Come summer, escaping the hum of the big city is a must. Sweltering temps paired with angry motorists add up to the perfect recipe for a meltdown — of both the physical and mental kind. For those seeking out a breath of tranquility and some fun in the great outdoors, Viamede Resort in Peterborough & Kawarthas beckons.
Located about two hours north east of Toronto, Viamede Resort is a picture-perfect resort situated right on the shores of Stoney Lake. Upon entering the lobby in the main guesthouse, visitors may instantly spot plenty of Golden Retriever memorabilia doted about. Chances are, you’ll meet the resort dog duo soon enough. (One guess as to their breed.) This adoration of the golden creatures exemplifies the Viamede Resort approach to resort life; they’re excitable and enthusiastic and just want you to have a great time.
Guests can stay in the more hotel-like rooms in the lodges, or book a cottage on the water’s edge. In addition to its spacious bedroom, my cabin came fit with a kitchen and living room area. A porch wrapped around its front and provided the ideal backdrop for morning coffee sips. But sunrise calm aside, there’s plenty of activity to be done at Viamede Resort!
Things to Do at Viamede Resort
Hike with a Golden
Chances are you’ll bump into those resort dogs — Toby and Daisy — at some point. If you’re the type who hankers after canines but doesn’t actually own one, Toby and Daisy are very keen to be walked. They’re well familiar with the trails on the resort and are delightful hiking companions. Don’t forget to give them a treat upon return.
Biking to the Farm
Keen to hop onto two wheels? An assortment of bikes and helmets are located next to the chapel, ready for any guests to use. Best used for the paved roads or the wider paths through the woods, the bikes are a great way to establish a sense of the resort’s boundaries and explore without potentially walking in circles.
Head over to the Big Oak (it’s exactly what it sounds like) and then make your way to the wee farm where geese, chickens and a trio of adorable pigs will greet you. If you’ve small kids who wish for more in-depth animal knowledge, there are daily tours of the Viamede Resort organic farm.
Getting on the Water
Obviously lake activities are a must. No need to sign anything out — an assortment of canoes, kayaks and paddle boards are all perched on the mini beach, ready for your use. Strap on a lifejacket and head out into the waters for a short or long haul.
A Dip in a Pool
Viamede Resort has both indoor and outdoor pools at the ready, so when the weather is your friend, dip your bod into the basin of your choice. If you’re looking to augment your pool experience and go full relaxation mode, put the spiffy new sauna and steam room to use. Both are fronted with glass so the great outdoors is but a toe’s length away.
Lunch at the Boathouse
Housed in a former boathouse that was also once a dancehall, this is the place to go for casual patio eats. Saturdays it’s open for lunch, making for easy nourishment before more afternoon activities. Tuck into snacks like their own cellar pickles (heirloom beets, turnips and caraway sauerkraut) and the cheese board with brie, aged cheddar and goat cheddar. And the gnocchi-like potato dumplings topped with house maple bacon are a must.
Fine Dining at Mount Julian
If there is one thing you should not miss at Viamede Resort, it’s dinner at Mount Julian. Served in the former inn, the multiple course meal unfolds over the evening, with talented chef Kevin McKenna’s locavore commitment visible on every plate.
During my visit, the 9-course tasting menu — an ode to the Tragically Hip — saw a parade of dishes reach from the freshest of salads (a medley of spring greens, flowers, garbanzo beans and more) to incredible artisanal bread (blackened with vegetable ash) to rabbit with wild boar sausage (served atop rabbit skin!)
We ended on a dessert boasting popcorn-flavoured gelato and smoked vanilla custard, of all things. Each course was paired with an Ontario wine such as a Rosehall Run Chardonnay and a Henry of Pelham Baco Noir. An amazing culinary experience.
After a handful of activities, the next best bet is hitting up Sunshrine Day Spa & Salon in Lakefield. A linchpin of the area for some 16 years, owner Tammy Blair knows her stuff, offering everything from haircuts to makeup to mani-pedis to massages. Come wedding season, she’s often in charge of whipping entire bridal parties into their best selves. I emerged completely relaxed after enjoying a hot stone massage — always my favourite.
Spelunking in the Warsaw Caves
Be sure to make time for a visit to these nifty caves and a proper spelunking (aka caving). The caves came to be when limestone bedrock was shaped through various glaciations, especially when glaciers from the Wisconsin ice age began to retreat 12,000 years ago and meltwaters formed underground channels and tons of other goodies. The resulting caves are pretty neat to check out though not for claustrophobes.
Note: If you’re keen on properly exploring them, bring a headlamp.
The caves are not to be confused with the kettles — large pothole which are located on the old riverbed. These formed when granite stones, trapped in the bedrock, were spun around as though in a gigantic washing machine.
Petroglyphs — The Teaching Rocks
Until visiting the region, I was totally unaware that the largest concentration of carved images in all of Canada is right here in Ontario. Kinoomaage-waabkong — the teaching rocks — are images that are believed to have been carved into white marble prior to the arrival of the Europeans.
Due to the sacred nature of the glyphs, visitors are not allowed to take any photos. Boats, snakes and turtles dance across the rocks, carrying spiritual significance to many First Nations people, though it’s impossible to accurately interpret the precise meaning of the carvings.
Before heading back to your normal life, there’s time for one final meal. Hit up Lakefield’s super popular Canoe & Paddle pub for homey eats. The fish ‘n’ chips is one of their most popular dishes and arrives crisp and golden with a side of chips.
Pair with one of their Ontario craft brews, such as an Old Flame Red. If you’re dining at 2 p.m. on a Sunday, you’re likely to encounter live tunes courtesy of local musicians. Don’t stay for dessert—skip next door to Stuff’d and order up some Kawartha Dairy ice cream. Hey, when in…Rome…right?
595 Mt Julian Viamede Road, 705-654-3344
Written by Karolyne Ellacott