A stress-free country getaway at Kawartha Lakes

July 6, 2019

The Woodhaven Country Lodge provides the perfect setting for some rural rest and relaxation for our collaborator, her Terrier and his 4-legged buddy.

What do you get when you mix dogs, a stack of books and a cottage in Ontario's Kawartha Lakes region? The ideal long weekend escape.

One catch: I don't own a cottage, and I'm not prepared to weed through online sites looking for dog-friendly ones to rent. Thankfully, I don't have to do that.

Woodhaven Country Lodge, near Buckhorn, Ontario, northeast of Toronto is entirely dog-friendly. Well, not just friendly, but positively dog-centric. Woodhaven is for people with dogs, or people who love to be around dogs. “You don't have to have a dog to stay here,"co-owner David McKinstry says. “But we make it clear, there are dogs here.”

During “shoulder season”, when the Woodhaven cottages and rooms can be rented by the day (not week, as they are in the busy summer season), I pack the car with my little Terrier, borrow his best buddy, a chocolate Lab, and for 3 days enjoy the best company I've ever travelled with.

It takes a few hours to push through Toronto traffic (with not a word of complaint from the dogs!) before we approach the scenic, tree-packed Kawartha Lakes region. When we get to the Lodge, we're in for a treat: we've been upgraded to “Jill's Cottage"because it's available and the fenced yard behind the property is bigger than the cottage I'd booked.

Perfect! I can open the back door, head out to the porch and never worry about the dogs—they run loose in the backyard barking at wild turkeys that one dog swears she sees on the other side of the chain-link fence.

This self-contained cottage is one of 7 rental options. Some units are part of the main lodge where breakfasts and dinners are served; others are separate buildings, and most have a fenced dog run.

What do we do?

Nothing and everything. I relax with books when the pups calm down. Otherwise, they cling to my heels from the time we get up until the time we all collapse on the couch in the living room. “Jill's Cottage"has a full kitchen, but I prefer to barbeque on the porch, eating outside with the dogs and relishing the canine quality time.

This is vacationing, pack style. We pile on the double bed in one bedroom at night and spend the day roaming outside. Talking is optional, but barking … well, that's apparently mandatory.

Critters abound here, including porcupines. Of course, the Lab finds one and heads straight for it. Fortunately, I'm able to distract both dogs by running in the opposite direction and encouraging them to follow … I was, after all, warned at check-in that quill extraction is a $600 emergency-vet visit!

Otherwise, we walk and walk—fortunately, off-leash—the kilometre-long drive into the property and along pathways leading to the lakeside dock and a deck overlooking the water. If you're game, kayaks, paddle boats and canoes are available. Paddling along the slow-moving glistening lake with the dog in the boat is remarkably romantic, if you can swim.

We stayed onshore: my little Terrier venturing into the water with only his paws and the Lab—well, being a Lab—diving all the way in. Every. Time.

Does it matter? No. A little dog dirt in the cottage is expected. And 3 days of uninterrupted dog bonding is priceless. Well, not exactly priceless. Count roughly $200 a night, depending on the time of year. And, yes, it's worth every penny.

Photo credits: Sherri Talenko (dogs) and The Woodhaven Country Lodge (view from a cottage).


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