Deerhurst lives up to its reputation

It’s tough to find fault with Deerhurst Resort, which recently graced the cover of the 2006 edition of Resorts & Great Hotels: The Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Best. Inside, the profile begins by saying that “Clean air, fresh water, and brilliant scenery captivate the senses at Deerhurst Resort…” Surveys consistently rank Deerhurst as one of the premier resorts in Ontario, in Canada and across North America.

But then again they’ve had a long time to get it right. Originally built in 1896 by an Englishman, Charles Waterhouse, Deerhurst was the first major resort on the northern lakes in the region, consisting of a main lodge plonked down on four acres of waterfront. In those days, Deerhurst was accessible only by steamboat. Legend has it that during its first week of operation, the resort hosted two guests who paid $3.50 per person per week, which included three meals a day. By the beginning of the 1990s, Deerhurst had grown to nearly 800 acres and could accommodate 1,000 guests. Today Deerhurst is marked by a $25 million expansion completed in 2000.

The resort is nestled into the foothills of Muskoka – about two hours north of Toronto, or three if you’re behind a snowplough. Our high-angst feeling from the city dissipated as we wove through rural back roads to the 800-acre site on Peninsula Lake. One of the first things we saw when pulling into the entrance was an outdoor shinny rink. I almost expected Walter Gretzky to jump out from behind a snowbank and start filming with his Super 8 camera.

As we marshalled through Deerhurst’s rustic lobby with its enormous fireplace, the warmth of welcome was immediate, and although we arrived hours before our official check in time, we were given the key to our room.

shots of Deerhurst Resort

It is the setting and landscape that gives Deerhurst its sloping European flare. Yet there’s no sitting around. There’s just too much to do. On the way to rent cross-country ski equipment, we passed indoor tennis, racquetball and squash courts, a fitness centre, the indoor pool and The Pub. Snowmobiles and snowshoes are also available for rent.

There’s no need to hold your breath waiting for the price schedule for a day of cross-country ski rentals and trail access: it’s $10 all in. Snowshoeing for the day is $5. Even if one is heading to nearby Hidden Valley Highlands for some downhill skiing, it’s cheaper to buy the lift ticket at Deerhurst. And tubing – when one sits in a giant inner tube and races down an icy track – is free.

For those who need a little help relaxing there’s The Aveda Spa, which is known for its aromatherapy steam bath and the Muskoka Maple Body Scrub. One can select from nine Hyrdotherapy Body Services starting at $70.

Many units at Deerhurst come with a kitchenette, so having a warm bowl of soup is easy and economical. But when you want to leave the cooking to someone else, Deerhurst delivers. The Eclipse and Steamers Restaurants provide a wide-range of menu options in warm settings where the only pressure is to stay a little longer.

In the evening, guests can head over to what the resort calls Canada’s “longest running stage show,” Edge, which featured Shania Twain for three years, before she was “discovered.”

It was snowing when we arrived and didn’t stop during our two-day visit. Just before departing I placed a call to the front desk to see what the road conditions were like. The voice on the telephone line gave reassurances that everything was fine. And yes it was. But in a funny kind of way I was hoping for closed roads and snowstorms. After all, another night at Deerhurst would be more than nice.

Seniors’ specials
Anyone 55 years of age or older is eligible for a 30 per cent discount on midweek accommodation along with a 10 per cent discount on food and beverage purchases. When the snow melts, those on the seniors’ package can golf Deerhurst Lakeside for just $50 Monday to Friday, including cart.

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