Trout Point Lodge – 12 Reasons You’ll Love It
This is an update to a post on Trout Point Lodge I first up in 2016 and includes details from subsequent visits in 2017 and in 2019 under the new ownership of Patrick and Pamela Wallace.
Alison and I first published Exploring Nova Scotia in 1995 and followed it up with five more editions, the last in 2010. Although it’s still in print, we won’t be doing another edition as there are just too many other places in the world we want to explore. One of my great regrets was that we never got to include Trout Point Lodge in the book. While it was not open when we did the first three editions or so, once it was open we made many promises to get there, but something always came up. With this post I hope to rectify this oversight and explain why we both think that Trout Point Lodge may well be the top pick of any place to stay in Nova Scotia. Certainly, if you are looking for a true wilderness experience with a touch of luxury, then this must be the number one place on your list. But first, a couple of reasons about why we finally got to Trout Point Lodge in August, 2016.
The first reason is that I met the original owners, Charles Leary and Vaughn Perret wearing my other hat, the legal one. By coincidence I learned that they owned an apartment in Granada, Spain and to make a long story short, you can read about our stay at the apartment in this post. The second reason we went was to treat our friends Bob and Eileen MacDonald who were nice enough to let us stay at their home while ours was being renovated. Bob and Eileen are big night sky photography buffs and Trout Point Lodge was the first hotel in the world to be certified as a Starlight Hotel by the Starlight Foundation which has the backing of UNESCO. This was a very good match as we were arriving just at the tail end of the annual Perseid meteor showers.
Writing the original post at home a few days after the visit I can say it was an unqualified success, except for one tiny detail which I’ll discuss at the end of the post and one we corrected in 2017. Here are a dozen reasons why you will love your visit to Trout Point Lodge.
The Trout Point Lodge Setting
In the eyes of non-Canadians, Canada is viewed as having one of the highest ratios of wilderness versus developed land in the world. This perception is quite accurate, but if you asked most Canadians about wilderness areas, in all likelihood they would respond by mentioning the three arctic territories or northern Ontario or Quebec. I doubt many would equate Nova Scotia with having significant areas of wilderness. This would be an incorrect perception because Nova Scotia has many wilderness areas, the largest of which is Tobeatic Wilderness Area at almost 120,000 hectares or 300,000 acres. The Tobeatic as most people call it protects the headwaters of nine major rivers. Here is the description on the Provincial website as to why the Tobeatic is unique.
Often referred to as “The Tobeatic,” the heart of this wilderness is a semi-barren landscape, surrounded by more productive woodlands. Eskers, moraines, kettles, huge erratics, outwash plains and other glacial features are found throughout. Expansive wetlands, long stillwaters, fast flowing rivers and more than 100 lakes provide diverse aquatic habitats. Forest cover includes dense conifer and deciduous forests, including pockets of old-growth pine and hemlock. Most impressive are the old forests at Silvery Lake and Sporting Lake (also designated as Sporting Lake Nature Reserve). The extensive, old fire barrens are also striking.
In addition to the Tobeatic, Southwest Nova Scotia has been designated as the Southwest Nova Biosphere Preserve by UNESCO. A UNESCO biosphere preserve is the biological equivalent of a World Heritage Site. Tourists from all over the world, including Alison and me, make a point of visiting World Heritage Sites whenever possible and a similar situation is developing with these biosphere sites.
OK, I think I’ve established that Nova Scotia has some great wilderness, but what’s that got to do with Trout Point Lodge? Well, it just happens to be located almost on the edge of the Tobeatic Wilderness area and visitors can’t get any closer than this to experience all the area has to offer. However, there is much more than just being able to easily access wilderness that makes Trout Point’s location special. Charles and Vaughn spent a lot of time deciding the best location for their lodge and found it at a beautiful spot on the Tusket River. This is the view, up and downstream.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the Tobeatic and these views are about as typical as you can get – mixed forest, wonderful reflections and glacial erratics. What a great place to build a lodge.
The Trout Point Lodge
The actual lodge at Trout Point is a thing of beauty. As you would expect it is constructed almost entirely out of logs, some of which are so huge I assumed they had to have come from out west. However, I was informed that they did in fact come from New Brunswick. Inside and out the building conforms exactly to what most people would have in mind when they think ‘wilderness lodge’.
One detail I particularly appreciated was the use of a variety of different native Nova Scotian rocks and stone. Here are some examples starting with our famous grey granite.
Basalt from the shores of the Bay of Fundy.
Sandstone very similar to that from which many buildings in Halifax are constructed, including the Provincial Legislature.
And red sandstone from the Northumberland coast. Many fine buildings in Amherst are constructed from this soft rock as was this portion of the wall in our bedroom.
Almost all of the furniture in the lodge was custom made by a now deceased Acadian woodworker. Each piece is unique and made from different varieties of trees found in the area. The beds are especially interesting. This was ours in the Treehouse South room.
The Staff at Trout Point Lodge
The staff at Trout Point Lodge are roughly equally divided between Nova Scotians, most from the closest village of East Kemptville and those from the rest of the world. Many of the local employees have been here since day one and are very loyal to Trout Point and recognize its importance as a local employer in an area where jobs are scarce. The visiting staff come from places all around the world. When we pulled up on our initial visit a charming young man with a strange French accent appeared to take our bags and park the car. When I asked where he was from, he replied, “Reunion Island” and seemed pleased that I knew that it was a remote island in the Indian Ocean that is technically still part of France. During our stay we met others from France and elsewhere in Europe who were here specifically to hone their hospitality skills at luxury destinations.
All of the staff had two things in common. Firstly, they were all courteous and friendly without being obsequious and secondly, they could all do at least two or three different jobs. For example, the hiking guide doubled as bartender and later guitar player while the masseuse also oversaw the serving of breakfast. We sensed a genuine feeling of family between the staff which makes for an efficient and happy workplace and that feeling rubs off on the guests.
Trout Point Lodge – It’s Eco-Friendly
I always get a kick out of the signs you find in chain hotels that tell you that if you use the same towel twice you will be “Saving the Planet!” What B.S. However, at Trout Point Lodge they do take ecological sustainability seriously. They hold the highest ranking from the Green Key Global program that sets the universal rating system for tourism operators. Here is what they say about places that receive the 5 Green Key award.
“A hotel that exemplifies the highest standards of environmental and social responsibility throughout all areas of operations. The hotel employs cutting edge technologies, policies, and programs that set the international standard for sustainable hotel operation.”
I won’t go into the many other accolades Trout Point Lodge has received from other environmental groups (you can read them here), but suffice to say that if sustainability is important to you, then Trout Point Lodge should be on your radar.
I daresay a lot of people would make food the number one reason for visiting Trout Point Lodge. The cuisine here is superb and in keeping with the entry above, focused on sustainable foods. Wherever possible all ingredients are locally sourced, including foraged as well as harvested from the lodge’s gardens. The original owners were gourmet chefs with an international reputation. They hailed from Louisiana so it’s not surprising that they described their cooking at Trout Point as Atlantic Acadian with a huge emphasis on the freshest possible local seafood.
I am glad to say that the new owners, Patrick and Pamela are determined to live up to the high standards set by Charles and Vaughan. Executive Chef Andreas Preuβ is an Austrian who has over a decade of experience at some of the top culinary resorts in Austria and Germany as well as a stint as Chef de Partie for Saxony House at the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. Upon check-in you will be asked to choose your preferred time for dinner, which I think is an improvement on the previous policy of one sitting for all at 7:30. Dinner is from 6:30 to 8:00 and diners can choose from a three, four or five course fixed menu. On our recent visit we chose the four course option and this is what we got, starting out with one of Trout Point’s original signature cocktails before dinner. This is a Forest Whisper made from gin, lime and pine, although I have to admit the sprig is a fir and not a pine, but the taste was definitely piney and very, very good. I don’t usually veer too far from classic gin martinis, but I could drink a few of these no problem.
Before we began our four courses we were served quite a collection of amuse-bouche and a fantastically fresh bread loaf. Baking has always been a strong point at Trout Point. Notice how pieces of native slate are used as side plates.
Trout Point has been on the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence list since 2009, which is pretty amazing considering the trek these bottles must make just to get here in the first place. You can pay a little or a lot for wine here and we had no trouble finding a decently priced chardonnay to go with our meal.
This is the appetizer – quail thigh and leg with polenta, sunchoke, shallot, almonds and broccolini. It’s a complicated dish with a great variety of flavours and as good to eat as it is to look at.
Next comes the soup course. Our plates were delivered with a prawn, shiitake mushroom and grated carrot over which this emulsion of watercress was poured to create yet another delicious combination of flavours and aromas. Many people think watercress is something exotic you buy at places like Pete’s Frootique or Whole Foods, but it’s a common water plant in Nova Scotia and a member of the nasturtium family.
Here is the entree – arctic char accompanied by crispy potato, white asparagus (which is divine when harvested at the right time, as these obviously were), sea truffle and peaches. The arctic char was farmed in Shippegan, New Brunswick and ordinarily I avoid farmed fish, but I happen to know the story of this Shippegan enterprise through my law practice. I won’t say more about my involvement other than to share that this is a state of the art self-contained onshore operation that doesn’t use chemicals or antibiotics in their process. They don’t pollute the ocean and don’t pose a risk to wild species. With that in mind I had no guilt in enjoying this lovely dish.
Finally, the dessert of white and ruby chocolate with foraged berries and lemon. Again almost too pretty to eat, but ultimately, irresistible.
You’ll notice that none of the portions served is overly large so that we had no trouble getting through all four (five really) courses without feeling gorged, but definitely not underfed. Chef Andreas is one of Nova Scotia’s culinary masters and even if you are not interested in the wilderness aspect of Trout Point, it’s worth travelling here just to sample his cuisine.
Breakfast is no let down; there’s a daily specialty or two plus a buffet. On the morning we were there the specialty was eggs poached in Canadian bacon. No one will leave the table hungry.
For lunch, most people are on the go somewhere so you can order a picnic hamper with lots of goodies. There is also a new policy of providing a small room service menu if you want to dine in your room.
All in all the dining experience at Trout Point Lodge is as good as it gets considering you are miles away from anywhere. It’s actually pretty amazing what they are able to accomplish. If you are interesting in learning how they do it, Trout Point offers culinary and foraging lessons. The previous owners published The Trout Point Lodge Cookbook: Creole Cuisine From New Orleans to Nova Scotia in 2004 and you can still buy copies on Amazon. Perhaps in the future Chef Andreas will come out with his version.
The Tusket River
Even though the water on the Tusket River was well below seasonal levels on our first visit, we were still able to get out for a morning of kayaking. The stillness of the water and the quietude was almost eerie. The only sounds were the paddles in the water. There was lots of evidence of beaver lodges and one dam to be portaged, but no sign of these nocturnal workers. This is what it looked like from inside the kayak, always one of my favourite photographic perspectives.
To illustrate how calm it was see if you can tell what’s unusual about this picture.
It’s upside down. That’s the reflection you are seeing on the top.
If canoeing is your preference you can do that too. BTW use of kayaks, canoes and mountain bikes is included in the resort fee, unless you take a guide.
The pool below the lodge is great place to swim from and later try out the wood-fired hot tub while watching the river run by.
Or maybe the sauna.
Trout Point Lodge – Not as Remote as You Might Think
When coming from Halifax the drive along Highway 203 seems interminable, mainly because it’s in such terrible shape, and one can be forgiven for thinking you are really, really out there. However, Yarmouth and the many tourist sites along the southwest coast are not more than an hour away. On our second day we took Bob and Eileen to see the shipping captain’s mansions in Yarmouth and the Cape Forchu lighthouse. We enjoyed our picnic lunch under the gaze of the lighthouse nicknamed the ‘apple core’.
While there is a ton of things to do at Trout Point Lodge including, God forbid, relaxing, there are an equal number of things to do and see not that far away.
Nova Scotia (all of eastern North America for that matter), has only one species of hummingbird, the ruby-throated. While places like Costa Rica and Arizona attract birders looking to see multiple varieties of these tiniest of birds, I never thought of Nova Scotia as a hummingbirder location until I came to Trout Point Lodge. Sure we all have hummingbird feeders and with luck get a pair to settle in. At Trout Point I have never seen so many ruby-throated hummingbirds in my life. Looking down from the second story it looked like the air was buzzing with little pixies. Hummingbirds are notoriously aggressive with each other and these never stopped chasing each other. It was a very interesting diversion before dinner each night.
I was also pleased to see that they were not using the horrible commercial hummingbird food that contains red dye that’s actually toxic for the birds. Sugar and water is all that is required.
Peace and Quiet
Trout Point Lodge is just about the quietest place we’ve ever slept in. With the windows wide open we heard nothing but the hoot of an owl. I was told that when the river is higher you can hear the gurgle of water, but that would be just as soothing. What you don’t hear are sirens, screeching tires, overloud radios or the other audible urban distractions that ultimately lead to stress. This is a great place to decompress.
Following naturally from most of the other things that make Trout Point Lodge great is the fact that it is a very romantic place. Almost all visitors are couples. If you can’t get along with your better half here, you probably need a good divorce lawyer.
The Night Sky
This brings me to the twelfth and maybe the best reason why you should visit Trout Point Lodge. If you’ve lived in a city all your life and haven’t been in the woods much at night, then you’ve never really seen the night sky. It’s a startling revelation to people the first time they see how truly bright starlight can be and how colourful the night sky really is. Not surprisingly Trout Point has capitalized on its status as a dark sky destination and built a viewing platform especially for star gazing purposes. They have an array of telescopes and high power binoculars and highly trained people on staff who know how to use them.
Remember I said everything about our first visit was fabulous except for one little glitch. Well guess what? After a month of clear skies and great visibility, the clouds reappeared the two nights we were there. Bob was so enthusiastic he got up and went to the viewing platform for almost two hours in the middle of the night hoping it would clear up, but no such luck. So the very reason we took Bob and Eileen here did not materialize, through no fault of management.
However, we did return in 2017 for the Perseids with Bob and Eileen and did get to see not only the meteor showers, but a number of planets, galaxies, the Milky Way, various constellations and a first for Alison and me, a fireball. Fireballs are meteors that are so close that they look exactly like a ball of fire and you can actually hear them hissing as they burn up upon entering the Earth’s atmosphere. Our guide stated that it was only the second one he had seen that year. So our bad luck in 2016 was more than compensated for on our 2017 visit. Unfortunately on our 2019 visit we were back to poor visibility combined with a full moon that would have made stargazing almost impossible.
I can say this with certainty – we will return as often as we can to Trout Point Lodge, until we are physically unable to do so. Charles and Vaughan created a great thing at Trout Point Lodge and I am more than pleased that Patrick and Pamela are continuing in their footsteps.
Trout Point Lodge is the only Canadian member of the prestigious Small Luxury Hotels of the World group. Please read my posts on other members, the Lord Byron in Rome and the Palazzo Sant’Angelo Sul Canal Grande in Venice.