You’ll love… Rustic luxury in ancient woods
At first it seems all’s quiet in this mossy green woodland but then your ears adjust: a hummingbird buzzes as it dips at a flower, a deer rustles behind a maple and a beaver clunks a log onto a dam. You’ll soon feel part of the ecosystem at Trout Point Lodge, a log cabin gone five-star on the edge of a UNESCO biosphere reserve, around a four-hour drive from Halifax. Pull on your boots and puffer jacket to go fly fishing, forest bathing or canoeing. Then stargaze around a firepit or retreat to the fireplace in your plush suite. The kitchen turns foraged, wild Atlantic ingredients into a fine dining experience, with dishes such as just-caught lobster with beurre blanc and wild berries dressed in Valrhona chocolate and garden herbs.
Local tip: The resort is open between May and October. Summer’s the pick if you want to see lively wildlife; book in autumn if saunas and crackling log fires are your scene.
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Looking for a luxury wilderness escape that combines delicious food and wine with some of the most incredible star-gazing in all of North America? The Starlight Culinary Escape at Trout Point Lodge includes an artfully prepared four-course gourmet dinner featuring fresh, local ingredients.
After the meal, wind your way along the Tusket River and through the forest with your guide to enjoy local chocolates and sparkling wine under an inky sky filled with stars. Trout Point Lodge owner/operator Patrick Wallace calls it “the perfect indulgent getaway.”
“Fall is an incredible season where the colours come alive and the beauty of our wilderness home is on full display,” says Wallace. “What’s better than a hot cup of coffee on a cool fall morning or a carefree soak in a wood-fired hot tub under the stars?”
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"This luxurious small hotel empowers guests with its nature-based activities and programs"
The moon tonight is in the waxing gibbous stage,” says Rémi Torrenta, Trout Point Lodge’s staff astronomer and naturalist. “It’ll be full in a couple of days.” He pulls out a laser pointer as we stand together on the stargazing platform. We’re surrounded by fall’s colourful foliage, albeit muted by nightfall, but that’s okay because we’re here to talk about the stars and patterns above. “The Summer Triangle is made up of the three brightest stars from three different constellations,” he says. “And Vega,” he adds, now aiming his laser at a big white star, “is the brightest star tonight.” Torrenta is so full of information that I have trouble concentrating, so instead, I breathe in the almost-full moon and the silence of nature.
Trout Point Lodge, tucked into East Kemptville, beside the UNESCO Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve, may look like a cabin in the woods, but this small luxury lodge is a hotbed of experiences, from nature to culinary. It’s also a certified Starlight Reserve. In other words, it’s the perfect place to live (albeit temporarily) and learn.
Earlier in the day, I eased myself into a wood-burning hot tub beside the babbling Tusket River; nearby, 11 giddy painters from Australia committed the fall colours around us to their watercolour pads. I went forest-bathing with Torrenta, a sort of nature therapy where you slow things down and take it all in. We sat on a footbridge and slowed our breathing. I watched as a red maple leaf fluttered from a tree into the river, wound its way around rocks and floated away under the bridge. I canoed and also took an edible nature walk with Torrenta, where we dug up and nibbled on treats from the forest detritus, including starflower, white sarsaparilla and winter green. I learned that practically everything edible in the woods is a diuretic or blood congealer – and also delicious.
Back up on the stargazing platform, Torrenta says there is no light pollution in the area so we can currently see up to 3,000 stars and deep sky objects. The lodge has mega-telescopes on hand – we rolled ours down the boardwalk in a wheelbarrow – but even with the naked eye on a clear night in the Biosphere Reserve, one can spot faraway galaxies.
Tonight, the sky is unusually bright because of the moon, making it a touch difficult to pinpoint many of the celestial wonders. “The moon is the enemy of astronomers,” Torrenta says. Be it the magic of the moon or my room’s wood-burning fireplace; the fact that there were four types of homemade butter with my lunch; or the local gentleman strumming songs by request at the wee bar at night, every little thing about Trout Point Lodge adds up to something big. I fix my gaze skyward, smiling.
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Nestled next to the Tobeatic Wilderness Area in the heart of the UNESCO Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve, Trout Point Lodge may be Canada’s quintessential luxury wilderness resort and hotel. It’s the world’s first Starlight Hotel and the only Small Luxury Hotel of the World in Atlantic Canada. Can it possibly live up to the hype?
James Mullinger investigates...
This magazine was born out of the idea that there is a plethora of business leaders, creatives and tourism professionals doing world-renowned work out of Atlantic Canada who, despite being recognized and celebrated and embraced internationally, are not receiving the attention they deserve within the region.
A case in point is Trout Point Lodge near Yarmouth in Nova Scotia. One of only two Small Luxury Hotels of the World in Canada, the five-star lodge has welcomed visitors from Australia, Germany, England, the United States, Japan and China. But judging by my own personal piece of market research, it seems much less known in its home country.
A three-hour drive from Halifax, the 100- acre wooded estate is nestled in the UNESCO Southwest Nova Scotia Biosphere Reserve and borders the remote Tobeatic Wilderness Area, the largest remaining protected area in the Maritimes. The Tobeatic is characterized by unique barren landscapes with undisturbed glacial landforms including esker fields, moraines, kettles and outwash plains. The wilderness area protects remote and undisturbed wildlife habitat, expansive wetlands and pockets of old-growth pine and hemlock forest. And, make no mistake, Trout Point Lodge is the finest way to experience it.
Singapore-born Pamela Wallace and husband Patrick (originally from Montreal) bought the property in early 2018 after visiting the previous year and falling in love with it. Their business acumen and their passion for this property have combined in a match made in wilderness heaven. Pamela spent more than a decade at Travelocity Asia in Singapore before moving to Hilton Worldwide, so she knows what visitors want. Together with Patrick’s background in general management, this makes them ideal for not only sustaining the world-class reputation of Trout Point Lodge but also for taking it to the next level.
They are two of the most charming and delightful people you are likely to meet, and Patrick is a huge fan of the Grateful Dead, which in my eyes makes him a friend for life. “We already adored all of what Nova Scotia has to offer, but when we came to Trout Point for a weekend getaway in July 2017, we were blown away by what we experienced,” says Patrick. Committed to sustainability, this dynamic duo keep raising the bar. “The environment we are in makes our job easy,” says Patrick over a glass of wine in front of a roaring fire in the wood-panelled bar.
“The surroundings here do the work for us. We will never build a giant parking lot or cut down trees, and we are focused on continuing to up our green credentials. In a place like this where we are stewards of this wonderful property, we have a duty to do the right thing by guests but also behind the curtain too. If we are going to talk the talk, we need to walk the walk.” Indeed, the lodge is electric vehicle–friendly, with two charging stations, one for Tesla vehicles. Trout Lodge has been praised as one of Canada’s best hotels by The New York Times, Financial Times and National Geographic, and every guest I met during my stay was a repeat visitor. Which is astonishing since they were all from Germany and Australia. A long way to come to a place you have already been, but Pamela and Patrick are used to this. “Our guests have become our friends,” Pamela enthuses. “In this type of work you have to enjoy doing it because it’s 24–7. We love our guests — we just love seeing people unwind and relax like never before.” The lodge itself is an architectural masterpiece constructed from vast eastern spruce logs with fullscribe and dovetail-notch joinery, chiselled granite and sandstone. Its design pays tribute to the great wilderness camps of the early 20th century.
A three storey structure, it houses guest suites, the great room, mezzanine library, dining room, kitchen, two bars and recreation facilities on the banks of the Tusket and Napier Rivers. Perhaps most impressive, the lodge offers some of the finest cuisine outside of El Bulli (bold statement I know but, seriously, they are comparable) and a unique stargazing experience, for first-timers as much as for experts. Indeed, Time magazine labelled it “one of the planet’s best spots for stargazing.” Relaxation and adventures are the order of the day. And the two go hand in hand. Stargazing starts at 10:30 p.m. each evening. The guided kayak and canoe trip is a life-changing experience. As is the forest bathing, which involves exploring the woods for extreme relaxation while breathing in wood essential oils. A hugely popular stress management activity in Japan, it managed to relax me in a way I hadn’t thought possible. The best hike is to Billy’s Hill, the highest point in southwest Nova Scotia. At the end of the day you can hit the outdoor wood-fired barrel sauna and cedar hot tub, or enjoy a glass of champagne in the library before dinner while you devour the latest [EDIT] that adorns the bookshelves next to tomes about The Grateful Dead.
As for the menu, it changes every day, but as Chef Andreas Preuss told [EDIT], “We focus on the best hyperlocal products (that) our farmers, on-site gardens and forests have to offer. Every dish tells a story of place and time.” Be sure to opt for the five-course signature menu. When we visited in October 2019, our minds were blown by rainbow trout from Hunter River, Prince Edward Island, the one-hour Sous-Vide Farm Egg and the Tuna Tataki. And the cheese selection is worth every calorie. Chef Andreas’s incredible skill at gluten-free cooking means persons who have an allergy to the evil wheat don’t miss out. And the gourmet packed lunch ensures guests eat well even when kayaking or hiking all day. Fine dining? Check. Owners who become your friends? Yep. The best stargazing in the world? You’d better believe it. And, most of all, relaxation. It is rare that a trip makes me forget the outside world and sends me home feeling not only revitalized but with a new passion for life, but Trout Point Lodge delivered that in spades.
And you can relax however you wish at Trout Point Lodge. “You can do all of the hiking, kayaking, exploring and relaxing... or you can start drinking tequila at six in the morning,” Patrick jokes. “However you like to unwind, we are there for you.” And luxury adventure travel doesn’t come much better than that.
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If you went back to China after five years it would be completely different, but if you returned to Trout Point Lodge it would be exactly the same. Set on the edge of the world - or so it might seem to some - this luxury eco-lodge in Nova Scotia, Canada sits alongside 100 acres of swaying beeches, birches and maples. The pale blue Tusket and Napier Rivers flow behind the main lodge, offering a melodic soundtrack of gentle waves and babbling water. In fact, nothing assaults the eye for miles, as the lodge and grounds border a Unesco Biosphere Reserve, which in turn neighbors Kejimkujik National Park.
For decades, the jagged South Shore coastline has been a favorite among tourists and locals alike. Beloved for its pastel-hued fishing villages, expect to find front yards lined with clean washing and locals who radiate warmth and sincerity. Here the air smells of earth and viridity, while velvety moss and gibbous tree roots rule the pathways. Each year, as the summer comes to an end, the autumn delivers a crescendo of colors as the tree leaves transform from green to red, orange and yellow.
As you approach Trout Point Lodge, your GPS having lost signal miles earlier, it then hits how much of this area remains untouched by development. It’s not uncommon to see a deer wandering alongside the road or to drive uninterrupted by passing vehicles for what feels like eternity.
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Food-focused travellers, listen closely: we're serving up 25 Canadian hotels with the best food perks. From coast to coast, these spots are cooking something special and the recipe for success lies in inspired diversity, from First Nations’ first courses to delectable breakfast trays to sky-high chocolate cakes. If you think hotel food is an afterthought, you need to check out these game-changers.
#1 of 25
Trout Point Lodge (East Kempt, NS)
While this small luxury hotel is set in the rugged wilderness of Nova Scotia, you certainly won’t be roughing it. Sustainable seafood, produce from local partners, edible flowers and organic ingredients are the norm here. Bonus: breads and desserts are made in-house and there’s an award-winning wine list. Menus change daily based on what’s fresh and in season – think New Brunswick Swordfish Tataki with Wild Acadian Caviar.
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Still have a few vacation days to use up? We'd spend them at any of these charming cabins, resorts and lodges.
Trout Point Lodge in Kemptville, Nova Scotia
There are few better places for a luxurious, rustic retreat than Nova Scotia's Trout Point Lodge. From forest bathing to stargazing with a staff astronomer, the property encourages guests to ditch their smartphones and reconnect with nature. Handcrafted log and twig furniture pairs with Frette linens in each of the lodge's plush accommodations, while a wood-fired hot tub and outdoor barrel sauna on the Tusket River offer ample opportunities to unwind.
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Enjoy Canada’s most colourful season with a getaway to one of these luxe lodges or resorts
Trout Point Lodge
East Kemptville, N.S.
This high-end lodge is a luxurious escape in southwestern Nova Scotia’s unspoiled wilderness. Situated at the edge of a UNESCO-certified night sky preserve, the sprawling Trout Point Lodge includes an eight-room main lodge, two guest houses, a spa, scenic hiking trails and, naturally, some of the best stargazing in North America. Start with a stroll along the bubbling Tusket River, then sink neck-deep into a wood-fired hot tub before tucking into a five-star, elegantly-plated dinner showcasing local ingredients and recipes, such as freshly-caught mussels in a white wine foam, parsley soup topped with local trout and a brown butter cream and fall-off-the-bone short ribs from nearby Richmond Highland Farms.
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Expect great seafood experiences at Trout Point Lodge in the maritime-rich province of Nova Scotia. Think salmon, mussels, oysters and lobsters, as well as opportunities to cook the local bounty at the lodge’s renowned cooking school. Take advantage of this isolated retreat on 40 pristine hectares next to the Tobeatic Wilderness Area with activities such as fly fishing, kayaking, riverside wood-fired hot tubs and a forest bathing experience. With its nature border and location at the convergence of two rivers, the lodge guarantees plenty of wildlife sightings including black bears, flying squirrels, grouse, deer, beaver, owls, loons and – if you’re in luck – moose. troutpoint.com
A stay at the high-end wilderness lodge on the banks of southwestern Nova Scotia's Tusket River
Gerard LeBlanc strums an Acadian folk song on his guitar for a handful of guests sprawled in the Great Room at Nova Scotia’s Trout Point Lodge. A young couple plays chess at a small table by windows overlooking the Tusket River. A few more cozy up on a brown leather sectional in front of LeBlanc. The set of stone fireplaces that flank each end of the post-and-beam lodge are roaring on this rainy October evening.
I’m at the bar sipping a blueberry basil Moscow mule that Alex Putz, the lodge’s bartender — and as I later find out, the astronomy guide this season — muddled with local blueberry jam. Patrick and Pamela Wallace, the lodge’s owners, mingle with guests, moving from one group to the next as they chat and top up wine.
“We’re intimate and small, and one of the nice things about that is that we know our guests by name and we have a chance to learn where they’re from and why they’re here,” says Patrick, who’s warm and friendly, as he keeps a constant eye out for empty glasses or guests with questions.
The couple, who met in Pamela’s native Singapore, moved to Montreal in 2012 and first came to Trout Point Lodge in East Kemptville, N.S. — about 50 kilometres northeast of Yarmouth — on vacation just two years ago. They fell in love with the sprawling property, which includes an eight-room main lodge and two guest houses, so when they learned it was for sale, they ditched their office jobs and dove head first into the resort business.
“We were just blown away with what we saw and where it is,” says Patrick. “You’re driving through the forest, right into the middle of the wilderness, and you make that final little turn and there’s Trout Point Lodge just waiting for you. It was an experience I remember for sure.”
When the music dies down and the Great Room clears out, I take the creaky wooden stairs to my room, the Burlwood, where the Wallaces first stayed. The furniture is rustic and handcrafted, and there’s no TV or reliable WIFI. There’s nothing to do but unplug, sink into the fluffy bed and listen to the rain tapping the metal roof.
Raked by glaciers following the last Ice Age, southwestern Nova Scotia’s rocky lakes and rivers, eskers and moraines are surrounded by strands of coniferous and deciduous forests with clumps of towering old-growth pine and hemlock. It’s the province’s frontier, or the “empty quarter,” where, at the turn of the 20th century, Acadian and Mik’maq guides squired wealthy American sportsmen to hunt and fish the region’s legendary moose and trout. It’s that spirit that sparked the tourism industry here, which still attracts urbanites looking for peace and quiet, good fishing and high-end lodge accommodations. It also inspired Charles Leary and Vaughn Perrett, Trout Point’s first owners whose Acadian roots led them from Louisiana to Nova Scotia, to build the eastern spruce lodge in 2000 at the edge of the Tobeatic Wilderness Area, a UNESCO-certified starlight reserve with the darkest skies in North America.
It’s nearly midnight by the time Putz knocks on my door for a stargazing lesson. Just five minutes down a dirt road to a platform on a riverside meadow the glow of the lodge is gone — it’s almost complete darkness save for a few bobbing headlamps other guests are wearing. I step on to a boardwalk, which I can’t see, but I know is there from the sound of boots clomping over wood planks. When I reach the platform, the air is cold and damp and my eyes strain to adjust to the darkness — then the sky comes into focus. There are infinite stars, and it feels like I can see every single one. Putz points to a glowing band stretching across my entire view: the Milky Way. I’ve never seen it like this before.
Freshly-caught mussels in a white wine foam sopped up with garlic bread; parsley soup topped with local trout and a brown butter cream; fall-off-the-bone short ribs from nearby Richmond Highland Farms in an arugula cream with maple carrots, Brussel sprouts and shiitake mushrooms; and local halibut surrounded by a sweet and spicy red curry. Though the Nova Scotia frontier may seem like an unlikely place for five-star dining (there’s little competition in the area), the elegantly-plated local cuisine served in the lodge’s main dining room is mind-blowing — the kind you’d expect from a metropolitan Michelin-starred restaurant. But since the Wallaces took over the property, they have worked with executive chef Andreas Preuss to push haute cuisine to the forefront, earning them praise from the likes of Travel & Leisure, Food & Wine and Forbes Traveler.
“We’ve taken it up more than a few notches,” says Patrick about the lodge’s new culinary team. “We’re quite far in the wilderness, so we don’t do the lobsters and the lighthouses. You can do that in many other places.
Instead, he says, Trout Point Lodge offers a four-course gourmet menu for dinner that changes every day.
This morning, however, I’m stepping back in time to sample a different kind of local fare — rappie pie, or râpure in French, an Acadian dish from southwest Nova Scotia.
“It takes five strong women and a bag of potatoes to make rappie pie,” chuckles Kara Pinkney-Crowell, as she starts my Acadian cooking class in the lodge’s main kitchen. Pinkney-Crowell is the lodge’s cook and a local guide whose Acadian-Mi’kmaq relatives fled Wedgeport, N.S., in the mid-1700s and hid in the woods where the community of Quinan is now, about 35 kilometres south of the lodge. This particular recipe from Pinkney-Crowell’s great grandmother combines finely ground potatoes, stock and chicken (leftover from last night’s dinner) in a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs casserole. She cracks jokes between sharing cooking wisdom passed down through generations of her family. While we could layer the potatoes and chicken to make the dish look nice when it’s served, Pinkney-Crowell says, “if my great grandmother were here, she would do this,” and she mixes everything in one pot and pours the gloopy concoction into a casserole dish to bake.
When the rappie pie is brown on top and bubbling around the edges, Pinkney-Crowell serves me a generous wedge and suggests I drizzle maple syrup and hot sauce over top, like a local. I do and gobble down heaping forkfuls of soft potato and chicken. Pinkney-Crowell’s grandmére would be proud.
Later that day, the rain pauses long enough to trek over the cold, wet grass behind the lodge to a rustic, wood-fired hot tub on the banks of the Tusket. There are three trails running throughout the property and along the river. Fall’s chilly nights have ignited the trees in this part of the Tobeatic, and the river is blanketed in orange, red and yellow leaves.
I drop my robe and sink into hot water up to my chin. I can feel a few leaves swirling beneath my feet, and I hear the water bubbling over the Tusket’s rapids. I look back to the lodge. It’s just starting to get dark and guests are gathering in The Great Room. I can see Leblanc with his guitar, setting up his evening’s post by the big windows, ready to play.
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