It seems every winter, my newsfeeds blow up with pictures of oceans, bathing suits, sunshine and cocktails. This year will be no different: friends and family will pack their bags and flock down south. Although thrilled for their upcoming hot, sandy adventures, it’s almost impossible to not feel a little restless. Each picture of a beach sunset usually makes the snow feel deeper, the cold feel colder and the warmer months seem like decades away.
Despite my desire to get out of the house and follow everyone south, the usual excuses are running through my mind: my vacation time is getting low, plane tickets are expensive, all-inclusive resorts aren’t really my thing, and don’t even get me started on my ‘beach body’.
Who needs all of that though? Let’s eliminate the stress and cost of heading abroad and look a little closer to home. Whether you’re looking to cozy up lakeside, or to hide away, nestled in the woods, relaxing adventures for two are speckled across Ontario’s Highlands.
Check out one of the following cozy cabin settings for a getaway that trades in jet setting for a road trip, beaches for hot tubs, sand for snow, piña coladas for local craft brews, and a la carte for fine dining. You won’t be disappointed.
One drawback of winter is its shorter days, but you can celebrate the season even as darkness falls during a stay in one of the cabins at Ogopogo Resort. Watch sunlight sparkle off of frozen Mountain Lake, strap on snowshoes or cross-country skis to explore the powdery white wonderland by day, then lace up your skates and glide beneath the stars on the flood-lit rink onsite by night. For a little added luxury, tuck into the cozy Studio Cottage at night and choose your favourite way to warm up – soaking away any worries in the jacuzzi tub or snuggled up by the fireplace.
Insider Tip: Make some new furry friends by booking a dog sledding tour with Winterdance or Haliburton Forest. The huskies’ enthusiasm for the season will have you glad you skipped the beach, and these friendly working dogs are some of the best guides around to show you the true beauty of the winter wilderness.
Let the warm hospitality of your hosts make you forget about the chill outside during a stay in one of these comfy cottages, or even in the lodge itself. Pack your cross-country skis or snowshoes to leisurely explore the local trails, or bring your snowmobile and put a little speed behind your exploration as you zip along the trails accessible from the resort’s doorstep.
Insider Tip: Sometimes winter has a way of seeping right down to my bones, but I’d hate to let that keep me from enjoying the sparkling snow and natural beauty surrounding the resort. Thankfully, with a sauna onsite, it’s easy to warm up after a day exploring the trails or skating on the lake.
Ok, as the name suggests, this one is technically a lodge as opposed to a stand-alone cabin, but with wooden accents, lakeview suites, and in-room fireplaces available (not to mention the incredible meals onsite), I just had to include it. On the banks of Twelve Mile Lake, peeking out from behind majestic tall pines, lies the warm and welcoming Heather Lodge. As an adult-only resort, the property offers a quiet and serene escape, with the chance to soak away into the sunset from a private hot tub. Coupled with Chef James’ spectacular in-house cooking served in the lakeside sunroom, this truly is a peaceful place.
Insider Tip: Grab a pair of snowshoes from the main office and explore the natural beauty surrounding the lodge.
You really leave the world behind when spending a weekend at Black River Retreat. This secluded oasis only accommodates one booking at a time; so it’s just you, that special someone, and nature. Oh, and a personal chef. The log home, hiking trails, waterfront property, fire pit and hot tub are all yours to enjoy at your pleasure!
Insider Tip: Customize your experience! Call ahead and chat with Trevor about setting up a yoga session or couple’s massage, and don’t forget your iPod at home. With speakers hidden throughout the retreat, you can plug in and play your very own tunes both inside and outside to set the mood.
I like to think of Haliburton Forest as my perfect balance between an escape away from the world and into the woods and one that still offers the necessary amenities at my fingertips. Located about half an hour outside of the Village of Haliburton, it’s far enough out that you feel a world away from any hustle and bustle, while still having easy access to the mouth-watering dining experiences, unique workshops, incredible winter fun, and refreshing craft breweries across Haliburton County. If you’re not looking to stray too far from your cabin to explore the County, you don’t have to! There’s a restaurant, activities, a shop, and gas available onsite. Leave the car keys in the cabin and wander the property to marvel at the beauty of hand-crafted wooden products, learn about majestic wolves, rev your engine on snowmobile trails, try your hand at mushing, and warm up with a meal at The Cookhouse.
Insider Tip: If the thought of winter in Canada conjures up images of snowy woods and iconic Canadian animals, you’re in luck! Make sure to swing by and visit Hershe, a rescued moose who now lives onsite, and to pop into The Wolf Centre to learn more about these glorious creatures and witness the dynamics of the resident wolf pack.
Perfect for a truly private wilderness escape, these tiny cabins are tucked away on beautiful rugged landscapes, yet still close to trails and parks so you can explore the surrounding environment at your leisure. Spend the days wandering the woods by snowshoe, then cozy up for the night in one of these tiny off-the-grid spaces with a good book, a warm drink, and that special someone, and be amazed by how big of an escape this adventure actually is.
Insider Tip: Skip the dishes and the hassle of cooking! If you’re staying at Mason or Auburn Cabins, head into Sharbot Lake to grab dinner at The Crossing Pub, or if you’re staying at Joni, head to Arnprior and check out Krave Bistro or Lumbertown Ale House.
Forget the beach. All you need to do for these winter staycations is grab your overnight bag and your beloved, hop in the car, and cozy up. Is there anything better?