Canada's Top 5 Winter Retreats

Fuck the weather! Hunker down to enjoy everything this country is all about right now—comfort food and hot booze, firesides and frosted windows, skating and skiing, hayrides and hot tubs.

By Doug Wallace   |   March 09, 2021

  Northern Lights Resort & Spa
Winter is the best time to see the Northern Lights in the Yukon. Pray for a clear night or two at Northern Lights Resort & Spa.

When life hands you winter, you may as well make it fun. No one knows this better than Canadians. If you’re dead sick of the house, you know where your front door is. There’s a whole, big Canada out there in full swing, albeit mid-hibernation, waiting for you to find a cozy spot and make it your own.

While there are myriad and magical chalets, inns, resorts, hotels, lodges, auberges and guest houses galore coast to coast, here are five of our absolute favourites.

Le Germain Hotel & Spa Charlevoix
Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec
Ski bums and creative types alike congregate at this modern, chalet-style boutique hotel on the outskirts of Baie-Saint-Paul, a tourist-friendly arts community 80 kilometres northeast of Quebec City, in the Charlevoix region. A jewel in the Le Germain chain, it delivers full-on Canadiana while paying homage to its former life as a farm for a nearby nunnery.

Le Massif ski hill is a 10-minute drive away, with its stellar view of the St. Lawrence and more than 20 kilometres of hiking trails in the summer. The town’s Museum of Contemporary Art is well worth stopping at on your way to pick up apple cider, (more) cheese and cassis souvenirs. Make ample time for the hotel’s destination Spa Nordique and sink into misty heated outdoor pools after a good scrub-down.

The 145 rooms and lofts are stylish and cozy, with subdued lighting, blond wood and wool felt. You can play Hot for Skier in the main floor’s Le Bercail, flirting over thin-crust pizzas and tartares. Take it upstairs to Les Labours later for regional culinary goodness from a wide-open kitchen—and don’t skip the cheese course. (As if.)

Play "Hot for Skier" in the main floor's Le Bercail, flirting over thin-crust pizzas and tartares.

The Inn by Mallard Cottage
Quidi Vidi Village, Newfoundland
Surrounded by the craggy harbour cliffs of Quidi Vidi Village just northeast of central St. John’s, this seven-room sanctum across the street from renowned restaurant Mallard Cottage delivers the kind of personal and personable hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador is famous for.

Expect a cheerful, traditional East Coast style: white-painted wood walls and floors, colourful wooden furniture and handmade quilts. Unexpected touches, too: free drinks in the lounge, Bluetooth Tivoli radios, baked treats outside your door in the morning, Hardy Boys books! The restaurant focuses on seafood and local produce whipped into elevated Newfoundland staples—salt cod, pickled mussels, roasted pork, halibut crudo—everything in season.

Quidi Vidi was settled in the early 1600s as a fishing port and retains much of its original charm. Visitors can walk over to the local art studios, hit the nearby hiking trails, go fishing or berry-picking, pop into the Quidi Vidi Brewery, or simply sit on a chair and read a book.

Ste. Anne’s Spa
Grafton, Ontario
You don’t really have to get out of your bathrobe at this wellness retreat in Northumberland County, 90 minutes east of Toronto. Set on 400 acres of farmland, the fieldstone castle dates to 1858 and lends a fairy-tale feel to a day trip or overnighter.

Luxury digs in the main building are traditional without being overly flouncy. Spa cottages about a kilometre down the road are bigger and more private, with some sporting hot tubs. Country cuisine is expectedly farm-to-table—and when you have your own certified gluten-free bakery, you’ve pretty much hit the healthy high note.

When you’re not absorbing every second of one of 35 spa treatments, augmented by the spa’s own plant-based skincare line, you’re winding through forest trails, winding down in one of the gardens or at the new hydrotherapy facility, or hopping on a horse for a wee ride around. Giddy-up.

Safety First
Make time before your winter getaway to prep the car. Safety precautions are always the first thing you pack. Stock up the vehicle with all the necessary road-trip essentials—including an emergency car-care kit and first-aid staples.

Northern Lights Resort & Spa
Whitehorse, Yukon Territory
Fresh mountain air will take your breath away at this Yukon River valley retreat 20 minutes south of Whitehorse—and if the gods allow, so will stunning displays of the aurora borealis. Visible from August to April, the northern lights are best viewed in the early weeks of winter on clear nights, obvs, with no moon. Tuck yourself under a blanket in the viewing teepee or into one of seven Douglas fir log chalets, custom-built by your German-Canadian hosts.

Dining is seasonal and organic, tapping into the local food producers. The kitchen will pack you a hearty lunch-to-go if you’re heading into the woods for the day. Winter adventure includes dogsledding, snowmobiling, ice-fishing and snowshoeing, while tours further afield can take you to Whitehorse, the Takhini Hot Springs and Miles Canyon.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, guests happily melt in the Finnish or infrared saunas, then get a soothing hot-stone or dry-brush massage. PS: The rainbows aren’t bad, either.

Nita Lake Lodge
Whistler, BC
This is the real Whistler, combining a laid-back vibe, top-notch dining and hillside convenience in one seamless and sexy package of outdoor adventure and indoor comfort. An upscale international crowd checks in here for the scenery, the sports and the spa—usually all three.

Seventy-seven simple but sumptuous chalet-style rooms come complete with kitchenettes and gas fireplaces. Comfort food reigns at Aura Restaurant, delivering French food with a West Coast twist. The adjacent Cure Lounge & Patio is more casual, busy with locals streaming in for cocktails, craft beers and BC wines. Outdoor hot tubs, a heated outdoor pool and a champagne nail bar are a welcome distraction from the bustle of the ski hills.

The lodge is a 10-minute shuttle ride from Whistler Village, on the outskirts of the action but close enough to be convenient. The Creekside Gondola is just 500 metres away. In the summer, visitors hop on the Valley Trail right outside to work up an appetite on the 44-kilometre paved path—perfect for blading, hiking and biking.


Doug Wallace
travelrighttoday  Website

Doug is executive editor of Travelier. He is also a travel copywriter and media consultant. You will find him beside buffet tables, on massage tables and table-hopping around the world, eating, spa-going and napping, of course. (Photo: Luis Mora)

Look for Travelier in print soon.