Story by Katie Marti
ST. ANDREWS BY-THE-SEA, NEW BRUNSWICK — We are quietly watching as the sun sinks beyond the horizon, turning what feels like the entire Bay of Fundy a shade of pink reminiscent of postcards and wall calendars. I’ve got my camera out, trying repeatedly to capture the image perfectly so I can brag to the whole Internet about my weekend in Saint Andrews, New Brunswick, but my tour guide for the evening has seen it dozens if not hundreds of times, so he limits himself to only one photo. All right, maybe two.
Indeed, standing atop the rooftop patio of the newly renovated Algonquin Resort, general manager Tim Ostrem admits the views are one of the things he is most proud of when it comes to this property. “You can see the water from just about every room,” he says with a grin.
The water he’s referring to is the Passamaquoddy Bay, a tiny nook of the larger Bay of Fundy, famous for having the highest tides and one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. It’s for this reason the town is often referred to as St. Andrews By-the-Sea. For me, this little corner of Canada is home, but it still never ceases to blow my mind with its raw beauty and simple charm.
Resorts like the Algonquin and neighbouring Kingsbrae Arms, along with a growing and diverse list of attractions and restaurants, have figured out how to capture and promote the region’s unique traits and flavours, and are responsible for St. Andrews By-the-Sea once again ranking among the Vacay.ca list of top places to visit. It moves from No. 9, where it ranked in 2013, to No. 4 on the forthcoming list of the 20 Best Places to Visit in Canada for 2014. [The complete rankings will be published on January 1.]
Ostrem gets the importance of working together with other players to keep St. Andrews at the front of the pack.
“We don’t have to fight to share from one hotel to another because we’re really just selling a destination,” he explains. “We can celebrate each other because the more we have in terms of places to eat and enjoy, the more people will come and the longer they’ll stay.”
The evidence of community collaboration is embedded in everything from the property’s signature coffee and tea service, which are the result of partnerships with a local roaster and garden, to the cuff links and rosettes that adorn every staff uniform and come from an art gallery downtown.
“It’s a great opportunity to really create an experience that is St. Andrews and not branded in anyway,” Ostrem says of the hotel, which is the first Canadian edition to the Marriott Autograph Collection. “For us it’s about celebrating the town, the region. All these little finishing touches are what I think will set us apart, besides the fact that it’s a really exceptional building.”
Ostrem points left and right as we continue to stroll the grounds, highlighting over $30 million in renovations to the iconic resort whose history spans four generations. Changes are sweeping yet subtle, in keeping with the primary goal of retaining the historic charm and period style of the Algonquin’s original splendour. In fact, if I didn’t know better I wouldn’t even suspect that every single windowpane and roof tile was brand spanking new.
A Waterslide Among the New Highlights
As we move inside, however, it becomes clear that while the design is certainly respectful of the heritage in its architecture, furniture, and fixtures, it’s very contemporary. A new exercise room with an indoor pool and waterslide will make children of any age squeal with delight, a premier ballroom blends a trendy colour palette with dark mahogany and classic lighting, and a completely redesigned space now houses the bar and dining room, Braxton’s, named for the hotel’s original executive chef in the 19th century.
The decor is fetching to say the least, and catches me a little off-guard with its bold accents and modern flair. Before becoming one of the latest additions to the Marriott luxury collection of resorts, the Algonquin as I once knew it was a Fairmont property and, as such, was bound to a certain expectation of historical representation.
Ostrem is grateful for the freedom he and his team were able to exercise throughout the renovation process. “It’s very much a step away from Fairmont, which was important to us all along,” he says. “We obviously wanted to respect the heritage but also put our own stamp on the property.”
Despite the cosmetic upgrade in the bar and restaurant, I’m assured the menu will keep with a long-standing tradition of highlighting the best of regional fare. Look for upscale-casual dishes in the bar with an emphasis on seafood, like lobster sliders and tuna tacos, while the restaurant will offer a fine-dining experience with more formal à la carte breakfast, lunch, and dinner items such as salmon steaks and lamb Wellington. (All, of course, with a side of Maritime hospitality and views to write home about.)
The Autograph Collection is promoted as being Exactly Like Nothing Else and as we wrap up our tour and I head for the lap of luxury that awaits in my guest suite, I find myself listing all the ways in which Ostrem and his crew were able to bring this motto to life at the Algonquin Resort.
From outdoor firepits with complimentary guitars on loan to daily champagne toasts from the rooftop patio at sunset like the one we shared in the evening, there are treasured memories to be made here above and beyond what one might expect. As a Maritimer who grew up celebrating special events and family milestones at the Algonquin, I’m proud of this place and eager to share this story. Ostrem’s passion for St. Andrews and the surrounding region mirror my own, and the resort he’s created leaves me feeling excited and confident that the Algonquin’s rich history will live on as St. Andrews continues to attract visitors to this little corner of Canada for generations and generations to come.
MORE ABOUT THE ALGONQUIN RESORT
Official re-opening: January 2014 (soft opening) with the goal of having the entire resort ready to serve at full capacity by summer.
Getting to St. Andrews By-the-Sea: Air Canada is the only major airline that services the Saint John Airport (126 kilometres, or 78 miles, from St. Andrews), offering flights daily from Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.
Phone: 1-855-529-8693; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Room Rates: Nightly rates will be as low as $139 with suites ranging from $189-$389 per night.