Nova Scotia's luxury wilderness retreat
11 Rooms / 3 Suites
Set deep in the small, faraway Canadian province of Nova Scotia (about three hours outside of Halifax), the nearly 100-acre Trout Point Lodge abuts the 256,446-acre Tobeatic Wilderness Area, which itself adjoins Kejimkujik National Park. And all of these compose the largest “dark zone” in Atlantic Canada, one of the least populated, least spoiled woodlands in eastern North America. This area is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site called the Southwest Nova Biosphere. The landscape is part leftover glacial barrens, but also pristine Acadian forest — red spruce mixed with sugar maple and yellow birch, beech with its silky bark, red oak, pine and black spruce, and hemlock on the lower stretches, some of them 100 feet or taller.
This is all to say that the destination is isolated (though it’s easier to get there from the U.S. thanks to the new daily ferry service between Portland, Maine, and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia). Your neighbors are likely to be black bears, bobcats, raccoons, the occasional American marten (recently reintroduced to the area) and moose, with endless numbers of weasels, mink, beavers, red foxes and more. During a recent visit, our car was obliged to stop for a mother bear and young cub ambling across the road, paying us no mind.
The main lodge building, set in lush forest at the junction of two wilderness rivers, is modeled after the great camps built by the wealthy in the early part of the last century. It is put together with massive spruce timbers hauled in from New Brunswick, notched and dovetailed, and has granite floors and fireplaces, Oriental rugs and custom furniture. The most prominent feature is the Great Room, a soaring cathedral-ceiling space with a library on the mezzanine level.
Trout Point’s spacious 11 rooms and three suites come with the amenities to be expected of a luxury wilderness retreat — log walls and ceilings, custom-made log and branch furniture, handmade rugs, L'Occitane toiletries — and mineral water from the tap that’s as good as any commercial brand of bottled water. Downstream from the main lodge is Beaver Hall, a riverside complex with four guest rooms (one a suite with a river-view balcony) and its own massive stone fireplace, plus the Black Bear Cottage with two guest rooms.
Trout Point Lodge is a rustic escape — your cell phone won’t work no matter how often you tap its screen. The lodge is so remote, the woods so pristine and the rivers so placid that lounging on a chair under a spreading maple and watching the waters of the Tusket River gurgle by gives you utter relaxation. (It also helps that the resort doesn't permit children between the ages of 3 and 13.)
If you prefer not to sit around, kayak the river or swim in it — the water is cool but not cold. Or traverse one of the trails that meander erratically in the general direction of the Tobeatic wilderness, to the northeast. The already muted sounds of the lodge will fade within a few minutes. You can also hike on more demanding wilderness trails or go on an intense canoeing expedition into the rugged Tobeatic itself. If you like company on your walks, the lodge’s chummy alpacas will carry your pack for you.
Back at the main lodge, sit around the outdoor fire pit or cozy up in front of the indoor log fire with a book (borrowed from the mezzanine library). Unwind in the two cedar saunas, the wood-fired hot tub or reserve a therapist for an in-room massage.
At night, take a stroll with the resident astronomer and see the constellations (plus comets and the occasional aurora borealis) in all their blazing clarity — and be sure to use one of the lodge’s high-powered telescopes for even better views. A 12-foot-high viewing tower has been erected in the middle of a beaver meadow, giving fabulous panoramas of the sky.
Both the smaller Chez la Foret and the somewhat larger Bois et Charbon dining rooms are table d’hote, generally with a single sitting and fixed, if inventive, menus. Soups and seafood dishes are specialties. Recent dishes include local Ruisseau oysters with Brie and bacon jam, house-smoked sturgeon with Acadian sturgeon caviar, grilled local swordfish with sage beurre noisette, and made-from-scratch fettuccine with wild mushroom sauce. The housemade cheeses, especially the silky chèvre, are outstanding. The atmosphere is informal, but elegant, the service friendly but not intrusive.
The emphasis is on locally sourced, organic produce, much of which the owners grow themselves, “wild foods” (most of it foraged on their own property) and sustainable seafood (though carnivores are not neglected). Chef-proprietors Charles Leary and Vaughn Perret previously operated the well-regarded Chicory Farm Café in New Orleans before deciding to bring Creole and Acadian foods to Nova Scotia. Their recipes have been collected in The Trout Point Lodge Cookbook: Creole Cuisine from New Orleans to Nova Scotia. Both chefs have taught at the Mediterranean Cooking School in Spain, and are well versed in Mediterranean cuisine. (If you want to turn this into a culinary vacation, they teach classes on Creole and other cuisines, lead foraging expeditions in the woods and offer excursions to the Nova Scotia coast to sample its seafood riches.)