Vacations have taken on a different meaning in these COVID times, but there are still some pandemic-safe options when you’re looking for a short trip away from it all. Start the new year right with these off-the-beaten-path winter cabins within a three-hour drive of Toronto. These little hideaways are sure to give you a real cabin-in-the-woods type of experience, but with a touch of luxury.
An off-grid hideaway
Mountain Grove | 3 hours
Cabinscape was founded by Toronto couple Laura Mendes and John Loerchner in 2017. The pair loved going on back country canoe trips, but once they had a baby they realized they needed alternative accommodations that offered more creature comforts than backpacking and camping. So they created their own. Cabinscape offers seven wilderness cabins spread out across southern Ontario from Pakenham, Ont., in the east to Bayfield, Ont., in the west. Pictured is the Mason cabin in Mountain Grove, Ont. The cabin sits on 576 private acres on a quiet lake with marked trails on site. Couples can enjoy snowshoeing the trails, ice skating, sledding and more in the winter months. Although this winter cabin may seem small, it comes complete with a queen bed, gas stovetop, fridge, freezer and bathroom. Just a 20-minute drive away is a gas station, beer store and LCBO. Five minutes further and you’ll wind up in the village of Sharbot Lake where cafés, restaurants and grocery stores will fulfill any need. The best part? No Wi-Fi. Couples can truly unplug from their devices and reconnect with each other.
A tiny cabin in the woods
Komoka | 2 hours
Fernwood Hills is a family-run operation by Lee Mann and his parents Ron and Celia. The cabin was first created for day use as it doesn’t have a washroom — guests use the washroom in the facility just up the lane — but then guests started asking the Mann family to stay the night. Perfect for singles or couples, the cabin is just the right place to breathe, think and relax. For those looking for a romantic getaway, the Manns know how to turn up the heat. The team will string the cabin with little lights and have a grazing platter waiting when you arrive, using their own farm fresh eggs and food from their market garden. Even the charcuterie boards themselves are made by Lee using fallen trees on the property. The family will even put together a dinner for two to be enjoyed inside this secluded retreat. In the winter months, the nearby pond freezes over, and skating is a must, along with snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Come sugar shack season, the Manns make maple syrup from their trees, and guests can take a bottle home. For those looking for more comforts of home, the larger studio loft with additional amenities can also be rented. Just a perfect winter cabin for two.
An architect-designed gem
Highlands East | 2.5 hours
Joe Magrath spent his summers on Contau Lake in the Haliburton Highlands for as long as he could remember. When he and his wife, Sharon Leece, had the opportunity to scoop up a 99-acre woodland in the area, they jumped. Next, they partnered with international award-winning architects Bohlin Cywinski Jackson to create the Bear Stand. The name comes from the hunting legacy of the area — original hunting stands used by generations past can still be found in the woods of the property. This vacation cabin offers 1,300 feet of lakeside shoreline and more than five kilometres of hiking trails and wetland boardwalks, but it’s what’s inside that really ups the wow factor: a sumptuous master suite with all the luxuries: a sauna, three fireplaces, a six-person lakeside tub and spa-like amenities from the rain showers to the Egyptian cotton towels. Magrath and Leece say they wanted to create an indoors-outdoors vacation home in the heart of nature that fused their passion for contemporary design with a pristine natural environment. They did just that.
Escape to a secluded lake
Godfrey | 3 hours
Marla Isaacs discovered Bob’s Lake when her eldest child was four years old — he is now 42. They rented a property on the lake for a decade before deciding to buy their own. Now they own five cottages and have created a lakeside retreat like no other. The Great House is perfect for a family getaway with six bedrooms. In the winter, there is a skating rink carved out on the lake right out front for skating and hockey, along with cross-country skiing and snowshoe trails on the lake. The activities don’t stop there for this winter cabin — snowmobiles are available for rent, as well as ice fishing excursions and an igloo-building activity. For those looking to stay warm, there is an outdoor hot tub that overlooks the lake. The town of Westport is just a 20-minute drive away, and there you’ll find a craft brewery, and just 10 minutes further is the Kilborn’s store and restaurant. Babysitting services are also available if you want to leave the little ones in the cottage while the adults go explore. What else? The staff will even prepare meals and baked goods if you put in the request.
Check out our story on the best summer getaways if you’re planning a warmer holiday.