IF YOU EVER FIND YOURSELF TRAVELLING THE LONG ROAD TOWARD ALGONQUIN PARK, OR ROAMING THE WILDERNESS OF THE PARK IN A CANOE, A VISIT TO BARTLETT LODGE IS A MUST. Founded in 1917, and owned and operated by Kim and Marilyn Smith since 1997, Bartlett Lodge is open from May to October each year. For Jonathan and I, it’s a yearly excursion that makes each summer complete. Bartlett is perched on a small peninsula, and its charm and magic begin to seep into you the moment you step out of the car onto the quiet shores of Cache Lake. Stress begins to roll off your shoulders, and with the exception of an occasional mosquito swat, you are at peace, your only thoughts aswirl with anticipation for the meal ahead and the beauty of the park. A telephone to the left of the landing, a direct line to the Lodge, instructs you to call for your boat taxi; the antique wooden boat is a Bartlett trademark and a memorable aspect of your stay, whether you are there for a week or simply for dinner.
During my annual visits I usually focus on the food, but for this feature I had the opportunity to explore the grounds in depth, taking in every detail. The meandering trails, the Muskoka chairs sitting pride of place on the dock, the greenery, and the handcrafted signage all stand out, but above all, Bartlett’s commitment to preserving the environment captures my attention.
Bartlett Lodge won the Sustainable Tourism Award of Excellence, given by the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership, in 2009. You may not immediately notice the green features that prompted the award, but as you look around and see how Kim and Marilyn’s ethos and passion for nature has seeped into the feel of the place, suddenly you can’t imagine it any other way. The Lodge uses a peat moss septic system and the dining room uses solar thermal hot water (a method of heating water that utilizes solar energy). The cabins utilize hydro but are powered by Bullfrog Power, Ontario’s only one-hundred-percent-green electric provider. However, pockets of the Lodge take green living even further; the Silver Birches and Sunrise cabins are outfitted with solar panels that supply all of their energy. A few of the newer cabins also have eco-friendly, non-toxic mattresses.
One of my favourite features of the Lodge is the platform tents; if you love to camp but prefer a comfortable bed, the tents are perfect. This particular style of accommodation has been seen in Algonquin Park since the early 1900s, when regular cabins could not be built fast enough to support ever-increasing Victorian tourism. Today, the popularity and novelty of 'glamping' has brought them back, and Bartlett’s platform tents are fully furnished, each with a charming veranda overlooking the lake.
And, of course, the food is perhaps one of the leading attractions for guests staying at Bartlett. The five-course meal never fails to disappoint and is diverse and adventurous—I even tried kangaroo one year (somewhat reluctantly, I’ll admit)—and regularly features lamb, beef, duck, fish, and vegetarian options. The prix fixe menu is very reasonable at sixty-seven dollars per person and changes often, created by the year’s Executive Chef. “As an environmentally responsible resort, we support the locavore or local food movement, and whenever possible, purchase local and provincial ingredients, supplied by small specialty producers,” says Marilyn.
Meals at Bartlett are casual, and we like to linger and savor every bite, yet somehow the two hour meal always flies by. As we make our way down the darkened path, single file, toward the dock for the boat ride back to the car, no one speaks. We’re too busy basking in our contentment.
LEARN MORE: bartlettlodge.com
ABOUT OUR CONTRIBUTORS:
ERIN MONETT: A commercial and wedding photographer, Erin resides in Muskoka, ON, where she has the artistic freedom to explore her art in one of the most beautiful landscapes in Canada. View her work: everimages.ca.