By Lauren Nesbitt-Baggerman
For many in Ontario, the first taste of the wilderness began when we were kids, with our first visit to Algonquin Provincial Park. Who forgets spotting your first bear? If you’re like me, preferring finer comforts, the time for sleeping rough and cooking over the fire pit is past. But, if like me, you still long for the true outdoors, you’ll be happy to discover that authentic wilderness experience can still be found, and it’s at Killarney Lodge.
Driving north out of the city, for Algonquin Park, I start to notice the population density dwindles, the pressured pace eases. I see the wilds again: forest, bare rock, landscape dotted with lakes, a moose (no kidding!). That is the secret of Killarney Lodge, a doorway into the wilderness that is just right.
Here wonderful nature is paired with wonderful cuisine, and accommodation, explain Poppy Rowland and Eric Miglin, owners. “We made that decision when we came here, to concentrate on the guests’ experience of the park, the menu, the décor, and the lodging,” says Eric. “What really makes me happy,” says Poppy, “is to have the ability with Mother Nature to produce a place where people can really enjoy themselves.”
Conveniently off the main road, the lodge lies on the shores of the Lake of Two Rivers. I came to revisit my cottage days, in accommodation that truly captures rustic comfort. Looking for that early morning sunrise, I found the lodge’s individual cabins tailor-made to meet guests’ individual needs, whether it’s romantic privacy, or special needs accessibility.
Each private verandah overlooks the water. Pine and log combine with plush beds, impeccable country life décor, and amenities from the Aveda products, to the cozy guest lounge offering ease and ready refreshments. And don’t overlook your canoe, ready and waiting for you – when I ventured to the shore to check it out, the only sounds were distant birdsong, and the wind across the water.
“That’s why the lodge is here,” explains Eric. “Algonquin Park is such an attraction, there isn’t something comparable, elsewhere. We hope guests come away with that excitement!” Eric pointed out the best hikes, for me, but also nudged me toward a scenic stroll, on the lookout for beaver and moose. Staff was happy to offer a picnic lunch for my excursion, too.
For them, the question is always, “What can we do better, this year?” says Eric. And it shows, especially in the menu – favorites in evidence, but not ‘the same old thing’ at all! If you’re like me, vacations are a treat, and I’m a long way from my ‘smores’ days at camp. My heart set on something special, the staff gladly obliged, but how to choose? Apple-stuffed French Toast, Lorraine Frittatta, Prime Roast Rib of Beef, Rack of Lamb: menus change daily, and the variety of choice includes vegetarian offerings.
Poppy aims high for the menu. “We made a push to elevate it,” she says. “The kitchen works extra hard to create ‘country’ fine dining: really good food with really, really good cooking.” (I have to confess that the menu’s BEST Pecan Pie, truly is.) The combination of experienced staff and oversight by a certified chef de cuisine brings a touch of the gourmet that is just right.
Your water glass is always filled, and Eric may stop by, to find out how your day of hiking went. Killarney, he says, “is just the right size to make it personal – I can recognize everyone. Being an innkeeper, you need to be connected to your guests,” he says. “When I first started I didn’t appreciate how much I would enjoy that!”
In fact, all the staff works hard to ensure the stay you’re hoping for. “We’re really hands-on,” says Eric. “The credit goes to everyone who works here, they really care about what they’re doing.” Poppy tells me, it’s their attention to detail, too. The secret is in the longevity of the staff. “We’ve worked together for so many years,” she says, “sometimes we’re laughing so hard we can’t stand it.” Eric agrees. The family atmosphere, that ‘vibe’, rubs off on the guests. He describes it “like friends coming to your house, all the time.”
Returning guests attest to just the right combination of people and surroundings. “It’s a community,” says Poppy. “The surroundings, the wind in the trees, we have a relationship with what’s around us, even the animals are part of that community,” she says. “It’s everything.”
Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario