Is winter romance on your to-do list for Valentine’s Day? Celebrate your love and all things Canadian for the country’s 150th anniversary by spending your precious get-away time in our home and native land. Not much says Canada more than Algonquin Park. And here’s a tip – you don’t need to sleep in a tent or a paddle a canoe to experience it in style, with your special person.
Some call it glamping — glamour and camping. You can experience it year-round at Couples Resort at the eastern entrance to Algonquin Park in the village of Whitney, Ontario. Enjoy of the beauty of Algonquin then return to your own cabin or room, complete with private hot tub, sauna, steam shower and full service dining. Firewood is delivered to your door. Really, as a former Girl Guide, this was some kind of Shangri-La for a Canadian looking for a break from the city without roughing it.
It is important to note that this is a resort for couples only — not for families, not for a girls’ getaway weekend, not for taking your great aunt or favourite schnauzer. It’s tables for two, where couples show up dressed for dinner which means a suit jacket and tie for men, a dress for women. While this may strike some as incongruent with a park-like setting, this is exactly how Couples Resort has unabashedly operated for decades. “It’s a great place for birthdays, anniversaries or for anyone looking for some time to reconnect with their partner,” says John Sorensen, second generation owner of the resort. “We have everything – all you need is time, two or three days is perfect, to be together.”
The Resort is considered small in terms of classification. There are luxury cabins that face Galeairy Lake: ours had its own sauna, steam shower, indoor jazucci, on-deck exterior hot tub and steam shower, along with a natural wood burning fireplace, king size poster bed, two types of coffee makers and a bar fridge that was stocked with a filled ice bucket (nice touch). Breakfast can be delivered to your room. All guests sign up for a full hot breakfast and dinner as part of their stay. If you don’t want a cabin there are more traditional rooms in a hotel-like setting, with balconies. Some face the lake others look over the large property which includes its own hiking trail and art gallery.
Sorensen says the resort welcomes about 10,000 guests a year, with the peak in summer, although fall and Valentine’s are also busy. “We like to say it is Valentine’s Day every day here. We take care of people so they can have a good time.” Guests can use a complimentary park entrance pass if they wish to hike or experience Algonquin. If they prefer not to leave the resort there are seasonally appropriate activities including cross-country skiing, outdoor bonfires, indoor games room, trails, boating/fishing, biking, etc. Many prefer to simply rest in their cabin by the fire. For deeper relaxation there is an in house spa (by appointment). In season enjoy the outdoor swimming pool, and tennis and basketball courts.
In the dining room guests have a classic European style experience with a variety of offerings and daily specials for breakfast and dinner (lunch is not included but can be purchased). Eggs Benedict, cream cheese French toast and healthier options await. At dinner enjoy classic rack of lamb, fish, steak, or pasta. All guests can select two appetizers, an entrée and dessert as part of the package. Executive chef Ronnie Coppens enjoys creating daily specials, which are a nice change of pace for couples staying for more than a few days. Couples Resort has an extensive wine list and is on the Wine Spectator accredited list. Guests can also bring their own wine and have it served without a corkage fee.
This niche resort is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017. It clearly has found its spot in the marketplace. It’s a five to six hour drive from London, depending on how many stops you want to make along the way. We enjoyed visiting Muskoka Brewery in Bracebridge and Muskoka Coffee in Huntsville along the trip. Depending on the season, stops at the Park Visitor Centre and Logging Museum are well worth the time. As well, there are numerous day hikes for spectacular views.
139 Galeairy Lake Road, Whitney ON
Jane Antoniak and Bruce Fyfe are regular contributors of culinary travel stories to eatdrink. They were guests of Couples Resort, which did not review or approve the contents of this article.