Story by Tracy Hanes
WALLACE, NOVA SCOTIA — You’re not likely to forget the name of Fox Harb’r Resort but just in case, there are visual cues everywhere: bronze fox statues in the gardens by the iron entry gates; a fox logo in the clubhouse interlock terrace, and life-size replicas interspersed throughout the property.
Even without the foxes, the luxury resort on a peninsula on Nova Scotia’s Northumberland Strait is unforgettable. The North Shore location may be rugged, but there’s no roughing involved here at the resort built by coffee and donuts — or rather by Tim Hortons co-founder Ron Joyce.
If you have your own jet, you can land on the Fox Harb’r airstrip or come by yacht and moor at the deep-water marina. If you don’t have a personal aircraft or yacht, you can do what I did. Fly into Halifax and make the easy and scenic two-hour drive north through rolling countryside.
Accommodations are in studio or executive suites in a collection of maritime-style guesthouses or in rental townhouses. The beds are wide and comfortable. Bathrooms have heated floors and huge whirlpool tubs. There are fireplaces in the living rooms. And in case you’re wondering, the mini-bar has packaged Tim Hortons coffee.
Each room has a view of the ocean and the Graham Cook-designed championship golf course and on clear days, you can see Prince Edward Island in the distance. At the clubhouse, there’s fine farm-to-table dining featuring menu options created by executive chef Shane Robilliard and an impressive selection of global wines in the Cape Cliff dining room. Former west coaster Robilliard is aiming to make the Cape Cliff into a food destination and to bust the myth that it’s an invitation-only private club. Cape Cliff recently became Atlantic Canada’s first Ocean Wise-certified restaurant, designating that it serves sustainable seafood.
When it opened in 2001, Fox Harb’r was intended as a golf resort. Tiger Woods set the course record in 2009 when he played at a charity event there.
“The premise of Fox Harb’r was centred around golf, but it’s much more than a golf resort,” explains Kevin Toth, Fox Harb’r president and former president and COO of Skyline Hotels and Resorts. He’s also striving to broaden awareness of the resort as a destination for everyone, from families to women seeking a girls’ getaway, to wedding celebrants and conference-goers.
Where Golf and Spa Mingle in the Maritimes
I never swing a club so I’m relieved to find plenty of activities other than golf. There’s fly fishing at two-stocked trout ponds. Clay shooting at 24 stations around the rustically elegant Sporting Lodge. Tennis on two oceanside courts. Hiking and biking on trails around the vast property where you can spot deer, osprey, raccoons and foxes, or course. You can sea kayak or arrange a boat ride to spot seals. Or wander leisurely along the four-kilometre (2.5 mile) seawall path.
The amenities are spread out across the site but a quick call to the front desk dispatches a shuttle to take you where you want to go. Or you can do what my travel companion and I did — grab a complimentary bicycle from the pro shop and pedal around the property.
After a day in the great outdoors, the newly renovated Dol-ás Spa is a wonderful counterpoint. Its cheerful staff provide everything from hot stone massage to pedicures. The spa building also houses the wellness centre with a junior Olympic pool beneath a high-beamed ceiling, mineral bath and hot tub, and the fitness centre. The steam showers are a welcome indulgence after a workout.
The latest addition to the resort is its vineyard, which should yield the first wines in three years. Long-range plans also include a larger conference centre, an equestrian centre, an inn and cottages.
For all its spectacular scenery, recreational pursuits and decadent dining, Fox Harb’r also has five-star service. It seems that every employee, as well as fulfilling multiple roles, is genuinely happy to be there.
“This is heaven,” says horticulturalist Michael Steward, who is in charge of growing the resort’s flowers and vegetables. “I’m way past retirement age. I don’t work here because I have to. I work here because I want to.”
As well as a chance meeting with resort founder Joyce, who has a large oceanfront home at Fox Harb’r and visits about 10 times per year, you might mingle with famous guests. Past visitors have included former British prime minister Tony Blair, former US presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush, and Wayne Gretzky. Celebrity chef Lynn Crawford visited in spring to preside over a culinary event.
But you don’t have to be a celebrity to feel welcome. Rates at Fox Harb’r Resort start at about $350 a night for a studio suite, and various packages are available, such as the Golf and Spa Escape.
If you really love it here, the resort includes a residential component with four purchase options available, including building lots, two completed custom homes ($1 million plus) or executive townhomes ($525,000 plus). If that’s beyond your vacation-home budget, fractional ownership townhouses are available for $169,000 to $215,000 for 12 weeks a year.
MORE ABOUT VISITING FOX HARB’R RESORT
Location: 1337 Fox Harbour Road, Wallace, Nova Scotia
Room Rates: Nightly rates start at about $350 for a studio suite.
Reservations: 1-866-257-1801 (toll free)