Good news, girlfriends. It’s a banner time for women to holiday together. Dub them gal pal getaways or chicks with sticks (for hikers and skiers), female bonding holidays are more than a moniker.
They’re part of a trend that’s experienced a 230 per cent spike in the number of women-only travel companies across North America in the past six years. According to American author Marybeth Bond, who’s been tracking this data since 1993, the phenomenon is not restricted to bachelorette parties and university types on spring break. Ditto says Beth Mairs, founder and director of Ontario-based Wild Women Expeditions. Mairs says 70 per cent of Canadians who book adventure tours are women. And—surprise, surprise—they’re not of the Mother Teresa or Xena Princess Warrior camps. Both experts say estrogen-powered vacations are often for mature women (average age: 47, size: 12) who want to pursue interests that don’t always jibe with husbands or boyfriends.
Take surfing off the wild and woolly west coast of Vancouver Island, B.C. The grandmammy of all operators is Surf Sister Surf School in Tofino, which has been catering to women since day one. But if you have a small group, consider Long Beach Lodge Resort’s exclusive, guests-only Surf Club. Stay here and book a private two-and-a-half-hour lesson and invite up to five people to join you—instant female bonding for penny pinchers—at no extra price other than gear rentals.
Bike, Hike, Ride, Eat — Repeat
Sweeping east into the interior of British Columbia, you’ll find Monashee Adventure Tours tailoring multi-day bike trips to women along the Kettle Valley Railway. Shoestring cyclists can camp, but many opt to stay at tiny B&Bs or guesthouses, such as Therapy Vineyards. You’ll layer on luxury with a swanky, in-house, local-food feast—easily whipped up by chefs Cameron Smith and Dana Ewart of Joy Road Catering.
In the nearby Bugaboos, Canadian Mountain Holidays operates 12 luxury backcountry lodges. Its most popular all-girls hiking program is Bodacious in the Bugaboos, a heli-hiking and yoga four-day getaway. Iconic Fairmont properties, such as Alberta’s Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge has offered all-girls getaway packages for decades. But the new Alberta player in this game is Dames on the Range. This consortium of women has stacked its B&B and farm-stay operations with nature hikes, teepee meditations, horseback riding, herbal workshops, Reiki sessions and umpteen other female-friendly options aimed at enticing city slickers with a bit of cowgirl culture.
While most women detest “maintenance” cooking, if you stir a pinch of sisterhood into a funky cooking class like some of the sessions at Vancouver, B.C.’s The Dirty Apron Cooking School, you’ll find women weeping with laughter.
In the Drink
After 20 years of operations, Saskatchewan-based CanoeSki Discovery Company knows exactly what female paddlers want. Its top-selling package, Women and Waves, is a five-day canoe trip on the Churchill River that always delivers a relaxing ride along with a bevy of treats. A pro masseuse, guest musician and extraordinary chef are there to provide post-portage bliss.
Girls can shake what their mommas gave them with a canoe and belly-dance down Winnipeg’s Assiniboine River with Red River Outfitters. As for wellness centres that sport the structure of a boot camp but offer a menu of inspirational speakers, yoga, trekking or lifestyle education classes, try B.C.’s Mountain Trek or Ontario’s Shanti Retreat. After 20 years of operation, Wild Women Expeditions has stretched beyond Ontario’s waters, offering tours (mostly canoe trips) in nine provinces plus the Yukon. A cool niche adventure the company is exploring is the Wild Women in Training Camp. It’s the perfect holiday for the super-hero aunt, mom or active granny who wants to dazzle their favourite little wild girl with a multi-sport camp for the two of them.