, the host provided a small camp grill (brand new) and charcoal. We didn’t know too much about charcoal, and read on the bag that lighter fluid is very helpful, not having brought any ourselves, we texted the owner and she was more than happy to bring us some left over lighter fluid they had at the house and we were very grateful.
Also provided for cooking was a metal grill that could be placed onto the campfire itself. This worked well when we were grilling up some sausages for dinner, or putting a pot of boiling water on for coffee. A pot and pan, and some cutlery are waiting for you on table in the yurt upon arrival, so you can leave some of your kitchen wares at home.
The yurt was very spacious for just us four (the yurt can hold up to twelve guests). Two of us shared a queen size bed, one on a floor mattress and one on a couch. We were very comfortable, but please note, even in May, the nights got chilly. If you run a little on the cold side we would suggest bringing extra blankets on top of the ones that are already provided.
There was a ‘natural’ bathroom attached on the outside of the yurt and it was a step up from your average outhouse. They had home-made tilted seats instead of the usual hole in a piece of plywood, and wood shavings to shovel into buckets below to help with the smell I am assuming? (Please note, you are camping and like an outhouse, after a few days of use, you will notice a slight odour). There is a unique view from the outhouse window into the field where the buffalo graze, it’s still very private as there won’t be a soul for miles, but it was a fun quirk.
The property itself was pretty big, you can eat lunch at the nearby screened in cabana by the lake, walk down the path and past a tipi (where a party of two can rent out the space. It was empty the weekend we were there though) to a lake with a canoe launch and an even bigger screened in area with a picnic table inside. We really liked eating at this picnic table bug free and enjoying the breeze by the lake. We rented out the canoes but only ended up using them once, as the current was strong that time of year and my friend Katie accidentally took a dip when her canoe flipped. Had it been a bit calmer, I would have ventured out a bit further, but maybe next time! It was a nice option to have and the rental, which was $35 per canoe for the duration of your stay.
One of the reasons I booked this property was the unusual setting. You’re actually on a buffalo farm! There are three giant buffalo’s roaming in a field right behind the yurt. Watching them do a nightly run around the property as we roasted marshmallows and shared a few drinks was really magical. I was able to get up close to them a few times and they were gentle and curious, they would pause and eyeball me. There was something really peaceful about sitting alongside the fence and listening to their heavy breaths on the grass as they ripped dandelions from the soil. It was definitely a highlight of my trip.
While there is lots to do on the property itself, the girls and I have never been to Mattawa before, and our host was helpful in suggesting a nearby hike at the Eau Claire Gorge. It took about 15 minutes in the car to reach the lot, and we were able to hike for about an hour alongside a roaring river, to a waterfall. It was great to check out a historical cabin along the hike and learn more about how the area used to be used for logging (be sure to grab a trail map for free in the parking lot, at every marker there is a small blurb to read about the area and certain stops along the hike). Nearby the gorge there were some grocery stores and an LCBO that we were able to re-stock at. We got a few more bags of ice for the cooler and were good for the rest of the weekend.
Some things to keep in mind and some suggestions.
Like many camp sites and cottages I’ve rented before, you’ll need to take your garbage with you, so brings some extra garbage bags and find a dumpsite on route back.
Bring flashlights and candles in glass containers. There is zero electricity remember, and it gets very dark at night.
Bring dish soap and a sponge or two to clean your dishes and pots and pans.
Lighter fluid and fire starters will be helpful.
Please note there is no shower on site, after the hike, I used the melted ice water from a cooler to have a quick clean up, but if you’re one with nature and feel like jumping in the lake, there’s that option too!
Dogs are allowed! You can bring your fuzzy friend and I can see how larger dogs would like the area. I didn’t think this would be my dog Willie’s jam, as he’s only 5lbs and scared of his own shadow.
Maybe leave your food and snacks in your car overnight. A mouse got a bite of some hot dog buns in our yurt the first night before we learned to secure everything.
This was not the cheapest campsite we’ve ever rented, it came out to $666.11 CAD in total for the weekend, but we are also buying the experience and privilege of staying on this private land. If you want something a little cheaper or you don’t have a large group, check out links to their ti-pi and cabin that are also available for rent on the property. You’ll still have access to everything mentioned above.
Book in advance, as this is a very hot property.
We had a great experience and I would hope to return one day with my husband!
Thanks for reading and until next adventure,
Hey! I'm Sarah! A 30 something living in downtown Toronto with a great guy and an OK dog. I love seeing what my city has to offer and try to hit up as many fun events or attractions as I can! I haven't slept since 2004.