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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