Photograph by George Fisher
The most authentic and unique hotels in Canada, chosen by National Geographic Traveler editors for the 2011 Stay List
Island Lake Lodge, Fernie, B.C.
Wedged into the Kootenay Rockies, above a mountain lake and amid 800-year-old cedars, sit four log lodges. Spring-fed micro-hydro system powers pristine off-grid location. No TV or phones in rooms gleaming with wood. Raw nature tempered by hot-stone massages, extensive wine library, organic wild-sourced cuisine. Summer: canoeing, guided hiking. Winter? It's all about snowcat skiing through powder. 26 rooms; from $189. incl. breakfast.
Hastings House Country House Hotel, Salt Spring Island, B.C.
A former Hudson Bay trading post evolved into English Tudor-manor complex guarding Ganges Harbour. In-room fireplaces, eiderdown duvets, heated slate floors. Regional dining on veranda overlooking harbor. House specialty? Salt Spring Island lamb. Commercial crab fisherman takes guests out for hands-on Dungeness crab session. Self-guided tour to artist studios, wineries, cheese-makers. 18 rooms; from $242.
Sonora Resort, Sonora Island, B.C.
Fly in on seaplane to wilderness lodge amid old-growth rain forest on 145-square-mile island in Desolation Sound. Rooms in 10 themed lodges overlook yucultas: ocean rapids full of whirlpools and tide rips. Ocean-view botanical conservatory. Organic regional cuisine. Partners with local First Nations tribes for eco-tours and grizzly bear viewing. 88 rooms; from $375.
Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, Tofino, B.C.
A tented mid-May–Sept. camp where river meets sea. Opulently furnished prospector-style canvas tents linked by cedar boardwalk. Spa treatments, saunas, cedar hot tubs overlooking the water. No TV, no phones—only call you'll hear is the Call of the Wild. Local First Nations guides tutor guests in ways of the Northwest. About a dozen working dogs keep nosy bears out of camp. 20 tents; 3 nights, from $3,897 per person, all-inclusive.
Lazy Bear Lodge and Café, Churchill, Man.
Built in the style of a Hudson Bay Company trading post with fire-killed timber; three miles above the tree line. Local greenhouse for produce, exotic wild meats from Inuit-owned cooperatives. Cabins are woody burrows of warmth. Up-close encounters with beluga whales and polar bears are the reason you're here. 33 rooms; from $125.
Fairmont Algonquin, St. Andrews by-the-Sea, N.B.
Tudor-style spread with turreted red slate roof overlooking Passamaquoddy Bay. Grand public areas, rooms in period dress: two-poster beds, wicker armchairs, windows opening to briny breeze. Shuffleboard, croquet, 1894 golf course doubling as Audubon sanctuary. Sponsor a whale for $40 in Right Whale Pub, then go whale-spotting in nearby Bay of Fundy. 234 rooms; from $98.
Chanterelle Country Inn and Cottages, Cape Breton Island, N.S.
A comfortable retreat on a hillside overlooking an estuary along the Cabot Trail. Cape Breton barn of weathered hemlock, cottages built of recycled wood. 100 of the 150 acres are a dedicated wildlife preserve: moose, fox, deer, bear. Chokecherry jelly and wild mushroom sprinkles in gift store; room toiletries from local soapmaker. Menu treats: fiddlehead soup, Celtic bread, oat cakes. Or go directly to the source: Spend some time mussel and oyster foraging, and berry and mushroom hunting. 9 rooms; from $118.
Crown Jewel Resort Ranch, Cape Breton Island, N.S.
Horses and dogs still work the fields at this fly-in 800-acre organic farm-resort. Highland cattle and Scottish blackface sheep graze around buildings trimmed by 19th-century hand-hewn wood. Inside? Yellow birch furnishings, hardwood floors, handmade quilts. Food miles monitored in restaurant. Canadian Eskimo dogs take guests sledding, scootering, and skijoring (you are on skis; the dogs pull). 8 rooms; from $143.
Gladstone Hotel, Toronto, Ont.
A serious rehab of Toronto's oldest continuously operating hotel—now fully engaged with its trendy art-and-design neighborhood. Exuberant rooms designed by local artists; it's like spending a night at the museum, an avant-garde one at that. Outrageous weekend karaoke nights, hand-operated Victorian elevator, local art "installations." Get ready to enjoy a cultural sparkplug of Toronto's delightfully diverse Queen West scene. 37 rooms; from $103.
Hotel Nelligan, Montreal, Que.
Three 19th-century buildings fused with contemporary interiors, in Vieux-Montréal. Lots of elbow room in accommodations; 59 suites with double-jetted tubs, fireplaces. Local artists show work in Art-rium. Summer rooftop terrace with river views. English pub grub meets French cuisine in brasserie; a more refined touch in chic restaurant. Clippity-clop through historic neighborhood in horse-drawn carriage. 105 rooms; from $147.
Auberge Place D'Armes, Quebec City, Que.
A family-run inn on cobbled pedestrian street, smack center in this historic town. Two buildings (one 369 years old; the other, 150) house quaintly modern rooms: brick walls, furnishings from local cabinetmakers, free WiFi. Concierge spills beans on Québécois secret spots: hidden gardens, hole-in-wall dining, up-and-coming wineries. Everything but local wine and bread prepared from scratch on the premises. Savoir faire: summer dining on front terrace. 21 rooms; from $69, incl. breakfast.
Bombay Peggy's Victorian Inn & Pub, Dawson City, Yukon
A Victorian house in Dawson (pop. 1,327) resurrected as Yukon's only fully restored brothel. Naughty rooms: one with archival photos of the working girls, another with lipstick red walls and black velvet bedding. Chaste by comparison: three smaller rooms with shared bath. Gold-rush relics, pub. Walk Dawson's wooden sidewalks, tour working gold fields. 9 rooms; from $85.
Inn on the Lake, Whitehorse, Yukon
Spruce-log resort on shores of Marsh Lake, silhouetted by glacial peaks. Regional maple floors and slate chimneys. Slow-cook philosophy in kitchen, infusing local fish and game with flavors of wild berries and local herbs. Complimentary kayaking and canoeing. Polar pluses: dog mushing, aurora borealis light shows, midnight golf at nearby links. 15 rooms; from $122.