GETAWAY: Hidden gem in Haliburton

Autumn is the perfect time to pack up the car and spend a weekend away.

Why not explore a little hidden pocket of Ontario and point your GPS to picturesque Haliburton and the Pinestone Resort? The pretty community known as the Haliburton Highlands is tucked just south of Algonquin Park, along Kashagawigamog Lake.  A few hours drive north of Toronto, take the route off the big highways that winds around the southern tip of Lake Simcoe and make an experience of the journey, with lots of quaint towns and pretty points to stop along the way.

During autumn this is one of the best spots in Ontario to experience the changing of the colours, and the transformation is celebrated each year with Colourfest, when the Village of Haliburton puts on a celebration for all the senses.

Home for my visit to the area is Pinestone Resort, a cottage country resort boasting the service of the grand old hotels matched to first class amenities in an unspoiled woodland setting.

 The resort's rooms are divided amongst the main building and chalets and cottages dotted along the edge of the property's 18-hole golf course. All rooms are finished in a casual, rustic style ““ we are on a country retreat after all  but have been outfitted with luxury pillow-top mattresses and linens to ensure a perfect sleep.

I check into a one-bedroom villa that overlooks the 1st fairway.  The villas are tucked into the trees, just beyond the main building, and pine needles crunch underfoot on the way to the front door. That distinctive sound is all I need to hear to make city woes long forgotten.

The accommodations are spacious and comfortable, and complete with mini fridge, microwave and sink with ample counter space. Perfect to stock the fridge and make popcorn for a late night movie. Beyond the sunken living room and full dining room, doors open up to a small patio made perfectly complete with a pair of Muskoka chairs.

A quick unpack and its time to check out the resorts main dining room: The Heatherwood. The restaurant is a combination of fine dining and true north décor. It's casual enough to go to dinner in jeans, but food selection and preparation is first class. This particular night includes chef's specials of mushroom risotto and lamb to round out a menu of steak, chicken, seafood and other crowd pleasers. The Heatherwood's award-winning desserts are not to be missed, making a perfect end to the evening looking across the activity pond as dusk settles.

The quaint Village of Haliburton is just a few minutes drive from Pinestone Resort. Here you'll find a great way to spend an afternoon, strolling along the charming main street ducking in and out of shops and art galleries.

In fact, the area is a bit of an arts haven with a large number of working artists with studios open to the public, and the well-respected Fleming College School of the Artsjust moments away.

The School of the Arts is housed in an architecturally stunning building and offers week-long art courses in painting, photography, sculpture, jewellery making and much more. Right next to the college is the Haliburton Sculpture Forest, a unique collection of sculptures by Canadian and international artists. Stroll through the well-marked trail and experience each installment as the artist envisioned it placed amongst the trees. Admission is free during spring, summer and fall to experience 21 artistic creations.

Also not to be missed for those with artistic flair, is the Haliburton County Studio Tour. See the art along with the artists who create it, in their own studios on this self-guided tour of more than 28 artisans.

I'm not much of a golfer (or one at all) but Pinestone Resort features an 18-hole, par 71 golf course measuring 6,024 yards, that is lain across rolling hills and woodland that often offers an excellent chance to view deer and other wildlife. The course was built in 1974 and designed by prominent golf course architect Jack Davison. Looking at the course from the safety of my Muskoka chair, it seemed just too scenic to miss, and one of my gracious hosts took on the challenge. It really is a lovely course to play and the deer were in fact peeking out from the brush as promised.

After all the strain of missing the ball, a visit to the spa seemed long overdue. Pinestone has recently completely renovated and re-staffed the resort spa. The space is warm and welcoming, and offers a full range of services including hair styling and makeup application. Indulge in a post-game massage (I did) and a pedicure in the most plush pedi chairs you've ever seen. Facilities also include an indoor pool and sauna.


October 1, 2011
Vibrant street displays, exciting entertainment including fiddlers and local performers, vintage car show and parade, OPP Golden Helmets Precision Motorcycle Show, barn dance in the park, kids events, contests, prizes, clowns, buskers, corn roast, pancake breakfast and more.

Haliburton County Studio Tour
October 1, 2 and 8, 9, 2011
24th annual celebration of art and fall colours. More than 30 artists welcome the public into their studios to see the creative process at work. Look for the Loon signs to guide you on this self-guided driving tour. Full colour brochures, complete with driving map, are available throughout the county, or by visiting the website.

5th Annual Haliburton International Film Festival
November 5-7, 2011
Showcasing a diverse selection of fine Canadian and International films, HIFF is a fabulous fun-filled weekend of movies, film industry experts and special guests, local 48-Create short films, and a whole lot more. Both VIP passes and individual movie tickets available.