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Golden Years Bliss: Great Canadian Hotels for Retired Travellers

By , July 18th, 2018

Are you counting the days to the freedom retirement promises? Or maybe you’ve already crossed the finish line to that part of life when you’re no longer tied down to the weekly routine. Either way, you’re probably part of the Boomer generation, looking for a change of scenery. It’s time to get out and explore your own backyard. Canada. It won’t surprise anyone to say that, when Canadian boomers travel, they’re more active than previous generations.

They’re as eager to indulge in the luxuries they’ve earned like soaking in a hot springs pool under the stars as they are to get out hiking, cycling or paddling. They enjoy meeting new people and trying cultural activities like, say, walking a demonstration trap line with a retired woodsman in rural Quebec. Museums are nice, but boomers will be as keen to recreate a painting in the style of Tom Thomson as to shuffle around a gallery. For boomers, travel is all about learning and enjoying while doing. So, here are our picks for the Canadian hotels best suited to boomer-style travel.

Inn on the Lake, Whitehorse

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Canadians in their later years who haven’t seen the Northern Lights have to add to their bucket lists the “Gold Fever and Aurora Tour” offered by Inn on the Lake at Marsh Lake about an hour south of Whitehorse in the Yukon. This package offered in October and November starts with airport transfer, a three-night stay in a suite, three daily meals, a day trip into Whitehorse to visit museums, a day tour to a wildlife preserve and hot springs, and of course night time viewing of the Aurora Borealis. There’s even a solarium with chairs for comfortable viewing of the northern lights in colder weather.

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Halcyon Hot Springs, Nakusp

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Floating on your back in a series of hot pools and warm pools fed by natural hot springs, you can count the stars and wonder if life can get any better. Halcyon Hot Springs is half an hour from the nearest town – Nakusp in the Kootenay Mountains of British Columbia – and overlooks Upper Arrow Lake. It’s so remote, there’s no cell phone service. The hot springs are open year round for those seeking restorative waters in a place removed from human hustle and bustle. The night sky deepens – it’s time for one last dunk in the cold pool before hitting the hay in one of Halcyon’s well-appointed chalets.

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Fairmont Banff Springs, Banff

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Known as the castle in the Rockies, Fairmont Banff Springs in the heart of Banff National Park offers as large a basket of activities and amenities as any hotel in Canada. This Alberta treasure – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – is so much more than a grand building in stunning mountain country. The list of activities for older travellers seems endless, and hiking mountain trails is just the start. The list of activities for older visitors seems endless, and hiking mountain trails is just the start. There’s a 27-hole championship golf course, heated pools, the Willow Stream Spa and a whole lot of outdoor soft adventure from dog sledding and skating in winter to fishing and horseback riding in warmer months. The hotel even has a bowling alley with neon-lit lanes. Both the golf course and the spa are offered in packages. Alberta residents get up to 30% off and the hotel encourages those 55 and older to ask about special discounts.

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Temple Gardens Hotel and Spa, Moose Jaw

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Claiming to have Canada’s largest therapeutic geothermal mineral water pool, Temple Gardens Hotel and Spa in downtown Moose Jaw is built for year-round relaxation, rejuvenation and fun. Crescent Park occupies four city blocks of green space across the street for leisurely summer strolls. Via indoor pedways, Casino Moose Jaw is an easy, comfortable walk even in winter when sidewalks and streets can be treacherous. Museums, galleries, shops and restaurants are all within easy walking distance as well. Temple Gardens’ Senior’s Health Getaway pulls together one heck of a package for those 55 and older – daily therapeutic aquatic exercises, unlimited access to the mineral pool, discounted room rates, even keepsake slippers for lounging around back home.

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Arowhon Pines, Algonquin Park

At the Algonquin Art Centre inside the Algonquin Provincial Park, take a plein air art lesson to learn how to paint like Tom Thomson, the legendary Canadian artist who immortalized this park and died doing it. When I signed up, our art instructor propped up a print of Thomson’s famous painting “The Jack Pine” and showed us some of the techniques used by the great artist to achieve his signature style. With brushes and a painter’s knife, I took a stab at painting birch branches, but in the end, the best I could do was something resembling the fingers of the abominable snowman. No matter. In Canada’s oldest provincial park created in 1893, I enjoyed getting to know it better via this relaxing and educational experience.

Unsplash Ferdinand Stohr Algonquin Park

Before heading back to dinner and then my cabin at Arowhon Pines on Little Joe Lake, I headed out on a guided tour to howl with the wolves. As the sun set and the stars appeared, we walked a wide, flat and well-groomed trail. We stopped beside a marsh. The guide waited, then put his hands to his mouth and howled. We listened. Nothing. He tried again. Not tonight. Nature isn’t in the habit of following human schedules. On the way back, we were rewarded by a chance encounter with a young scientist documenting turtle nests dug into the trail. He showed us turtle eggs and explained how he conducts his work. We may not have communicated with wolves, but it’s a day I’ll never forget.

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Riverbend Inn & Vineyard, Niagara-on-the-Lake

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For those who prefer their wilderness tamed, Riverbend Inn & Vineyard in Niagara-on-the-Lake offers accommodations in the middle of their 12-acre vineyard. In this historic Georgian-style mansion, choose from 21 rooms and suites, each uniquely designed. From rooms with cathedral ceilings and Juliet balconies, guests look out over gardens and the vineyard. The rich, sandy soil here is perfect for growing Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Vidal grapes, the only varietals Riverbend uses in its wines, making wine tasting the most popular activity at the Inn. Dining is a close second, especially when it’s a romantic dinner in the gazebo with a plate of handmade gnocchi bathed in rich gorgonzola and asiago cream and sprinkled with roasted pistachio.

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Hotel Sacacomie, Mauricie

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“People slow down,” says 70-year-old Gaspard of those who visit his domain. “Time is not important here.” Dressed in red plaid mackinaw and a floppy leather hat, Gaspard guides me along his demonstration trappers trail at Hotel Sacacomie in the Quebec wilderness to show how woodsmen like him once made their living. He was born nearby in Grand Mer on the side of the Maurice River. This region – Mauricie – west of Quebec City is named after the river. Hotel Sacacomie, which resembles a series of gigantic log cabins, overlooks Sacacomie Lake, one of 17,000 lakes in Mauricie. Gaspard knows this forest and these waterways like his own face in the mirror. He feels close to the animal inhabitants here.

“My father said, ‘With patience, you can learn to caress a beaver,’” says Gaspard on one of his frequent stops along the short trail. “It took me 55 years, but I learned to caress a beaver like a cat.” We arrive at a rustic cabin with a hand-painted sign over the door, “Cabane du Trappeur.” Inside, we sit on animal furs and warm ourselves by the woodstove, sipping wintergreen tea made from leaves Gaspard collected and listening to stories laced with the wisdom of his life in the forest. “Getting older, you want to take time to see what is beautiful.” I sip, warmed by his hospitality and his outlook on life. Then he says something that perfectly captures this timeless moment, “Happiness is always in the now.”

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Auberge du Lac Taureau, Saint-Michel-des-Saints

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Quebec does grand wilderness hotels like nowhere else, and they’re perfect for boomers. Two hours west of Hotel Sacacomie is the king of soft adventure, Auberge du Lac Taureau. In fact, among its many awards, it was named “Best Country Inn of the Year 2016” by Luxury Travel Guide in London. “We are the cul-de-sac of this region,” says our host Bernard. “There’s nothing but wilderness north of this lodge.” Set deep in the Quebec forest, the hotel overlooks twin lakes with 40 wild islands. This is the perfect playground for boomers who love getting out in nature – visitors can go dog sledding or ice fishing in winter. They can try their luck at the bear and beaver observation locations, learn archery, and go trail riding on ATVs, bikes or horses in summer. In every season, small planes land on the lake either with skis or pontoons to offer aerial tours of this great big wilderness.

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Train Station Inn, Tatamagouche

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At the Train Station Inn in the charming seaside village of Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, boomers can travel back in time. The old railway tracks are long gone, but visitors can dine in an authentic railway car, then sleep in a refurbished caboose or boxcar or in the Station Master’s Suite – the Victorian parlour with period furniture is its own time machine. Dating from 1887, this former railway station and the refurbished cars around it make up one of Canada’s most unique hotels. Within a leisurely 15-minute walk, visitors can sample the suds at the Tatamagouche Brewing Company, shop for local goods at the Creamery Square Farmer’s Market and Appleton Chocolates, and ride a three-wheeled buggy bike (with umbrella) down Main Street from Remember Adventures.

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The Holman Grand Hotel, Charlottetown

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There’s nothing more Canadian than attending a performance of “Anne of Green Gables the Musical,” an iconic national story, at the Confederation Centre for the Arts in Charlottetown, the city where Canada was born. Across the street, The Holman Grand Hotel offers a luxury stay and an Anne package – one night accommodations, a $50 credit to the Redwater Rustic Grille, valet parking and a pair of Tier 1 Section tickets.  The play based on the beloved novels by Lucy Maud Montgomery will likely bring back memories for boomers from their own childhoods of reading or being read to. Both the Anne books and this play are classics. The musical version of the story is now in its Guinness record-setting 54th season.

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Featured image courtesy of Destination Ontario by Danson