Historic Muskoka resort welcomes a new golden era
MUSKOKA SUN - Celebrity sightings in Muskoka are nothing new.
The crystal lakes and rugged landscape are as appealing to the rich and famous as they are to more mainstream cottagers. It’s not unheard of to spot someone with a recognizable name cruising around the lakes. But there was a time and place in Muskoka’s history when seeing the world’s A-listers was almost commonplace.
Bigwin Inn on Lake of Bays opened its doors in 1920 and it didn’t take long for the resort to attract some very prestigious guests. Ernest Hemingway, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, Princess Juliana of the Netherlands and Clark Gable all spent time at Bigwin Island in the early part of the last century.
The times may have changed but Bigwin Island is still one of the most luxurious spots in Muskoka. Now called the Bigwin Island Golf Club, the prestigious venue underwent significant upgrades over the winter months to modernize the dining experience while still evoking the rich historical past of the island.
John Siddall, food and beverage manager at the golf club, said while renovating the property they felt it was important to maintain the island’s historical links.
“There’s a lot of tradition that comes with the property,” Siddall said. “A lot of our dining guests, both members and non-members, enjoyed using the property when it was a resort, not a golf club. I think there’s a lot of reminiscing from our guests.”
The extensive upgrades include an expanded bar inspired by the steam boat era of Muskoka, complete with rich mahogany craftsmanship. The historic dining room, called the Indian Head Room, has been restored and is now one of the largest banquet facilities in the region.
To keep up with the technological conveniences modern vacationers demand, the club has taken steps to ensure those with cellphones won’t have any difficulty taking calls on the green. New transmission equipment has been installed to improve reception and provide high speed internet.
Some of the biggest changes to the venue were saved for the Marine dining room. The Marine provides diners with spectacular views of Lake of Bays and contains a significant nod to the island’s past.
“We’ve designed an art gallery in the middle of the room and as you enter in the foyer there’s historical photographs of Bigwin island and Lake of Bays during its heyday,” said Siddall.
The kitchen also received upgrades. The already significant kitchen has been doubled in size and now contains the most up-to-date equipment in the industry. This allows the kitchen to service both the Indian Head and the Marine dining areas simultaneously.
To go along with the kitchen changes, the menu also received an overhaul. Bigwin members wanted a more casual dining experience so the club has changed things up to be able to cater to diners looking for everything from a chicken burger to fine cuisine. The after-five-p.m. formal menu includes items like duet of braised wild boar loin and belly, and truffle butter-poached lobster. For those looking for a more laid back dining experience, the anytime casual menu has more standard golf club food like nachos. Both menus use as much fresh, local product as possible.
Throughout the dining room renovation process, club managers knew it was important to pay tribute to the deep historical roots of their venue.
“A lot of our dining guests enjoyed the resort and stayed here as teenagers. Several of our dining guests worked the property at one time when they were younger,” Siddall said. “Many of them have been on the lake as part of second and third generation families and enjoy the component of the resort prior to it being shut down and re-opened as a golf club.”
For more information on the Bigwin Island Golf Club or to set up reservations for dinner, visit their website at www.bigwinisland.com.
Local food banks are feeling the pinch
MUSKOKA - The District of Muskoka is spending $10,000 of taxpayers’ money on food banks and supper clubs, but some say that’s not enough, especially during the winter months.