The Stratford, Ont., native says she doesn't have it in her to train at the level needed to be successful.
In her six-year career, Wilkinson won three Commonwealth Games medals and competed at the 2008 and 2012 Summer Games.
She just missed the final of the women’s 100-metre backstroke at the London Olympics last summer, finishing ninth in the semifinals.
She was 13th in 100-metre freestyle and swam in the 4x100 freestyle and medley relays, finishing 11th and 12th respectively.
She retires with six Canadian records to her name.
"I got to the point where I knew in my heart I didn’t have it in me to keep training at the level I would have to train to be what I consider successful," she said Thursday in an interview with swimming.ca. "I wanted to walk away with pride and I wanted to walk away on my own terms so that’s what I’m doing."
Wilkinson will be missed by her teammates, said Swimming Canada CEO Pierre Lafontaine.
"She's been such a bundle of energy for our team," he said. "She'll be surely missed."
Wilkinson has an Olympic tattoo with a Maple Leaf above it, signifying her pride in representing Canada. After London, she added the Eli Young Band song lyric "Even If It Breaks Your Heart" to the tattoo to represent her mixed feelings about her Olympic results.
"I’d do it all just to come ninth again because it was worth it even though it broke my heart," Wilkinson said. "I know in my heart I did everything I could to be the best. That helps me sleep at night."
Wilkinson finished seventh in the 200-metre individual medley at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, breaking a Canadian record in the process.
She hopes to pursue a career in the media and is exploring her options for a graduate program in journalism or communications.
"I’ve always loved anything that involves some sort of media," she said. "When I was a kid I would make up little fake newspapers and put them under my mother’s bedroom door, or make a radio show on her boom box and force her to listen to that.
"Every goal I’ve had has always come second to swimming. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do when swimming is not the be all, end all."