Boutique Accommodations in OntarioThere are plenty of unique and boutique places to stay in Ontario, especially in Toronto and some of its larger cities. But there are also many hidden gems that are farther off the beaten track – and finding them is half the fun. Here are some grownup options if you are planning on getting outside the big cities to explore the beautiful and diverse province that is Ontario.
GREY COUNTY (Owen Sound, Thornbury, The Blue Mountains)Grey County is about 2 hours northwest of Toronto and includes some of the best ski slopes in the province, but there are plenty of other surprises in store for those who visit the area. Much more than just a 4-season outdoor playground for Toronto escapees, this region is fast becoming a popular destination for foodies, spa-seekers and nature lovers, and even wine enthusiasts, thanks to an emerging wine region in the Southern Georgian Bay area. Here are a few recommendations for accommodations that reflect these grownup tastes.
HIGHLAND MANOR B&B, Owen Soundwww.highlandmanor.ca We love staying at historic B&Bs, and Highland Manor is one of the most beautiful grand Victorian homes we’ve every stayed in! The house itself is enormous, with over 7500 square feet of living space, and even boasts an impressive 3-story central atrium in its main hallway (with an elevator for luggage) If you love Victorian architecture, you’ll love this home’s meticulously restored and maintained stained glass details, ornate plaster ceilings, winding interior staircase and wraparound verandah. But this is no museum, and guests are encouraged to relax in Highland Manor’s main floor rooms, including the book-filled library, and impressive music room with its 1902 grand piano and collection of miniature pianos that the owners have accumulated over the years. Ensuite guest rooms reflect the same elegance as the main floor rooms, many of which have Italian marble fireplaces to complement their soaring ceilings and arched windows. The comfortable queen-sized beds are appointed with luxurious linens and you’ll find thoughtful touches waiting for you in your room (like welcome chocolates and special hand towels for makeup removal). But perhaps the best part about staying at this elegant Grand Dame of a mansion is that the charm of the house is matched by the charm of its owners, Linda Bradford and Paul Neville. Beyond being gracious hosts, Linda and Paul are savvy business people and our only regret was that we wanted to get out to explore more of Grey County and didn’t have time to extend the conversation that accompanied our delicious breakfast!
WESTIN TRILLIUM HOUSE, Blue Mountainswww.westinbluemountain.com If you’re looking for a beautiful 4-season resort where everything you could want in a getaway is literally at your doorstep, it doesn’t get much better than the Westin Trillium House at Blue Mountain. The hotel is situated at the base of the ski hills and only steps away from all of the amenities of Blue Mountain’s pedestrian Village where you can indulge in fine dining, upscale shopping, nightly entertainment, and of course, any of the outdoor activities that take advantage of the resort’s stunning location. In fact, the Westin Trillium offers access to everything an outdoor enthusiast could want, including hiking, mountain biking, tree-top trekking, zip lining and of course skiing, boarding and snowshoeing in the winter months. And for guests who want to start their day with a run, one of the Westin’s staff even acts as a ‘Running Concierge’ and voluntarily leads a morning run through the surrounding area. Although styled to resemble Canada’s historic wilderness hotels on the outside, there is nothing rustic about the Trillium’s interior decor which is sleek, stylish and modern. Guest rooms have an upscale condo feel with added amenities such as well-equipped kitchenettes, comfortable sitting areas and fireplaces in every room (yes!). We stayed in a large 1-bedroom suite which had its own balcony and overlooked the pool (open year-round with heated decks and walkways in the winter) and even had a view of the hills where we could enjoy the changing autumn colours. For a larger group (girls’ getaway, anyone?), or for 2 couples who may be travelling together, there are 2 and 3-bedroom suites as well, with plenty of living space to gather and enjoy the impressive views. Whether you choose to enjoy the self-contained amenities of the resort, or venture further afield to explore the Georgian Bay region and its attractions, the Westin Trillium is an ideal base for a grownup getaway to this area.
KILLARNEYKillarney is one of Northeastern Ontario’s iconic destinations, both for the Provincial Park of the same name that attracts campers and hikers, and for the stunning scenery that includes sparkling lakes, the La Cloche Mountains and of course, Georgian Bay. And right smack dab in the middle of all this beauty is Killarney Mountain Lodge, a wilderness resort that offers plenty of ‘grownup’ comforts while still delivering a wilderness experience.
KILLARNEY MOUNTAIN LODGE, Killarneywww.killarney.com The original Killarney Mountain Lodge dates back to the 50s, when it was first built as a wilderness resort operated by a large American corporation. A few years later, it was bought by the East family who opened it to the public and ran the Lodge for more than 50 years, offering guests the chance to experience the remote beauty of the region in comfort. That philosophy still remains, and the new owners who purchased the lodge in 2015 have poured millions into updating and expanding the facilities. New additions include a beautiful Great Room, an expanded, gourmet kitchen and dining room, and a stunning wine cellar/tasting room. A brand-new 2-story building just opened this year, offering modern queen suites while still retaining the character of the Lodge with Muskoka Chairs on the porches where you can watch the boats sail by. One of my favourite features is the Carousel lounge, a 1960s-era circular bar with couches and lounges surrounding a central fireplace, with floor-to-ceiling windows that offer 360-degree views of the property. It’s got a retro-hip vibe that is still cool today, there’s live music in the evenings, and it’s the perfect place to unwind after a hike, a swim, a boat trip, or even just a day spent at the large outdoor pool. Killarney Mountain Lodge is a place steeped in history, located in an idyllic setting, and with everything you want in modern amenities.
MANITOULIN ISLANDIt’s the largest freshwater island in the world, in one of the world’s largest freshwater lakes. Yet Manitoulin Island has a small population, making for fewer accommodations options for travellers. But we found a B&B here that met as high a standard as we have found in any other destination, urban or otherwise, and it’s one you don’t want to miss.
SOLITUDES BED & BREAKFAST, Kagawong, Manitoulin Islandwww.solitudesbbmanitoulin-island.com John and Carolyn are the owner/hosts at Solitudes, a modern B&B located on 89 acres of property on the shores of Lake Kagawong, and only minutes by car from Bridal Veil Falls and the cute village of Kagawong. Offering only 2 tastefully decorated ensuite rooms, this B&B offers a quiet escape that lives up to its restful name, but with a warmth and casual vibe that makes it feel like a home away from home. The best part of its country location, aside from the front-row view of the lake, is that there is no light pollution to interrupt your view of the stars – and maybe even the northern lights – in the night sky. And even if the Aurora Borealis doesn’t show up, it’s likely a deer or two might the next morning – right in the front yard. Breakfasts are as delicious as the scenery (I still remember my delicate and delicious lemon ricotta pancakes!)
Located in the heart of Ontario’s Lake Country, about an hour or so north of Toronto, Orillia offers as many options for accommodation as they do activities. Whether you are looking for a well-situated hotel close to Hwy 11 so you can easily get out to explore the region, a boutique B&B experience nestled in the forests of Simcoe County, or a more luxurious all-suite hotel close to downtown, here are our recommendations for grownup places to stay in the area.
STONEGATE INN, Orilliawww.stonegateinn.com A member of the Resorts of Ontario group, the Stonegate Inn offers a bit of grownup luxury with their all-suites rooms, especially their Executive Suites which offer a separate living space and a nicely kitted out kitchen if you are going to stay a few days (including a toaster, microwave, and even cutlery, glassware and of course the prerequisite corkscrew – especially handy if you want to share a bottle of wine after a day exploring the area.) The separate lounge area makes for a nice alternative if you have to do any work, or you are hosting friends and don’t want to feel like your guests are in your bedroom. The jacuzzi tub, cozy robe and complimentary deluxe breakfast are even more reasons you’ll enjoy staying here, and there’s even Friday night hors d’oeuvres offered if you’d like a nibble before heading out for dinner. And with downtown only a 5 minute drive away, there’s more than one reason why the hotel was named the Reader’s Choice for the Best of Orillia.
BEST WESTERN PLUS MARIPOSA INN, Orilliawww.mariposainn.ca When we saw the ‘Plus’ in this Best Western, we assumed it was because this hotel is also a conference centre and one of Orillia’s most popular venues for weddings and large functions. For that reason, we weren’t surprised by the free wifi, spaciousness of the rooms, comfy beds, high-quality linens or even the large pool. What was the real surprise, however, was the quality of the on-site dining at the Grape and Olive Wine and Martini Bistro and its accompanying Bar, both of which offered a welcome alternative to having to leave the hotel to find a good meal or a cocktail. The service was excellent, and the food exceeded our expectations (our only regret was that we checked out before having the opportunity to enjoy their Sunday brunch buffet which looked excellent). An added bonus was that when I needed some hairspray for my costume (we were heading out to the Steampunk Festival in Coldwater), their small sundry store in the lobby had exactly what I needed and for a very reasonable price. The Mariposa is definitely a good option for a comfortable stay and to recharge before hitting the many outdoor activities in the area – and if you happen to be driving an electric car, there’s even a plugin for you to recharge your car, too.
FORKS IN THE TRAIL B&B, Orilliawww.forksinthetrail.com If B&Bs are more your thing – and we love staying at these ourselves – the Forks in the Trail is a beautiful 4-season alternative if you are looking to visit the Horseshoe Valley area (about 20 minutes west of Orillia.) As a highly-rated member of the Federation of Ontario B&Bs, the Forks lives up to the highest standards demanded by the association, not just in the cleanliness and calibre of their ensuite rooms and other amenities, but in the levels of hospitality offered by the owners, Doug and Trish Frost, as well. Both certainly go above and beyond offering not only a warm welcome, but expert advice for enjoying some of the area’s outdoor actitivites. Avid cyclists, they have not only mapped out detailed self-guided biking trails that guests can take through their own 100 acres of forested property, but they also offer cycle-and-stay packages that take advantage of the hundreds of kilometres of beautiful trails in the adjacent county forests. And if hiking, biking, golf or skiing in the area isn’t enough to tempt you, Trish offers nutritional cooking and yoga classes on-site as well. Trust me when I say that the Forks in the Trail’s website doesn’t begin to do justice to the home, its beautifully forested location – or its pool! You will just have to check that out for yourself.
Canada’s capital city has it all for visitors in any season, whether you are lovers of history, architecture, museums or markets. Plus there is the Rideau Canal, winding its way through the heart of the city, which in summer offers a peaceful location for bike rides or walks, and in the winter becomes the longest skating rink in the country.
FAIRMONT CHÂTEAU LAURIER, Ottawawww.fairmont.com/laurier-ottawa/
It’s often referred to as one of ‘Canada’s Castles’ and with its turreted granite-and-limestone exterior and signature copper roof, it’s easy to see why. Inside and out, the Château Laurier exudes an elegance and grandeur that has attracted important figures in history, the arts and of course politics as guests (many politicians in including Pierre Elliott Trudeau made the Château their home while they were in office). It’s no wonder Parliamentarians made this their base, as the hotel’s central location is literally steps away from Parliament Hill in the heart of Ottawa’s downtown. In fact, directly beside the hotel you’ll find the Rideau Canal locks, and the vibrant Byward Market area is just across the street. But the real luxury of this property comes not from its stellar location, but from the outstanding service you will receive as a Fairmont guest. Read more about the history of this hotel, and why you’ll want to spoil yourself with a stay here.