Last Updated: January 11, 2021
If you’re like me and from big, bad Toronto, you don’t do the outdoor thing too often. Before dating Sarah, I never imagined I’d be climbing mountains, camping with my in-laws or taking extended leaves from my electronics.
I was originally invited to Viamede Resort as part of a zombie survival-themed weekend, but due to a pregnancy in the family (I do not know how Lori pulled it off in The Walking Dead), we thought it best that we sit that wilderness trek out.
Instead, we got to check out what a relaxing stay at the Viamede resort would be like, complete with a deluxe cottage to call home for a couple of nights.
Seems like everyone’s got Viamede on the tips of their tongues these days, and Charming Media was kind enough to let me in on the action!
Only 30 minutes north of Peterborough, Viamede is nestled in the woods on the north shore of Stoney Lake, one of Ontario’s most beautiful lakes. Our resort facilities are well suited to both relaxation and adventure. Hike our 6 km of private nature trails before an evening on your private patio with a BBQ, or join us at the Boathouse Pub for live music, great food and cold craft beers for summer time fun. Rent our Sea-Doos or explore the pristine bays by kayak.
Life’s a lot different when you venture out to Smalltown Ontario.
Ain’t No Love (in the Heart of the City)
The big city can wear on your soul. Toronto’s a real cold city at times — we’ve been penned so tightly into our urban lives that we barely look up or do anything fun that deviates from our daily routines. I was passing through College station a while back, and saw a panhandler tapping his wrist and asking a different question from the usual:
“Do you know what time it is?”
But no one stopped to answer. I told him, but not before wondering how it all got so bad. When we stopped caring. When we became little more than participants in the ebbs and flows of the city, never bothering to change it.
And that’s when I knew I could use a break.
And Viamede can give you that.
The Road to Viamede
After escaping the madness of the GTA’s rush hour traffic, we made the 2-hour trek to Woodview, Ontario in Peterborough County where a little place called the Viamede Resort is found. The drive was horrendous ‘til we got past Ajax (stay free to rush hour traffic), but we were soon reminded that life’s a lot different in Smalltown Ontario the further we got. (Dear Toronto — we need more trucks with fresh crab and lobster for sale. Immediately. Shout-out to the Rock Lobster Company for all their delicious!)
Nestled amid 165 acres of pristine forest in the Kawarthas, Viamede sits on 2000 feet of prime Stoney Lake waterfront. All three restaurants, most rooms, and all cottages overlook the grounds and lake. The natural beauty of the area is undisturbed, with enough space for guests to play.
Welcome to Smalltown Ontario!
Smalltown Ontario knows to shut the lights off at night before you open the door so the moths stay in the wild instead of becoming bothersome house guests.
Smalltown Ontario will offer you directions on where they got their Globe and Mail when asked, and then offer up their copy when they’re done with it to save you the trouble.
People from Smalltown Ontario will zip across the lake to have a drink with buddies at the local pub.
Smalltown Ontario will unashamedly play Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” at a wedding reception, with everyone singing along so loudly that the echoes ripple across the water.
Hey Smalltown Ontario — I think I like your style.
All You Need’s at Viamede
Sometimes a spot of relaxation is just what the doctor ordered. Stepping onto Viamede’s grounds was like going through a time warp to an era long forgotten by us Torontonian city slickers, with a chapel and inn dating back to the 1800s! But while it wasn’t the most active weekend we’d ever had (if a pregnant woman tells you she doesn’t wanna hike — you’re not going hiking!), there were still some highlights:
A huge part of the weekend was eating. Despite bringing enough food with us to feed an army, Viamede has enough food on-site to satisfy any taste! As they put it:
A main focus of the resort is our culinary program. Viamede’s 3 restaurants offer a menu diversity that few resorts can match – a lakefront pub with home made pulled pork & hamburgers, an ever-changing variety of tantalizing entrees in the Dining Room, and the Inn at Mount Julian, Viamede’s highly accredited fine dining restaurant featuring a cellar selection of 100 different wines and a 7-course gourmet tasting menu, all complemented by a burgeoning farm-to-table program. Viamede is close to Peterborough and welcomes visitors to come and experience great dining and special events at our restaurants.
Launched in 2011, the Viamede Farm is growing quickly. The farm started with a variety of free range ducks and Tamworth pigs (a heritage breed), fresh herbs and root vegetables that comprise some of the fresh food served in our restaurants. Turkeys, guinea fowl, heritage breed chickens and an expanded vegetable garden are among our next farm projects.
To tell the tale of its three locales:
The Boathouse Pub
The Boathouse is Stoney Lake’s oldest pub, featuring one of the best views of Stoney Lake. A popular spot with boaters in the summer, it boasts burgers, pulled pork, and delicious sandwiches, all made in-house. Our selection of beers on tap and great cocktails complement any meal.
The Boathouse Pub’s alright, but the menu wasn’t anything mind-blowing for me. It’s a great place to hit if you’re going with kids, or if you want to watch a game, shoot some pool or grab a quick drink… but food-wise, you could largely get the same stuff in any Torontonian pub.
The pub’s real charm is apparent in its atmosphere. Locals boat in from the surrounding islands to have a drink and see old buddies, since they can’t just drive over. They experiment with different flavours for mixers – they had a blue raspberry prominently displayed at the bar which you could drink straight or add to a number of spirits. And the lake view was a great one if you just wanted to relax on the pub’s deck for a bit. If you’ve had a long drive and just want to chill out, it’s a good place to consider.
Introducing Viamede’s home away from home dining room, 1885. With a renewed focus on serving delicious cottage comfort foods, Chef Matt Cowan brings to life the old lumber camp tradition of fresh, hearty meals.
At Viamede, we understand that everyone needs a great start to the day, and so all rooms include breakfast. This is served buffet style, or, on quiet days, à la carte.
Keeping with the tradition of fresh and hearty meals, Chef Matt’s breakfast buffet includes scrambled eggs, bacon, farmer’s sausage, pancakes or French toast, Tropicana juices, cereals and many daily specials.
The complimentary breakfast buffet was pretty good! With a fine selection of foods to choose from each morning, it was good to eat on the enclosed patio and just bask in the sunlight before starting the day.
Caveat: It’s noted that diners at the Inn need to be 12 or older, so it might not be the best option for family dining.
Mount Julian has a rich history in the area. Built in 1865 by Colonel Sam Strickland, the Inn catered to loggers and travellers heading to remote Northern regions.
On sunny days, you will catch Chef Matt Cowan foraging for fiddleheads and nettles on Viamede’s 165 acres of land, checking our on-site herb gardens for fresh sprigs of mint, or feeding the resident pigs, ducks and turkeys. The food is playful and seasonal, with menu items changing from day to day, and week to week, as ingredients come into season and then fade away.
Chef Matt’s team prepares everything fresh, from the bread to the desserts, so they can tweak dishes at every step. The 7-course tasting menu, the most popular choice, allows guests to experience this first hand, as the chefs custom build every course as it is cooked.
Viamede’s farm features prominently on the menu. Our Tamworth pigs, Indian Runner ducks, Heritage Bronze turkeys, quail, and various heritage breeds of chicken all appear on the menu from time to time. Heirloom tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onions, micro-greens and other vegetables are used as often as possible.
If you’re a total baller (or if the main dining hall’s booked for a wedding reception), you can try the Mount Julian. Established in 1874 and retooled in 2010 by the Viamede Resort’s general manager Ben Sämaan, it’s Viamede Resort’s fine dining offering for its guests.
TIP: Book for an earlier seating if you can!
Before we reopened the Inn, my culinary team spent hours researching, playing, and designing. Everything from the wine to the local mushrooms needed to be sourced, tested and tasted. Table settings, from the perfect fork to the coffee cup, needed to be picked, purchased and delivered.
Our intention from the start was to create a playground, both for you and for us. The food is meant to be experimental, with ingredients provided by the seasons, and quantities for some ingredients determined by the forest surrounding us.
Though I lusted after the menu’s lobster ravioli (Lobster Ravioli, with Tarragon Creamed Corn, Braised Swiss Chard and Vanilla Scented Beurre Noisette — lobster? Ravioli? Two of my favourite things — how could I go wrong?), we’d booked the last time slot for the night, and a nearby table ordered the last one for the night. We swapped my coveted tenderloin for a rib-eye steak, and had I wanted halibut, I’d be scarfing down salmon. Don’t get me wrong — every choice we made was still very delicious, but to make sure you get what you want, earlier seatings are key.
But the food here is unbelievable. The steak was tender, the crostini fresh and the bacon butter tart was one of the best desserts I’ve had in ages! The Inn is the place to be if you’re going to spend some time in Woodview!
The Secrets of Stoney Lake
One of the best parts of the weekend was our boat cruise with Keenan (aka “Captain Majestic”) at the helm. The “cruise” — which was a boat ride around Stoney Lake — was actually really cool! (Apologies to the couple whose spots we may have taken to get on the cruise — gypping you was unintentional, and hopefully you eventually made your way on!)
Our 10-passenger boat made its way through much of the lake in about a half-hour, and in that time we learned about:
- The Glass House, built 30 years ago and used for movie shoots
- The fact that everything at Viamede’s technically misspelt, since Viamede’s on “Lower Stony”, while Stoney Lake’s named after “Upper Stoney”. (Don’t fire him, Ben — he’s a good kid!)
- Elephant Rock, where the lake’s residents dump all their old wood, like furniture and brush, and pile it up so the teens can have bonfire parties
- Stoney Lake’s house system of Elephant, Amazon, Confucius and Juniper Island houses, who compete for house points in things like sailing
- And of course, Ferry Island, which has another lake in the centre of it, but you’d probably never know, since the island’s owned privately by just one family.
We learned more in that half hour that we did reading anything else over the weekend — take advantage of the activities Viamede has to offer, especially if you’re going up as a family. They try their best to make an unforgettable experience to anyone who visits.
Bye Bye, Viamede!
In between activities, Sarah and I made sure to spend plenty of time relaxing to decompress in this crazy time. I brought Vent, Volume 1 to read while up there, hoping to take another crack at Fish & Chimps sometime in the future; lost a few games of Race for the Galaxy to Sarah; and noshed on some of the entirely too much food that Sarah’d packed for the weekend.
That last night, I went out to the lake to capture the stars, and heard the shouts of the wedding guests singing along to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” as it echoed across the lake. By no means were they great singers, but I marvelled at the sound, kicking back and enjoying the auditory stimulation as I took long exposures of the sky.
So if you’re looking for a weekend trip to rejuvenate you, consider Viamede. It’s more rustic than a 5-star in the city, but you can’t compare to a room with a lakefront view and nothing taller than two storeys anywhere around to obstruct it.
Take a trip outside of your city sometimes, Torontonians — you never know what you’ll find in the big, bad world out there!
[Disclaimer: Charming Media set a free stay up for Sarah and me at Viamede Resort & Dining, and surprised by complimentary dinner at Mount Julian when the bill came ’round. However, while a relaxing weekend, it wasn’t my perfect getaway at no fault to Viamede. Perhaps I’ll return in a few years’ time when we’re all a little more mobile and explore more of what the grounds have to offer!]