One great destination; two great places to stay. A look at lodging options in wonderful Killarney, Ontario

Pull up a Muskoka chair at the Killarney Mountain Lodge and watch the boats go by in the channel.

Jim Byers photo

Pull up a Muskoka chair at the Killarney Mountain Lodge and watch the boats go by in the channel.

KILLARNEY, ONTARIO – Low-key, country charm and a dash of city glam.

Folks heading to fabulous Killarney, Ontario are lucky to have several places to stay. I tested out two outstanding – and very different – properties during my visit.

Killarney Mountain Lodge is a low-rise, old-fashioned kind of country spot with a big, screened-in porch, a central unit with several rooms and a series of small, wooden cottages spread over acres of grass and lovingly tended, colourful gardens. A couple units are right on the channel that separates the mainland from George Island, surely the most prized rooms of all (and ones some friends of mine loved a few years back).

My room wasn’t the least bit fancy. But the bed was comfortable and there was a reasonably sized dresser and a chair and a desk; all I needed. The bathroom wasn’t large but the shower had plenty of water pressure to wash off the effects of my kayaking and canoeing and hiking.

I wouldn’t have minded a porch to sit on, but there’s tons of open space and chairs scattered about the property if you want to read a book or have a nap in the sun.

The main lodge building has a dining area with windows looking out toward the water or to the large, heated pool. They also have lakeview cabins and a two-bedroom Pilot House that looks amazing.

The lodge is an old-school affair but clean and charming and with personality to spare. I quite liked the casual atmosphere of the place, as you can wear jeans and a shirt or your shorts and a hoodie to breakfast or even dinner and not have to think twice.

You'll find lovely gardens scattered around the grounds at Killarney Mountain Lodge.

Jim Byers photo

You’ll find lovely gardens scattered around the grounds at Killarney Mountain Lodge.

The food matches the style of the place, meaning it’s solid and tasty without being flashy. I had a fine schnitzel and a great Caesar salad one night, with terrific butter tarts for dessert. The other nice I tasted a very good beef tenderloin wrapped in bacon with veggies on the side. Breakfast one day featured fabulous pancakes with wild Killarney blueberries.

There’s no TV in the rooms but there’s Wi-Fi in the lodge and you’ll probably get decent service from the nearby cell tower that serves the town.

The Lodge dates back to 1962, co-owner Maury East told me.

The gardens are wonderfully colourful. Maury tells me one of the women working as a chambermaid came to him a while back and said she wanted to do something else.

“I asked if she’d ever done anything like this before. She said she hadn’t but wanted to give it a try.”

He grins the grin of a man who stumbled onto something good, as the daisies are huge and perky and the colours are beautifully mixed out front when I visit.

There are a ton of amenities to be had at Killarney Mountain Lodge. Next to the dining room is a huge room with tables for playing cards as well as a billiards table and ping pong and indoor shuffleboard. It’s big enough to play a game of basketball, and they also have books and puzzles. There’s a small spa next to the pool, which overlooks the water.

A watefront cabin at Killarney Mountain Lodge is the perfect place to escape your city cares.

Jim Byers photo

A watefront cabin at Killarney Mountain Lodge is the perfect place to escape your city cares.

Many nights at the Carousel Lounge you’ll find local crooner and guitarist Andy Lowe. The native of Britain has been a fixture here for 15 years and is comfortable and engaging, often singing to the same groups of visitors summer after summer. The night I was there some fans from Wisconsin had brought him a Green Bay Packers t-shirt and he was kibitzing back and forth between tunes; most Canadian faves such as Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot and Blue Rodeo. Great stuff.

Maury and Annabelle have sat at the same corner table, where they can monitor the kitchen and greet their guests and see what’s going on, every night for 52 years. That’s pretty amazing in this fleeting, Instagram world of ours.

But many guests feel the same loyalty. Annabelle one night points to a group of folks from Michigan who come up every summer. They often have their boat take them through waters all around Ontario during the day, but they come back each night on their private plane and sleep and have dinner at Killarney Mountain Lodge. They get up and have breakfast the next day, then do it again.

My final night is, as Monty Python might say, something completely different.

The Sportsman’s Inn Resort and Marina is an old-time, three-storey hotel that has been given a multi-million dollar renovation. It’s an old-style, white affair with red trim on the outside, but inside it’s sleek and chic, with modern, dark wood furnishings and gas fireplaces and flat screen TV’s and large bathrooms. All the rooms overlook the water and the harbour/channel with beautiful boats, and there’s a large, communal porch that most of the units share.

Rooms at the modern but cozy Sportsman's Inn overlook the beautiful Killarney channel.

Jim Byers photo

Rooms at the modern but cozy Sportsman’s Inn overlook the beautiful Killarney channel.

They have 12 suites (one and two bedroom units) in the main building plus motel units on the mainland. Across the narrow channel you’ll find a few spiffy cabins, as well as a spa. There’s even an outdoor movie screen on the shores of George Island for a water-version of a drive-in movie theatre.

I tried the on-site pub for lunch and had a decent pulled pork and a beer in the sun out on the patio, watching the boats come and go in the small harbour. Rather than get dressed for dinner and sit by myself in the fine dining room (pasta, steaks, seafood and more) I opted for the pub and a chance to watch the Blue Jays on TV in the pub. There aren’t many wines by the glass (just one Ontario offering) and not a lot of beer choices. But the servers were friendly and I had a terrific and enormous pizza that could’ve fed three people.

I spotted a group of women who’d been sunning themselves in their bikinis on a beautiful boat coming in for dinner in the fine dining restaurant, and they were dressed to the nines in slim, black cocktail dresses. The restaurant looks great, and if you dock your boat for the night they’ll even deliver your dinner to you!

Like I said, you couldn’t ask for a stronger contrast in such a small town.

Other options include the Rock House Inn, the Killarney Bay Inn and the Blue Heron B & B. There are quite a few choices for such a small town, which tells you just how wonderful the surrounding area really is.

MORE INFORMATION www.northeasternontario.com ; www.ontariotravel.net ; www.municipalityofkillarney.ca.

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