Story by Lynn Burshtein
GRAFTON, ONTARIO – After my experience at Whispering Springs Wilderness Retreat, I’m totally willing to take any of the barbs traditional campers want to hurl at those who take to the outdoors with their opulent tastes in tow. If glamping is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.
“Glamping”, a portmanteau of “glamour” and “camping”, is a form of camping that offers some elements of the traditional outdoor experience – sleeping in tents and exploring nature – but does so in combination with amenities you would typically find at a resort: not only hot water, bathrooms, and electricity, but also swimming pools, cocktail bars, and – wait for it – WiFi access.
Advocates of glamping enjoy the benefits of being immersed in the great outdoors without having to contend with soggy sleeping bags or the creatures who crawl into them. Critics, meanwhile, consider it the easy way out: if you’re not roughing it, then you’re not really camping. You’re a pampered poseur in a (Ralph Lauren) lumber jacket.
Consider me guilty as charged. Offering the aforesaid amenities, along with yoga classes and massage treatments in outdoor gazebos, as well as a certified nutritional practitioner, the Whispering Springs’ experience is spectacularly decadent.
The property is situated on 200 glorious acres in Grafton, about 130 kilometres (80 miles) northeast of Toronto. Owned by the Corcoran family (the same clan who owns Central Ontario’s acclaimed Ste. Anne’s Spa), Whispering Springs features beautiful landscaping, and a saltwater pool and hot tub. And if you’re not prone to lying in a hammock or sitting around playing board games at the resort’s Watering Hole” lounge, there are also canoes, peddle boats and stand-up paddle boards to use on the small creek that borders the grounds. The wellness aspect of the resort really shines here. (I spent an hour on the peddle boat, and the workout was equivalent to any spinning class I take in the city.) There are even a couple of horses roaming around and beautiful flowers and gardens at every turn. The scene is impossibly romantic; which is why Whispering Springs also hosts outdoor weddings: the Forest Chapel, situated in a heavily-wooded area is a fairy-tale setting. Guests sleep in safari tents that are appointed with large, comfortable beds, a soaker tub and plush cotton bathrobes.
Despite the majestic backdrop, the vibe at Whispering Springs is decidedly down-to-earth. A communal camp fire is also built each evening for guests to sit around and get to know one another. There are plans for wellness retreats and other specialty-themed weekends, including a yoga and beer retreat.
Like at Ste. Anne’s, breakfast features delicious homemade granola, yogurt, fruit, coffee and juice (all served in a pretty basket that is left in front of your tent each morning). But unlike the spa, guests at Whispering Springs are pretty much on their own for other meals (though there is a small snack menu available at the Watering Hole). This means you will rely on the outdoor BBQ grill in front of your tent to cook your lunch or dinner, and use the mini-fridge inside your tent to store the rest of your groceries. But glampers beware: not a crumb should be left behind. Squirrels and chipmunks will scoop up any remains within a New York minute (or in my case, rifle through my luggage to grab a box of Smarties I forgot I had packed).
It only takes a night or two for guests to unwind and reconnect with nature at Whispering Springs. The fresh air and scenery will put stressed-out city dwellers at ease within minutes. And of course, a Lomi Lomi massage and 200-thread count sheets never hurts, either.
MORE ABOUT WHISPERING SPRINGS WILDERNESS RETREAT
Location: 141 Mercer Lane, Grafton, Ontario (see map below)
Open Seasonally: Through October 18, 2018; and re-opens in May 2019.
Nightly Rates: $295-$349 for a traditional safari tent (accommodates up to two people); $349-$389 for a deluxe Safari tent (accommodates up to three people).