KIDS IN KILLARNEY - MAKING MEMORIES IN NORTHERN ONTARIO
Killarney Mountain Lodge, Killarney, Ontario, Canada
"Anika", I say to my twelve-year-old daughter. "We're going to Killarney for a weekend getaway!" Anika counters swiftly "Will there be an all-you-can-eat buffet?" "Will I see a bear?" "Will there be Wi-Fi?" "Don't know", "Don't know", aaaand, "Yes!". As mum of a tween, I'll take what I can get,
"Adam" - I try again - this time with my fourteen-year-old son. "We're going to Killarney". I'm ready for anything. "Will we be able to see stars?", he asks. And "Can I borrow your camera?". Ahh - a kid who gets the meaning of a wilderness getaway!
The long drive from home in southern Ontario lands us on the northern tip of Georgian Bay right about sunset. Just a few trees show early signs of the glorious fall to come. And that dipping sun does the rest. Shafts of light and pink horizon reflect on rippling water. Killarney's famous pink granite and windswept white pine channel Group of Seven. All we need is a loon call to complete this northern getaway scene. A distant loon obliges - eery and beautiful.
This iconic northern experience is enjoyed from our home base for the next two days - Killarney Mountain Lodge. A fourteen million dollar investment by new owner Holden Rhodes has turned this historic wilderness retreat into a luxurious destination. Thirty-four cabins, suites and chalets have had a facelift with a total of one hundred planned for 2017. A new great room includes a massive stone fireplace, soaring timber roof, and oversized leather couches. And a new outdoor fireplace sits atop a granite outcrop overlooking the channel and nearby George Island. In short, Killarney Mountain Lodge has had a facelift and is looking good!
Star Gazing and Snacks
Anika is tucked in in our cosy cabin making the most of the Wi-Fi, and Adam and I head to the dock for stars. Fellow star-gazers will picture a cool evening, a warm blanket, hot chocolate, and a half-hour of gazing up. Not for us though. Star gazing takes on a whole new meaning when your kid loves astro-photography.
A short trek to the dock would have better been done with a small car. We trudged with two tripods, two cameras, two time lapse devices, multiple lenses, a pack of cards, blankets, chairs, and snacks. (Mums will get the part about snacks - don't even travel from cabin to dock with a fourteen-year-old boy unless you're traveling with snacks!).
A long setup, then finally, cameras clicking away and pointed skyward, Adam and I settle in for cards and snacks while we wait for stars to move across the sky. And it was worth it! Stay tuned for Adam's time-lapse of the Milky Way!
All that star-gazing just steps from a warm cosy bed and a heated room made this experience pretty sweet. But three hours under the stars, laughing, cheating at cards, and talking about life with my son - that was priceless!
Anika's list of Northern Ontario getaway requirements was a little suspect. But there was one that was all Anika AND wilderness-oriented. She wanted to see a bear. And when it comes to wildlife this wildlife-loving kid has all the luck!
Lunch was at The Pines Inn in downtown Killarney. Just me and my girl this time - and a fat little chipmunk with nut-filled cheeks. I would have been satisfied with that shared moment and the laughter as that chubby critter barely stayed upright in his top-heavy race down the stairs.
And then we saw a bear. Very small, more like half a bear than an actual bear, And hungry - his meandering path took him to a backyard apple tree to fill up.
Now my lucky wildlife-spotter is on a roll. On our afternoon trip to the The Lighthouse we saw nine turtles sunning on a log, a pileated woodpecker, and later, a lone cyote peering out of the woods.
I do however begin to think that moose are a mythical creature. In all my travels, to places famous for these grand creatures and roadside menaces I have yet to see a moose. I have no doubt though, that when we finally encounter a moose, Anika will be the one to spot it!
Exploring the park
Killarney Provincial Park is known as one of the crown jewels of the Ontario Park System and with over ten thousand square kilometers of pristine lakes and wooded hills, this is one of Ontario's top wilderness destinations.
A family hike along the 2km Granite Ridge Trail showed us some of that spectacular scenery the park is famous for. Mostly well-maintained paths turned into a rough rock-strewn trail, then an uphill stretch and a good workout up smooth granite. The view from the top was enough for Anika to forget wi-fi and all-you-can-eat buffets for some time with her camera.
Then on to a trip through the campground and a little research. After all, with all that wildlife and clear starry nights, who knows if next summer will find us camped out in Killarney for a second round of family time in the wilderness? This place has options for all camping types - 182 back-country canoe-in sites, 33 back-country hike-in sites, and six yurts. Given my appreciation of the luxury back at the lodge, my idea of 'roughing it' leans more toward a cosy cabin than a tent. But the kids loved the idea of mum burning burgers on the campfire, and tripping over tent poles - and next summer might find me doing just that!
Downtime at the Resort
Now as any travelling parent knows, downtime is what it's all about. Don't even think of spending hours in a car headed north, then the same headed south without a whole lot of downtime in between. And Killarney Mountain Lodge has that covered.
A long splash in the heated pool made for lots of kid-fun on a cool fall day, and a little downtime on the lounger for me. And poolside chess is somehow so much more fun than the same on a chessboard at home. On to the games room and very long games of pool as we channeled pool pros and hopelessly failed, cheated, and laughed lots. So much more down by the water - canoeing, kayaking, sailing on the 46 foot "Stormy Night" - but sadly, due to our endless pool game, we never got to the water sports.
Now let's talk food - and best way to keep my growing teen and tween from growing grumpy. Killarney Mountain Lodge has that covered too. Anika got her all-you-can-eat buffet at breakfast, and we savoured a few delicious dishes from a menu described as contemporary Canadian comfort food - Rainbow Trout Tower direct from Georgian Bay suited my taste buds AND my travel commitment to eat local. And Adam enjoyed the Grilled Rack of Lamb enough to share so we could all enjoy - and we did!
Two nights and three fun days later, and one happy family heads south. Both kids got what they had hoped for, and I got a memorable and happy weekend with my kids in northern Ontario - everything I had hoped for too!
See related blog post:
Travel Connections: John Maurer Channels Group of Seven in Killarney
WHERE TO STAY AND EAT
Killarney Mountain Lodge
Email | Website | TripAdvisor
3 Commissioner Street Killarney, Ontario, Canada, P0M 2A0
1-800-461-1117 (Toll Free)
Ahhh - luxury and Northern Ontario wilderness! The large dining room has a contemporary Northern Ontario feel - large stone fireplace and Group of Seven-style paintings. Contemporary Canadian-style comfort food.
The Pines Inn
Email | Website | TripAdvisor
36 Channel St, Killarney, Ontario, Canada, P0P 2A0
Located in down-town Killarney just steps from the water. Also a great place to eat with a cosy pub atmosphere and friendly hosts.
Killarney Provincial Park
960 Highway 637, Killarney, Ontario, Canada, P0M 2A0
Glorious Group of Seven-style vistas with windswept trees, dark lakes and Canadian Shield terrain.
Foods a little harder to come by in the campground. Head to Pitfield's General Store in Killarney for groceries, Killarney Outfitters for ice-cream (and backcountry travel rentals), or bring your fishing rod for a taste of back-country cooking.
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