March Break has come to an end, the kids are back in school and I’m reflecting on our time spend in a Winter Wonderland at Fern Resort in Orillia, Ontario. If you’d have asked me what my top 5 choices for March Break getaways were before our trip I doubt I would have listed one with Winter activities. Don’t hate me, usually I’m longing for the sun but after a stay at Fern Resort that has all changed.
Fern Resort is a popular destination among my friends in the Spring, Summer and Fall months. It was established in the late 1800’s by the Dowling family and has been family-run ever since. This magical place is steeped in history and shows it with the lovely sweeping architecture, the personalized services and overall attention to detail which one only finds in an established resort.
Located just 1.5 hours from Toronto, Ontario this family-friendly, all inclusive resort is found on the shores of Lake Couchiching where their list of activities is long and the accommodation styles fit all needs.
Family Fun at Fern Resort
The focus of my review will be the family activities available at Fern Resort, simply because I felt they were stellar and something we don’t often find at all inclusive resorts. The staff at Fern really understand the needs of families while on a vacation and have offered up options which we’ve never seen before.
Kids Program at Fern
Each day you have the option of bringing your children to the kids programs at Fern. These run all day (with breaks for meals) until the evening. The camp counsellors are wonderful, they get to know the children and families by name and we felt utterly safe with our children in their care. Each counsellor has their own Facebook profile and guests are encouraged to keep in touch, how’s that for relationship?
The girls enjoyed Bingo, ping-pong tournaments, snowmobiling, Animal Show and more during the program hours each day. This was time the girls coveted and let me tell you I certainly enjoyed the free time to work or enjoy the adult amenities such as the spa, yoga and chef demonstrations while the kids were having fun.
The relationships which were created between my girls and the counsellors were tight. They laughed and joked as they ran into one another within the resort, this is indicative of the whole vibe of our stay.
One of the highlights of our trip was dogsledding! Fern offers dogsledding lessons and a 45 minute tour around the area. Because of my disabilities and bad back I was unable to go dogsledding but thankfully the guide offers to take 1 rider with them and my girls were utterly thrilled.
It was simple to arrange, we went to the front desk and booked in our time slots and then just geared the kids up in their Winter outwear. The dogs were very friendly when we arrived, my girls loved spending time cuddling these doggies and telling stories about our dog Cocoa with the guides. They received some instruction and safety tips and then they were off and running.
The stories of their dogsledding rides haven’t stopped being retold, me thinks we’ll be hearing about them for years to come.
I have to admit that we didn’t get the chance to Ice Fish, simply because we didn’t have time to do everything. Fern has ice fishing huts all ready for you if you’d like to give this a go! Just head to the front desk, book a time and they’ll fire up the heaters in the huts and the gear will be ready for your adventure.
Snowshoeing & Cross Country Skiing
The resort is settle among an expanse of nature, bring along your skiing and snowshoeing gear and head out to explore or use the free gear available to guests. The Fern staff will instruct you and don’t worry it’s FUN and a workout for the whole family, even the wee ones. The trails wind through the forest, beside the lake and if you keep your eyes peeled you may spot some of the local wildlife.
My girls enjoyed snowmobiling on mini snowmobiles during the kids program, apparently our youngest almost took out the entire group of kids while driving! Thankfully the staff was in complete control and it ended up being a story we laugh about.
Fern offers snowmobile rentals by the hour for the speed lovers, you arrange your rental at the front desk and they’ll provide instruction and helmets. You must be 18 to drive the snowmobiles but passengers can be younger.
If you’re thinking of heading to Fern Resort, don’t forget to bring your skates! There is an arena sized outdoor skating rink which is lovingly cleared and maintained by a Zamboni daily. Benches flank the ice and they even provide sports equipment such as brooms, curling rocks, hockey sticks & nets.
My girls enjoyed being able to head to the ice while I watched from our balcony or through the sliding doors while I was warm and cozy by our fire. There is another smaller rink located near the Main Inn where they’ve setup Broom Ball, rinks are open all day until 11pm.
Horse Drawn Hayride Rides
There is something romantic about the sound of horse bells ringing in the air as the snow falls gently. Horse drawn hayrides are available to those who book with at the main desk, they tour the property and add to the feeling of nostalgia which we felt at Fern.
Accommodations at Fern Resort
Fern Resort has far too many accommodation options for me to cover them all within this article. From lake-side cottages to hotel rooms they offer a wide variety. I had the opportunity to stay in two of them and those are what I can share with you all.
The Hearthside is a 2.5 story Inn which houses the conference/activity rooms as well as the evening babysitting room in the summer season. Each of the rooms have a balcony, a sitting area with a cozy wood-burning fireplace (with firelogs provided daily)and offer fabulous views of the lake.
Type 14 are bayside rooms; enjoy the boating area in summer and large skating rink in the winter. Last redecoration took place in 2009 and while it is somewhat dated, the room was comfy and we were rarely in it other than to sleep.
With my 2 daughters plus a friend sleeping all in one room proved a challenge and the amazing staff at Fern were happy to help improve our sleeping arrangements by moving us into 2 adjoining rooms in the Fireside Lakeview.
The Fireside Inn is a 2 storey building which was updated more recently. Each unit has a queen bed, balcony and a sitting area with its own cozy wood-burning fireplace (firelogs provided daily). We LOVED these rooms, they were perfect to lend some privacy while still having the fantastic view of the lake.
Dining at Fern Resort
Dining at Fern Resort was a pleasure, the meals were on a set schedule but we found this to be helpful. Gone were the bland, stock foods of many all inclusive resorts and in their place was a delicious variety of choices with each seating to suit all dietary restrictions and tastes.
Upon arrival at your first meal you are greeted by the Dining room manager who leads you to your table. This will be your table throughout your entire stay. The servers are warm and friendly, going out of their way to predict all of your needs. There is nothing like being presented with your favourite beverage while being greeted by name at each meal to make you feel welcome.
At each meal there is a “Childrens Buffet” which should really just be called a buffet because the foods available were amazing. The variety is large and the quality is great. There is also a menu with 17 choices, some of which are available daily such as Prime Rib and Caesar Salad. Fern chefs take into account the array of dietary restrictions of the guests and plan accordingly. If you have specific needs, you can call ahead and speak directly with the chef to make arrangements.
Fern Resort is a beauty which I wish all families knew about! It’s truly a gem when you’re travelling with a family. There are so many Winter activities that everyone in your party is sure to fill their time making fond memories. The staff is committed to making your stay over-the-top wonderful and truly go the extra mile to do so.
If you are looking for a boutique hotel, this isn’t the place for you. This is a resort steeped in rich history which provides a family-focused retreat like no other I’ve found in Ontario.
We will be staying at Fern Resort in May and I look forward to sharing the Spring experience with you all.