After a three-and-a-half hour drive from Ottawa, you’ll reach a winding, tree-shaded dirt road. It leads you away from any connection to the outside world and onto the property of Arowhon Pines—an all-inclusive wilderness resort in the heart of Algonquin Provincial Park.
If you’ve never been to Algonquin, you aren’t alone. I’ve lived in Ottawa for 28 years and this was my first time. Don’t make my mistake.
It’s great living in the city. I can walk almost anywhere—to the quaint little coffee shops, the sushi place around the corner, yoga studios, and so many other interesting places. But, once in a while, you just need to escape—that’s why the Hamptons exist near New York City.
Arowhon Pines is the Canadian cottage equivalent. At average resort prices, it is worth every penny. This oasis was exactly what the doctor ordered after a year full of the daily grind.
Arowhon Pines began in 1938 when the feisty Lillian “Granny” Kates decided to build a lodge to accommodate parents visiting nearby Camp Arowhon. Throughout the years, it’s been reorganized, rebuilt and refurbished.
When you arrive, a member of the worldly staff (they hire from all over the globe) will escort you to your cabin. There are three-, four-, eight- and 12-bedroom cabins (each room with a private bathroom, though you’ll share lounge and fireplace), two-bedroom cabins and private cabins. Our spacious private cabin had a king bed, bathroom, stone fireplace and private deck. We immediately felt at home.
Other than the park, one of the greatest draws at Arowhon Pines is the cuisine. It’s a delight walking into the dining room, with its high ceilings and beautiful, big fireplace.
They try as hard as they can to have “farm to table” selections, with a seasonal kitchen. This is, of course, a challenge, given the location. The menu does change daily and seasonally, with lunch served buffet style, and appetizer and dessert buffets at every meal. Your dinner may well include organic greens from the lodge’s garden, Thai spring rolls with peanut sauce, cream of mushroom soup, lobster in passion fruit and basil glaze, roast loin of venison and much more.
The next morning, after a delicious breakfast, I tried stand-up paddle boarding. After paddling out to the middle of Little Joe Lake, I simply sat. It was the definition of peace.
Algonquin is one of Canada’s top canoeing destinations, so make sure to squeeze in a day trip at the very least. Heading south from Little Joe Lake, you’ll reach Gibraltar Rock in about half an hour, where you can lay out and soak up the sun. Then continue south, paddling under a bridge, to Joe Lake Dam, where you can swim and relax at a campsite. If you aren’t a seasoned canoeist, this might be enough to make you happy. However, there is more to the route, if you’re up for it.
A short portage from the campsite takes you into Canoe Lake, where after about a 45-minute paddle and a little bit of a hike, you’ll come upon a cairn dedicated to Tom Thomson (1877–1917), at his favorite campsite. One of Canada’s most renowned landscape artists, he died in Algonquin Park under suspicious circumstances. If you want to keep going, there are also Little Doe and Tom Thomson lakes, as well as Burnt Island on the other side of a few more portages.
The cry of a loon, lakes upon lakes, hummingbirds fluttering to and fro—these are the things you can’t find in the heart of a metropolis. So take the time and escape into the wilderness. Make the most of your time on Earth.
Arowhon Pines will be open from June 2 to October 9, 2017, with rates fluctuating between the spring, regular, premium, and fall seasons. Guests are free to use the canoes, kayaks, sailboats, sauna and tennis courts, as well as hiking and nature trails. And don’t miss the dessert table—everything is homemade.
Editor’s note: Hollie submitted this piece ages ago, but I’ve been swamped and wasn’t able to post it until now, after Arowhon Pines has closed for the season. However, the resort will re-open in June 2017, so I figure this gives you lots of time to plan a trip for next year, if you are so inclined!