If you ever dream of getting far, far away from the frenzy of city life, but you don’t have the time or money to set sail for a remote island atoll, the serene Sugar Ridge Retreat Centre, outside the town of Midland, Ontario, Canada, may fulfill your fantasies of an unplugged escape.
Many people come to Sugar Ridge for yoga retreats or other workshops, but writers, artists, and regular folks looking for peace and solitude are welcome. During my two-night autumn stay in one of the cozy cabins set amid the wildflowers, I was the only guest.
I’ve never been anywhere so quiet.
Owners Liz and Kurt Frost are both psychotherapists and yoga teachers who left corporate jobs in Toronto in search of a more meaningful life. Liz’s dream of a peaceful place in the woods that she could share with other travelers eventually led them to Midland, where they set about building Sugar Ridge. The property now includes a main lodge building and ten cabins for guests.
A stay here is like comfortable camping. Each of the solidly-constructed cabins has all-cotton bedding and warm duvets topping the beds, a ceiling fan, and electric heat (which you’ll appreciate on chilly mornings). Each cabin sleeps four, with either one double bed and two twins or four twin beds.
There are no bathroom facilities or running water in the cabins, so you have to walk across the wildflower field to use the common bathrooms in the main lodge, where you’ll find clean, well-designed private shower cubicles with plenty of hot water. It’s a good idea to bring a flashlight for nocturnal wanderings, as well as shoes that are easy to remove, since the main lodge has a “no shoes” policy.
Also inside the lodge is a lounge area, a yoga studio, and an airy, window-lined dining room where vegetarian meals are served. The buffet-style breakfasts include a hot dish like pancakes or omelets, along with fresh, organic fruit, cereal, breads, and jams. Coffee, tea, and juices, as well as trail mix, fruit, or other snacks, are available all day.
If you’re here for a retreat, your stay will usually include lunches and dinners, too. Otherwise, you can arrange for meals in the lodge or make the short drive into town to eat.
Since the idea of a stay here is to unwind and unplug, the cabins don’t have phones or TVs. You may be able to pick up a cell phone signal in your cabin (I could), although you may be more peaceful if you find that your phone doesn’t work!
There’s no Internet service in the cabins, but if you really need to get online, wi-fi is available in the lodge.
The main activity at the retreat centre for individual travelers — other than relaxing, writing a novel in your cabin, or strolling through the nearby woods — is yoga. Liz, Kurt, and other teachers offer yoga classes on most weekdays in the lodge’s sunny studio. Guests are welcome to drop in for a class for CAD$15.
Midland is about 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of Toronto, a comfortable distance for a weekend getaway. If you do decide to leave the quiet of Sugar Ridge, the area has lots to do.
The well-designed living history village, Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons, recreates Ontario’s first European settlement, where French Jesuit missionaries lived and worked among the native Wendat (Huron) people.
A lovely spot to enjoy the outdoors is the Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre (pictured above), where you can follow a network of trails around the marsh or explore by kayak. Also nearby are the beaches and hiking trails of Awenda Provincial Park.
Another excellent outdoor destination for hiking or swimming is the Georgian Bay Islands National Park (pictured at left). A seasonal ferry to the park’s Beausoleil Island leaves from Honey Harbour, 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of Midland.
But even if you do go exploring, take time to savor the quiet back at Sugar Ridge — a serene, well-managed place to retreat from the stresses of everyday life.
Sugar Ridge Retreat Centre is located in Wyebridge, Ontario, just south of Midland. Cabin rates are CAD$139 per night (single or double), including breakfast. Pricing for retreats varies; check their website or call for details.
Hotel review by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller, author of the new travel guide, Moon Handbooks: Ontario, which features fun and funky attractions and experiences, lodgings, and places to eat across the province. Photos © Carolyn B. Heller. I was a guest of the Sugar Ridge Retreat Centre.