I must admit, I’ve been spoiled.
My entire life, I’ve had a family cottage, and my summers have always included the post-card-worthy scenery of Muskoka Lakes as their backdrop.
That being said, I had never experienced Muskoka as a ‘tourist’, and certainly never in April. Our cottage, built in the 40’s, isn’t winterized. Our season ends Thanksgiving weekend, when the wind starts getting colder and the leaves change colours, and we pack away the canoes and water noodles until the Victoria Day long weekend. So when Erin suggested a girls weekend getaway to the (typically) summer vacation destination, I was all ears.
The Rosseau Muskoka Resort & Spa by JW Marriott, is situated high upon the hemlock-lined, granite rocky cliffs overlooking Lake Rosseau (one of the big 3 lakes), smack dab in the heart of the region. Approximately 2.5 hours north of Toronto, it’s far enough to really escape the city, but just close enough for a quick road-trip. It also happens to be the only resort in the area that stays open all year-round.
We arrived in the late afternoon, with enough time to check-in and freshen up, and take a nice stroll around the property before dinner. Despite it’s sprawling size, the moment we entered the resort, we felt the cozy cottage vibes of the carefully curated decor, from the log-cabin-esque accented furniture, plaid textiles, portraits of loons and antique boats, and a lobby lounge that resembles the quintessential ‘Muskoka Room’ (which no cottage is complete without). At this time of year the sun sets at around 8pm, so we still had a couple hours to enjoy the view as we wined and dined at The Muskoka Chophouse, overlooking the magnificent landscape.
The classic American-style steakhouse also pays homage to the history of lodging in Muskoka, with thick wooden table-tops, vaulted windows opening up to the terrace, and a focal-point chandelier crafted from drift-wood and reminiscent of moose antlers. The menu features a handful of Certified Angus Beef cuts, Cornish Hen and Rainbow Trout, and a delectable list of sides and accompaniments.
I started with the mixed baby ‘Gem’ caesar salad, followed by the 16oz bone-in rib-eye with peppercorn sauce, a side of creamed spinach and kale with gruyère cheese béchamel and smoked paprika, and the creamy mashed potatoes with crème fraîche and chives. We sampled glasses of both a featured white and red, from their exclusive wine-list, hand-picked straight from California and beyond (so don’t even bother looking at the LCBO, you won’t find these beauties there). The finishing touch was a sweet twist on your favourite campfire confection; ‘S’mores in a Jar’ – just what it sounds like – a creamy clump of toasted marshmallow, sitting atop melted rich chocolate and crumbled graham crackers, all contained in an actual cloud of campfire smoke, so you can literally taste your childhood. Needless to say, everything about this meal was incredible.
The next morning, we woke up to blue skies, a glass lake, and the beaming sun enticing us outside to play. Even in the ‘off-season’, The Rosseau has no shortage of camp-inspired activities, from nature walks, to maple syrup making, to campfire cooking lessons, to watercolour painting, in addition to the fully-stocked spa and fitness centre, complete with an immaculate indoor/outdoor heated pool and hot-tub (and yes, it stays open throughout the thick of winter). We spent the entire day basking and relaxing, between the pool deck, the boat docks and our private balcony, and we practically forgot it had been merely days since the ice had melted off the water.
It’s safe to say, I’ve seen a new side of Muskoka. I never thought I’d be bikini-clad, swimming outdoors in April (with tan-lines to prove it), and if I didn’t already have a cottage to go to, I would consider making The Rosseau a recurring summer staple. In fact, I’m eagerly anticipating cruising over by boat to try one of their SUP (Stand Up Paddle-Board) Yoga classes, but I’m especially looking forward to visiting next winter, so I can experience the tranquil serenity of a deserted paradise, under the veil of a winter wonderland.