At the beginning of 2016, I had my heart set on taking a grand trip somewhere. Anywhere. I was in desperate need of a change of scenery, and I needed it fast. Unfortunately, life’s obligations had other plans, and my getaway wishes got pushed further and further down my list of priorities.
I thought all hopes for a family vacation this calendar year were dashed – until I learned about Viamede Resort.
Nestled on the shores of Stoney Lake in Ontario’s Kawarthas, Viamede is a rustic resort that has actually been around since 1885. In 2010, Ben Samann purchased the resort and transformed it into a delightful space for people who desire a getaway off the beaten path – literally.
On a Friday evening in early November, HomieLuva, Little Magician, and I packed up our car and headed east to Viamede. At a mere 2 hour drive from Toronto, escaping the city isn’t that difficult – and the drive was actually a beautiful one for this chick who hasn’t been further east than Durham Region. Driving at night made us lose the effect of seeing the gorgeous fall foliage along the way, but there would be much more time for that through the weekend.
We arrived at Viamede, a large resort area consisting of a main building (housing the reception, individual hotel rooms, fitness area, and common lounge space called Club 1885), cottages, Boathouse Restaurant, and the jewel of the resort, the Mount Julian Inn. Upon check in, we drove back to our cottage – and I held my breath at the door.
Full disclosure – I’ve never been camping, never stayed in a cottage, and “rustic” is me sitting on my back deck overlooking my little grassy backyard. I didn’t know what to expect with our Viamede cottage – but I opened the door and breathed a sigh of relief. It was clean! And quaint! And cute! And comfy!
We quickly settled into our 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom cottage (complete with living room, dining area, full kitchen and wrap-around porch), and welcomed our friends and their toddler daughter to enjoy the space with us.
What to do:
I figured that Viamede would be poppin’ in the summertime, but wondered what we’d be able to do in the latter part of fall. The little ones (and us big ones) had a ton of fun hiking, watching grasshoppers, and jumping in piles of leaves, and we spent a LOT of time doing just that.
We got to kick back and relax with complimentary snacks and drinks at Club 1885, splash around in the indoor pool (connected to an outdoor hot tub), skip rocks into Stoney Lake, explore the nature trails, and had way too much fun on the outdoor playground (I still can’t do monkey bars).
Back in our cottage, the 6 of us had more than enough space to allow the little ones to play, and allow us big ones to kick back with a drink or two once they went to bed. And when it was time for us to turn in? The rooms were spacious and the beds were deliciously comfortable. Wins all around.
What to eat:
Eating is one of my favourite pastimes, and Viamede didn’t let me down. Our first meal was at the homestyle Boathouse Pub, where we were treated to delicious burgers, fresh-cut fries, wings, salads, pizza, pasta, and more. The staff were extremely accommodating to my groups’ nut allergy and gluten-free needs, and the food hit the spot.
The breakfast buffet (included in each guests’ stay) was probably one of the best resort/hotel breakfasts I’ve ever had. Incredibly fresh sausages, crispy bacon, grilled tomatoes, scrambled eggs, breads of all kinds, hash browns, yogurt, cereal, you name it. It was the kind of breakfast that you wish you could start every day with, and eating while looking out onto Stoney Lake set the perfect vibe each morning.
For HomieLuva and I’s exquisite dinner at the prestigious Mount Julian Inn, we were taken care of by none other than Ben Samann, General Manager and owner of Viamede. We sat down to an utterly delicious 5 course meal (we could have also chose a 7- or 9-course meal, were it not for toddler time constraints) with fresh cuisine and accompanying wine pairings. And when I say fresh, I mean fresh. Mount Julian Inn and the other eateries on the resort make a point to utilize ingredients sourced right on site to create their delicious meals. From the fish to the Cornish hen to the asparagus to the quinoa bread to the poppyseed butter and hempseed hummus – pretty much everything you eat comes from Viamede’s farms. Our meal at Mount Julian Inn was intimate (only 9 tables in the whole place!), romantic, absolutely delicious, and complete with a little happy buzz from all the wine. A definite highlight of our stay.
How to relax:
One of the things I was most motivated to do during my weekend at Viamede was to unplug and relax.
I meditated each morning on the porch overlooking the green space and the lake, and wished I could recreate a bit of that peace and serenity back home. I was initially annoyed by the lack of WiFi in our cottage (don’t worry – you can easily get internet access at the main building) – but I eventually grew thankful for the opportunity to really disconnect. The TV had one sports channel, but a combination of our favourite DVDs, dope adult conversation, and hilarious childhood imagination kept us well entertained.
Walking the grounds and nature trails really brought me back to a space of not having to rush, not having any time restrictions, not having to be anywhere I didn’t want to be – and instead just re-learning how to be present in the moment. Also, traveling with children reminded us about the wonders of seeing things with new eyes – the magic of red, yellow, and orange leaves was renewed for me through them, and it was a pleasant, necessary shift.
Viamede was the perfect getaway for us, at the perfect time. A place that can satisfy adults and toddlers isn’t easy to find, but we found it here. If you’re considering a family trip to Viamede, there are some things to keep in mind. Since Mount Julian Inn isn’t really a kid-friendly venue, we’re lucky we had friends with us, or we wouldn’t have been able to partake. And when we thought of our older tween goddaughter, we figured she might not enjoy a visit to Viamede in the fall – summer yes, but without the added water activities and ability to enjoy the sun and warmth, older kids might get a bit bored. All that to say, if kids are in the mix, timing is an important factor. We met people who were there to attend a wedding, a raucous girl’s group, and couples who were there for a romantic weekend – so Viamede definitely offers something for almost everyone.
Small details and areas for improvement caught my eye – making sure utensils and mugs are pristine in the common areas, extending the windows for lunch and dinner availability, perhaps working on the WiFi in cottages (or maybe not – there are pros and cons as I found), and closing off the opening between the indoor pool and outdoor hot tub during the cold months (the pool was a tad chilly indoors). Minor yet notable things that could have made a fabulous experience even better, but nothing that drastically took away from the weekend.
All in all, we had a wonderful time at Viamede. Our curiosity is tingling with thoughts of what a summer weekend stay would look like (access to the water? Bonfires at night? Seeing even more of the grounds?) so we may very well be back! But don’t let the time of year discourage you from planning a city escape – Viamede is open all year round, so you’ll be able to enjoy yourself no matter the season! If you go – let ’em know Bee sent you!
All in all – I might be willing to choose a cottage over a cushy luxe hotel from time to time, so I thank Viamede for introducing this city girl to country life.
This post was sponsored by Viamede Resort, but all opinions are authentically mine. Special thanks to Ben, Laura, Deanna, and the Viamede staff!
Big hair+mouth. Word lover. Award-winning blogger. Freelance writer. Media commentator. Wife/mama/daughter/sister/friend. Dancehall Queen for life.