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Killarney Mountain Lodge
“Once you’re out of your room, you’re here for adventure,” says Kelly McAree, a top executive at Killarney Mountain Lodge, a luxe rustic hideaway on the north edge of Georgian Bay.
Just being here feels adventurous. Slabs of pink and grey granite drop into luminous blue water, while the white quartzite ridges of La Cloche Mountains lie low in the background, worn away by time.
It’s a mythical scene, in a Canadian North kind of way. The angular landscape of rock and Jack pine radiates the spirit of First Nations legends, Group of Seven landscapes, eagle nests and lumbering bears.
It is, in essence, the ultimate Ontario getaway.
The Ultimate Ontario Getaway
The rugged setting, which veers from wild to whispery soft and playful depending on sun, season and time of day, begs to be discovered.
I have a home on Georgian Bay near Blue Mountain, but it’s on the south rim, a far cry from the wind-bent trees and polished granite of the formidable Canadian Shield.
Heading north to the far side of this 190-km (120-mile) body of water meant exploring my ‘hood, so to speak, in more depth.
Exploring Northern Georgian Bay
A stay at Killarney Mountain Lodge makes it easy to explore. Canoes, kayaks and bicycles are complementary. Water bikes (the resort has two of them) are available for a fee.
There are boat cruises, fishing opportunities, guided hikes and paddles, tennis courts and a gym.
In short, there is a lot to do.
A Place to Unwind
As I lay in the resort’s cedar sauna, trying to decide between a swim in the heated outdoor pool or an impromptu wine tasting in the glass-walled Carousel Lounge, I realized this romantic Ontario getaway is also a place to come if you simply want to relax.
Why Visit Northern Ontario?
Whichever way you choose to dive into it, northern Canada is a balm to the soul.
Loon calls, weathered stone, and foliage, lucent against dark shadows, draw you in, connecting you to the wilderness in a satisfyingly primal way.
With my enthusiasm (let’s call it an addiction and be done with it) for luxury travel and my longing to be outdoors during our radiant Canadian summers, Killarney Mountain Lodge was a natural choice for a road tripping getaway.
It’s ranked #1 on TripAdvisor for hotels in Killarney Ontario, and has different room types that range from affordable bunkbed rooms to luxe suites.
To help you plan your trip, here’s my Killarney Mountain Lodge review.
Killarney Mountain Lodge Review
It’s not easy for a hotel to juggle luxury and adventure, especially in a northern locale where the forest and lakes are the main attractions.
You don’t want to be so cocooned by butlers and Frette linens you lose touch with nature (and possibly, with reality, although admittedly it wouldn’t be a bad way to go).
On the other hand, you might not want to be so in-touch-with-the-earth you’re trooping to an outdoor toilet in the middle of the night and cooking porridge over a campfire.
(Although if you do, the yurts at nearby Killarney Provincial Park sound really appealing, and I nearly opted for a stay there.)
Ultimately, the lodge at Killarney won out. (It wasn’t much of a battle).
🌿 Note: I had the option as part of my Travel Media Association of Canada conference, but these were my top two choices.
Why Stay at Killarney Mountain Lodge?
Surprisingly, the resort is rated a 3-star (I would have put it at a 4-star), but maybe it’s because there’s such a variety of accommodation.
My room, in the newer two-story Covered Portage building, was in the resort’s most deluxe section.
But plush custom-designed beds and Northern Lights cocktails are not why I chose to stay at the resort.
The reason I chose it is because the services and facilities hand you nature on a birch bark platter.
Want a kayak? Grab one. In the mood for a cycle? The bikes are right outside. Hiking? The East Lighthouse Trail begins on the property.
Where Is Killarney?
Killarney, Ontario, overlooks Killarney Channel, up where the north shore of Georgian Bay meets Lake Huron.
It’s 120 km southwest of Sudbury and 65 km northeast of Manitoulin Island. From Toronto, depending on traffic, it’s about a 4.5-hour drive north.
The lodge itself is a five-minute walk to the town of Killarney, an ideal location for visiting Killarney Provincial Park, 10 km away.
A Waterfront Resort
The lodge pretty much matched my vision of what a northern Ontario waterfront resort should be: Think log buildings, timber interiors, mounted moose heads, and great stone fireplaces.
Local art hangs on the walls, much of it by indigenous artists, bringing the views inside, as do the picture windows overlooking the water.
Particularly appealing is the octagonal Carousel Lounge that overlooks the water.
The Great Room
The Great Room was my hangout of choice, ideal for checking emails or to have a cup of tea before breakfast.
With its cathedral ceiling and burgundy leather seating, it has an old-fashioned feel (and I could imagine an Agatha Christie mystery being set here).
I assumed it was one of the oldest parts of the lodge, but it was added in 2015, designed to keep the character of this historic resort intact.
A Historic Lodge
Speaking of history, the roots of Killarney Mountain Lodge go back to the 30s. In the 40s it became a private retreat for employees of the Freuhauf Trailer Company.
Apparently there were some pretty wild goings-on up here, and it made me think that if I were ever to work for a trailer company, Freuhauf would be it.
In the 60s Killarney Mountain Lodge opened as a hotel.
Its current owners, Holden and Carey Rhodes, who have family roots here, have major plans for expansion while being committed to keeping its authentic Ontario flavour.
Where To Eat at Killarney Mountain Lodge
Main Dining Room
Oooh, let’s talk more about flavours. The main dining room was where I had almost all my meals. The menu has a varied selection that includes local whitefish, bison, and vegetarian options.
While I tried several items, my favourite was the Lamb Shank Pappardelle with peppercorn sauce. The pasta is made in-house and the lamb braised for six to eight hours to ensure its tenderness.
The Carousel Lounge, apart from being really cool and retro (it dates back to 1958), has a casual menu that includes snacks, salads, burgers and wraps.
Pair it with a Killarney Cream Ale and enjoy the amazing views. You might even catch live entertainment in the evenings.
Curds ‘N Whey
There is also a little bakery and cafe on the waterfront by the marina with an inviting patio.
If you’re craving a Crusted Cod or a 52-ounce Tomahawk Steak, the property’s upscale Ranch House, complete with sleek cowhide chairs, is located in an impressive building on property, the Canada House Conference Centre.
Canada House Conference Centre and Wedding Venue
The resort is proud of its conference centre building, and it was an ambitious project.
Covering 34,000 square feet and constructed from some 1000 white pine and Douglas fir logs, it’s the largest log conference room in North America.
(Not that I can say how stiff the log-conference-size competition actually is.)
I can say with authority, however, that it closely rivals Quebec’s Montebello Resort for the title of being the largest log structure in the world.
🌿 Tip: If you want to see the largest paddle in the world, step outside the conference centre. It’s a short walk away.
Covered Portage Suites – Luxury Level Accommodation
For superior hotel-style accommodation, the newer two-story Covered Portage building overlooks Killarney Channel and has rooms with a contemporary country-chic decor.
My air-conditioned room on the second floor was a King View Suite. If you’re interested in romantic Ontario getaways, these would be a good choice.
The walkway-style balcony gave me a sweeping view of the waterfront and the pedestrian bridge that leads over a tiny inlet to Killarney Town.
The room is furnished with a couch, two easy chairs and a sink-into-sleep king bed, with a neutral colour scheme that plays dark wood off of white walls.
Adding a burst of colour, red Muskoka chairs outside offer a quiet place to watch the sun fade over the rock at dusk.
My room had a shower, but no bath. There was a fridge but no coffee maker or kettle.
And don’t expect a TV in the room. Killarney Mountain Lodge prides itself on its ‘get away from it all’ appeal. (Though if you’re really starved for screen time, you’ll find a TV in the main lodge.)
I didn’t have Wifi in my room, which was fine as I was generally lurking about in the Great Room, where my access was good.
🌿 Tip: There is no elevator in the Covered Portage building so if you don’t want to do stairs opt for the ground floor.
The resort has a couple of high-end Executive Suites. These are chalets that would be suitable for families or small groups.
Killarney Mountain Lodge has other types of accommodation dotted around the grounds.
Well situated are the five Killarney Cabins. These have pine-lined walls, king beds and small bathrooms but no air con.
Families could opt for a larger Woodside Suite that hold up to eight people.
Pine Lodge Rooms
With more of a rustic heritage feel, the Pine Lodge Rooms are an older part of the hotel but have been renovated to add air con.
Budget Accommodation in Killarney – La Cloche Rooms
Available only for 18+ travellers, the La Cloche Rooms are simple double rooms with shared bathrooms and no air con. Some have bunkbeds.
These would be the most affordable option. (So if you get rained out camping at Killarney National Park, you know where to go.)
The lodge has wheelchair access and reduced mobility rooms.
A Dog Friendly Ontario Resort
The lodge allows dogs, with dedicated accommodation for those who travel with their four-footed friends.
Things to Do in Killarney
East Lighthouse Hike
The East Lighthouse Hike starts at the hotel grounds near the Canada House Conference Centre.
There are two routes to the lighthouse. One is on flat ground (basically a road) that follows the shoreline.
The other is a trickier route through the forest. It’s a wonderful hike, a winding path over pine needles, gnarled roots and huge swaths of granite.
🌿 Tip: The harder route is best avoided if you have mobility issues, as there is a bit of rock scrambling and some ups and downs.
Hiking in Killarney Provincial Park
Like its gorgeous namesake, Killarney National Park in Ireland, Canada’s Killarney Provincial Park is renowned for its scenic hiking trails.
This includes the ambitious 78-km La Cloche Silhouette Trail.
The most famous hike in the area, however, is The Crack.
A rugged trek that goes through boreal forest, ancient rock scapes and fallen boulders, it’s a tough four-hour hike and gets more difficult as it progresses.
While challenging and not to be tackled without proper preparation and maps, it’s known for rewarding hikers with iconic vistas of lakes, mountains and pines.
🌿 Tip: Check out All Trails for more information on Killarney hiking.
Canoeing and Kayaking at the Resort
Paddling is slow travel at its finest (and in my case, it’s really slow so you probably don’t want to venture out with me).
One day it was quite windy and wavy, so my canoe ride was short.
The next morning the sun shone over calm water and my kayak trip up through the Killarney Channel to the open water was a joy.
You can sign boats out and get paddles and life jackets at the marina. You can also book a guided paddle.
Boating at Killarney
For years the only way to get to Killarney was by boat or seaplane.
To this day, Killarney Mountain Resort is a boaters’ point of call, and if you’re cruising Georgian Bay and Lake Huron you can dock overnight at the Marina.
If you’re staying at the resort itself and want to get out on the water, you can rent boats by the full or half day, or opt for a guided sightseeing tour or fishing excursion.
What to Look Out For
Horse flies, black flies and mosquitoes can be bad in spring.
When hiking I wore two kinds of repellent, and started out wearing a bug net, which I ended up removing. Amazingly I never got a bite.
There have never been any bear attacks documented in Killarney Provincial Park, but this is the Canadian wilderness and the area is home to black bears. Do not approach wild animals.
Visiting the Town of Killarney
Shebahonaning, as Killarney was originally called, means Safe Canoe Passage in Anishinaabemowin.
It was formally established in 1820 as a trading post, and until 1962 had no road access.
Today, it has an appealing village feel. There are fewer than 500 full-time residents, though the numbers swell with cottagers, tourists and boaters in the summer.
Where to Eat in Town
There are a couple of places to eat in Killarney, including Herbert Fisheries Fish and Chips, and the restaurant at the Sportsman Motel, which has a nice patio overlooking the docks.
Killarney Mountain Lodge Review Wrap Up
This historic lodge’s rustic character and its bounty of amenities make it one of the best hotels in Killarney, Ontario, and a prime destination for an active vacation or as an escape-the-city retreat.
Whether you’re after a quick stop on an Ontario road trip or planning a longer vacation, this is the top luxury accommodation in Killarney.
Visit the Killarney Mountain Lodge website for more information.
Why is it called Killarney?
The town of Killarney in Canada is named after Killarney, Ireland, a town on the Ring of Kerry. Both towns are famous for their scenic natural settings and popular parks, Killarney National Park in Ireland, and Killarney Provincial Park in Ontario.
Is Killarney, Ontario, worth visiting?
Killarney is a quintessential destination in northern Ontario with a stunning landscape of clear blue water, thick pine forests, and polished granite in hues of pink, red and grey. It’s known for its wealth of activities such as canoeing, kayaking, hiking, fishing and camping, and is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
Were the Group of Seven in Killarney?
Yes. Three members of the renowned Canadian landscape group known as the Group of Seven painted in Killarney: A.Y. Jackson, A.J. Casson and Franklin Carmichael.