The Inn at Manitou (Closed)
McKellar, Ontario Canada
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By Roger Cox, Editor
The Inn at Manitou, 150 miles north of Toronto, traces its origins to the tennis boom of the 1970s. Ben and Sheila Wise, who already ran a successful music and arts camp for children, opened it to give parents who drove up something to do, and it quickly developed a loyal following of passionate players drawn by both the demanding program and the unspoiled beauty of a lake-and-woodland region the Algonquian Indians called "the garden of the Great Spirit." During those early years it had few other dimensions, and needed none.
The Wises, however, had grander notions. World travelers themselves, they gathered ideas, art, and antiques during the off-season so that never a year went by without sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic changes. Over time, the inn grew to 33 rooms—most with wood-burning fireplaces and the best with lake-view balconies, whirlpool tubs, and even private saunas. The Wises added a spa, horseback riding, watersports on the lake, mountain bikes, and most recently a golf academy (though not a full golf course), sprawling out over what is now 500 acres. Hands-on hosts, they earned the inn such a solid reputation for attentive service, sumptuous cuisine, and exceptional lodging that it was asked to join the prestigious Relais & Chateaux organization and then in 1990 won its coveted Gold Shield, the first Canadian property to do so.
The four-hour-a-day tennis programs on its 11 hard and clay tennis courts (one indoors) have scaled back their boot-camp intensity yet remain a reason to visit. That's true not just for the solid instruction but also for the social advantages. The liveliest tables at lunch and dinner always seem to consist of groups of tennis players, many of whom didn't know one another when they arrived. Yet although tennis may still be the best reason to visit, with so much else to do it is now far from the only reason. Although Ben has sadly passed away, Sheila continues to be a constant presence, aided now by her daughter Jordanna Lipson. Between them, they ensure every guest of a warm welcome.
Pro Shop: 705-389-2171
I am, I admit, an unabashed partisan of the inn. Over the last two decades I have visited perhaps half a dozen times, and I never arrive without finding something new to be enthusiastic about. Although the era has passed when virtually every guest arrived carrying a tennis racquet, attention to tennis players remains unflagging, and improvements in the inn itself, the cuisine, and the rooms have turned a once rustic camp into one of the great luxury tennis resorts on the planet.
The Inn runs 3-, 4-, and 7-day tennis clinics for everyone from beginners to advanced players. The group instruction lasts all morning, with the option of social play in the afternoon, which could be doubles with the pros, a round robin, or a match. Then just prior to dinner on most evenings the pros give a tennis exhibition.
Courts & Fees. The complex consists of 11 hard and clay courts, one of them indoors. Court fees: None for guests.
Golf Courses. The Inn has an 18-hole championship golf course designed by Tom McBroom and just named Best New Ontario course by Fairways for 2005 and being considered for Best New Canadian Course in 2006. In addition, it operates a golf academy under the direction of head golf pro Jim Pearson. Instruction takes place on 10 acres of natural turf surrounded by native forest. That is supplemented by an indoor learning center, whose covered tee boxes and state-of-the-art video equipment allow instruction to take place even during inclement weather.
Spa & Fitness Center. The Inn's small size notwithstanding, it pampers guests with a wide range of spa services, including massages, aromatherapy, and various body wraps. There is also a remarkably well equipped fitness center with treadmills, Stairmasters, Lifecycles, free weights, and Universal workout stations. And there are daily classes in aerobics, step and slide, body sculpting, and aqua aerobics as well as morning power walks.
And ... Among the other diversions are mountain bikes, sail boats, canoes, kayaks, and a heated pool. There is also an equestrian center for English and Western riding on trails, in a ring or in an indoor arena.
This is not really a place to bring children unless you plan to enroll them in the adjacent music and tennis camp.
All 32 rooms (there is also a four-bedroom house) have fireplaces and outside terraces. Some overlook the tennis courts, while the best perch on a steep hillside above Lake Manitouwabing. These last are junior suites, with the sleeping area raised a few steps above the living room and its fireplace. Cathedral ceilings add to the sense of space, so do oversize bathrooms with whirlpool tubs and in some cases private saunas. Superbly comfortable, they are enhanced by little amenities: a bottle of champagne on arrival, coffee and juice delivered discreetly outside the door each morning, the option of breakfast or dinner in your room.
The cuisine at the Inn has become so sumptuous that guests begged to have grand multicourse meals only every other night because they could not resist everything put before them, and Ben and Sheila of course responded, even to the point of offering nightly options low in cholesterol, salt, fat, and calories. Gourmet dinners—think Canadian lobster raviolis with pickled ginger, pan-seared John Dory with chanterelle compote, roasted New Zealand lamb loin with a confit of eggplant crust, or roasted Provimi veal tournedos with foie gras—now alternate with somewhat lighter but no less flavorful bistro dinners.
If you like the sound of the Inn at Manitou, also check out the following:
- The Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa, Arizona
- Bio-Hotel Stanglwirt, Austria
- Rancho Valencia, California
- Topnotch Resort and Spa, Vermont
Rates and Reservations
The rates below are per person, double occupancy and include lodging, all meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and afternoon tea), and use of the Inn facilities. The rates are quoted in Canadian ($C) dollars. Three- to seven-night tennis packages are also available (see their website for details). Three-night bookings during early and late season include fourth night free. Tennis and golf clinics are free during May and October.
May 7-June 19, 2010
June 20-Sept. 25, 2010
Sept. 26-Oct. 17, 2010
Tennis Clinics: 3 hours/day + social tennis
McKellar, Ont. P0G 1C0 Canada
Seasons. The Inn is open from early May to mid October