Posts Tagged ‘Fern Resort’

Andrew Hind

Children in bathing suits running past, faces spread wide in smiles and squealing in glee. Parents sunk into comfortable chairs, content and relaxed under azure skies. Turquoise waters lapping a sandy shoreline. The palpable thrill of seemingly endless activities from which to choose, but sadly not enough time to sample them all. A glorious sun beating down from high above. Nope, not Florida or the Caribbean—this is Fern Resort, an all-inclusive family-friendly resort right here in Ontario.

Sounds enticing, doesn’t it?Fern-IMG_9338

When you’re looking for a summer escape to a family friendly resort, you don’t want just any resort. You want one that will thrill the entire family, from children to restless teens to deserving parents. You want one that children will have to be pulled away from, where parents can truly unwind, one where cherished family memories that will be fondly recalled at gatherings for years in the future are made.

Thankfully, Ontario has a number that fit the bill to a tee, each one elevating a family escape to OMG-heights in their own unique ways: among them Bayview Wildwood Resort, Shamrock Lodge, Bonnie View Inn, Pine Vista Resort, and of course, Fern Resort. You don’t need to go far to relax and rejuvenate as a family.

“What’s the perfect family vacation? It’s one where the kids are entertained, parents are relaxed, and where parents aren’t looking ahead to the next expense,” says Scott Collens, General Manager of Fern Resort, an Orillia property which has been perfecting the family vacation for 120 years. “That’s where an all-inclusive, family-friendly resort like Fern comes into its own. There’s so much to do that you never have to worry about children getting bored, and with their children (infant to teens) enrolled in a kids club program,  parents get important alone time.”

Though Fern Resort is a magical year-round destination for kids, it truly comes alive in summer with oodles of family-oriented activities—from wall-climbing to mini-golf to tennis and knee-boarding, not to mention swimming in two large pools or the clear waters of Lake Couchiching. It’s like a cruise ship on land.

Fern-IMG_9949

“When considering where you want to spend your vacation, ask yourself what you are hoping to enjoy and what do you want to achieve during your holiday? Where you go should satisfy all your needs,” says Collens. “It’s important to call and speak to someone at the resort itself. You can read all about our programs and facilities online, but you only get a feel for how everything we do is based on solid family-values by actually speaking to us.”

Muskoka’s Shamrock Lodge, another all-inclusive resort, represents a dying breed: a family owned and operated resort where the owners are ubiquitous and as much a part of stay as are the joyful activities or comfortable accommodations. “The Bryant’s are very present. They’re here every day, driving the boat, running activities, overseeing operations and welcoming guests. By the second day, they know every guest by first name. People love that connection. It’s rare today, but people value it. Our guests often say a stay feels more like vacationing at a family cottage than a resort,” enthuses Operations Manager Susan Nairns.

In many ways, Shamrock is a throw back to a simpler time, a more innocent time. Indeed, the lodge itself is over a century old. But it has remained relevant by keeping up with vacation trends, offering an all-inclusive vacation in an atmosphere more intimate than most of its kind. Parents with love the charm and idyllic setting; children will love the endless fun.Fern-IMG_9876.JPG

“We’re rated the #1 resort in Muskoka by Tripadvisor and we always encourage people to go there when they are considering booking—here or anywhere— because it’s written by guests from their own personal perspective,” explains Nairn.

Every resort is special in their own way, so choose the one that best suits your needs and interests.

Nothing beats a vacation at one of Ontario’s family-friendly resorts. You’ll know it’s a special holiday when, at the end of the day, exhausted children drift off to a contented sleep with the need of a bedtime story. They’ve made their own adventures.

Bayview Wildwood Resort Beach

List of Questions to Answer when Booking a Summer Resort Vacation

In an attempt to help readers choose from among the many family-friendly resorts in Ontario, we wanted to put together a checklist of questions to answer. Who better to help us than Dianne Hounsome, Owner and General Manager of Bayview Wildwood Resort, a property with an unrivaled reputation for providing cherished summer memories.

  1. Do they want a supervised children’s program? If the resort offers them, what times are they offered, what ages of kids can participate, and is there a cost?
  2. Is entertainment at night important to them?
  3. Can kids go into the entertainment areas (bars) at night?
  4. How does the meal plan work – are their meal times set – do they have to make a reservation or do they get assigned a table?
  5. Do the rooms/cottages have views of the lake with balconies or decks?
  6. Are there room/cottages that are 2-bedroom or 3-bedroom?
  7. Do you want to cook your own meals or have a meal plan?
  8. Do you want to eat with your kids? Do you want the option to have a meal without kids if possible?
  9. What is the atmosphere of the dining room (upscale dressy or relaxed casual)?
  10. Are the meals buffet or service? Is there a kids buffet option?Bayview-fire-3-2010
  11. Are there food allergies and can they be accommodated?
  12. What is the clientele – is it mostly families, conferences, couples, or a mix of any?
  13. What watercraft (canoes, paddleboats, etc.) are available – are any free and what is the cost?
  14. Can you swim in the lake – is there a sandy beach – and are there water toys (trampolines, for example)?
  15. Is there an indoor pool? Is the outdoor pool heated?
  16. Are there activities to do indoors in the case of bad weather?
  17. Is there private babysitting service at a cost?
  18. Can they rent a boat and fish?
  19. Is there a teen program (if relevant)?

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Laura McLean1Need a perfect getaway with your kids this summer. Resorts of Ontario can help and in fact, our resorts excel at providing a superior family oriented experience. We specialize in the family experiences by providing kids programs specific to age group. You can rest easy knowing that your child is being cared for by trained staff whose job is to make sure all the kids are having fun. And while your kid is off on daily adventures, you can go for some of your own fun or relaxation by taking in a game of golf, treating yourself to a favourite (or newly discovered) spa treatment, or just sitting in quiet area of the natural Ontario resort settings.

Some of the activities your child(ren) will enjoy at our resorts are mountain biking clinics, golf clinics, learning to fish, wakeboarding and waterskiing, tubing, playing games and more. While each resort is different the bottom line is having fun. At Blue Mountain their KidsRosa program, will keep your little one smiling all day with their different themed adventure days, plunges in their pools and even tennis clinics. Kids Korral at Horseshoe Resort, will take your kids through the discovery of something new each day by teaching different activities and skill levels based on the age group your child fits into. Cleveland’s House Resort’s – Cleve’s Kids Club offers “Ontario’s largest and most extensive children’s program.” Here your kids have an emphasis on fun and learning in a safe environment up to 18 years old. At Cleveland’s House, they also have programs to get the whole family involved with their talent shows, amazing family race nights, bon fire nights and more. At Fern Resort, your family will have so many fond memories that you’ll be looking forward to your return visit. Whether you go for the kids programs, the entertainment, dance parties to cooking classes they offer something for everyone. The VIK Club (Very Important Kids Club) at the Delawana Inn, Spa and Conference Resort is a supervised day camp for children ages 3-12 and includes arts and crafts, rock climbing, land sports and water activities, and more. There are several resorts that offer children’s programs and I encourage you to visit the family resorts section of our website.

As the day winds down, you can catch up with your kids on their fun-filled day over some of the fantastic meals prepared by the resort chefs. Don’t worry, the chefs still have kids in mind and prepare meals for the palates of youth and adults alike with a variety of menu options to choose from. When you have finished your meal, relax and sit back for some of the nightly entertainment provide which includes everything from water skiing shows, family friendly comedians and shows and even outdoor movies.

There is still lots of time left in the summer, so pack the car and come on up to our place for your great family friendly adventure.

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We’ve got more New Year’s Eve ideas this week from Resorts of Ontario– dining and dancing at three beautiful  country inns and lots of fun filled activities at two lakeside resorts.

winter at the Westover Inn

The Westover Inn – an 1867 limestone mansion in St. Marys, Ontario

The Westover Inn is a limestone mansion in St. Marys, a town twenty minutes west of Stratford,Ontario. New Year’s Eve begins at 8pm here this year with a New World, Old World wine tasting and hors d’oeuvres party. That’s followed by a five course dinner that includes house specialities like the pork rib loin. Dinner and the wine-tasting reception are $85 per person. If you want to stay overnight, it’s $129 a person, double occupancy with dinner and reception included. Taxes and gratuities are extra.

I’m taking this space to announce the Westover’s annual holiday bake sale. I first heard about it years ago. Lots of Christmas baking is sold and the prices are terrific considering everything is made from scratch. Cookies and tarts are $4.50 a dozen. Squares are $7 a dozen and  homemade candy starts at $7.50 a pound. Advance orders are required. Call the inn for further details: 519-284-2977.

If you’ve never been to St. Marys, go! It has several limestone buildings and lots of rolling hills which make it interesting. A massive trestle bridge that once had the Grand Trunk railway running across it is now part of the Grand Trunk recreational trail, and in the centre of town is a former quarry. The town bought it years ago and every summer it becomes Canada’s largest outdoor swimming pool. The Westover was built in 1867 as a private home then it served as a Jesuit seminary before becoming the Westover. I’ve brought food writers here for a meal and a couple of years ago, Glenn and I had dinner and stayed overnight. I remember playing hooky the next morning. It was a Monday and instead of heading to the office, we hung out in big terry robes, sipping hot coffee and reading the Globe and Mail.

cottages on the shore of Lake Couchiching at Fern Resort

Fern Resort cottages on Lake Couchiching

Fern Resort is on Lake Couchiching near Orillia, Ontario, two hours north of Toronto. Four generations of the same family have operated this resort since 1918 and when we visited last March, we found out they’re still using the resort’s original tagline: “the home of rolls and honey”. Jim Pettapiece, a successful Ottawa baker bought the property in 1918 to run as an inn. Jim’s bakeries were famous for their buns so, Jim made sure his new inn served them too, along with his favourite honey, Crerar’s from eastern Ontario. Ninety-one years later, both bun and honey are still served.

On New Year’s Eve, all ages are welcome at Fern Fesort, even babes in arms. Check out the Fern website and a PDf on the site and you’ll see what I mean. It lists everything from a DJ-led kids dance to dogsledding to 2010 tea leaf readings. Some activities are free with accommodation. Others have a fee. Flexible two and three-day packages include three meals daily and start at $360 per adult. Reduced children’s rates are available.

bedroom at the Inn at Christie's Mill

Luxury at The Inn at Christie's Mill

If you’ve driven Highway 400 north of Toronto, you’ve likely passed the exit for Port Severn. This pretty community two hours northwest of Toronto is on the Trent Severn Waterway near Georgian Bay. Port Severn began as a lumber town in the mid 1800s. The Inn at Christie’s Mill stands on what was once a mill owned by the Christie family. It has a nice spa, superb dining, and large suites with fireplaces. New Year’s Eve dinner will be a sumptious seven course affair with party hats, favours, and a glass of sparkling wine to ring in the New Year. A full breakfast is planned for New Year’s Day. The price for dinner, room and breakfast is $164.50 per person, double occupancy. Taxes and gratuities are extra.

Pond hockey rink at Viamede Resort, Ontario

Viamede Resort & Spa is on Stoney Lake in the Kawarthas, two hours north east of Toronto. It has all you would expect from an Ontario resort in winter: pond skating, great cross- country skiing, snowtubing , tobogganing and wildlife viewing. A New Year’s Eve dinner and dance is $129 per couple. Add an overnight in one of the main lodge’s rooms for $285 a couple. Applicable taxes and service charges are extra. Stay two nights and the resort will throw in a $25 spa coupon that can be used towards a spa treatment of your choice. For couples traveling together or even a family of four, Viamede has cottages rentals. I looked into what a deluxe two bedroom would cost. These are equipped with a full kitchen, electric fireplace, and two baths, including a jacuzzi. A New Year’s Eve package in a deluxe two bedroom includes two nights’ accommodation, breakfast daily, the New Year’s dinner and dance, and a New Year’s Day brunch. It is priced at $770 a cottage.  Gratuities and taxes are extra and a two night minimum is required.

Gananoque Inn from the St. Lawrence River

View of the Gananoque Inn from the St. Lawrence River

The Thousand Islands are in the St. Lawrence River which straddles the international border between Canada and the United States. On the south side of the St. Lawrence is New York State and on the north side is the Province of Ontario. Picturesque and close to New York City, Montreal and Toronto, the Thousand Islands have attracted travelers for over a century. In the heart of the islands, you’ll find the resort town of Gananoque, Ontario, and the Gananoque Inn. The inn first opened in 1896. I stayed here with a BBC film crew and blogged about it. Muskie Jake’s, the inn pub, has a great atmosphere and while I haven’t eaten at Watermark, the inn’s fine dining restaurant, I hear it’s good and I know it has a fabulous river view. There’s also a nice spa. A one night New Year’s package here includes sparkling wine, chocolates, a four-course gourmet dinner at Watermark, breakfast, and a late check out. Rates are per couple and start at $275. Taxes and gratuities are extra.

winter view of the St. Lawrence River from a balcony at the Gananoque Inn

View of the St. Lawrence River from a balcony at the Gananoque Inn

More New Year’s Eve ideas are found on last week’s post. You can also sign up to receive the Resorts of Ontario monthly newsletter. It always has good mid week and weekend deals too. Have a safe holiday and Happy New Year everyone!

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Fern Resort on Lake

Fern Resort on Lake Couchiching near Orillia, Ontario.

When I was up at Fern Resort at the end of March this year, there was still ice along the shores of Lake Couchiching. Fern has been known as “The home of rolls and honey!” since 1918, when Jim Pettapiece, an Ottawa baker, bought the place site-unseen for $750. Guest rates at the time were about $10 a week. And the fresh rolls were right there in a basket when we sat down in the dining room facing the lake. So I proceeded to dig into the Crerar’s Honey and find out what all the fuss was about. True to form, despite my wife’s warnings about ruining my appetite, I didn’t stop until the basket was empty, my fingers were sticky, and the waitress was smiling at my indulgence, no doubt having witnessed this kind of behaviour more than once.
Fern Resort cottages along the shoreline in Spring.

Fern Resort cottages along the shoreline in Spring.

I had heard about Fern Resort before, of course. Anyone who works in the tourism business in Ontario has heard about Fern. But this was the first time I had visited. My partner and I were doing a two-hour presentation to a group of Resorts of Ontario members at their Annual General Meeting the next morning. We’ve done this kind of thing many times before and it can be intimidating. But resort owners seem to be an extremely friendly bunch, probably because they spend their whole lives attending to the needs of their guests, and they made us feel right at home.
The presentation went very well and then after a big lunch (more rolls and honey), Mark Downing showed us around his resort.
It’s a sprawling series of cozy cottages and larger guest houses hugging the lakeshore, interspersed with a golf course, bocci ball, tennis courts and all the distractions one would imagine at a classic resort. Parts of it have a carnival feel, even during the shoulder seasons when there are less people around. It really says, “This is a place where people come to relax and have a good time.”
No Reservations Fern Resort Uncensored book cover

No Reservations – Fern Resort Uncensored book cover

Mark pointed out the in-room jacuzzi tubs and hi-speed wi-fi, the modern conference facilities and Bergwen’s magnificent ballroom, but he really got my attention when he started talking about the history of Fern Resort. Stories of romantic adventure, intrigue, tragedy, pranksterism, business success and adversity going back over a century is what I like. I like the stories. Mark’s extended family is moving into its fifth generation at Fern Resort and some of his guests have been coming every year for almost as long. It’s enough to fill a book. In fact, they have filled a book. You can pick up a copy of No Reservations at the check-in counter for about 20 bucks.

Fern Resort is one of the founding members of Resorts of Ontario, which was established in 1942.

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It’s a family business at many Resorts of Ontario. Some resorts have been owned and run by the same families for generations. And it’s not uncommon to hear of guests who have returned to their favourite resort for decades. Many of the resorts’ histories have been documented too. Here’s a small sample.

In the early 1920's the Mordolphton Camp was sold, renamed Severn Lodge and opened to the public.

In the early 1920's the Mordolphton Camp was sold, renamed Severn Lodge and opened to the public.

Back in the late 1800s fishing and hunting clubs were all the rage in Ontario. Present-day Severn Lodge once served as the Mordolphton Club, a private Pittsburgh-based fishing club with wealthy railway men as members. They would travel by private Pullman car to Waubaushene before making their way to the club on the north shore of Gloucester Pool near Georgian Bay. The fishing is still great in this region of Ontario. Just ask anyone at Muskeys Landing in Port Severn where fishing is a main activity.

Fern Resort uses a tagline first coined by the owners’ great grandfather; “The home of rolls & honey”. He was a successful Ottawa baker in the early 1900s. His famous buns are still baked daily and served with his favourite honey, Crerar’s, which has been making honey in eastern Ontario since 1914.

Fern Resort has been run by the  family for five generations.

Fern Resort, near Orillia, has been run by the same family for five generations.

One of Haliburton’s first pioneers, James Holland planted the trademark willow trees that still grow along Willow Beach Cottage Resort’s waterfront in Haliburton.

Viamede Resort, Pine Vista Resort and the Irwin Inn are all part of a remarkable Stony Lake community steeped in tradition. An example is the annual Stony Lake Regatta which is almost a century old. This year it will be held on August 3rd.

In 1946, the Chernuck family left Russia to begin a new life in Canada. By chance they noticed a Montreal Gazette classified announcing a large farm for sale on Rice Lake and they purchased it for $10,000. Today the land is still owned by the Chernacks and is known as Golden Beach Resort.

The marina at Golden Beach Resort on Rice Lake.

The marina at Golden Beach Resort on Rice Lake.

The Delawana Inn Resort in Honey Harbour first opened its doors in 1897 as Victoria House. For 15¢ you could take the steamer Odessa from Midland across the bay to Honey Harbour and the hotel. Under the Grisé family, it became the Delawana. My friend Janet, a Cleveland-area travel editor, still has fond memories of vacationing at the “Del” in the 1950s with her family.

When Charles Minnett, the original owner of Clevelands House in Muskoka, ordered his hotel’s first register in 1883, he asked the printer to label it Cleeve Lands after his birthplace in England. The printer mistakenly changed the name to Clevelands, and it was never corrected.

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