A Weekend at Deerhurst

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A weekend at Deerhurst, Huntsville, Ontario
A weekend at Deerhurst, Huntsville, Ontario

I first heard of Deerhurst in 2002. I was working at my first software testing job after finishing my programming diploma. It was a startup and the executive team when to Deerhurst for retreat. They were partiers. It made for an amazing work environment at the time. I was in my 20s. I always imagined these retreats as booze filled, hazy weekends with little real work done. There are a few things that have stuck with me from those days: a friend, a crush and Deerhurst.

A weekend at Deerhurst, Huntsville, Ontario
A weekend at Deerhurst, Huntsville, Ontario

When the opportunity to visit Deerhurst came about from their owners Skyline International Development, I couldn’t say no. I finally would find out the secrets of this Deerhurst place. The itinerary planned certainly didn’t call for a booze filled, hazy weekend but a relaxing and blissful one. The resort is 800 acres of beautiful wilderness on Peninsula Lake in Muskoka. I haven’t driven north of the city in a very long time and I forgot how beautiful Ontario can be. The leaves were still holding onto the fall colours so the drive was marked by swaths of orange, reds, browns and yellows that contrasted with the ragged, rolling hills of the Canadian Shield. It’s hard to believe that this Precambrian rock that covers a good portion of Canada is more than 3.96 billion years old. The Shield gets its name because it resembles the shape of a warrior’s shield. It was an easy drive with little traffic. It’s 2.5 hours north of Toronto and I can’t imagine how long it takes on a weekend in the summer.

A weekend at Deerhurst, Huntsville, Ontario
A weekend at Deerhurst, Huntsville, Ontario

Even though I had this slow burning interest in Deerhurst over the years I was pretty ignorant of what it was all about until trip details were arranged and we drove up the winding road to the parking lot. The resort and Peninsula Lake are way larger than I expected. I’m not sure why I couldn’t reconcile that fact when I saw them rendering and model of the new lakefront expansion Skyline International Development is planning at the resort about a month earlier. Deerhurst is old! It’s been around since 1896. Muskoka is a celebrated vacation retreat area since the 19th century. I always thought of it as just cottage country and the playground of Southern Ontario (apologies to folks that live there) than a vacation destination advertised to people in magazines and papers. I learned that Deerhurst is just like any other resort with all the fixings organized activities, on site spa, indoor & outdoor pools, fitness center, golf, games rooms, water sports, snow sports, restaurants, conference spaces and musical entertainment. Deerhurst is open all year round so it’s not just a summer destination. The resort has activities for all seasons. Guests and choose from rooms and condos. Rooms are located in the main Pavilion or Lakeside. These rooms provide a traditional hotel experience. Condos on the other hand come in 1, 2 or 3 bedroom varies. The condos aren’t attached to the Pavilion but located in a wooded enclave or overlooking the golf course. The condos come fully equipped with a complete kitchen, living room, fireplace and balcony.

A weekend at Deerhurst, Huntsville, Ontario
A weekend at Deerhurst, Huntsville, Ontario

Skyline provided us with a 3 bedroom condo. It was massive and we each had our own bathroom. I can’t stress how important this is in a condo vacation space. There was a TV in each of the spacious bedrooms and while we didn’t use them I can absolutely see the value in that decision. So many fights have been averted because of a few extra TVs. The free Wi-Fi access was reliable and I didn’t notice any dead spots anywhere. When I was in Barbados in August our Wi-Fi signal was strongest outside on the balcony. Thankfully, there wasn’t any mosquitoes and the temperature was in the high 20s at night. It was a bit annoying. We stayed one night but I had the most wonderful sleep on that bed. It was so quiet compared to sounds of the city that lulls me to sleep each night. They seem so much louder on the 16th floor so having the silence was special. The bathrooms had amazing water pressure and were a good size. My only complaint is that the bathroom fans are pretty loud. Not a big deal during the day but gets a bit precarious in the mornings and late at night.

A weekend at Deerhurst, Huntsville, Ontario
A weekend at Deerhurst, Huntsville, Ontario

Our weekend itinerary included 2 spa appointments, lunch, dinner and brunch. Saturday was rainy so we didn’t get to explore the grounds. There are some short hiking trails on the resort grounds. Guests have access to many activities that are free to guests like golf, tennis, bocce, volleyball and ping pong. There is a beautiful indoor pool in The Pavilion that is beautiful and lets in a lot of natural light. There is a fitness centre and a seasonal outdoor pool. For an extra fee, guests can choose from horseback riding, ATV tours, interactive petting zoo, indoor rock climbing, pony rides and outdoor paintball. The resort experience isn’t complete without live entertainment. Deerhurst has HIT L!ST Live which is famous as the place where Shania Twain’s career began. The cutest activity option is the Build your own Deerhurst teddy bear kit. It contains everything you need to create your own teddy bear for $20.

A weekend at Deerhurst, Huntsville, Ontario
A weekend at Deerhurst, Huntsville, Ontario

We had lunch at the Maple Pub and then when to the Shizen Spa. We were treated to the October Spa Special which featured a hydrating facial, back massage and aroma wax foot treatment. The special would be perfect for first time spa goers as it gives a good introduction to the spa experience. We hit the pool after our spa treatments and lounged for moment. Dinner was at the Eclipse Restaurant which is found in the beautiful Pavilion building. I just loved the ceiling height and wooden arches splaying out everywhere. The weekend was on a roll and dinner was excellent. We each ordered the steak options and some appetizers to share. Even though we had a full kitchen in the condo it was superb having the option of someone else doing the cooking.After dinner we got into our pj’s and watched The Man from Uncle on the living room TV. The gas fireplace going made the living room super cozy.

A weekend at Deerhurst, Huntsville, Ontario
A weekend at Deerhurst, Huntsville, Ontario

I had an incredible night’s sleep. I’m starved for that kind of quality of sleep. It was so quiet. I usually only hear that level of quiet when I’m in Whistler. I would have liked to spend more time with that bed. I opened the curtains to discover no rain and a partly cloudy sky. Cooperative weather for exploring and photos in between buffet brunches and massages. Brunch was back at the Eclipse Restaurant. It was full featured with everything a good brunch buffet should have: a good selection of lunch and breakfast options with a massive dessert table and multiple juice options. Like all great brunches there were roast beef and omelette stations. After brunch was another spa appointment. A 60 minute massage was the perfect way to finish off our quick trip to Deerhurst. Corrinna is a miracle worker. My back was reset to pre “stressful project at the day job” levels. I relished in this wonderful feeling body I had been granted by these magic hands. We explored the grounds a little bit since the sun had fully came out. I really wish we had more time as I would have liked to explore the trails and see Deerhurst Lookout but the city and Monday called. So this Deerhurst trip dispelled a lot of notions in had. While I’m sure there have been some drunken nights for people here, Deerhurst is a family resort. There are many activity options to keep people happy. If that doesn’t work the TV entertainment options and free Wi-Fi should keep anyone occupied. I have to thank Skyline International Development for the opportunity to solve a mystery in my life and get a taste of a Deerhurst experience.

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