As motel names go, it doesn’t get any more wanderlust than this.
With its whimsical play on words, Somewhere Inn Calabogie conjures the image of a restless traveller serendipitously discovering a peaceful place seemingly in the middle of nowhere and certainly miles from the rat-race. Here, the name suggests that things like what time it is, or where you are, don’t matter all that much. In fact, if someone asks, you can simply say without a lie that you are somewhere in Calabogie and hope they take the hint: you don’t wish to be found.
When the name came up at a brainstorming session, Joel Greaves and Devon Vaillancourt–the couple who recently purchased and renovated the former hunting lodge–jumped all over it.
“We loved how it captured the essence of this little town you may never have heard of, especially Toronto people who may not know the Ottawa Valley well,” says Greaves.
The story of Somewhere Inn is almost as dreamy as its name. Both husband and wife grew up spending time at their family cottages, and so, when the opportunity to purchase a Muskoka cottage came up in 2017, they saw it as a way to get back to their childhood days while supplementing their incomes as an Airbnb rental. Their initial foray into hospitality was an overwhelming success.
Then, after 12 years in the corporate world, Joel decided to leave southern Ontario city life to pursue his passion for the hospitality industry and the outdoors. They found the Calabogie property in fall 2020 (complete with its original 1970s vibe) and renovations were in full swing by March 2021, ahead of its August soft-launch.
“We loved the idea of preserving something old versus starting something new,” says Joel, adding that he’s always felt a connection to old motels not for what they are in the moment, but for what they could be.
And what this one has become is spectacular.
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Designed to ensure that when you roll your knapsack off your shoulders, the stress goes with it, the space is inspired by modern Scandinavian cabins backdropped by the Canadian wilderness. With interior design and branding by local businesses Westgrove and indeks respectively, each of the 11 rooms are breathtaking. Some suites have luxurious freestanding tubs, but all boast plump Endy mattresses and cozy gas fireplaces while reflecting the glory of the surrounding landscape.
“We approached the design based on how we wanted people to feel,” says Westgrove co-owner Keri MacLellan. “Warm, taken care of, part of a strong community, and immersed in the natural environment.”
Sourcing from local businesses and makers means rooms are outfitted with homegrown art and furnishings, while the lobby plays double-duty as a bottle shop stocked with Ontario craft beers, natural wines and snacks. The Inn is currently establishing partnerships with local food trucks to expand its offering.
"A spirit of true collaboration is at the crux of the project," says Vaillancourt. “Simply put,” she adds, “we’re just a bunch of friends trying to create something beautiful and special.”
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Nestled “somewhere” in the Ottawa Valley amongst ski hills and hiking trails, and directly across from Calabogie Lake, the Inn is positioned in a nature-lover’s paradise. Although it sees guests of all ages, most are, like the owners, millennials. Not surprisingly, the couple often fields questions about how they summoned the courage to make the leap from corporate city folks to country-loving moteliers.
“My favourite day to work is Sunday because that’s when most guests check-out," says Greaves. "I love discussing the Inn with people. And it’s very rewarding when guests express gratitude for creating the space.”
In creating Somewhere Inn Calabogie, Greaves says it was important to “bottle up the feeling you have when you go to the cottage.” The couple recognizes that not everyone has access to “the great Canadian cottage experience” and hopes their little Inn provides a taste of it.
Of course, ensuring the Canadian cottage experience lives on means protecting its future. As part of the 1% for the Planet pledge, a portion of the Inn’s revenue is donated to the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust to preserve the land.
Somewhere Inn Calabogie Fast Facts
Address: 5254 Calabogie Rd, Calabogie, ON K0J 1H0
$-$$: From $220 CAD
Amenities: Pet-friendly, fire pits, hammocks, outdoor lounge, beach access, lawn games.
Get there: Somewhere Inn Calabogie is located approximately one hour by car from Ottawa, three hours from Montreal and four hours from Toronto.
All images courtesy of Somewhere Inn Calabogie