When Jim Corcoran began operating a bed and breakfast some 20+ years ago, he probably didn’t expect to be running Canada’s Favorite Spa, as voted by SpaFinder Wellness Travel Awards, for 9 consecutive years. He probably didn’t expect to be running an ultra popular full-service destination spa and multi-treatment room day spa. But when his sister and a close family friend began offering massages and facials to B&B guests, they realized there were on to something good. The guests responded in a positive way to the benefits of the treatments – they seemed more relaxed, experienced relief from pain and were just generally in better moods. It wasn’t hard to see the long lasting effects of personal well-being that the retreat offered. And so began the story of what Ste. Anne’s has become today.
If you've been to a Ste. Anne's property you know that you need two to three nights to experience everything and really get into the groove. Since a visit in 2010, much has changed and yet everything has stayed the same.
Traveling to Canada from the U.S. by car is easier than you might think. Yes, you need a passport or an enhanced driver license, but the border crossing normally takes just a few minutes in each direction and you'll be on your way in no time. (Crossing at off-peak times and at the Thousand Islands Bridge can help expedite things too.)
The Eagles Nest is a wonderful room located in a little house (Ste. Annes calls them spa cottages) about 3/4 mile from the main Inn. Guests in this room share the house through a common entrance with two other guest rooms. Also shared are a front porch and kitchenette with dining table. Bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms are private and each one is unique. The Eagles Nest is considered a Superior accommodation and its easy to see why.
The spa lounge is a cheery co-ed waiting area surrounded by windows and abundant natural light. It’s the place your therapist will find you pre-treatment, but you’ll want to hang out there afterwards and in between treatments too. It’s not a silent space; in fact it can be bustling at times. There are plenty of casual conversations with friends old and new, but no one will blink an eye if you settle into one of the many floral-print couches for a quiet nap. With all that relaxing, you’ll no doubt get hungry and the lounge doesn’t disappoint. Fresh apples, fruit infused spa water, mini-biscotti, hot tea and Ste. Anne’s famous granola should keep you full in between the four meals a day served in Ste. Anne’s dining room. That’s right, four meals a day. But more on that later.
A favorite spot to while away the hours is the Fieldstone Grotto – an outdoor area with a hot tub, cold plunge and a warm resistance pool. Guests also love the eucalyptus steam room located just inside the grotto. An expansion is underway that will include new hydrotherapy areas to alleviate some of the current congestion in the water features areas.
The Contouring Mud Stone Wrap (90 minutes, $185) is a full body treatment meant to activate your circulation and tighten your skin. Penny, a favorite therapist, offers a light application of coconut oil and a feather-light massage using hot, smooth basalt stones. Next, a slightly grainy clay and mud masque infused with wintergreen, camphor and red pepper is massaged onto the skin; the wintergreen provides a mild cooling sensation. Then you are cocooned in plastic and covered in a flannel sheet and blanket. Some might experience a mild claustrophobic feeling while wrapped being up, but this passes quickly as you sink down into the warmed table for deep relaxation. Penny makes sure her guests are comfortable and will massage your feet, face and neck during the envelopment.
All good things must come to an end and the wrap treatment is no exception. There is that tiny little matter of washing the mud off. Your therapist will prepare the shower for you and step out of the treatment room so you are left to rinse off the mud in privacy. It’s a slow paced, unhurried treatment and you will feel nurtured from head to toe.
Ste. Anne’s may be known for comfort over luxury, but small luxurious touches are everywhere. No request seems off limits here – you'll be hard pressed to hear any staff member utter the word no. What you will hear the staff members say, repeatedly, is “yes, we can do that for you” and “no worries”.
Situated on a natural spring, pure spring water flows freely from the taps throughout the Main Inn and at the spa cottages. An endless maze of connected hallways, walkways, stonework and patios, you just might find yourself a bit lost at first. But that’s not a bad thing because exploring is encouraged here.
Between meals, wellness classes and spa treatments, you can be booked from morning until night. Or, you can resist the urge to schedule every waking moment and opt to take things at a slower pace. Gentle yoga and meditation classes are offered and a fitness center is available, but guests do not seem to run around going from fitness class to fitness class here like you may have witnessed (and been a part of) at other spas. There are leisure facilities dotting the property that you’ll want to make time for: hammocks, swings, gazebos, loungers and hiking trails all with amazing views of the rolling hills and Lake Ontario in the distance. During spring and summer the gardens are at their peak and most impressive beauty.
Whatever you decide to pack, pack less. You’ll really only need a few things: workout clothing and footwear, personal items, swimwear and travel clothing. Walk into the dining room at any meal and you’ll likely encounter a sea of white robes. Staying in your robe all day is encouraged here and we saw more guests in their robes than in any other type of clothing during our weekend visit. You’re more likely to find people changing out of their robes for dinner, but its not required and the dress code is ultra casual anytime of day.
Gratuities are included in your package, which makes sense considering you’ll be in your bathrobe most of your visit – not a great place to stash cash for tips.
Ste. Anne’s takes a sensible eating approach to dining with correctly sized portions and a heavy emphasis on fruits, vegetables and herbs, often grown in onsite gardens. The food is a cross between spa cuisine and country cooking. Each of the four meals served daily is a truly epic dining experience with fine china and silverware, white linens and outstanding service from the obviously well-trained dining staff. Every plate is sauced, drizzled and garnished to artistic perfection. There are choices for every dietary preference and you are encouraged to order as much or as little as you chose. Nevertheless, it may be hard to lose weight here as the food is a gastronomers delight.
Afternoon tea, the fourth meal at Ste. Anne’s, is a dining experience you won’t want to miss. You'll select from an extensive menu of exotic and flavorful loose tea blends; Festive Flair is a favorite. to experience a bit of everything, choose the full tea: a fancy with cucumber sandwiches, salmon wraps, flax seed cookies and rich, decadent brownies. Oh, and don't can’t forget the scones with little pots of jam and cream. Everything was served in tiny bites, just enough to fill and satisfy but not overstuff and leaving plenty of room to try everything.
Dinner starts with amuse-bouche followed by four divine courses. The Ste. Anne’s Caesar salad dressing was lemon and garlic simplicity on a crisp bed of Romaine. The interesting twist: Instead of croutons, you’ll find little bits of crisp and flaky baked phyllo weaved throughout your salad. Desserts are decadent and otherworldly. The trio of chocolate – a tiny pot of perfect crème Brule, a shot of milk chocolate mousse studded with bits of chocolate, and a bite-size rich, dense chocolate truffle was memorable and a perfect ending to a perfect meal. The spa isn't licensed to serve alcohol but feel free to bring your own. It is welcome in the dining room (no corkage fees) or enjoy a glass of wine brought from home in the comfort of your guest room.
If you need a little retail therapy, Ste. Anne's has developed their own spa products for use in the treatments. They products are now available to take home from the gift shop. It's a great way to bring your Ste. Anne's experience home with you.
As is common in the travel industry, the author was provided with a with complimentary stay and spa treatments in order to write this article. While this did not influence the outcome of this review, Examiner.com believes in full disclosure.