“If Ste. Anne is full when I need it, I cry,” confides the towel-swathed Toronto businesswoman in the eucalyptus steam room. Canada’s top destination spa is the retreat of choice for city folk who just need to power down. Spend the weekend in plush bathrobes in this fieldstone castle, strolling the extensive wildflower-stippled grounds, taking morning stretch classes and dining on local fare (try the chef’s cut of lamb in mint and stout sauce). Even the drinking water, sourced from an on-site aquifer, makes you feel good from the inside out. Spa treatments are mandatory (each stay includes a credit), so spring clean away with a nutrient-rich Moor Mud Hydro Wrap and Vichy shower.
1009 Massey Rd., Grafton , 888-346-6772
Forget country kitsch: The town of Warkworth’s Main Street offers a hip collection of shops, including this unexpected find dedicated to goods produced by family businesses of three generations or more. Browse the artful displays of carefully chosen staples, like DeWit gardening tools, Rhodia pocket notebooks, Kusmi tea and Shoyeido incense. Each item comes with a handwritten card chronicling the company’s history.
33 Main St., Warkworth, 705-924-9400
This boutique winery specializing in craft blends of estate- and Niagara-grown grapes is currently the only winery in the county. Dine on the farm-fresh food (like the heirloom tomato salad and root-beer-and-barbeque-braised pulled-pork sandwich) on the patio overlooking 23 acres of vines, or take a chef-prepared picnic down to the banks of the property’s pond along with a bottle of Frontenac Gris.
337 Covert Hill Rd., Warkworth, 866-625-6051
Starting each year in June, this timber-frame barn in Campbellford, just under an hour from Ste. Anne’s Spa, plays host to an impressive rota of opera, classical and jazz musicians (such as last year’s headliner, opera singer Isabel Bayrakdarian, and the upcoming season’s Oliver Jones.) Between sets, spill out into the surrounding meadow for a sunset stroll and to mingle with the artists.
6698 County Road 30, Campbellford , 877-883-5777
Overlooking Rice Lake, this fine-dining restaurant is located within Elmhirst’s Resort, a secluded fourth-generation farm and cottage retreat. Try the site-raised, free-range meats (in dishes like the duo of crispy duck salad and beef tenderloin in truffle jus) as well as the all-Canadian wine program, featuring Okanagan labels rarely found in the East, like See Ya Later Ranch and Sumac Ridge.
RR #1, Keene, 800-461-1940
3 Ways to Get a Move On
1. Ganaraska , the second longest trail network in Ontario, runs 500 kilometres northwest from Port Hope. Trek along the abandoned railroad between the town’s 4th and 6th Lines and feel as if you’re in a tunnel of trees.
2. Watch the pageant of migrating waterfowl, like tundra swans and canvasbacks, along the marsh boardwalk at Presqu’ile Provincial Park , set on a looped trail.
3. At just under one kilometre wide, what Peter’s Woods Provincial Park lacks in clicks it makes up for in scenery as the last Oak Ridges Moraine old-growth forest in Ontario.
Originally published in enRoute online .