24 JUL 2018: The word cottage takes on new meaning when it comes to Muskoka. Massive so-called cottages dot its lakes’ shoreline where boathouses are bigger than most people’s homes back in the city. It’s Ontario’s upscale cottage and resort playground. When I was child back in the late 60’s, Muskoka just meant summer camp – tipping canoes and discovering the joys and tasty victories of whipped cream and Jell-O fights. Can I still find that kind of joy in Muskoka today but in different way?  

JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka Resort & Spa (it’s a mouthful!), located in the tiny resort village of Minett, suits my aging tastes to a tee. Admittedly I can still tip a canoe and as far as whip cream fights go, my partner Sarah would be up for the challenge.

NATURE REIGNS

The Muskoka region is home to 11 provincial parks, one national park, 15 conservation areas and 1,600 bodies of water, encompassing a variety of flora, fauna and marine life. The resort, situated on the western shore of Lake Rosseau, embodies all of Mother Nature’s finest elements and gives guests the breath of fresh air so desperately needed in our stress-laden lives.

Walking up to the front entrance you are enveloped by a collection of yellow birch, red oak and sugar maple trees competing for your eye’s attention. I take a deep breath of exhaust-free fresh air. It’s earth’s unadorned elements and nature’s bounty which draws people here and why people come back time and again. The Rosseau Muskoka, resting a top a 100-foot granite bluff, fully embraces the elements of nature with its resort design and atmosphere.

Recently they unveiled a redesign of the resort’s lobby and other public spaces including the library and Lakes Lounge. It takes advantage of the prime location with glorious views of Lake Rosseau. National Geographic has named it one of the ten best resort views in Canada.

Their spaces reflect an airy, non-pretentiousness and welcoming feeling but still maintain a casual sophistication. Parents with kids in tow share the space on equal terms with couples escaping for a romantic getaway.

Stepping outside to the large outdoor lounge areas with comfy couches Sarah and I look out to Lake Rosseau – the setting is like a Group of Seven artist’s painting. The words from Fleetwood Mac’s song, Rhiannon which we heard driving up fill my brain – “Dreams unwind, Love’s a State of Mind.” I think to myself this is a place of dreams and my mind is definitely loving it.

MUSKOKA HEALING

My journey of body and mind relaxation directs me to Spa Rosseau – a tranquil oasis incorporating earth’s elements of water, wind and rock. The spa features a cool oxygen bar (what’s your oxygen flavour?), foot massagers, massage chairs and will be introducing a new Vichy Hammam treatment. There are men’s, women’s and co-ed relaxation lounges, outdoor pool and relaxation area, steam rooms and whirlpools for men and women and 11 treatment rooms, including a Vichy treatment room and couple’s suite.

A range of treatments are available from massages, scrubs, polishes, facials and various aesthetic treatments, many which utilize oils and minerals to help rejuvenate the body.

I choose a Ginger-Coconut-Argan Sugar Glow. It may not sound like the most macho treatment going but frankly I don’t care. This body could use a few nutrients and hey if I give off a little sparkle and glow after the treatment, that may bode well for late night activities!

My therapist Felicia has the Herculean task of making me glow. The treatment is done in their specially designed Vichy shower room. I lie down face up on the massage table. Overhead four jets shower me with pulsating warm water. Felicia begins with a citrus-kombucha body wash followed by a dry brush exfoliation with ginger and lime-scented sugar cane. I say cast away those dead skin cells and replace them with some sweetness. The flow of warm water continues all over my body. Next Felicia applies coconut-argan oil infused with avocado oil, rose hip, apricot oil and Vitamin E all over my body. Absorption begins immediately – my body is in a happy place.

The 50-minute treatment ends. Being greedy my body yearns for a longer-term relationship in this room but it’s not to be. Other activities call out my name.

SOAKING UP NATURE

Water is like a drug to me. I want to be in it, on it and under it. Fortunately, this resort can cater to all my water needs. Kayaks and canoes are available as well as boats for rent or you can even challenge yourself with an inflation obstacle course dockside.

I was feeling lazy but still wanted to get out on the water so we chose an one-hour pontoon cruise ($25/person charge) on Lake Rosseau and Lake Joseph. It was relaxing and jaw-dropping at the same time as we cruised by multi-million dollar “cottages” owned by people with bank accounts with big numbers in them. A man can dream.

Back at the resort and surrounding area there are a variety of activities which a family or couple can do – one of the newer activities is a zipline or the less adventurous can play the Nick Faldo designed, The Rocks golf course.

Eating is one activity that always gets the thumbs up and I have the belly to prove it. Pasta lovers will enjoy Teca, the Italian cuisine restaurant. A new steak restaurant, the Chophouse, was host for my taste bud desires. Our waiter Brendan was an absolute delight and since he looked so much like singer/composer David Foster I kept waiting for him to break out in song. My taste buds were singing the praises of the flavourful rib-eye steak I ordered. A nice touch was the complimentary large portion of crème brulee he brought with Happy Birthday inscribed on it (it was my birthday) for me to devour.

NATURE OBSERVATIONS

No matter which room you stay in there will be a view of either of the surrounding forest, Lake Rosseau, the outdoor pool or lounge area. Each studio, or one and two bedroom suites, has the feel and look of a cottage with pine-cone and oak-leaf fixtures. It is not ostentatious but an atmosphere of relaxed comfort, practicality and spaciousness while embodying Muskoka’s nature. Waking up to the melodic sounds of birds and the tide gently rolling in was like listening to a Solitudes nature CD. But this time it was live and all natural.

The Rosseau may be a luxury resort but it offers many affordable packages year-round for families and couples. It is also an excellent venue for corporate and incentive groups with meeting rooms and variety of team building programmes.

I didn’t tip a canoe or have a whip cream fight on this trip but what I came away with after my stay there was a relaxed rejuvenated body and mind just like I did as a child. Spending time surrounded by nature’s beauty can do that to you.

 

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Chris Ryall

An industry insider with strong, outspoken opinions that readers enjoy, whether they agree, or take issue with his point of view.

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