I am doing my best to introduce my kids to nature and outdoorsy things like canoeing, even though I’m not exactly what you call outdoorsy. So a weekend at Viamede Resort on Stony Lake in Ontario was an ideal setting to explore the Great Outdoors with resort comforts and hotel-like accommodations.
We had two adjoining rooms at Viamede Resort, but could have easily gotten away with just one. One had a king-sized bed and pullout couch (double), with the second room having two queen beds. Both rooms had fireplaces, a small bathroom with a tub/shower, single sink and hair dryer. And both rooms had a bar fridge and coffee makers. Depending on the cost, you’d have to weigh what it’s worth to have your own space once the kids go to bed. If your kids typically stay up as late as you, I’d forego the expense of the second room and put that money toward a special dinner at Mount Julien (more on that in a moment). But if your kids go to bed early or need to nap, for example, you’ll really appreciate the second room so it’s not lights out for you at the same time.
Basic rates start at $249/night during the summer in a deluxe room; this includes a room and breakfast for two. It also includes service charges, resort fees, marketing fees. Just add tax.
Not that it matters to us, but pet owners will delight in Viamede’s pet-friendly environment. It’s free to bring your dogs and they get their own amenities. Nice.
Viamede is such a family-friendly resort. Everything is clearly thought of with families in mind. As a result, there will likely be other children for yours to hang out with should you not come with friends like we did. Before our buddies arrived, our kids met and played with at least half a dozen kids.
There’s a lovely little sandy beach, with a playground set behind it and enough sand and water toys to keep the day active and interesting. There are lots of canoes and kayaks plus life vests and paddles so you don’t really ever have to wait to do something. And even if you do need to wait your turn, there’s a standup paddleboard or a trampoline-slide-contraption anchored in the water.
We went on two canoe trips and introduced the older kids to kayaking. I took the paddleboard out for a long trip to check out neighbouring cottages. The lake is very easy to navigate and the water forgiving for beginners because it’s very calm and boaters are extremely aware and respectful of those doing non-motorized activities out on the water.
There are lots of land activities to keep you and the fam busy, too. There are both organized and self-guided things to do each day, so be sure to check the schedule at the front desk. Nature hikes, ice cream socials, disc golf…and you can even walk two of the house dogs! Our favourite outing was to the onsite farm. Viamede has a strong farm-to-table mentality and raises/grows as much of its food as possible. We met some ducks, chickens and wild turkeys. But the best surprise was being met by some very excited piglets who’d escaped their pen, knowing it was nearly feeding time.
Join Ben, the general manager, at 3:30 p.m. each day as he feeds the animals and gives everyone an opportunity to ask questions and meet some of the animals in person. Our kids loved petting the silky chicken and seeing a baby turkey.
Everyone gets free breakfast! And it’s more than just continental. There are eggs, bacon (cooked properly according to my specific standards!), delicious sausages, grilled tomatoes, breakfast potatoes, yogurt, bagels, mixed fruit and more. Coffee is free-flowing and there are even paper cups if you want to take some to go. Breakfast is served near the lobby each morning and if you arrive early enough, you can get seats looking out onto the water. It’s a beautiful way to start the day: bacon and lake views. Mmm-mmm good.
While I’m on my favourite topic — food — let’s chat about the two onsite restaurants: the Boathouse Pub and Mount Julien. The former is great for a casual family lunch or dinner, and the latter is the best thing going for date night. Everything we tried at the Boathouse was yummy; standouts include the wings, poutine, brisket sandwich, fish and chips and flourless chocolate torte. We indulged in Mount Julien’s seven-course meal (there are also five and nine courses available), which was served with impeccable timing and incredible service. For two people with a nice bottle of wine, the tally was only $300 including tax and tip. Outstanding value for a fine dining tasting menu.
Oh, but how do you hit up adults-only Mount Julien for dinner if you’ve got the kids and no sitter? Easy. Book your dinner for Saturday night between 5 and 9 p.m. and sign the kids up for pizza and a movie in the main lodge. It’s only $30 per kid and they get to make their own pizza for dinner, do a craft and watch a movie in their PJs. In return, you get four hours to get ready for dinner, enjoy a multi-course meal and probably even have time for a drink on your porch before you need to pick them up. All four of our kids (two of which belong to our friends; no, I did not suddenly birth twins!) had a great time and there were plenty of other kids there who also all seemed to be nicely occupied.
The service we encountered everywhere at Viamede Resort — from housekeeping to front desk staff to restaurant servers — was top notch. So good that it was hard to abide by the resort’s no-tipping policy. There are reminders in the menus and in each room that strictly enforce no tipping. See, Viamede believes in paying a fair wage right from the start. I even sheepishly asked one of the servers if that worked out in their favour and she genuinely told us that she thinks she makes even more money than she would if it was a traditional hourly wage. I wish more properties did this!
You can also charge everything to your room, so there’s no need to carry around a wallet. Love this.
There’s an indoor pool with lakefront views, perfect for cooler or rainy days or if you visit Viamede Resort in fall or winter. It’s heated and has a small outdoor shallow end accessible from the pool itself or two sets of doors. There’s even a volleyball net. Our kids really enjoyed spending a couple of hours here on our last day. And I personally preferred the indoor pool because…
The outdoor pool is not heated. Some people will love how refreshing this is when the weather is smokin’ hot. This is only in my GAFFE section because I’m a pool princess and like higher water temps. I still went in, mind you; it just took me about 15 minutes to make my way down the steps and into neck-deep water. LOL!
I am not a lake-swimmer because I don’t like things that grow in the water. There are things that grow in Stony Lake. It’s not a perfect sandy bottom like you might encounter at Sandbanks, for example. My husband and my kids didn’t care, so they were quite happy to swim and go out to the trampoline. I, however, was happy to go out three feet just to get a canoe or paddleboard into the water.
If you’re looking to stay in a cottage to get that glorious lakefront view, just be aware that they have what I’ll call “rustic charm.” This sometimes verges on the comical and will certainly be something you’ll have to take in stride depending on your cottage’s quirks. Our friends joined us for the weekend and stayed in cottage No. 409, so we had the opportunity to tour one of the property’s two-bedroom units. The floors were uneven, the fridge door couldn’t open the entire way because it hit the kitchen countertop and the window in the kids’ room was clearly open when the bunk-bed was built in there because now it can’t close. As I mentioned — you have to laugh a little. These are not detrimental to your vacation and are part of what fond memories are made of. But do be aware that they aren’t luxury cabins. Both our friends and we agreed that we’d return to Viamede Resort in a heartbeat, but get a room or adjoining rooms in the main lodges.
DISCLOSURE: Viamede very kindly hosted my family to experience everything the resort had to offer. As always, this does not alter my objectivity when reviewing a destination.