It all started last summer, when it appeared that another staycation was looming. I can’t stand staycations, even though I live in a fantastic city with lots to do. Not too far from Toronto are a number of areas that offer a lovely getaway in beautiful nature, but they’re mostly in the form of cottage rentals. For me, laundry and dishes do not a vacation make, so I was looking for an Ontario inn or inn & spa (hey, a girl can dream) that was less than a two hour drive from the city and would be baby-friendly. Enter Fern Resort, or as we call it The Fern.
It takes less than two hours door to door for us to drive to Orillia from our house in Toronto, and that (for me) is huge. Our kids are pretty good in the car – I wrote my road trip tips mostly for myself and my own sanity because I loathe them so much – so the short drive time is a big plus in my book.
For our summer getaway, we enjoyed an extended weekend in August. The weather was not its usual hot and sultry self – more like cool and rainy – but that did not put a damper (heh) on our visit. I prefer my wilderness with a side of civilization, so I was delighted by all the amenities and the cottage-y feel. We stayed in one of the lakeside Bayshore cottages, and its one-bedroom layout meant plenty of room for us and some privacy once the kids went to bed (we gave them the bedroom). Fern Resort offers free WiFi, and in summer months there’s the outdoor pools, baby-friendly beach, mini-putt, trampolines, canoes and paddleboats, volleyball, tennis courts, basketball, bocci ball, shuffleboard, and fitness centre plus an indoor pool, games room and spa.
We’re non-skiers, and typically not the type to bundle up and enjoy the outdoors once the temperature drops. However, having kids has forced us to suck it up, add an extra layer, and get outside. So this winter, instead of flying South, we headed North to The Fern once more.
Snug in the same cosy cottage we enjoyed in August, our view was of the frozen –lake-turned-ice-rink and the ice fishing huts. This time we really enjoyed the fireplace in our room, you are allotted 2 fire logs per day or you can purchase more for $2. I was afraid it would be a hassle having to always get dressed or undressed whenever you went inside or out, but it really wasn’t that big a deal. And for non-skiers with a toddler in tow, I was afraid there wouldn’t be much to do. Instead we had our choice of the indoor pool (small, but fun), steam Room & sauna, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, outdoor curling, broomball, skating, hockey, and horse-drawn hay rides. For an extra fee we could go dog sledding, take a private horse-drawn sleigh ride, or rent snowmobiles. I missed the boat signing up for the dog sledding, but my husband did rent a snowmobile to take our daughter for a spin.
There was something invigorating about bundling up and going out to play in the snow, and curling up by the fire with a book while Bub napped was nothing short of bliss.
Other resorts and hotels can take a cue from Fern Resort in how to cater to families. It’s little things like stools in washrooms by the sinks, or putting all rooms with cribs on a special list to be made up first (so no housekeeping during nap time.) Fern puts out a kids’ buffet at every meal, but you can also order child-size portions from the main menu if you prefer. Their Play Village (included) accepts kiddos from newborn to six years old, so grown-ups can have some adult time if they prefer. The Fern’s Play Village is open all summer, at Christmas & New Year’s, and on holiday weekends and March Break for the rest of the year.
Both times we visited The Fern, we met families that were on their 6th or 7th annual visit. It’s a lovely tradition for families and extended families to get together, and I know my husband is planning for us to be one of those families with yearly visits.