There is plenty to appreciate upon arriving at Canoe Bay, a high-end resort near Chetek, Wis.: the cozy reception lodge with its soothing waterfall outside the front door; the cheery staff member who led us to our Treetop Cottage via golf cart; and the stunningly appointed two-story cabin that would be our home for the weekend. But what took me back the most was the night sky with its display of bright stars undisturbed by city lights. My giddiness made it clear that it had been too long since I’d been outside a major metropolitan area, and the peaceful atmosphere on our cabin’s patio made it clear that if I wanted to unplug from city life, I had come to the right place.
If Canoe Bay, which is situated off a winding road about 40 miles north of Eau Claire, seems uniquely equipped to cater to fast-paced Chicagoans, that’s because it is: Founders Dan and Lisa Dobrowolski are former Windy City residents who eschewed city life to create this woodsy haven in a beloved location (Dan grew up fishing with his family on Lake Wahdoon, Canoe Bay’s lake). The property has been converted from a former summer camp to a premium adults-only oasis, affiliated with French luxury hospitality brand Relais & Châteaux. It encourages guests to completely unwind and check out from life outside the 300-acre country estate. With Wi-Fi access mostly confined to the resort’s public areas, The Lodge and The Inn, and limited cellphone reception, an unplugged state is easy to achieve and one you will appreciate once you settle in (I promise).
The resort is particularly suited for couples—all of the 27 accommodations, which range from charming and cozy 300-square-foot rooms in The Lodge (from $350 per night) to the 2,000-square-foot Edgewood Villa ($999 per night), are meant for only two guests, though the Hillside and Lookout cottages are side-by-side duplexes that would be a perfect fit for couples looking to vacation together. And, in a fun twist, there are two Escape tiny houses nestled on top of a hill, which allows couples to explore the microhousing trend. With a screened-in patio and expansive windows, the tiny houses are surprisingly spacious for 400 square feet (if you fall in love with the model, you can purchase your own by this designer for future camping excursions). Though there is relaxing common space at both The Inn and The Lodge (which has an extensive library of books, movies and board games), there is little space to mingle with other guests, which on our stay, seemed to suit everyone just fine: This is truly a romantic retreat suited to reconnecting with one’s partner.
In fact, the cottages themselves are so expertly appointed that you may choose to simply curl up all weekend and enjoy the snowy scenery through floor-to-ceiling windows while warm by the fireplace. The two-story Treetop cottage ($650 per night) felt truly like home with its plush king bed and expansive master bathroom with heated floors, a two-person steam shower and whirlpool tub, and its living area with a stone fireplace, large flat-screen television and wet bar. A breakfast of fresh pastries and fruit, included in your stay, is delivered each morning, and room service is available for lunch. And while there is not a spa on the property, you can opt for an in-room massage at any point to up the relaxation.
If you are looking for a bit more activity during your stay, there are plenty of options, even in the winter. The relaxed hiking trails and a frozen Lake Wahdoon (which in the summer and fall is the perfect kayaking spot) are available for snowshoeing (the resort has snowshoes to borrow during your stay), and cross-country ski enthusiasts can enjoy 20 miles of trails at the nearby Blue Hills, which is about 25 minutes away. Ice fishing with a trained guide is also on offer nearby.
Do make a point, whether you choose adventure or relaxation on your stay, to venture out for dinner: The prix-fixe three-course meal, with a different menu set each morning (dietary and allergy needs can be accommodated), was the star of our stay ($75 per person). Our meal began with a celeriac soup with pickled mustard seeds, celery heart leaves and apple brunoisette, followed by expertly prepared wild Alaskan Coho salmon with braised leeks, beluga lentils and garden herb aioli, and carrot cake with poached pineapple. The seasonal menu was amplified by ingredients from the on-site organic garden helmed by John Nissen (which you can walk through during your stay); the freshness, especially in the celeriac soup and garden herb aioli, made the dishes truly pop. For a next-level experience, book The Chef’s Table ($99 per person) to watch the experts at work and ask questions, or The Wine Cellar Table ($120 per person), where you can enjoy your meal and survey bottles from The Inn’s extensive wine list.
After two days, I found I could have easily stayed a third (a Thursday to Sunday trip would be the perfect stay), reveling in the little natural wonders—one day, we woke early in the morning to a family of deer frolicking outside our bedroom door—and the peaceful relaxation. It’s exactly what a city dweller needs to rejuvenate and return to the hustle and bustle. W16065 Hogsback Road, Chetek, Wis., 715.924.4594