Road Trips & Travel

To B&B or Not to B&B: A Diversity of Lodgings in Stratford

Bryan Lavery
Written by Bryan Lavery

If you’re thinking of visiting Stratford before the summer season heats up, or in the thick of theatre season, you’ll find a diversity of comfortable hospitable lodgings no matter what your taste. The region offers a variety of hotels, boutique inns, luxury suites, hotel-style home and vacation rentals, farm-stays and over 70 bed-and-breakfasts (B&Bs). Be sure to book in advance for the most optimal experience.

The lion’s share of Stratford’s lodgings is situated around the downtown area with easy access to theatres, restaurants, cafés and independent retailers. The gradual transformation from heritage homes to elegant guest houses and B&B lodgings has played a large role in the conservation of the heritage architecture and charm of Stratford and surroundings. Dating from 1953, Stratford’s B&B history harkens back to the beginning of the Shakespeare Festival, when residents opened their homes to unanticipated throngs of theatre-goers.

Due to their smaller size, B&Bs and inns usually offer a more intimate, personalized guest experience, allowing visitors interaction not only with the owner but also other guests. Add the draw of staying in a unique property, breakfasts to remember, and comforts that are comparable, if not superior to, other lodgings, and it’s not surprising that many travelers prefer B&Bs and small inns.

Stratford and Area Bed & Breakfast Association (SABBA) is the leading representative of independent B&B owners in Stratford and surrounding area. The organization has helped build a cohesive custom service experience for visitors looking for B&B accommodations, from the unassuming and cozy to the most lavish and luxurious. SABBA participants are committed to the Association’s quality standards, often surpassing local licensing requirements. SABBA properties are regularly inspected to ensure these standards are maintained, which results in guests having a more optimized and engaged customer experience.

Stewart House Inn

Be sure to check out the comprehen­sive list of B&Bs on SABBA’s website (www.bbstratford.ca). You’ll find choices such as the elegantly appointed Magnolia House, one of the newer properties to open in Stratford, in a beautifully restored Edwardian home. Perennial favourites also abound. The elegant all-season Stewart House Inn, a six-bedroom B&B, almost always experiences full occupancy during the Stratford Festival season. Frequently receiving rave reviews and five-star ratings on TripAdvisor Canada, the Inn was named Unique Luxury Hotel of the Year in the North American listings of the Luxury Travel Guide year-end America’s Awards 2016. The awards celebrate the very best accommodation providers.

Cathy Rehberg, Marketing Manager, Stratford Tourism Alliance says, “Stratford’s boutique inns are small enough to offer personal interaction, yet large enough to allow for anonymity if that is what is preferred. Mercer Hotel (a walk up), The Lofts at 99, Bentley’s (a walk up) and The Parlour Inn, a Vintage Inn property, are good examples of this and situated in the downtown. They all feature dining on location and free parking.”

Key’d Inn

Another highly recommended spot is Key’d Inn, operated by Keystone Alley. The Inn consists of two spacious suites located above the restaurant. You can enjoy a cocktail on the impressive rooftop patio or relax in front of the gas fireplace in the shared communal dining/sitting area.

Forest Motel and Woodland Resort

Forest Motel and Woodland Resort provides an unexpected surprise, with 19 rooms in a wooded location on private McCarthy Lake. This is a popular location for weddings and romantic getaways, with chalet rooms separated from the main building. They also offer upscale B&B rooms across the road. The setting is well suited to families, with canoes, bikes and inviting outdoor space to explore and enjoy at the east entrance to Stratford.

Here are a few more suggestions and recommendations to highlight the variety of choices and styles in the Stratford area.

Foster’s Inn

In the heart of Stratford’s uptown, Foster’s Inn’s nine eclectic rooms offer comfort and strikingly unique furnishings in a casual and calming environment. This turn-of-the-century brick building features soaring 14-foot ceilings, fully-accessible en suite bathrooms with modern amenities, an elevator and an excellent steakhouse with a street-level patio in a prime location off Market Square, just steps to the Avon Theatre. Friendly, personalized service and excellent breakfasts are the Inn’s hallmark. You will be the guest of the owner Craig Foster, who is passionate about hospitality. Drop by the quaint bar or street-side patio during cocktail hour or after theatre. Open seven days a week, breakfast, lunch and dinner. fostersinn.com

Mercer Kitchen/Beer Hall/Hotel 

Mercer Kitchen/Beer Hall/Hotel, a unique, smartly-renovated heritage walk-up located in the heart of downtown Stratford, is a balance between contemporary and traditional. The 14 expansive and comfortable rooms are among some of the most desirable in the core. The street level boasts Mercer Kitchen, a terroir-driven restaurant under the guidance of Chef Ryan McDonnell, with a delicious “from scratch” menu. They also offer one of Ontario’s largest craft beer selections. mercerhall.ca

The Bruce Hotel

The handsomely appointed, 25-room Bruce Hotel features 21 spacious rooms and four “petite suites” designed with a Shakespearean character in mind. There is a luxurious indoor pool and a state-of-the-art gym. The Bruce is situated on six and a half acres of property just a short walk from the Festival Theatre. The gazebo can be booked for special dinners. The dining room is white linen, chic with comfortable square-backed upholstered chairs and settees. This is the top end of dining in Stratford, with Chef Arron Carley featuring cutting-edge Canadian cuisine and wine pairings. thebruce.ca

The Festival Inn 

The Festival Inn, offering affordable accommodations in several low-rise buildings and an annex adjoining the main hotel with a covered walkway, has a retro ambience. The hotel has been welcoming guests for over 50 years and is a six-minute drive from the Avon Theatre. There’s an informal dining room and a casual lounge with a large-screen TV and a snack menu. A complimentary continental breakfast is served in the Anne Hathaway dining room, mornings between 7:30 am and 11 am. festivalinnstratford.com

Rundles Morris House

Rundles Morris House, designed by the Canadian architectural firm Shim-Sutcliffe, launched the first ever fractional vacation home ownership opportunity in Stratford. As the beginning phase in the re-development of Rundles Restaurant, starting in the 2017 season of the Stratford Festival, Rundles Morris House will be offered for sale in one-week segments. The house functions as a deluxe two-bedroom suite, has a living room, den, bedroom and en suite bathrooms. Enjoy the wood-burning fireplace in the living room, and views onto the Avon River and parklands. The adjoining restaurant has always been synonymous with innovative culinary classicism and a refined level of wine sophistication. rundlesrestaurant.com

 

About the author

Bryan Lavery

Bryan Lavery

Eatdrink Food Editor and Writer at Large Bryan Lavery brings years of experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry, as a chef, restaurant owner and consultant. Always on the lookout for the stories that Eatdrink should be telling, he helps shape the magazine both under his byline and behind the scenes.