Five star Relais & Châteaux resort offers golf, tennis, water sports, spa services; and after all that fresh air and exercise – outstanding cuisine

Who would have thought that what began as a fledgling tennis camp for kids in a secluded forest two hours north of Toronto would some day evolve into a luxury resort that is now one of only two Relais & Châteaux properties in Ontario. Certainly this was not on the minds of Torontonians, Sheila and Ben Wise, when they purchased the large wilderness acreage on the shores of Lake Manitouwabing in 1959. That, however, is exactly what happened and today.

The Inn at Manitou is a outstanding establishment that attracts guests from around the world who laud the place for its serene surroundings, rustic yet elegant accommodations and, last but not least, its legendary cuisine.

In fact, it was the resort’s seclusion and its reputation for extraordinary dining that recently attracted Montreal natives, Dr. Josée Thériault and her husband Alain Delorme, who currently live and work in the northern Ontario town of Sudbury.

“We researched the Inn at Manitou on the internet and as it turned out our few days at the resort exceeded our expectations in every way,” said Thériault.

The busy physician said it was just what the doctor ordered in terms of a peaceful and indulgent break amid surroundings that refreshed both body and soul.

Sheila Wise, who has directed the evolution of the place, said some people from Quebec harbour the notion that world class cuisine and superior wines are not to be found in Ontario–particularly in a forest location north of the province’s capital city. During their visit, Thériault and Delorme said The Inn at Manitou completely dispels that perception. I too, was a recent guest and can vouch for the fact the dining experience is nothing short of stellar. In addition to European-trained chefs, the service staff are almost all imported from France and the Inn’s skilled sommelier, Eric Denis, a native of France who has been with the resort for eight years, travels the globe seeking out some of the best wines in the world. “I really lean to New Zealand vintages yet we also stock a host of other outstanding wines that rank among the best” he said.

However, the Inn at Manitou’s reputation is built on more than its superior dining room and wine cellar. By certain resort standards it is small, yet in every way it embodies five-star exclusivity. Beyond the main Inn, guests that are largely an adult clientele are housed in satellite wooden buildings that blend perfectly with nature and overlook the lake.

With wood-burning fireplaces, lakefront balconies and the purposeful omission of television sets, 34 guest lodgings include 12 luxury suites, 19 deluxe and three standard rooms. Each morning around 7:30 a.m. a wicker basket containing hot coffee or tea and fresh-cut orange sections is placed outside each guest’s door. This civilized tradition is a pre-breakfast wake-up to a day on the property where there’s a host of activity choices.

Among the options is a visit to the Inn’s spa, a member of the Premier Spas of Ontario where an extensive treatment menu is entirely consistent with the demanding standards required of Relais & Châteaux properties, a collection of some of the world‘s finest hotels and resorts. There’s a vast selection of specialized massage and beauty treatments but the ultimate indulgence is one of the Manitou’s two signature offerings.

Both are full body applications that include the use of natural flowers, poppy seed exfoliation, lemon and geranium infused oils with one of the treatments featuring a green tea and fat-burning, bitter orange application designed to reduce unwanted dimples–better known as cellulite.

Instead of getting rid of “dimples,” I headed for The Ridge at Manitou golf course, a private club where thanks to an exclusive relationship with the Inn, resort guests have special privileges.

Located less than five minutes from the resort, The Ridge is a championship track designed by renowned Canadian architect, Tom McBroom, whose 18 hole creation is surrounded by unspoiled forest and punctuated by rocky Canadian Shield outcroppings. Its level of difficulty hardly qualifies it as a typical resort course, yet every moment of scenic play ranks it among Ontario’s best.

Guests who want to hone their game skills can take advantage of the Inn at Manitou Golf Academy where a 10-acre teaching area replicates an actual golf course with a fairway, greens, pond and bunkers. For tennis buffs, there’s also an on-site tennis academy with 11 courts–four soft clay, six hard and one indoor.

Thériault and Delorme chose to kayak on the lake that is crystal clear and is small enough there are no large motorized craft to spoil the nature of things. In addition to kayaks, the Inn also provides bicycles that guests can use to ride on various paved trails and there’s no rule that prevents riding off property.

Notwithstanding the luxury of a five-star Relais & Châteaux, one of the things I liked best about the Inn at Manitou is that it has stayed small and focused. Every member of the staff knows every last guest by name. They know if you drink tea or coffee at breakfast, they know what kind of wine you prefer, they remember you play golf or tennis and ask you how your game went and, last and arguably most important, they are genuinely engaged and not merely robotically programmed to be pleasant. Maybe it’s their European training but whatever the case, the hospitality is top notch–as is everything else.


More information can be obtained online at or call 1-800-571-8818. The Inn at Manitou is a seasonal resort open from mid May to mid October.

The online website features a variety of special packages such as an epicurean experience, a fly-in fishing adventure, a yoga retreat, a jazz fest, and a budding writers’ getaway led by a well known authors. There are also special event weekends that include classical music and Master Chef cooking classes.

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