A few weeks ago, our family had the opportunity to escape to Muskoka for a weekend with my sister’s family.
Rather than go back to the JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka Resort & Spa, we went to a resort that I had grown up with: Deerhurst Resort. The place is nostalgic for me; having spent quite a few March Breaks here as a child, I have many fond memories of the place.
The 780-acre resort and timeshare property is located in Huntsville, 2.5 hours north of Toronto, on the shores of Peninsula Lake. It has made a name for itself through the years, especially after hosting the G8 summit in 2010. Shania Twain was also once a performer here early in her career.
The resort dates back to 1896, but has gone through many renovations and expansions and now boasts amenities and accommodations that rival those of the JW Marriott The Rosseau – including two golf courses, hiking trails, swimming pools, water activities, and a beach (just to name a few).
Having achieved elite status with Marriott for the past few years, most of our accommodations tend to be with their properties; however, it’s good to remember that there are many other fantastic family-friendly options – and sometimes at a fraction of the cost!
This was my first time visiting the Deerhurst at the beginning of fall. The leaves were already changing colour and there was a bit of crispness to the air, but it was still warm enough to partake in a lot of their water and outdoor activities.
Some of you still may still be on the fence when it comes to travel, but rest assured hotels are taking measures to keep their guests safe during this pandemic. Deerhurst has adopted a number of measures and they were very good at communicating them through an email sent one week prior to arrival. For more detailed information about this, you can check their dedicated webpage.
Check-in was at 4pm and was done curb-side. Upon arrival, we pulled into a parking spot outside their main pavilion, called the front desk, and within a few minutes a staff member (with a face mask) came out with our room keys, an information package, and a map of the resort.
There is a fair bit of signage throughout the resort reminding guests to wear their masks and socially distance. Even though we were told the hotel was near capacity, it certainly did not feel that way. It actually felt pretty quiet. I suspect they probably have reduced their maximum capacity. That’s the nice thing of having a huge resort – there is plenty of space to spread out!
With around 400 hotel rooms and suites, there are accommodation options to fit every budget and style. To better visualize the accommodation options in relation to the amenities of the resort, take a look at the map below:
- Pavilion Rooms: Traditional rooms (a little dated to be honest) located at the pavilion, the hotel’s main building, offering easy access to the indoor pool, gym, arcade room, meeting rooms, and restaurants (but a 10-minute walk to the lake).
- Bayshore Rooms: Traditional rooms located by the beach, offering easy access to waterfront activities.
- Summit Lodge Suites*: Modern one-bedroom suites located next to the pavilion.
- The Greens Resort Homes*: Traditional one- to three-bedroom suites located by the lakeside golf course.
- Hillside Resort Homes*: Rustic one- to three-bedroom suites located in a wooded area on a hill.
- Lakeside Lodge*: The newest accommodation option offers studio to three-bedroom suites right the the lake, with its own swimming pool outside. A home away from home.
*These suites come with fully-equipped kitchenettes. They also not provide daily housekeeping services even in pre-COVID days.
We wanted to be by the lake and the kids love their pool, so it made our choice of accommodation easy. We booked a Lakeside Lodge one-bedroom suite with a king bed and sofa bed and were not disappointed.
The room was modern, bright, and clean. It came with a fully equipped kitchen, a table that could seat four, a spacious washroom (only shower, no bathtub) and a small balcony.
So bed-wise, how does a family of five fit in a one-bedroom suite with only two beds? When our youngest was a baby, we would order a crib for her and wouldn’t have an issue. Now that she’s a toddler, sometimes she will share the sofa bed with her siblings. This time around, we made her a little bed for her on the floor by throwing a bedsheet over the cushions from the couch.
My sister lucked out this time as they booked the same one bedroom suite for the same rate as us, but they got a corner suite which was probably 40% bigger, with a larger balcony as well. (Tip: Request a corner suite!)
This location was great for our kids, as the outdoor pool was located right at our building and we enjoyed the easy access to the beach. Walking to other activities took under 10 minutes, which is very doable even with younger ones. You also cannot beat the beautiful lake view!
Our one-bedroom Lakeside Lodge was $239 per night, but after taxes, fees, and a $36.95 nightly resort fee, it came to $322.67 per night. If it’s still above budget, consider the Pavilion or Bayshore rooms which are almost $100 less.
Compared to the JW Marriott The Rosseau, the $322.67 I paid wouldn’t even be able to book their cheapest room, a studio room…
Unfortunately, Deerhurst is not part of any rewards program, but there are various ways to save. Last year, Travelzoo ran a promotion at Deerhurst for 40% off winter stays between January to March. Their Pavillon, Bayshore, and Summit rooms can be booked on Hotels.com, and if you haven’t read it yet, Kirin just covered the potential value of this program.
If you have the American Express Platinum Card, make use of that annual $200 travel credit. If you have a travel credit card, like the HSBC World Elite Mastercard or TD First Class Travel Visa, you can redeem points or cash back towards the stay.
If you work for a corporation, be sure to check if they are part of the FRIENDS of Deerhurst & Horseshoe Resorts Discount Program, which offers 20–25% off room rates by using the promo code “FRIEND” (it does mention that ID must be presented at check-in).
Lastly, if you like the property, or are spending few nights there, it may be worth looking into Deerhurst’s own Preferred Membership Program, which offers discounts on activities, dining, and a free night stay (only in the Pavilion) for an annual rate of $125 plus taxes.
Having a kitchenette is a great opportunity to save some money. We cooked breakfast every morning and even a lunch. The resort was offering dine-in as well as room service.
There are four restaurants onsite, but with COVID, only two are currently open: Eclipse and Maple Pub, both located in the Pavilion. The Maple Pub is only open Friday to Sundays. If you are uncomfortable dining indoors, both venues offer outdoor dining options with great views of the resort and lake. Tables are socially distanced and set for 4–6 guests per table.
Dinner at The Eclipse. This is the resort’s main restaurant, serving a range of casual food options to steakhouse-quality meats. Their food was great. The kids’ meals were large enough to feed an adult and came with a drink and dessert for $14.95. My husband and I split a 21oz bone-in ribeye, and if you enjoy steak, you won’t regret it.
Lunch at Maple Pub. If you’re craving burgers or pizzas, this is the place to go. The kids’ menu here is the same as at Eclipse. For the adults, try the fish tacos – something a little different than your usual pub grub.
Down by the lake, there is also a small food truck serving burgers, fries, salads, and sandwiches, but we found the prices a little steep so didn’t give it a try. You can also drive into town for other restaurant options, like 3 Guys and A Stove.
What to Do
We had way too little time to do all that we wanted to do. Had my son not had a karate grading the next day, we would have stayed an extra night.
Even with COVID-19 measures and some activities being closed, there are still plenty of activities here that cater to a range of guests, regardless of their age or interests. This makes it a great resort for those larger multi-generational family trips as well.
Water lovers will enjoy the three swimming pools (two outdoor, one indoor) spread across the resort, the beach, and waterfront activities. Canoes, kayaks and paddle boards are complimentary for guests (identified by a wristband you receive at check-in). For a fee, you can try activities like tubing, water surfing or waterskiing.
When you get to the waterfront, you do need to complete a waiver on a tablet (tip: for a quicker process, complete it beforehand online, rather than onsite). They provide lifejackets for kids and adults.
Sport fanatics and fitness buffs can enjoy the gym, tennis, beach volleyball, basketball, fishing (my son just tried off the docks, but you can rent a boat), and golf (they have a “free golf after 1pm” offer for guests staying at the resort). I also learned about new sport here: disc golf, a variation of golf where you compete with others to throw a disc at a target.
Nature lovers could spend hours hiking and biking the trails. Young ones can visit the petting farm and go for a pony ride for a small fee. Fun can also be had catching toads and caterpillars along the walking paths.
R&R seekers can find plenty of Muskoka chairs around the property to lounge in while enjoying a good book or just taking in the fall colours. There is also a spa, although their services are limited currently.
Gamers may want to try out the resort’s escape room experience or check out their arcade room. The arcade room kind of reminded me a mini Chuck E. Cheese, with games requiring tokens and tickets being rewarded. The tokens weren’t expensive to purchase, but each game did require a few, and a few games were out of order. Access is limited to one family or group for 30 minutes at a time.
Unfortunately, because of COVID, the following activities were closed: the indoor jungle gym for kids, the rock climbing wall, and the inflatable waterpark in the lake. Some water activities are also now closed as of October 1, due to cooler fall weather.
After a day full of activities, it was nice to go back to our spacious suite and end the day off with a board game or movie.
Too often, I get caught up with chasing nights to maintain my status in a loyalty program or with wanting to take advantage of my status benefits. It’s good to remember that there are other really good accommodation options that can offer even better amenities than those of the big hotel brands – and as unconventional as it sounds, that it is OK to forgo those nights or benefits once in a while.
So, if you’re looking for a nice fall getaway where you don’t have to break the bank, then this may be the place for you! Whether you’re looking for a laidback getaway or an action-packed weekend, there’s plenty to keep every member of the family satisfied. If anything, you may leave wishing you had booked an extra day or two.
I will most certainly be bringing my kids back here again to start building some of our own family memories.