I recently got to visit with the family-run business of Oakwood Resort at the edge of Grand Bend, Ontario. The resort is located about 3 hours West of Toronto on the white sandy shores of Lake Huron. If you are looking for Ontario Vacations, this place should be added to your list.
I met Oakwood Resort’s Director of Sales and Marketing Dave Bartlam in Toronto when his daughter was a cast member of Mirvish’s Robin Hood. While chatting at the cast party, he told me about the resort and the surrounding area. I had to check it out.
Oakwood Resort sits on an 18-hole golf course with cottages, lodges and motel style rentals spotted throughout the grounds. The site also includes Dave’s Pub & Grill (a sports pub) and the Oak Dining Room, an indoor swimming pool, hot-tubs, tennis courts and the Lakeside Spa. A short walk down a private drive, guests can access the Oakwood Resort private beach which is about 5 minutes North of the Grand Bend Main Beach, which can get very busy in the summer months.
The resort started its journey to what it is today when David Scatherd purchased the property in the early 80s when it only had a few cottages, the longhouse, a pub and a dining room. He then expanded it into a destination for conferences, weddings, events and relaxation that all could enjoy.
His family still runs it today.
While getting a tour from Dave Bartlam, I got to meet Helene Bushnell, a manager and member of the the family who owns the resort. She was having lunch in the pub with the resort’s COO Peter Johnston. It was great to hear about their enthusiasm for what they do and chat about the resort and its beginnings. There is a very family run feel going at Oakwood. The community is friendly and tight knit. Whether you work at the resort or you are a working member of the family, there was a camaraderie and friendship between everyone I encountered.
The room I stayed in was located in the Oak Lodge. It had two rooms, 1 washroom with a toilet, 1 washroom with a jacuzzi and a spacious shower. The main bedroom contained a king size bed and the main washroom. It also had sliding doors to go outside and french doors that enter into the living room. The living room had a couch with a pull-out bed, the washroom with just a toilet and sink, sliding doors to get outside and a television set. Both rooms also contained electric fireplaces.
I also got a peek at one of the executive cottages. The house was designed for Helene’s grandmother who lived in Hawaii at the time. The cottage was built so she could have a place of her own closer to the family. The cottage has a large open style entrance that connects the living room and the dining room. 2 bedrooms, a full kitchen and a patio are also part of this accommodation. A wall with a fireplace and some great decorations lined the main wall in the living room. A great rental for a family, right next to the Dave’s Pub & Grill and steps from the beach path.
The golf course at the resort crosses both sides of Ontario Street North (The 21). The 18 holes start at the pub where one can tee off the front or back nine from an elevated pitch. The course includes bridges over streams, ponds (temporary fake swans replace ones that, after 4 years, walked into town one day and never came back), bunkers and beautiful old trees and gardens. There is also a driving range! Golf carts are obtained from the pro shop adjacent to Dave’s Pub & Grill and the 1st and 10th hole tee-off.
The entrance to the resort is located 1 km from Grand Bend and the main strip that leads to the beach at Grand Bend. Main Street West runs from Ontario Street North and is the road that leads to the beach. The entire street is made up of summer seasonal shops that cater to the beach crowds of the summer months. Surf shops, burger joints, swimwear and ice cream stores are mostly closed in the off-season but stores with clothing can have some great deals on off-seasonal garments. In the summer months, this area is humming with activity. Grand Bend’s beaches are mostly white fine grained sand and run for kilometres around the bend.
Grand Bend has a few more interesting attractions. The Huron County Playhouse is a performing arts centre with two stages. The main stage is able to seat 700 people in its audience. Performers who have played in Mirvish productions as well as shows on Broadway have been in several productions that have played here.
Next door to the Playhouse, Dark Horse winery has started the planting of their new vineyard. One foot tall vines will need several years to grow before they are ready for wine making. Next summer, the company plans to launch using wines from Niagara until their vines have fully matured. This will be another great thing to visit once the buildings have been completed.
Located 20 minutes North from Oakwood Resort on Ontario Street North, one can find the picturesque community of Bayfield, located in Bluewater, Ontario. Bayfield is located on the Bayfield River that flows into Lake Huron. Along the river, close to the mouth of the river, a marina holds hundreds of boats that can easily access the Lake. The main street is lined with beautiful houses that have all been converted into shops.
After visiting the shops, we decided to grab a bite to eat. The Black Dog Village Pub & Bistro has a great menu which made it tough to make a decision. I decided on the Duck Confit Wings which I had never seen before. As you can imagine, they were delicious. Duck Confit manchons are so tender that the meat just falls off the bone. The wings were marinated in a medium spiced buffalo sauce. The pub also holds a great selection of local craft beers as well as a burger that has become an favourite for patrons of the restaurant.
I took some great shots with the car I had amongst the fall colours that I wanted to share as well. I took out the car I learned how to drive manual on, which was fun. It was great to see how much I, and the car, have improved over the years. The si version of the civic is more sportier with more of a focus on design aspects. I loved the red stitching on the black canvas interior. The car also has bucket seats, metal grate pedals, and a very smooth clutch.
While on the trip, we got a taste for almost all weather. The first day and a half, it was sunny and very nice out, the 2nd evening it got cloudy and the last day it rained until about noon. The resort can be enjoyed in all weathers. When it is raining you can swim in the pool or visit the hot-tub. You can also join folks at Dave’s Pub & Grill to watch a game. When it is sunny and warm, you can play golf, tennis, basketball and visit the beach. Even in the winter, Dave’s Pub & Grill and resort are used from Thursday-Sunday, where I hear a lot of hockey is played. Cross-country skiing is also popular in the winter months. The resort has special events and dinners throughout the year for holidays and seasons. This month there was a thanksgiving dinner on both the Saturday and the Sunday of the weekend.
For more information on Oakwood Resort, please visit their website.