Archive for September, 2009

Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October. This year it will be October 12th. American Thanksgiving takes place on the fourth Thursday of November – the 26th in 2009.

With high percentages of colour change, and low leaf fall, this is peek time for fall colors (colours).

With high percentages of colour change, and low leaf fall, this is peak time for fall colors (colours), especially on the maples.

For something different this (Canadian) Thanksgiving, there are new mid-week and weekend deals available at Ontario resorts. “A resort provides a good base for a family get-together. You can put your feet up and let someone else do the cooking, or cook your own turkey in a glorious fall setting,” says Grace Sammut, executive director at Resorts of Ontario.

With over one hundred members, Resorts of Ontario is the province’s largest resort association. Properties are categorized into four groups: resort hotels, resort lodges, cottage resorts and country inns. Some offer accommodation with fully equipped kitchens while others are American Plan or Modified American Plan and include meals in their pricing. Prices range, and so do the amenities.

On the website, you can search for resorts across Ontario by experience, season or region. Advanced search allows visitors to search sub regions too, such as the Algonquin Park area. Links to individual member resort sites make it easy to compare packages and amenities.

Here is a sample of new Thanksgiving deals in each resort category:

Dickson Manor at Calabogie Peaks

Dickson Manor at Calabogie Peaks Resort

Resort hotel: Calabogie Peaks, fifty minutes southwest of Ottawa, has a deal for couples this Thanksgiving. Its two-night (Sunday & Monday) “Lovers” package includes standard room accommodation, continental breakfast both mornings, three-course dinner for two on one night and a welcome wine with cheese platter. Priced at $380.55 double occupancy, taxes included. Calabogie Peaks has chairlift rides to view the spectacular fall colors.

The Irwin Inn

One of the cottages at the Irwin Inn

Resort lodge: The Irwin Inn on Stoney Lake just north of Peterborough has a Thanksgiving deal for young families (two adults, two children under 10 yrs). Two nights (Saturday & Sunday) with breakfasts and dinners, including a Thanksgiving feast on the Sunday night, Thanksgiving hayride, and use of all seasonal facilities. $275 per adult, double occupancy, taxes and gratuities extra. The two kids stay for free.

The dock at Foxwood Resort

The dock at Foxwood Resort

Cottage resort: Foxwood Resort is on Lake of Bays in Muskoka, not far from Algonquin Park. Book three days over Thanksgiving and save 15% off regular daily rates. A three-day weekend package ranges from $385 for a one-bedroom cottage to $930 for a four-bedroom cottage. Fully equipped kitchens allow you to cook your own Thanksgiving dinner.

The Elora Mill Inn

The Elora Mill Inn

Country Inn: The Elora Mill is an hour northwest of Toronto, close to the Elora Gorge. Its “Two Can Dine” dinner package includes a three-course a-la-carte dinner for two in the award-winning H20 Restaurant, accommodation in a historic guestroom and a country breakfast for two. From $163 per person, per night, based on double occupancy. Taxes and gratuities are extra.

Check out the Fall Colour Report put out by Ontario Parks. Happy Thanksgiving.

Read Full Post »

Sandbanks Provincial Park

Sandbanks Provincial Park

Back in the early 90s, Prince Edward County (PEC) was known as Quinte’s Isle. Its claim to fame was Sandbanks, a provincial park with huge freshwater sand dunes – the largest in the world. Sandbanks is still here and as popuiar as ever and so is the local food and wine. “The County”, as she’s now known, is Ontario’s hottest foodie destination and on Saturday, September 26th, it’s hosting TASTE the County, an annual harvest event at its historic Crystal Palace in the Picton fairgrounds. Tickets are $25 and the gates open at 11 am.

If you can’t make TASTE, opt for a mid-week date later this fall. The Resorts of Ontario here offer great mid-week rates and there’s still a lot to see and do. A mid-week trip is what a travel and food writer and I did a couple of weeks ago.

The Waupoos Winery

The Waupoos Winery

Our County tour began with a “Preserve It” cooking class on a Wednesday morning at the Waring House Inn & Cookery. My dad’s dill pickles were legendary in my family so, I was keen to see how difficult it would be for me to make them. I discovered that pickling is pretty simple, but found that sterilizing the jars in boiling water takes nimble fingers and good concentration. Preserves are making a big comeback in Canada and our class was packed. Chef Kelly Attwells led the cooking lesson. He’s the Cookery’s new director. A County native, he’s just back from BC where he was head chef at the exclusive Island Lake Lodge. Besides running the Cookery, he’s also cooking with executive chef, Michael Hoy, at the Claramount Inn & Spa. Its four-diamond restaurant is called Clara’s. We ate dinner there on the Wednesday night and I thought the food and service were both superb and the inn and spa are gorgeous.

County Cider Company

County Cider Company in Prince Edward County

The next day my writer friend and I toured the County end-to-end. This is a peaceful part of the world. Traffic was light and it felt good to hang out in the slow lane and meander around without a schedule. Highlights included Fifth Town, where artisan cheeses are aged in a temperature controlled cave. We also visited the County Cider Company. Its outdoor bistro has got to have one of the best vistas of Lake Ontario. Then it was on to  Waupoos Winery, the County’s first winery. Next came Sandbanks and finally, the Isaiah Tubbs Resort.

Isaiah Tubbs Resort

Isaiah Tubbs Resort

My writer friend had spied it and its Sandbar’ “County wines by the glass” in the local tourism guide and the place didn’t disappoint. Not only was there an impressive choice of  county wines to choose from, this resort is on its own private beach across from the Sandbanks dunes. So we made it our last stop and sat and sipped a glass of local wine as we took in the sights. A great way to end a perfect day.

The Claramount Inn & Spa

The Claramount Inn & Spa

Later this fall, Isaiah Tubbs, the Waring House and the Claramount are all participating in this year’s Countylicious, running from November 4-29, 2009. Three-course dinners are just $30 per person. Look for special overnight packages  at these Resorts of Ontario to compliment the Countylicious event.

Read Full Post »

I’ve got fall colors, couples and honeymoons on my mind as I write this week’s blog.  I think it’s because of our recent trip to Muskoka. I blogged last week about our stay at Foxwood Resort on Lake of Bays, meeting other couples and visiting the town of Dorset near Algonquin Park. This week, I’m writing about three other resorts that we visited in the area last week; Cedar Grove Lodge, Pow Wow Point Lodge and Beauview Cottages. Like Foxwood, they’re all cottage resorts, members of Resorts of Ontario and in fall, couples are a big part of their business too.

One of the log cabins at Cedar Grove Lodge

One of the log cabins at Cedar Grove Lodge

I’d never been to Cedar Grove but I knew about it from my years with Ontario’s offiical government tourism office. Its log cabins and fieldstone fireplaces are a big seller and last Thursday was no exception. Cedar Grove is just east of Huntsville on Peninsula Lake, down a gravel road from Highway 6o. The place was in siesta mode following lunch hour but several guests were signed up for a late afternoon pontoon ride. Others were in big Muskoka chairs reading on the dock and one couple was playing tennis. All the cabins ranging in age from 50 years old to 2 years old, were occupied but an NYC couple volunteered to show us theirs. The guy told us a big reason he and his wife chose Cedar Grove was because it’s pet-friendly. “We simply don’t travel without our dog, he said. “He’s had a stroke and a kennel would kill him.” Another deciding factor may have been their luxury log cabin. It was nice. Really nice. New, furnished in Canadiana style with two bedrooms, a comfortable living room and  a massive fieldstone fireplace. No kitchen though. This resort is American Plan which means three meals a day are included in its daily rates. Meals are served in a classic resort setting and local suppliers like Edible Fungi, a shitake grower, are sourced. Cedar Grove is the only resort in Ontario to carbon offsets and it was the first of many Resorts of Ontario to receive the Four Green Leaf Audubon Award for its environmental practices.

Just before the leaves start to turn at Pow-Wow Point Lodge

Just before the leaves start to turn at Pow-Wow Point Lodge

Pow Wow Point Lodge is a country neighbour of Cedar Grove’s. The same gravel road off of Highway 60 takes you to it. Jack and Jacquie Howell bought Pow Wow in 1969. Their son Doug now runs it with his wife Dee, an interior designer. The main lodge has a big lounge, dining room and lakeview patio. I fell in love with the mini flatbed rail car that serves as a coffee table in front of the lounge fireplace. A beautiful upstairs suite was the location for Canada’s Worst Handyman which filmed its entire fourth season here. What really caught my eye at Pow Wow though was the Boathouse suite. An original Muskoka boathouse, it once served as staff quarters and then five years ago, Doug and Dee renovated the place. I think a stay here would make a great wedding gift.

Late-summer peace at Beauview Cottage Resort

Late-summer peace at Beauview Cottage Resort

Beauview Cottages Resort is on the upper half of Lake of Bays along with Foxwood and several other Resorts of Ontario cottage resorts. Owned by Gord and Nancy Bell, it’s located in a quiet bay not far from the Muskoka River. Smaller than the other resorts, it has a new two-storey honeymoon cabin. Beauview is popular with Europeans. Gord blogs and videotapes a lot, so maybe that’s why. The honeymoon cabin was occupied by a pair of honeymooners so we couldn’t check it out, but I did go into one of the older cabins. It was spotless and included a fully equipped kitchen, tv, and three-piece bath. But it was the private hot tub on the front deck that won me over. Four out of the six Beauview Cottages have one.

Fall colours were just starting so, I figure late September through early October, they’ll peak in Muskoka and Algonquin Park. For a listing of all Resorts of Ontario members in Muskoka, check here.

Read Full Post »

We’ve just come back from two glorious days at Foxwood Resort on the doorstep of Algonquin Park. The resort and the park are both over a century old and have an interesting connection. Tom Salmon, an early settler and original landowner of Foxwood Resort,  guided at Algonquin Park. The resort has a 1912 photo of Tom at Algonquin sporting a big knapsack on his back.

Dockside at Foxwood Resort on Lake of Bays in Muskoka

Dockside at Foxwood Resort on Lake of Bays in Muskoka

We arrived on Tuesday evening and it didn’t take us long to appreciate our new surroundings. Foxwood is down a quiet lakeside road about 20 minutes from the west gates of Algonquin. A young fawn caught our attention as soon as we made the turn onto Fox Point Road off of Highway 35. We saw several more deer before reaching Foxwood 9 kilometres later. The resort is on Lake of Bays. Water flows from Algonquin Park into the lake which is crystal clear. Foxwood is on Haystack Bay, one of hundreds of bays along the lake’s 500 kilometres of shoreline. Our tidy, two-bedroom cottage comes with a fully equipped kitchen, sitting area, lakeside deck and BBQ. National Post’s star cartoonist, Gary Clement rented the same cottage with his family just last week and must have had a great time ‘cuz he cartooned it. He’s not the only celeb to frequent Lake of Bays. Global TV anchor, Kevin Newman has a place on the lake and so does singing sensation, Shania Twain.

”I Swam Haystack Bay“

”I Swam Haystack Bay“

This week, we were all couples including honeymooners Troy and Julie. The families have gone home. Resort owner, Rob Wallace says that’s typical for September. Summers attracts families then school starts and the resort becomes popular with adults and fall color seekers. The resort hasn’t been open in winter but that’s about to change thanks to a new luxury solar cottage. Beautifully appointed with a central fireplace, this two-bedroom place would make a great base for cross country or downhill skiers. Algonquin Park has 100 km of trails and Hidden Valley, 20 minutes west has downhill, including night skiing. If you prefer snowshoeing, the resort’s own trails start right outside the new cottage and snake around the resort’s one hundred acres. Light weight snowshoes are supplied. I think that’s fitting given that Tom Salmon was a snowshoe maker, having learned the craft from local Ojibwa. If you’re a collector, his old snowshoes are easy to spot because of a tiny signature salmon burned into each shoe.

The main lodge at Foxwood Resort

The main lodge at Foxwood Resort

I love to swim so, I took advantage of the great swimming and twice swam across the bay to Haystack Island with co-owner Julia Wallace and daughter, Meg. Both are avid swimmers and the swim has become so popular with guests, the resort sells t-shirts which  boast “I swam Haystack Bay”. Besides swimming, there’s a lakeside sauna, kayaks, paddleboats, and canoes, water skiing and wakeboard lessons and lots of land based activities to keep kids occupied. The lounge is popular on summer evenings and rainy days and includes a ping pong table, tons of boardgames, and a flat screen tv for those who just can’t bear to be without.

The Dorset fire tower, a spectacular place for fall colours viewing

The Dorset fire tower, a spectacular place for fall colours viewing

bigwin-boatRob took us by boat around the lake. Glenn snapped pics of area highlights including the Dorset Fire Tower, Robinson’s General Store, and a Muskoka trademark, boathouses. Boats are a source of pride here and a special 44 passenger steam yacht built in the 1920s has been resurrected from the bottom of Lake of Bays and is being restored at Lake of Bays Boat Museum in Dorset. The Bigwin once ferried passengers from Port Cunnington across Lake of Bays to Bigwin Island. If you go into Dorset to shop for groceries or for a meal at Fiery Grill, be sure to check out the museum and the boat. She’s a beaut.

Foxwood Resort is one of several Resorts of Ontario in this region. For a listing of others, click here.

The Lake of Bays Marine Museum at Dorset

The Lake of Bays Marine Museum at Dorset

Read Full Post »