The Retreat

Overlooking Lake Ontario, sitting on the Northumberland Hills and a quick drive from Cobourg, Ont., Northumberland Heights Wellness Retreat & Spa is just far enough away from the hustle and bustle of Toronto to feel disconnected, but close enough that you can jump off Highway 401 and get your zen on. The building has been in this location for more than 100 years, but the new resort—opened at the end of 2018—has added even more to Northumberland. Arti Joshi, who oversaw the design and rebuild of the inn with her husband, Nitin, says the lush forested area is meant to start relaxing you before your arrival. “You should feel calmer and start slowing down on the drive into the resort; that’s when you really start taking in nature,” she says.

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Check-in isn’t your average hotel experience—you’re welcomed with a drink and a cool or hot towel (depending on the time of year), and if you’ve booked a package, you’re gifted a Northumberland Heights tracksuit. (The comfortable sweatshirt and pants should make you feel at home and remember your stay when you head back after your time away.) Walk into the lobby and you’ll immediately feel the ambience of the resort—there’s tranquil spa music playing and the air smells of essential oils (a blend designed specifically for the hotel). You’ll come across a water feature and, to the left, the fireplace. “It’s meant to be a sensory journey when you enter—all your senses will be taken care of.” Arti says her inspiration for the spa and hotel came from five elements—earth, water, fire, air and ether. “The first time we walked into the inn, before the renovations, it was disconnected from outside—there was no nature, no beauty from the outdoors. It was old and dingy. So the concept I came up with was to use lots of wood, keep a rustic feel, and bring nature indoors.”

Nitin says the resort is about all things wellness and luxury. “Wellness and luxury go hand in hand. We want guests to feel connected in mind, body and soul. You should feel comfortable but with a sense of indulgence.” The two-storey resort is an extravagant 25,000 square feet on 80 acres. It has 12 spacious, beautifully appointed rooms, two spa suites where you can book a romantic in-room massage, an exquisite spa, a fine-dining restaurant, banquet hall, lounge and bar. There’s also a yoga studio, outdoor hot tubs and patios (you’ll love sitting outside, book in hand, taking in the view), plus walking trails and a pretty pond.

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The Joshis hail from India, and Arti says her homeland influenced the design of not only the spa (they offer authentic Ayurvedic therapies) but in the decorative additions (bed linens and wall art) throughout the lounge and bedrooms especially. “Not only did we want to connect with nature, we wanted guests to get a sense of eastern hospitality. Canada is so diverse—we celebrate that in the decor (we had pieces custom-made in India to add warmth to our rooms) and our menu, which features international cuisine.”

Chef Liam Potvin is at the helm in the kitchen. He’s friendly and his food is inviting—just the traits you look for in a head chef, Arti says. His menus are creative and he doesn’t just serve three meals a day—he also prepares a lovely high tea with all the fixings. The dinner menu features a mix of cuisines celebrating various cultures, and includes spring rolls, schnitzel, squash ravioli and an Indian platter. He also does cooking demonstrations at the 100-year-old butcher block in the front of the restaurant, making an interactive experience for guests.

Spa and Wellness Activities

The namaste vibe obviously extends to the world-class spa and the wellness offerings. Yoga and meditation are offered daily, but if you’re feeling like taking a break from your regular practice, you’re encouraged to enjoy the day at your own pace. “We cater to various types of wellness, so you can walk around the pond, meditate or simply relax in the lounge and read a book. Wellness means different things for different people. For some people it’s going running, and for others it’s having a glass of wine. You can do both here,” says Nitin.

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The spa offers Ayurvedic treatments, including abhyanga, a traditional ayurvedic massage that features warm herb-infused oils, and kizhi-key-jhee, which helps stimulate the stress points of the body to relieve pain. The caviar facial uses pure caviar and phytoextracts to improve skin’s elasticity and texture, and the “luminous C & Sea” is perfect for dehydrated and sunburned skin, using freeze-dried seaweed to make your face look brighter. The water-lily soothing body wrap uses the European white lily, symbolizing freshness.

Both the spa and resort encourage rest and relaxation, and offer the opportunity to reconnect with your inner self, Arti says. “Leave your worries and stress behind. Enjoy pampering, delicious food and a welcoming atmosphere.”

Northumberland Heights Wellness Retreat & Spa
795 Northumberland Heights Rd,
Cobourg, Ont.
905-372-7500