Hotel Review: Arowhon Pines in Algonquin
Un-rough it in Algonquin Park. These were the words that encouraged us to book a stay at Arowhon Pines, the rustic but luxurious lodge and resort set deep within the Algonquin Provincial Park. We were warned ahead of time that despite being only a 3-hour drive from Toronto, there would be no cell service, WiFi, or television and we welcomed the chance to relax, unwind, and truly disconnect.
The all-inclusive seasonal resort is open from the end of May until mid-October. There is a selection of private rooms with ensuite bathrooms and shared common areas and also private cabins with private decks. During our stay, we were the only guests in our shared cabin, so we enjoyed the luxury of having the common room to ourselves and set up a fire as we worked on a puzzle and played some of the board games in the living room. Our room was very charming, peaceful, and quiet, save for the sounds of wild animals in the evenings. The bathroom had Arowhon’s own eco-friendly body wash and soap, which smelled beautiful and was available for purchase at reception, while our private deck out back had comfortable lounge chairs that were perfect for catching some sun.
Guests could enjoy three meals a day in the main dining room with a wraparound veranda. Chef David Cooke won the Kikkoman UK Masterchef award in 1994 and was a semi-finalist for the National Chef of the Year title for two years, so it is clear to see why guests are constantly raving about the food at Arowhon. On one afternoon during our stay, Chef Cooke kindly took us into his kitchen, introduced us to his cooks, and went through the meticulous process that his team follows for menu development, ingredient sourcing, storage, prep, cooking, and plating. He took the time to show us the necessary bear-proof storage sections out back, the bread room where their pastry chef was hard at work rolling out fresh dough, and also the meat stations where one of his cooks was carefully filleting fish. He explains that everyone plays a role in getting your food on the plate, and as one of the owners of the resort, it is his duty to ensure that they hire and keep the best talent.
Meals truly were a highlight during our time at Arowhon. Little touches like having our country flags on our table every evening at dinner and getting to know servers, Harry and Edward, really made us feel like we were receiving a personalised experience. Sharing tables were always available during each meal, along with an ever-changing menu of mains and desserts. Some of our favourite dishes throughout our stay were the marinated, line-caught tuna loin, the herb-crusted rack of Ontario lamb, and the caramelised apple tart. No alcohol is served on-site, although guests are welcome to bring their own wine or beer to have with their meals.
Theresa, one of the owners and managers, was an absolute star. She ensured that communication was easy and seamless before, during, and after our stay. Whilst Arowhon has a plethora of activities on-site like stand-up paddle-boarding, canoeing, a sauna, tennis court, and even a games room, Theresa also kindly organised a half-day canoe trip and hike for us with the guides from nearby Camp Pathfinder. Camp Pathfinder has been providing outdoor summer activities for boys since 1914. Our guides Archie and Jack took us out on their handmade canoes and taught us the basic strokes we’d need for going through the different lakes and rivers during our trip. Throughout the day, they shared stories about the month-long trips they took with their campers and how their love for the outdoors has kept them coming back year after year. Aside from teaching us how to portage through the woods with our canoes overhead, they also took us on a short hike up the Track and Tower trail that gave us a beautiful view over the park. Towards the end of our trip, they took us over to Pathfinder island to meet with the camp’s personal boat-maker who went through the art of canoe making and walked us around the campgrounds that would soon be alive with the voices of young men.
A note of warning that May-June is black fly season. While we were provided with bug masks by the resort, it is good to also have bug spray, antihistamine, and an after-bite spray on-hand. Unfortunately, I am allergic to black flies, which wasn’t a pleasure to deal with.
With that being said, the beauty of Algonquin is incomparable. We spent a lot of time at Arowhon lounging on the deck by the lake and sitting on the veranda with a coffee in hand, staring out into the crystal clear waters as they reflected the dense surrounding forests. Despite being off-the-grid, there was a sense of home and familiarity brought about by the kind and attentive team of staff and owners. Arowhon Pines is the perfect hideaway for lovers of the outdoors to reconnect with nature while still enjoying the comforts of a luxury abode.