Hidden Gems

Staff Hidden Gems: Rosa’s Ontario

Meet Guest Blogger Rosa L: Being a travel counsellor for the past 21 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to travel all across Ontario.  I would have to say that the most rewarding part of my job is being able to inspire and share my experiences to visitors from Ontario and from all over the globe.  I thoroughly enjoy reading travel literature and influential novels like “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle.  How lucky I am to fulfill my passion of travel through my job!

To me My Ontario can be described as a collection of people, experiences and landscapes that are etched into memory through my past getaways within the province.   These are the aspects I consider when planning a family vacation.  One of my most unforgettable trips took place last summer during our family getaway to the historic 142 year old Windermere House in Muskoka.  Whether it was the scenery of the breathtaking cottages, being surrounded by the majestic trees or feeling the calmness of the lakes, we felt a shift in energy the moment we approached this 1.5 billion year old Canadian Shield making up the Muskoka landscape.

As we made our way up to the town of Windermere, we decided to make an early morning stopover in the town of Gravenhurst.  Instantly we fell in love with the setting of the Wharf.  The two classic steamships RMS and Wenonah II docked on the Muskoka Bay created the backdrop to this picturesque boardwalk.  While merchants and event organizers were busy setting up for the annual Pirates Festival we strolled along the boardwalk and made our way to the Muskoka Boat & Heritage Centre.   This quick visit easily turned into 1 1/2 hours thanks to the dedicated volunteers.  There you can find Canada’s largest in-water collection of antique & classic boats that rotate continually throughout the year.  Most of these beautifully crafted boats were built right there in Muskoka – one being so rare that it still operates with a wood burning engine!  As we learned about Muskoka’s boating history and boat construction, my daughter was busy becoming the captain of the wheelhouse, starting up a working engine, and blowing the steam whistles from 5 of the ships that sailed the Muskoka Lakes.

As we drove north through the winding roads, time never seemed to be an issue as everyone was busy just soaking in the new scenery.  The Windermere House set on the Lake Rousseau was spectacular.  This century old famous resort had burned down during the filming of a Hollywood movie but was rebuilt while preserving the historical features.  We spent most of our time enjoying the resort amenities, biking through the rolling roads, fishing, golfing and watching the boats coming in and out of the marina.  The resort offered three dining experiences; pub style, formal dining and a sushi bar, making it a popular stopover for boaters looking to eat or have a night out.  One night while listening to the live entertainment on the patio, we watched Steve Yzerman pull into the marina to pickup dinner from the pub!

Day tripping to the town of Port Carling seemed to be the popular thing to do and I can certainly see why.  The village is home to “The Wall”.  This historic photo-mosaic covers the entire side of a building at the locks.  It is made up of 9028 pictures that creates the image of the RMS Segwun passing through the Port Carling locks in 1922.  Up close are individual photos capturing the lives of the past Port Carling residents.  We spent the evening having dinner and wandering through the rolling streets filled with art galleries, museums, eclectic shops, and a busy marina where boaters dock to shop and dine.

What really made this trip memorable to us was not only the peace and tranquility we found in Muskoka but watching the beginning of a friendship unravel.  What had this place done to my teenager and 10 year old?  Who were these two people who became inseparable while fishing at the dock from early morning to sunset? Together they celebrated catching and releasing over 50 fish! Their dedication was so inspiring that it captured the attention of staff and guests so that friendships were developed with people from all over the province.

When my visitors ask to help create a getaway in Ontario, I look back and think about what made my escapes so unforgettable?  I realize that it’s the experiences that are unfolded through the natural beauty of Ontario’s landscape and the people I’ve encountered that made my vacations so special to me.    This is how I begin to create an Ontario experience for them….through my Ontario.

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