Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home – especially when a global pandemic puts a major damper on international travel.
And that’s made Sunny Montgomery’s latest tourism industry foray all the more attractive to many Ontario residents.
Many in the travel industry will remember Montgomery for a lengthy tourism industry career that included working as a travel agent and then being with American Airlines sales staff before next heading the Puerto Rico Tourism Corporation’s Toronto-based Canadian office.
Montgomery later returned to her hometown of Peterborough, Ont., where she opened the Stillwater on the Lake Bed & Breakfast, which has, among others, been attracting many who over the past 16 months have been leery of travelling outside Ontario’s borders because of coronavirus concerns.
“Our main market is Ontario,” Montgomery reports “Ontarians are desperate to get away to cottage country. Stillwater on the Lake Bed & Breakfast is a boutique property offering guests an intimate, two-suite lakeside property with no crowds, no stress, complete privacy, luxurious accommodations and fabulous gourmet breakfasts. People are longing for private, stress-free, calming accommodations. We’ve married luxury with a rustic, country setting. We have guests that visit us every year and we even have a local market from the Peterborough area.”
Guests will find the likes of a hot tub, Wifi, and daily breakfast.
Guest units provide the likes of bathrobes, hair dryers, coffee-makers,a marble bathroom, and a fireplace.
Kayaks, pedal boats and canoes are available for use on fronting Chemong Lake.
Montgomery says Peterborough and the surrounding Kawarthas region offer a fresh take on nature and adventure.
“It roots you in simple moments and real connections and is a place with rugged wilderness as Canadian as the Canadian Shield,” she says. “It offers visitors an opportunity to to embrace the quintessential Canadian cottage experience. With over 250 lakes and rolling farmlands, Peterborough & the Kawarthas are woven together with the ever-flowing energy of the Trent-Severn Waterway. The region is steeped in history and bursting at the seams with creativity. It allows you to connect with nature and reconnect with what matters most in a simple, relaxing environment. Peterborough & the Kawarthas supports everything local with a ‘buy-local’ and ‘farm-to-table’ approach.”
Hiking, cycling, canoeing, boating, fishing and camping are some of many summer activities that await Stillwater on the Lake Bed & Breakfast guests. Winter sees the region offer endless trails for hiking, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing, and ice fishing, and ice skating under the Peterborough Liftlocks and winter camping are also available.
The enterprising Montgomery also decided to reach out to those wanting to tie the knot and in October 2018 started marketing intimate elopements.
“We designed all-inclusive packages to encompass our breathtaking lakeside gardens, overnight accommodations in a luxurious suite, an officiant to perform the ceremony, a photographer and of course our legendary breakfasts. Canadians love ‘all-inclusives.’ The idea was to convince couples that Stillwater on the Lake could offer a romantic alternative to a large ‘production’ wedding. At that time, the perception of an elopement was of a couple running away to get married in secret for whatever reason. We wanted to change that perception and offer elopements in a beautiful environment so that couples could focus their attention completely on each other and the ceremony and not have the many stressors of a large wedding.
“I decided to take an ‘officiant’s’ course in 2018 so that I could perform the ceremonies. It just made sense to keep everything in-house and it has turned out to be the most satisfying part of the initiative for me. In 2019 (our first year of marketing elopements,) we hosted 35 elopements, in 2020 that number increased to 80 elopements and in 2021 we’re already at 115. 2022 is already booking and I don’t know what to expect in terms of numbers since many of our 2020/2021 bookings were couples who had to cancel their large wedding and chose to elope because of the uncertainty of COVID.
“The feedback I’m getting from many couples is that COVID offered them an excuse or a ‘way-out’ of hosting a large ‘production’ wedding that was being driven by family pressure. Many couples are starting to realize that they don’t want to spend $30-50 thousand and up on a wedding when they could use that money towards a down payment on a house. A typical elopement for us is a couple who have been living together and may or may not already have children, it’s also couples who have been previously married and don’t want another big wedding and it’s same-sex couples who want a beautiful, private location to express their love and their commitment to one another. We also have a ‘ceremony-only’ package that enables couples who were considering getting married at city hall to get married in a breathtakingly beautiful setting at Stillwater on the Lake instead.”
A lakeside gazebo can be suitably decorated for weddings.
Stillwater on the Lake has consistently been awarded the Tripadvisor Traveller’s Choice award for the best 25 Inns/Bed & Breakfasts in Canada and in 2019 and 2020 it received the Travellers’ Choice Best of the Best Award – Tripadvisor’s highest honour awarded to only 1% of hotels worldwide.
Montgomery credits her travel industry background for much of her Peterborough venture’s success.
“I think that you could say that my entire travel and tourism background prepared me very well for operating Stillwater on the Lake,” she says. “I was fortunate in that my 35 years in the travel industry enabled me to experience the best of the best in terms of hospitality, customer service, outstanding quality and luxurious accommodations. I designed Stillwater with that criteria in mind. We are very grateful for our resounding success and for the hundreds of 5* reviews that we have received from many satisfied customers.”