A Winter Escape To Ontario’s Original Cottage Country And A Stay At The Briars

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Before Muskoka, there was the Town of Georgina in the Central Counties on the South shore of Lake Simcoe. This is Ontario’s original cottage country. A 45-minute drive North from downtown Toronto is all it takes to get to here yet you are in a whole other world. The air is clearer, the roads less busy and your heart beat slows to match the relaxed pace of life. The Briars is the crown jewel of accommodations in the area and since 1970 has entertained Summer and Winter guests wanting an escape from city life. Whether it’s a dip in the pool, a massage at the spa, a round of golf on the private golf course or curling up with a book in one of the many nooks warmed by a fire. The Briars is a year-round escape from the day to day and it is my home for a few nights as I explore winter in the Central Counties.

A little winter fire in the sun at The Briars

The Briars began as a private home and farm in 1840 and has been transformed many times in its 170-year history. The Sibbald family purchased The Briars in 1878 and it remains in the family today, although it looks a little different. It is this history that makes the odd quirkiness of the resort work. Many renovations over the years have added to and joined previously separate building into one eclectic resort. There are a few rooms like this one from the original Regency Manor house that are there for you to enjoy. Grab a book, a glass of Scotch and sit by the fire while the temperature dips below -10ºC.

Cozy nook for reading and sitting by the fire at The Briars

The rooms are fairly standard with all the modern amenities. The decor and some of the furniture is due for a refreshing and I understand that it is slated for the near future. Once done these rooms will really sparkle. Needing an update aside the rooms are spacious, clean and include a bathroom with a separate water closet/bathtub from the wash basin. Great for couples that want to get ready at the same.

First look at my room in the Briars

Separated bathroom from sink at The Briars

At The Briars you probably won’t spend that much time in your room. You will either be in the spa getting pampered or perhaps you’ll have out in the indoor heated pool for the day. There is also a games room with a ping-pong table, billiards, foosball, table shuffleboard + more. If you need to burn some calories there is also a weight room with everything you need.

Pool at The Briars

photo courtesy of The Briars

Speaking of calories, dining at The Briars is fantastic. A varied menu and three separate dining areas mean that couples enjoying a romantic getaway are not sitting next to guests enjoying a corporate retreat.

Dining Room at The Briars

Over the course of a few days, I did not have a bad meal. The breakfast buffet was amazing and fresh and dinner was equal to the fine restaurants I’m used to in Vancouver and Toronto. One meal started with fresh Cream of Mushroom Soup followed by Pan Seared Scallops and was topped off with Sticky Toffee Pudding! That dessert was worthy of a second helping.

Cream of Mushroom soup with housemade biscuit at The Briars

Pan seared Scallops for dinner at The Briars

Sticky Toffee Pudding at The Briars

If you are looking to enjoy your getaway away from other guests you can book one of the private cottages at The Briars. I didn’t stay in one but I was treated to a lovely cocktail reception and dinner in one. Local distiller Last Straw Distillery was on hand pouring libations. I became a little addicted to the Dark Side of the Moonshine I’m not afraid to admit.

Last Straw Distillery Dark Side of the Moon Moonshine

From these cottages, you have a perfect view of frozen Lake Simcoe. I’m thrilled to see the thick ice covering the lake because tomorrow’s adventure involves my first ever try at ice fishing!

View from The Briars cottage over frozen Lake Simcoe

Other parts of Southern Ontario may have claimed the title of Cottage Country but with its easy access from Toronto, its relaxed pace and the relatively cheap rates I wouldn’t be surprised if your next getaway is to The Briars and the town of Georgina.

Current Rates for 1 night with dinner & breakfast meal plan included ranges from $265 to $390 for two people! You can’t get that deal for 1 night in a downtown Toronto hotel.

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Disclosure: General

Thanks to Central Counties Tourism, Ontario Travel and the Briars for hosting me on this trip. Views and opinions are 100% my own.


About Author

Marc Smith is a single, 45-year-old, gay urbanite, living in high-rise heaven in Vancouver’s chic Yaletown neighbourhood. After a ten-year career as one of Vancouver’s pre-eminent event planners, he decided it was time for a change and posted on his Facebook page “I am ready for a change. What shall I do with my life?” 30 Day Adventures was born from that status update.

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