Killarney Mountain Lodge, in the tiny lakeside village of Killarney on Ontario’s Georgian Bay, has a long history.
The lodge opened in the 1950s as an executive retreat, when the only way to access this coastal region northwest of Toronto was by boat or small plane. In 1962, Highway 637 was built, connecting Killarney to the rest of Ontario by road. That same year, Maury and Annabelle East bought the property and began operating the lodge as a commercial hotel.
Two years later, the province of Ontario created Killarney Provincial Park, protecting a wide swath of beautiful rocky coastline, inland lakes, and granite cliffs along the Killarney peninsula. And Killarney Mountain Lodge became the place to stay for park visitors who didn’t want to camp, a position it retained for generations.
In recent years, however, the lodge had begun showing its age, and the East family sold the property to new owners in 2015. Maury East passed away two years later, at age 93.
While many of the lodge’s original cabins and other features remain intact, the new proprietors have embarked on a major renovation and expansion program. Here’s the scoop:
A new main lodge building now houses a striking guest lobby, with high ceilings, rustic log walls, leather couches, and a massive stone fireplace. The lobby opens onto a lovely garden patio and connects to the lodge’s original dining room, which overlooks the swimming pool.
New to the pine-walled dining room, which is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, is a 3,000-bottle wine cellar.
Guests who don’t want a full meal can stop into Curds and Whey, a coffee shop and bakery near the property’s boat dock.
The distinctive octagonal building housing the lodge’s popular Carousel Lounge remains unchanged, although the interior has been updated with new furnishings. Local musicians play regularly in the bar throughout the summer.
Things to Do
Killarney Mountain Lodge feels like an old-time summer camp, with plenty to do both on and off the property. The lodge sits directly on the waterfront, where guests can go for a paddle in the complimentary canoes or kayaks. The lodge rents sailboats and offers sailing tours. You can also opt for a boat cruise or a guided fishing excursion.
In the summer, the lodge offers nature programs for kids, guided hikes in Killarney Provincial Park, and a weekly fish fry.
The lodge is a five-minute walk from the handful of shops and dining spots in Killarney Village. The town has a small grocery store, a couple of pubs, and a popular fish ‘n’ chips shop, Herbert Fisheries, known for its legendary summer line-ups as much as for its excellent fish.
The Killarney Provincial Park visitor center, on George Lake, is about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the lodge. The park has several scenic hiking trails, including the moderate Chikanishing Trail, which winds around and across pink boulders along the bay, and the more challenging trail to “The Crack,” which has spectacular views across the park.
Guest Rooms and Amenities
With so much to do outdoors, you may not spend too much time in your room. The original cabin-style guest rooms with pine walls are quite small, although they’ve been updated with new beds and linens. The lodge website describes these accommodations as “simple, clean, cozy and adequate” — an accurate assessment.
For a little more space, choose a double room in the newly constructed, two-story Portage building, which has 32 guest rooms with modern bathrooms. In this building, which has a shared deck with red Muskoka chairs for each unit, the rooms facing the water have one king bed, while the rear-facing units have two queens.
So far, the owners have continued to maintain the lodge’s “wilderness” feel by limiting the technology available on the property. The main lodge building has Wi-Fi, but the guest rooms do not, and none of the guest rooms have telephones, radios, or TVs.
The older cabins and lodge units lack air conditioning (although it’s not usually not a problem with the region’s cool nights). If you do want the option to cool off your room, choose one of the units in the Portage building, which have ceiling fans as well as air conditioners.
In addition to the double rooms and lodge units, the property also has several larger cabins designed for families or two couples, including a two-bedroom unit with a dramatic perch on a rock directly over the water.
Killarney Mountain Lodge is open from mid-May to mid-October. Standard double room rates start at CAD$259-329 per night. Guests can choose these room-only rates or opt for packages including breakfast only, breakfast and dinner, or three meals a day.
In 2018, the lodge is opening a hostel-style building with queen- or twin-bedded rooms and shared bathrooms. Double-occupancy rates for these more modest units will start at CAD$75/night. Book online with the hotel or try a booking site such as Expedia.
Getting to Killarney
The Killarney Mountain Lodge is 414 kilometers (257 miles), northwest of Toronto. Traffic- and weather-permitting, it’s about a 4.5- to five-hour drive.
Several weekends each season, the Parkbus, a non-profit transportation service designed to provide car-free access to outdoor destinations, runs a bus between Toronto and Killarney. Check their website for schedules and other details.