Upon entering the serene stone-walled grounds to Ste. Anne’s Spa in Grafton, Ontario, it’s easy to imagine stealing away into the transformed secret garden described in famous children’s author Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel, The Secret Garden. Built in 1858 by settler Samuel Massey, some locals still call Ste. Anne’s “The Grafton Castle”. Located in Haldimand Hills Township, 80 minutes east of Toronto, Canada, Ste. Anne’s is a picturesque rural retreat offering high end, four-season all-inclusive getaways.
There’s something for everyone at Canada’s favourite spa. Whether it’s lounging poolside devouring a good book, gently swaying in a hammock under the trees, or a dose of horse therapy at the stable, you can customize your getaway perfectly to meet your needs. Here are five favourite things about Ste. Anne’s Spa:
1) Stress Express – You don’t need a car to escape to the seclusion of Ste. Anne’s for the day or overnight. Take the Via train and a Ste. Anne’s employee will greet you at the station in Cobourg before whisking you away to the property; leaving you more time to speed through your mystery or romance novel instead of fighting traffic on the 401.
2) The Main Inn and Cottages – Choose from 16 elegant rooms in the Main Inn or seven unique cottages all within 5 to 10 minutes walking distance to the Main Inn. These rural dwellings are decked out with all the comforts of home, except for a television. And the only tweeting should be from the sounds of birds. From the Farmhouse to Ste. Anne’s newest spa cottage, Vista Lago, you’ll feel at home sweet home. As a special touch, hire a Ste. Anne’s private chef to cook for you in your cottage!
3) Facilities/Gardens – Ste. Anne’s is built on a natural aquifer, which supplies the Inn with all of its spring water. This means the outdoor swimming pool is filled with, you guessed it, spring water. Add the eucalyptus steam room, hot tub, plunge pool, and lap pool. All spring water. The new fitness facility boasts an outdoor endless pool where you can swim against currents and use the underwater treadmill.
Breathe in the fresh country air and explore all 400 rolling acres, which includes walking and snowshoe trails through a cedar forest, a healing herb garden, rose garden, and serenity garden. There’s an outdoor tennis court, bicycles, fitness room, yoga classes, and a shuttle service to the nearby Shelter Valley Pines Golf Course. Let’s not forget the traditional healing spa treatments, which you can request be performed in a garden gazebo, and the Ste. Anne’s Spa signature skin care line made from herbs and botanicals grown on the property. New to the walking trail is the poustinia, a tiny spiritual retreat for meditation and reflection.
4) Farm and Stables/Horse Therapy – Zip up your riding boots and enrol in Ste. Anne’s Equine Program. You’re not the only one who’ll be primping and preening. Book some grooming time with one of the horses and let Stable Caretaker and certified equine coach, Kareylee White show you how to brush its coat and mane, pick its hooves, and massage sore muscles.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, sign up for Morning Muck or Evening Turn-in. Cleaning the stables and leading your horse out to pasture is all in a day’s chores. Ambitious horse lovers can achieve the Learn to Ride certificate, which is the completion of eight horsemanship levels, beginning with grooming your horse and progressing to trotting.
5) The Bakery – Let them eat flourless chocolate cake! The Ste. Anne’s Bakery is only 1.2 km from the Main Inn. Request a lift, or work up an appetite with a scenic walk along the rolling concession roads. As a special treat, Pastry Chef Khushroo offers culinary demonstrations three days a week. Eye popping goodies from banana loaf, butter tarts, and chocolate hazelnut terrine are on display for the taking. Choose from gluten-free desserts, organic meats, and salad dishes with ingredients sourced from the Ste. Anne’s herb garden.
You’ll want to return every season, so don’t forget to ask about the Loyalty Program.
(Originally published September 9, 2013)