Embracing Winter at the Sportsman's Inn in Killarney, Ontario
Killarney, Ontario might just be the up-and-coming tourist destination in Ontario, and a fair portion of that emergence is due to the investment in hotels such as the Sportsman's Inn and Killarney Mountain Lodge.
But let's back up a bit.
If you've been even pretending to pay attention to what I've been up to, it's been relatively obvious that I've shifted my sights towards showcasing the beauty of Ontario in recent months. Even if you haven't been on my blog, I think that much is evident on Instagram and the like. Of course, I built my blog and reputation on creating diverse content, so, naturally, I'll still be covering a fair portion of international destinations (my recent guide to Tokyo in 3 Days is evidence enough of that), but Ontario and Canada at large is what I'm currently fascinated with.
I don't think I'm exaggerating when suggesting that authenticity has never been more important and in question in regards to today's media. In light of that, I want the content that I produce to genuinely reflect my interests, and thus, you can expect that my site will be peppered with Canadian content in the near future.
This genuine interest in rediscovering Ontario which, so far, has led me to Durham Region, Windy Lake Provincial Park, and covering events such as the Toronto Garlic Festival), also led me to the doorstep of Killarney, Ontario's Sportman's Inn Resort and Marina.
NOTE: This post may contain some affiliate links. That means, simply, that I may get commissions from some of my recommendations. That being said, my opinions are fully my own.
The Town of Killarney, Ontario and Killarney Provincial Park
While I do want to take the time to elaborate on why I chose to stay at the Sportsman's Inn in particular and, by proxy, what makes it unique, I'd be remiss not to talk a bit about the town itself, and surrounding area.
Let's cut to the chase - it's the scenery you can find in places like Killarney, Ontario that make me proud to be a Canadian. When I'd been living in Istanbul, Turkey for three years already, and I was feeling a touch homesick, these were the sorts of images of Canada that I conjured up. I keep coming back to this notion in my posts about Canada, but it really took me leaving the country for an extended period to take notice of how special this province and country really is.
Killarney, Ontario was founded way back in the 1820's by a fur trader and his wife. It essentially served as a picturesque trading post, fishing village, and vacationing spot for the summer months. The big change came in 1962 when Killarney, Ontario was connected to Highway 69 via Highway 637. All of a sudden, people had access via a backroad to the shores of Killarney and, of course, that always comes with its own set of pros and cons.
Around the same time that the new highway was put in, the region around the town of Killarney was designated as a provincial park (and rightfully so, I might add). Many Canadians attribute the Group of Seven, and in particular famed painter A.Y. Jackson for petitioning to have the region designated as protected land, and ultimately thwarting the intentions of greedy loggers.
The views around Killarney, Ontario and Killarney Provincial Park were made famous from the paintings of the Group of Seven, and thankfully the area maintains its quiet, removed ambience.
I have only had the opportunity to explore Killarney Provincial Park in the winter, but I do know for a fact that it's a popular destination for camping and hiking in the summer months. I didn't personally take this photo, but I do have the rights to share it with you, so you have an idea of what the region looks like in early autumn.
The Sportsman's Inn and Killarney Mountain Lodge
Why do you group these two hotels together, do you ask? I'm doing that because both properties have the same owner, and I believe they're trying to accomplish the same goal. Holden Rhodes, the owner of both properties grew up vacationing in Killarney, Ontario, and his family has close ties to the region.
He's using both the Sportsman's Inn and Killarney Mountain Lodge to spur interest in the area, and allow everyone else to take a peak at what he deemed so special growing up. He also seems to have a vested interest in providing opportunity for the community he became so fond of growing up, and seemingly still is. I remember on one of the days during my stay just sitting at the bar and talking to locals at the Sportsman's Inn and many people commenting on how many young people are employed by the two properties in the summer for the tourist rush.
As I just alluded to, I had the opportunity to stay at the Sportsman's Inn, which was bought by Holden and renovated in 2016. Recently, within the last year, the Sportsman's Inn has set its sights on becoming a winter getaway destination. Beyond the lovely accommodation, the restaurant and pub downstairs serves as a delicious and welcoming community hub for snowmobilers and outdoorsmen (and outdoorswomen, of course!). At night, I would go as far as calling it the go-to pub in town.
For breakfast one morning, before setting out into the sunny winter day, I ordered Egg's Benedict that was done to perfection. That's my personal recommendation for breakfast for you regardless of the season in which you go!
Anything on a bed of peameal bacon gets the travelingmitch seal of approval.
I should take a moment to note that the town is tiny by any standards, but it feels like that's the way it should be. It's the sort of place that you wouldn't necessarily want to get any bigger. There are plenty of cities and towns which have given way to expansion, but it seems like Killarney, Ontario is happy with its current stature. At the very least, I get the impression that they'll grow on their own terms and in their own time.
Diving Deeper into Killarney, Ontario's Sportsman's Inn
Before I get sidetracked into further history about Killarney, Ontario or excited about some facet of Ontario tourism, which I am prone to do, I want to talk more about my experience at the Sportsman's Inn, which, in my opinion is the perfect vantage point with which to view the surrounding area.
For starters, the staff there are just a delight. I think in the 3 nights that I spent at the Sportsman's Inn, I was greeted by, on average, a warm smile per minute. Bri and I always felt like we were in good hands, and everybody went above and beyond to invoke that small town Ontario hospitality.
The rooms were comfortable and cozy, and the fireplace was perfect for winter. We felt like we were tucked away from civilization which, as a travel blogger, I'm always willing to give two big thumbs up to. The room and its welcomed isolation was in contrast to the restaurant and bar, which felt at times like the main throughway of the town. Basically, If I lived in Killarney, I'd go there to eat breakfast, then to celebrate my birthday later on that night. I thought it was just perfect, but I need to make sure that I state that this was a great restaurant/bar by any standard. If this pub was near my place in Toronto, this would be my local.
I should also mention that old photos, showing the true historic nature of the building and town, adorn the walls at every turn - a nice touch if I've ever seen one.
Well, words are a wondrous device, and I owe them a lot, but I think some photos will do some justice to the experience. Hey, over the past few years, photography has been a serious passion of mine as well.
I personally mentioned that my favourite part might just have been the beautiful bar and, well, I stand by that. You just know that wood was sourced from Ontario.
What to do Around Killarney, Ontario from the Sportsman's Inn Resort & Marina
The most important thing to us in terms of finding a hotel has always been access. With the Sportsman's Inn, it's not even just the access to the quaint town of Killarney, Ontario that you're excited about, but rather just how close it is to all things nature. In the summer, the marina would literally be at your doorstep. In the winter, the marina sits pretty and serves as a lighthouse of sorts for the town's snowmobilers.
The Famous Lighthouse in Killarney, Ontario
Speaking of lighthouses, one of our first stops on our first sunny winter day there was to the lighthouse, which is about a 5 minute drive and a 15 minute walk from the Sportsman's Inn. That's what it takes to get you to the start of the trail, then it's about another 15 minutes, but as long as it's not a blizzard you're alright. Again, I'm sure it's just as pretty in the summer, so don't think of this as only winter hiking.
I would highly recommend that you take that trip out to the lighthouse. Killarney is not a big place and not hard to find, but if you have any trouble, rest assured the folks as the Sportsman's Inn will help out.
On the day that we went out there, there was blue ice jutting from the shore to create a scene that was truly spectacular. It was freezing out there that day, but I can't remember feeling cold, I just remember that stunning visuals, which you can see in the featured photo at the top. Naturally, I'll include another with Bri posing - a celebration of Ontario Winter if you will.
Killarney Provincial Park and the Granite Ridge Trail
If it's winter, before you set off on your journey, you should grab a pair of snowshoes from the Sportsman's Inn. You may not need them, but put them in the trunk. To get to the park office for Killarney Provincial Park is only about a 15-20 minute drive, then you're ready to go. Remember to bundle up as it can get windy at the top of some trails.
Just to give you some context, Killarney Provincial Park is nearly 500 square kilometres and, after Algonquin, it's one of the most popular and important areas of preserved wilderness in the province of Ontario.
Alright, if you're looking for a nice and easy hike with views aplenty, then the Granite Ridge Trail is your best bet. It's just under 3 kilometres which makes it ideal for beginners or experienced hikers, as well as families. What makes it so attractive is, quite simply, how picturesque it is. The walk through the forest itself is sublime, but the views at the summit of the Granite Ridge Trail offer some special views in any season.
In my humble opinion, if you're staying at the Sportsman's Inn in Killarney, Ontario, then you've simply got to find a way to do the Granite Ridge Trail.
Final Thoughts on the Sportsman's Inn in Killarney, Ontario
In the end, vacation is about escape, and this is one hell of a place to do just that. Yet, it's not a prototypical escape void of cultural importance. This nature, this town, this area - it is Ontario's culture, and it's worth celebrating.
If you're trying to think of a holiday that's a little different, especially if you're in Toronto which is only a handful of hours away, then this is well worth considering. Killarney, Ontario is a place I wish I had gone to before, and a place I'll surely go again.
I was received as media by the Sportsman's Inn Resort & Marina, whom I humbly thank. Have you been to Killarney before or Northeastern Ontario? Have you done any winter hiking? Do you enjoy winter in general? I'd love to hear any thoughts, ideas, or comments that this article spurs!