Viamede Resort is a pet-friendly family resort, situated on beautiful Stoney Lake, Ontario (or Stony Lake — depending on whom you ask!). While we haven’t explored too many of the Kawartha resorts, we enjoyed our stay at Viamede so much last time that it was at the top of our list for a repeat visit this summer.
Read my initial Viamede Resort review for even more detailed info about accommodations and facilities.
Viamede’s history goes something like this: the original building was built somewhere around 1885, though land surveys do indicate that there’s a “hotel” onsite starting in 1873. In 1907, a new resort was built when the old one burned down, with modern guest comforts like electric lighting and running water. The resort has seen dramatic improvements since it changed hands in 2010, but there’s a continued nod to the past everywhere.
Stoney Lake, Ontario
If you’re looking for resorts near Toronto, Stoney Lake (a.k.a. Stony Lake) is a quick drive northeast of the GTA. From our home in Clarington, it only takes about an hour and 15 minutes to get to Viamede Resort (which is, IMO, one of Kawartha Lakes’ best resorts).
Plus when you head in this direction, you won’t be part of the messy weekend traffic heading up Hwy. 400 to cottage country in the Muskokas or many of the other resorts in southwestern Ontario.
About Viamede Resort’s almost all-inclusive model
Although Viamede Resort isn’t one of the fully all-inclusive resorts in Ontario we’ve been to, since the nightly cost doesn’t include food beyond breakfast, there are plenty of money-saving inclusions. But, yes, you read that right — breakfast is included in your stay, whether you rent one of the self-contained cottages or stay in the hotel-style main inn.
All of the activities and equipment at the resort are completely free for guests. From an 18-hole disc golf course to bicycle rentals and even snowshoeing in the winter months, that’s just the start of Viamede’s almost all-inclusive resort model.
Free things to do at Viamede Resort
There are stand-up paddle boards, a water trampoline, a water “iceberg” to climb, plus canoes and kayaks that you don’t need to sign out to borrow…it’s just first come, first served. Among Viamede’s 165 acres of land, there are nine kilometres of dedicated trails through the forest to explore, a big outdoor pool and an indoor pool (that actually has an indoor/outdoor option as well as a steam room and sauna) and a well-equipped fitness centre.
Each day, I’d paddle around Stoney Lake with one of my kids — in search of a huge flock of geese with at least half a dozen goslings. (You can get pretty close in a kayak!) We loved checking out the massive cottages in the Kawarthas, dreaming about winning the lottery to buy one of our own. But mostly just talking. Because with the quiet of the lake — save for the occasional, echoing loon — and free of all the usual distractions that get between us each day, those paddling trips gave me at least an hour of uninterrupted time to just hang out with my kids one on one.
Speaking of boats, we LOVED our Boatride with Ben. Inquire at the front desk because whenever he’s available, Ben (the owner and GM) will happily take guests on a motorized boat tour of Stoney Lake in his beloved Boston Whaler. We were out for at least an hour and learned more about the resort, the lake and the many generations of guests who continue to return to Viamede Resort each year from across North America.
Viamede’s private beach, with an adjacent playground set, is small but mighty. It has clean sand and provides a zero-depth entry point into Stoney Lake, which was exceptionally warm during our visit.
There’s also a tennis court and a basketball net… But if you want to play tennis and basketball, I’d suggest bringing your own equipment since what’s available onsite has seen better days.
One of the things our kids love to do at Viamede Resort is visit the working farm. There are chickens, ducks and quail — many of whose eggs are used at Viamede’s restaurants! — and turkeys. There are piggies, too (and OMG, I love piglets); last year, the pigs were HUGE and had escaped their pen when we came to see them, but this year, they were only about six weeks old and hadn’t yet figured out how to do much beyond snort and play in the mud.
The farm at Viamede offers a great way to open up the conversation with your kids about where their food comes from, since most of the animals being raised there will ultimately be used for food in one way or another. You can also go off in search of oregano and lettuce, edible flowers, tomatoes and other good things growing in the gardens that surround the resort — almost all of which is used to feed guests.
And although we aren’t religious, I do appreciate the quaint beauty of a white chapel. Viamede’s chapel is the epitome of ADORBZ.
Oh, and don’t forget to check the weekly activities calendar for more free things at Viamede (think ice cream socials, wine tastings, pool volleyball and more).
Finally, FREE kids’ camp! Yeppers — you can ship your kids off to the included daily kids’ camp for three hours each day should you both wish to have a little time apart. We were only at Viamede Resort for 2.5 days so we didn’t try this, but for a longer stay, or for kids who are super into kids’ clubs, this is an awesome option.
What we did try, however, was the free kids’ pizza and movie night. This allowed us to take advantage of the adult-only tasting menu experience at Mount Julien restaurant (more on that below). On the nights it’s offered, you simply sign up at the front desk and it’s open to the first 10 or 12 kids. They have a pita-pizza party, hang out, colour, play games and watch a movie from 5-9 p.m.
Viamede Resort restaurants
I’m starting with Mount Julian restaurant because, for the second time, it absolutely blew us away. This is adults-only and it’s tasting menu-style, so you’ll need to have kids old enough to stay in your room on your own or put them in the pizza and movie camp. PLEASE, DO IT! This is going to be an unforgettable meal.
Built in 1874, the Inn at Mount Julian has always been known for local, well-made food. Today, the menu can change on a dime — even within the same night — depending on what ingredients are available. Favouring local, homegrown and foraged foods, your tasting menu offers three choices:
- Five courses for $90, with pairings (mostly from Prince Edward County) add $45
- Seven courses for $110, with pairings add $55
- Nine courses for $130, with pairings add $65
Two years ago, we went for seven courses. This year, we did the full nine. And — WOW — Mount Julian has not disappointed these two food snobs! The new chef has stayed true to Mount Julian’s roots and combines artistic flair with inventive flavour combinations. (I mean, I didn’t even know some flowers have a peppery taste…)
The pairings were a nice addition, and many of them were unexpectedly perfect. I’m not usually hot on Ontario red wine, but the selections from Prince Edward County complemented the dishes beautifully. There was also a beer or two plus some hard liquor — not your usual pairings, which was a welcome surprise.
Be sure to make a reservation well in advance for Mount Julian — it’s very small!
This is where breakfast is served each morning. It’s a buffet and there are scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, fruit, yogurt, mini-packs of kid-favourite cereals, and other morning staples. Considering it’s free, it’s very good. One of our beloved morning rituals was making a café latté and relaxing while the kids raced off to play darts, ping pong or foosball in one corner of the room.
Overlooking Viamede’s main dock, perched above Stoney Lake, The Boathouse was our go-to lunch spot. Although not every dish was as delicious as it was a couple of years ago, there are still some standout meals and cocktails to be had here.
I’ll start with an honourable mention of the house-made iced tea. With hints of lemon and rosemary, it’s not very sweet and has much more “tea” flavour than a typical Canadian iced tea — and that’s what made it exceptional enough for me to order two in a row.
You need to try the poutine here — smothered in sauteed onions, melted cheese curds, a rich gravy and strips of beef, it’s sooooo good. The chicken Caesar salad, fish and chips, all of the kids’ meals and the sausage sliders were also great. But we found the short rib too bland and the mac ‘n cheese just so-so. Both just seem to be missing something — and both have the makings to be great, so fingers crossed they’ll be reimagined by our next visit.
No tips at Viamede!
One of the most important things I need to tell you about the restaurants at Viamede is that there is a strict NO TIPPING policy in place. Implemented two years ago to improve overall service across the resort, Viamede’s owner opted to pay every staff member more per hour. So, when one restaurant gets busy, for example, staff are inclined to quickly call for backup to make the guest experience better and more efficient.
Since you can charge lunches and dinners to your room, there’s no need to carry around a wallet — which was pretty welcome for us since we did so many watersports all day.
PRO TIP: While you’re leaving your wallet in your room, you might as well leave your smartphone, too, unless you have a waterproof case. The wifi is OK in some spots throughout the resort, and dead in others.
Stoney Lake fishing
Stoney Lake is considered one of Ontario’s best lakes for fishing. You might catch perch, walleye, bass or muskie — apparently there are more sunfish in Stoney Lake than people in the Kawarthas! Catch-and-release is strongly encouraged.
If you don’t mind getting up before the sun, you can sign up ahead of time to go fishing with Ben each morning at 6 a.m. My kids love fishing but that was even too early for them! The early fish gets the worm and all that, though…
A pet-friendly family resort in Ontario
Even though we aren’t pet owners, we have plenty of friends who are and tell me that it can be challenging to find family resorts in Ontario that allow them to bring their fur babies. Well, good news: Viamede not only allows pets, but they’re welcomed for free. There will be treats, doggy bags, leashes and food dishes available if you forget to bring your own, and there’s even a shaded, off-leash dog park onsite!
If you’re not really into animals, you’ll want to book the main or hilltop rooms at Viamede Resort instead since those are entirely pet-free.
Whether you choose to make Viamede Resort your home-away-from home just once or become a regular year after year like so many of its other guests, remember to take full advantage of everything that’s included and at your fingertips. Happy family travels!
DISCLAIMER: We were invited to experience Viamede Resort to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.