When winter comes the first thing many families start planning is a sunny getaway but living in Canada you can’t completely escape winter. If you’re a skier this isn’t a problem but non-skiers like me usually dread the long, cold months ahead. A recent winter visit to Fern Resort with the family proved there’s a lot of fun to be had with winter.
Although Fern Resort is located in Orillia Ontario, it’s surrounded by a wonderful woodland right on Lake Simcoe. The lake and the woods give you a great backdrop for many outdoor winter activities.
I love the idea of going snowshoeing but we don’t get a lot of snow where we live so we don’t own any snowshoes. Not to worry when you visit Fern Resort; they have both adult and child snowshoes you can borrow. Our family, including my 4-year old, went on a small snowshoe walk through the woods that surround Fern. With the fresh fallen snow it felt as though we were transported to another world. It was a wonderful escape and walking on snowshoes wasn’t as hard to do as I thought, though it is a bit of work. We lasted an hour with the kids but I could have easily gone a little longer (and felt it in my muscles the next day).
Even if you have never tried fishing before you should try your hand at ice fishing. We booked an hour in one of the two ice fishing huts out on the lake. The insulated huts are heated and already set-up for you. After you book your session at the front desk a staff member will go turn on the heater and ensure all your other supplies are ready. You don’t need to bring anything accept maybe your coffee or hot chocolate.
The huts are out quite a ways out on the ice making it a bit of a walk (although the walk back seemed much shorter than the walk out there). Our whole family of 5 fit in the hut just fine (there’s a long bench on one wall you can sit on. I was surprised how warn the huts actually are. I can understand how someone can sit out there for hours without getting cold. The kids used lures (not real bait) on their rods and although my 6-year old son was the only one to catch something, the whole family enjoyed just watching the fish in the kelp and sea grass. It’s amazing how the sun illuminates the water through the ice (there are no lights in the huts with the exception of two small air vents. The hour session was a perfect amount of time to spend out on the ice trying to catch or just watching the fish.
Skating, Hockey and Broom Ball
Fern Resort also offers other great ice sports. You may have gone skating at your local ice rink but nothing beats skating outside on the lake. The inner harbour area is cleared off for a nice skating surface and you can skate all day, right up until 11 p.m.. Sometimes you’ll find an organized game of ice hockey (we saw a few dads and kids playing). On the weekend we were there Fern Resort also organized a family skating party with games and a fire pit for warming up and roasting marshmallows. In a separate area in front of the resorts’s main inn, they’ve also cleared a patch of ice for playing broom ball.
Even if you’ve never played Broom Ball or forgot your hockey stick at home, Fern Resort has the equipment you need to play, like hockey sticks and nets. But you need to bring your own skates. Those you can’t borrow at the resort.
Cross Country Skiing
There are a variety of backwoods trails around Fern Resort you can cross country ski along, weaving through trees, around frozen ponds, over foot bridges, all through the wonderful wooded area. You can bring your own equipment or borrow skis, poles and shoes to give Cross Country Skiing a try.
Walking in deep snow can be a lot of work for little legs. Bring your sled or borrow one from Fern Resort for a family walk through the grounds (pulling little ones behind). There is also a small hill you can also use for going downhill sledding. The hill isn’t very big but great for little ones.
If you’re looking for something a little faster you can rent snowmobiles at Fern Resort. You have to be 16 years of age to be the driver but your passenger can be younger. You can book your snowmobile at the front deck in half-hour slots and your rental includes a helmet for all passengers.
One of the activities I really wanted to try when visiting Fern Resort was dog sledding. It’s always been something I’ve wanted to try but not to the expense of devoting a whole vacation to the experience; what if I didn’t like it?
Fern Resort offers you the opportunity to try dog sledding in just a 45-minute session. We booked a session for 10:10 a.m. in the morning, giving us time for breakfast yet early enough that the dogs are still full of energy. When my 8-year old and I arrived, the sleds were ready and the guide introduced the dogs as they were connected to the sled (we had 3 dogs on our sled, pulling myself and my daughter). When the guide told me I would be driving my own sled a flash of fear hit me. At first I was a little terrified about driving the sled (my daughter would sit as my passenger since you have to be 16-years old to drive the sled, due to insurance purposes) but I really wanted to do it.
The sled movement just consists on leaning into a turn and putting your foot on the break (a hook that drags on the ground) to slow or stop the dogs. Our guide rode a sled in front of us and our dogs pretty much followed that sled making it easier. At first I was a little tense but after a few minutes I was able to get into and enjoy the experience more. The dogs rode through the wooded area around Fern Resort, making it feel like we were actually up North, no where near the city. It was snowing when we did our run so I’m glad I wore my ski gloves and a high neck jacket to keep the cold, blowing snow off me.
My son made the trek across the field to the toboggan hill where the zip line hangs. He loved whizzing through the air and landing in the snow. Just one more great way to keep the kids out and active during the winter.
We spent our family weekend at Fern Resort outdoors, experiencing and enjoying the fun winter has to offer. Coupled with the Fern Resort‘s attention to families and their needs, we experienced a great family weekend together.
All of the winter activities and equipment mentioned above at are available at Fern Resort at no additional cost to you (with the exception of dog sledding and snowmobiling).
I want to thank the Fern Resort for the opportunity to visit them for the purpose of sharing this review.