For a lot of people from Toronto and the GTA you hear that as soon as you get past Barrie that you’re already in Northern Ontario.
In my opinion this isn’t the case at all and you have to venture well past the Muskoka/Algonquin Park area to even make it into Central Ontario, let alone the North.
So for the purpose of my post here I’m going to be referring to the Kawartha Lakes area as Southern Ontario and sharing my experience visiting the beautiful Viamede Resort with that same point of view.
Located on the picturesque Stony Lake in the Kawartha Lakes is where you’ll find the historic Viamede Resort.
This resort has been in operation since 1885 and over the years has undergone quite a few serious renovations as well as having expanded into a few different buildings and on to a larger property.
I was fortunate enough to be able to spend two peaceful nights at the Viamede and with the property being so close to Toronto yet still very secluded it makes for an amazing get away from the big city where you can enjoy some of the best natural beauty that southern Ontario has to offer.
For a lot of people it can be easier to just book an AirBnb or spend a few nights camping but if you want a relaxing and pampered experience then it’s the Viamede that I would recommend heading to.
In this post I want to share with you the experience that I had at the resort so that you can get a better idea of what to expect if you’re planning a visit or just learn more about why I would recommend visiting.
Alternatively, I hope that my review of the Viamede will inspire you to head up to the Kawartha Lakes and spend some time letting go of all the stress that builds up between the times that you’re able to take another vacation or city break.
The Viamede Resort in the Kawartha Lakes
A short 2 hour drive from Toronto along a rather scenic highway and a quick 25 minute jaunt from Peterborough and you’ll arrive at the Viamede Resort.
To give you a quick idea of what the resort is all about they have started using the slogan “boldly different” and after just a few hours on the property it’s easy to see why.
Along with all of your typical resort features such as an outdoor pool, a variety of different rooms, friendly staff, and classic design there are also plenty of other things that make the Viamede stick out compared to the competition and to your average holiday property.
For starters, the resort has a rich history dating back more than 130 years and since 2010 the current owner has taken enormous strides to update the property and transform it into something completely unique and memorable.
When you’re visiting there are more than 165 acres around the resort that you can explore on foot without having to worry about car traffic or noise pollution from any nearby towns.
There are nearly 12 km of well-maintained forest trails for you to wander around and other interesting outdoor features such as a fully operational on-site farm where some of the livestock and vegetables for the Mount Julian restaurant are sourced from.
Not only is the resort surrounded by pristine Ontario forest but it offers a prime location right on the shores of Stoney Lake, one of the largest lakes in the Kawartha region.
You can choose to spend your days hiking, playing disc golf, swimming in either the indoor or outdoor pool, or you can relax by the beach and get some fishing done, kayak to one of the nearby islands, or explore the coastline by boat.
There’s a sports field where you can enjoy yourself with some outdoor activities and there’s even a dog park where your dog can run around without a leash on with any of the other visiting canine guests.
A Quick History
Like I mentioned up above the resort has been operating as accommodation for the local area since 1885 and the beautiful natural setting next for a very relaxing and unique Southern Ontario travel experience.
The main building on the property was actually built sometime around 1907 and these days you can walk through this historic resort building where you can almost imagine what it must have been like more than a hundred years ago for people visiting the area.
Along with the main resort building there are quite a few other buildings on the property including a number of small cottages as well as the historic Mount Julian inn.
The Inn at Mount Julian currently serves as the fine dining restaurant at the resort and the small building complex was built by 1875, although it has undergone quite a few renovations over the years.
Dining at the Inn at Mount Julian is bound to provide a charming and memorable experience that you can share with your travel partners and the property itself really adds a quaint vibe to the area with all of its intricate details and classic design.
The Viamede Farm
Before diving into the experience that I had during my stay just want to quickly mention some details about the quaint little Viamede Farm.
I was surprised to find that there is a fully operational farm at the resort with quite a few different animals that appeared to be treated quite well.
It’s a short 5 minute walk through the woods to reach the farm itself and when you’re there you can walk around to check out some of the different animals that they have at the property including the chickens, quail, ducks, turkeys, and pigs.
Although you might not agree with the method, I also found it very interesting that many of the dishes served at the Inn at Mount Julian use ingredients sourced from this farm so guests are able to enjoy a true “farm to table” experience rather than worrying about where exactly the ingredients came from.
For those of you planning on visiting I would definitely recommend walking around the farm and going on the farm tour in the afternoon if you get the chance.
My Stay at the Viamede Resort
I spent two amazing nights at the Viamede and I easily could have spent another week just exploring the property and relaxing by the quiet Stoney Lake.
One problem that you often running to when you’re visiting the Kawarthas and the Muskoka area is that the lakes can be quite busy with boat traffic and a lot of noise carries across the water from all of the cottages nearby.
Surprisingly this wasn’t the case at all at the Viamede and I was seldom disturbed by any noise coming across the lake weather it was from boats or any of the other cottages.
For a peaceful getaway it’s hard to go wrong with Viamede and it’s even more of a better choice if you’re hoping to escape busy city life and just disappear in the woods for a while.
During my visit to the Viamede I stayed in a deluxe guest room located on the second floor of the main lodge.
After thinking about it I realized that I definitely would have preferred staying in the main lodge compared to staying in one of the cottage buildings because the lodge offered a more central location and everything I needed was in one spot.
The check-in process was fairly straightforward although I really wasn’t given enough information at first and I had to head back to the reception area later on to speak to a more informed staff member about the resort and things to do in the area.
After checking in I went straight up to my room and upon opening the door the first thing I noticed was the huge patio with an incredible view of Stoney Lake, the well manicured garden on the property, and the pool.
It was raining when I first arrived and when the rain finally stopped my girlfriend and I both sat outside on the Adirondack chairs for a while admiring the view and relaxing in a peaceful setting without all of the city noise that we have grown accustomed to.
Exploring the rest of the room I was pleased to find a large king bed and a couch sitting area though I was disappointed that there wasn’t a desk that I could use to get some work done in the room.
The room itself was quite big with a lot of space and thanks to the large windows that let in plenty of natural light it was always bright inside during the day and felt very spacious and airy.
Some other features included a fridge, some drawer storage, and a small closet area where you can stash your suitcases or hang your bathing suit to dry.
The best part of the room was definitely the view of Stoney Lake so make sure to ask for a room on the second floor with a view of the lake because I’m not sure if all of the rooms in the main lodge have such a great view as those on the second floor.
Where the main bedroom was spacious and big I actually found the bathroom to be rather small and shabby.
It was pretty dated and definitely in need of a heavy cleaning and some upgrades to bring enough to a more modern standard of quality.
There were some amenities provided and everything worked properly but I did find the bathroom to be cramped and dark.
Turning on the shower was kind of tricky because of the awkward layout of the shower doors and I was surprised to find that the soap and shampoo dispenser inside the shower was completely empty.
One more problem was that it took forever for the hot water to heat up and it never seemed to get hot enough for me to enjoy a nice warm shower.
Thankfully the bathroom obviously didn’t put a damper on our visit to the Viamede but this is definitely one aspect of the room that the resort needs to focus on restoring and upgrading in the future.
I’ve already spoken quite a bit about the property at the Viamede Resort and the sprawling forested grounds were definitely another one of my favorite aspects of my stay.
Being able to wake up and start hiking in less than 5 minutes was extremely refreshing coming from such a busy city of Toronto and I loved being able to wander down to the beach for a quick swim without having to do anything else except grab a towel and toss on my bathing suit.
For those of you that are interested in swimming in the lake there are two pools at the resort – an indoor pool that has a small outdoor area and a dedicated outdoor pool that’s open during the summer.
I didn’t swim in the pool at all because I prefer swimming in the lake although I did notice that the indoor pool was quite busy with if the outdoor pool remaining empty for most of the day.
The indoor pool part of the resort is actually one of the most recent renovations that the Viamede has done so everything is relatively brand new, modern, and completely updated.
In the same area as the indoor pool there is a fully equipped gym with a wide range of weights and workout equipment that you can use any time during your stay.
Dining at the Resort
There are a few options when it comes to dining at the Viamede that you’re able to take advantage of.
Breakfast is served every day in the dining room on the main floor of the lodge.
The options were limited although everything was delicious and cooked well.
The hot dishes included bacon, sausages, scrambled eggs, french toast, waffles, potatoes and the cold dishes included cereal, toast, and muffins.
There was also water, coffee, tea, and juice available to drink.
What I really liked about the main dining room in the lodge is that many of the seats offered a great view over the lake which made the breakfast experience even more enjoyable.
The Boathouse is the casual restaurant located on the property and it’s open for lunch and dinner starting at 11AM.
There is a decent selection of dishes to choose from including fish and chips, steak, salad, pork, sandwiches, and some great desserts as well.
I enjoyed a wonderful dinner at the Boathouse and it’s hard to beat the incredible view that the patio offers over the lake while you’re enjoying a meal.
What I really liked about the menu is that just about everything is sourced locally with many of the ingredients from the farm and forest on the property.
There’s also an emphasis on seasonality so that everything you’re eating has a much smaller carbon footprint and is much better for the environment than what you would find at other restaurants that don’t care so much about their impact.
It’s a casual setting so you don’t need to put on anything fancy and I would definitely recommend stopping by the Boathouse for a quick lunch or dinner during your visit to the resort.
Mount Julian, or the Inn at Mount Julian, is the fine dining option at the Viamede.
It’s a small and quaint 9 table restaurant set on edge of the property along a beautifully forested area.
With so few tables inside and such a cozy interior Mount Julian is able to provide a very intimate and memorable dining experience.
I enjoyed a five course tasting menu at the restaurant and was quite pleased with all of the unique and creatively crafted dishes.
What I really loved about Mount Julian was the fact that everything was locally-sourced, either from the farm or forest on the property or from local farmers and markets, and this meant that the food was much fresher and tastier than you would otherwise find.
Not only was the food incredible but the overall setting of the restaurant with the chic yet relevant interior design down to the candles on the table resulted in a perfect dining experience that really helped to leave a lasting impression on my visit to the resort.
Be sure to stay tuned as I’ll be writing a more in-depth review of the Mount Julian restaurant in a separate post.
The resort is a short 2 hour drive northeast of Toronto and just 30 minutes away from downtown Peterborough.
Highway 28 is 3km away from the resort and once you reach the main Highway you can easily explore the Kawartha Lakes area.
Nearby there are some beautiful small towns to check out, such as Lakefield, Bobcaygeon, and Lindsay.
If you wanted to explore somewhere in a more natural setting you can head over to the Petroglyphs Park to learn more about Aboriginal history or you can head up to the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park to spend your day hiking and exploring the woods.
Helpful Tips for Visiting
Bring Your Fishing Rod
During my visit I saw quite a few guests fishing right off of the docks on Stoney Lake.
They seemed to be catching a lot of fish regardless of the time of day they were casting so if you’re traveling with kids or fishing is one of your hobbies then don’t forget to bring your rods and fishing gear.
There is plenty of parking available at the resorts with quite a few spots right outside of the main lodge and your own private spot if you’re staying in one of the cottages.
The grounds are gravel covered, nothing is really paved once you get off of the main road, so keep this in mind if you’re visiting during the winter months where there might be a lot of snow on the ground.
Although there are some options for eating on the property you might want to consider heading out into one of the smaller towns nearby or even into Peterborough depending on what you feel like eating.
The closest grocery store is about 20 minutes away in Lakefield and all of the small towns have quite a few options when it comes to bakeries, small restaurants, and places to visit for dessert.
I would recommend heading on to TripAdvisor to see if there’s anywhere in the area that you want to eat.
Areas for Improvement
One of the biggest problems I had during my stay was that the Wi-Fi was terrible and throughout the entire day it was basically unusable.
Thankfully I wake up very early in the morning to get some work done before starting my day and from 5AM until about 7:30AM the internet would work just fine.
For the rest of the day I wasn’t able to use it at all and I couldn’t access any social media, watch any YouTube videos, and most web sites wouldn’t even load properly.
Given that it’s 2017 and the majority of people are spending a lot of time online I believe that this is an area where the resort needs to make improvements right away especially if they want to cater to a younger and more tech-savvy crowd.
Another thing that I noticed was that some of the main parts of the resort were actually quite messy.
There was food left on the floor in the main dining room for the entirety of my visit and the main lodge was rather dusty and dirty with debris on the floor and cobwebs in all the corners.
This can be easily remedied by hiring dedicated cleaning staff that spend time maintaining and cleaning the public areas of the resort although I didn’t notice this happening at all.
For the price, I would expect that the property would be much cleaner rather than having to see dust everywhere, garbage in the grass, broken pool equipment, and damaged outdoor lighting around the resort.
- Visit the resort website
- Read more guest reviews on TripAdvisor
- More information about Kawartha Lakes
- Check out my other hotel reviews