When most people hear the term ‘all-inclusive’ associated with a resort, they think of Caribbean vacations where accommodations, meals, snacks, workout facilities, and a myriad of sports and entertainment are all part and parcel of the price. As it turns out, that scenario isn’t exclusive to the Caribbean as there are some northern alternatives that provide the same type of experience, one of which is Fern Resort in Orillia, Ontario.
This vacation spot was established by happenstance in the late 1800’s when the McBain family built their home on the site of an old cabin known as Fern Cottage and began opening their doors to random travellers seeking shelter. From there, the Pettapiece family took over and formed a genuine resort, often referred to as the ‘Home of Rolls and Honey’ after their beloved recipes. Despite exponential expansion over the years, the property has retained its retro appearance, making it easy for visitors to imagine guests of days gone by wearing vintage ‘Roaring ‘20s’ bathing suits while lounging by the lake. The throwback atmosphere puts a quaint spin on the resort, which has striking views of Lake Simcoe and an entrance roadway lined with mature willow trees.
For years Fern Resort has been attracting families from across Canada and the States alike, all of whom seek the tranquillity of the area as well as everything the resort has to offer. Yet, despite its popularity with people from both far and wide, it scores highest with Ontario residents given its proximity to Toronto and ease of access via major highways.
Accommodation options here are vast to suit the needs of almost any guest, including lakeside and bayside cottages, cabins, and apartment-style suites, lakeside motel rooms, an oversized cottage suitable for large or sharing families, and poolside hotel suite lodgings – each building painted white with red tile roofs. All guests can enjoy 2 beautiful lakeside pools, a children’s wading pool, plus an indoor pool, sauna, and whirlpool. As well, there is a teen entertainment center, a connecting bar and common dining room located in the Main Inn, and a myriad of entertainment options for both children and adults, all of which are posted daily so guests don’t miss a thing.
Surely, there’s never a reason to become bored with activities to keep guests amused from morning till night. Tennis courts, a small on-site golf course, shuffleboard, and plenty of watersports are available, including peddle boats, kayaks, and paddleboards. Fishing boats and sunset cruises are also accessible at a nominal fee. If you’re looking for something to do on dry land, there are peddle cars and nearby trails for jogging and hiking. In the sporting department, there’s volleyball, a trampoline, bocce ball, basketball, and horseshoes, as well as a fitness center. For fun, there’s an internet café, X-box gaming facilities, and there’s ongoing entertainment from daytime educational presentations and bingo games to night time comedians, hypnotists, musicians, and magicians. Or, simply lay back in a hammock or relax on a beachfront Muskoka chair and enjoy the spectacular view, be it of the lake and surrounding islands, or the resort’s lush grounds chalk full of gardens and oversized flower baskets. Indeed, Fern Resort has it all and it is picture perfect.
Picture perfect extends to all year round considering the resort offers gorgeous fall packages and winter escapes that include skating, ice hockey, snowshoeing, curling, broomball, snowmobile rentals, hayrides, and even dog sledding.
ALL of this plus free Wi-Fi, on-site babysitting and laundry facilities make Fern Resort a convenient vacation spot, especially for families.
The rooms are clean and well maintained though desperately in need of an update. As for spaciousness, we can’t speak for the cottages or the motel rooms, but the Hearthside suites that boast ‘living areas’ are truly no bigger than an average hotel room. And with so much furniture in the small space, there’s little room to open the pullout couch without re-arranging the area. Even so, the air conditioning unit that features the fan on the front is blocked by the sofa, making it difficult for cool air to circulate throughout the room and causing it to be directly focused on the guest using the couch as a pull-out.
Other drawbacks include a musty aroma which is present in select buildings and rooms, much of the sports equipment is in need of replacing, and the quality of the food in the dining room (whether from the buffet or ordered from the menu) is not on par with the resort’s inflated rates. The general consensus from guests we spoke to, as well as our own experience, was one of mild disappointment, not only due to the selection and quality of food but also with the service and the very narrow timeframe in which meals are served.
These drawbacks aside (and clearly they are just our opinion), Fern Resort remains to be a beautiful and beloved vacation spot that draws generations of families year after year. And given all that is included in their package deals, it’s easy to see why the resort has so many repeat guests.
PROS: Several accommodation options. Beautiful views. All inclusive. Lots of amenities.
CONS: Buildings in need of repair and update. The buffet is in need of improvement. Much of the sports equipment in need of replacing. Musty aroma. Expensive.