Throwback Thursday: The Opinicon, the Grande Dame of the Rideau Great Once More

I’m back! Life has been busy as I scramble to finish one project and start new ones. In the midst of all this, I decided to take my husband to one of his old haunts as my anniversary present to him. Never did I expect mid-September to be hotter and sunnier than summer. The bonus? The setting is the inspiration for my new book, Same Time Next Year, which you can follow here on my blog each Tuesday as part of Tuesday Tales.

lockThe Opinicon Resort and Dining is a resort at Chaffe’s Lock, Lock number 37 of the 45 locks that make up the Rideau Canal. The resort is more than a hundred years old and strated out as a fishing retreat for men. If you want more information about the canal itself, follow this link. For more on the resort or to book a visit your self,

Back in July, when John and I heard that the resort had been bought and reopened, we drove to Elgin to see what changes had been made. For John, it was a trip down memory lane since his family had owned a cottage on Indian Lake when he was just a kid, and he had fond memories of the place with its friendly owners and staff. He would take his boat or his bike down there to get groceries for his mother and maybe an ice cream treat or a soda for himself.

Twenty years ago, he decided we should stay there and rented a cottage for our anniversary weekend. It was a perfect place for romance–just the two of us, no television, no friends, family, or phone calls, just time to reconnect and remember why we’re still together. Once I saw the renovated resort, I decided it was this year’s perfect gift.  While the cabins are still television free zones, there’s WI-Fi, so we were able to connect with others and keep up with the news, but all in all, the place is a romantic retreat.

At first glance, the outside of the resort looks the same, but the critical eye will notice all of the new patios and other upgrades, like new boards replacing those that were weak and a fresh paint job. The flower gardens were lush and well maintained, too, and the air is fresh and clean. You feel rejuvenated instantly.

Room 1 (2)We arrived around 3:00 pm, but unlike in the old days where check-in was in the annex, we parked the car and followed the sidewalk to the veranda steps and opened the iconic, red door.

check-inThis is a returning guest’s first look at how the main building has been repurposed. Gone is the narrow hallway leading to tiny rooms on the main level. The impressive dining room is on the right and directly in front is the new modern check-in counter, manned by friendly, helpful staff. A curved staircase leads  to a bar upstairs where you can play pool, chess, or even table top video games. If you prefer, you can sit, read the paper, or look out over the grounds and the lake, an area that will no doubt be popular next year when the new pool and cabana project is complete. Another reason to climb the staircase might be to attend a private function in the large party room people can rent. The facility seems to be a well-used wedding venue. Ezra

To the left of the desk is another surprise. Where the rooms used to be are beautiful, modern washrooms and double doors leading leading to  a gorgeous, well-stocked pub.

We spent a portion of both days we were there at the pub. While all of the staff were accommodating, Ezra, the server who most often saw to our needs, was fantastic. He talks about the resort and the plans the new owner has for it with an enthusiasm that’s contagious. In this picture, he’s the one on the right, working diligently to make my wine spritzer, incidentally, one of the best I’ve ever had.

The pub is the only place where you can watch television, so after dinner Monday night, guess who watched football? Giants lost.

The pub serves meals both when the dining room is open and when it’s closed. You can eat inside or out on the veranda. On Sunday we sat on the veranda, but Monday, when the mercury topped 30 degrees Celsius, we opted for the air conditioned comfort inside.

After checking in, we drove over to our cabin, BEECH. It’s located next to the modern children’s play area, complete with a mini zip line, and while there were a few kids there early on, by five, they were gone.


Parking isn’t an issue since there is specific parking for each cabin. Ours was right in front. We climbed the veranda steps and opened the door to out short-term little slice of heaven. The two-room cabin, one of them a spacious modern bathroom, was an open-concept room. There were six windows for natural light. To the right, a massive king-size bed, with bright and immaculate linen awaited us. The larger part of the room held an electric fireplace, which we did use when the temperature dropped in the evenings, two cozy chairs, and a leather couch that doubles as a pullout bed should the need arise. On the far wall, that piece of furniture with the green doors contains a mini fridge. On the top of it sits a new single-serve coffee maker, and they supply the coffee and cream.

Our first order of business after settling in was to take a walk around the property. We stopped at the marina to enquire about renting a motorboat for the following day and trekked through the woods. Along the path, clearly marked to keep guests safe, we found 2 decks where you can sit and admire the beauty of the lake as well as what could be a stage for plays or a gorgeous spot for a back to nature wedding.

After our walk, we adjourned to our deck for a drink before dinner. Isn’t my hubby a cutie? The dining room is divided into three areas, two porches where you can see outside during the day, and a central area. Since John and I like to dine late, we had an 8:00 pm seating. By then most of the early diners were gone. There is something about crisp, clean, white linen that denotes class, and all of the meals we had there were excellent. Prices were more than competitive and the quality and service superb.

The following day, after the best night’s sleep I’ve had in ages, we enjoyed another stunning, surprisingly hot mid-September day. Following breakfast, we rented one of the resort’s motorboats, no speed demons here, and went through the lock to spend an enjoyable five hours riding around Indian Lake, Clear Lake, and Newboro Lake. When we came back through the lock, we drove around Lake Opinicon to Davis Lock and back again. A wonderful day. Here and there, signs of fall could be seen in amongst the greenery. We were lucky enough to see a heron catch a fish when we stopped at the Newboro lock to stretch our legs.

If you are looking for someplace to go and you’re in the area, I highly recommend the Opinicon. If you can stay for a few days, it’s the perfect place to rejuvenate and rest. The restaurant is open to diners from everywhere, but make sure you make a reservation especially on the weekends. While the resort is seasonal, there are plans afoot to keep the dining room and pub open as long as they can.  Guests get a 15% discount on anything purchased at the resort including, meals, drinks, ice cream and even the boat rental. Do check out the resort for yourself. We loved it and plan to return. When I signed the guest book, I scanned the entry above mine. Like Twyla, the heroine in my new book, that person had returned fifty years later. How cool was that?

To the new owners, congratulations on polishing a gem to perfection. Best wishes for continued success and we look forward to visiting again and seeing what new marvels you create for the Grande Dame of the Rideau Canal. This is without a doubt a five-star resort!



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