Opening today, May 1, 2015, the Drake Devonshire Inn is a boutique hotel in Wellington, Ontario and an ideal destination for a weekend getaway or a longer retreat in Prince Edward County. Nicknamed “Drake on the Lake,” the bed and breakfast is a sister of the Drake Hotel in Toronto. Both are owned by hotelier Jeff Stober and at least in part designed by John Tong. Like one might expect, the Drake Devonshire Inn exudes personality and style that is similar but more relaxed than that of its urban counterpart.
Built alongside Lake Ontario, the rural escape enjoys private access to the waterfront and pristine views. The woodsy location is nearby Ontario’s lake beaches, Sandbanks Provincial Park, and the Millennium Trail as well. Exploring the countryside, guests can walk, take a shuttle, or rent a cruiser bicycle from Drake. In the area, adventurers can bike, ski, fish, golf, practice yoga, and try any number of water sports. Quieter moments are also in store. Great Blue Heron sightings and photo opportunities loom just around the bend at Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory and Lavender Fields. There is seemingly always a memory waiting to be made.
The hotel draws inspiration from lakeside destinations high and low, ranging from Hamptons resorts to summer camp cafeterias. Hence, the design is rustic yet luxurious, preppy yet irreverent.
The hotel itself is a former iron foundry, originally built in 1860 and expanded and renovated several times in the years to come. Most recently, the estate was redesigned by +tongtong with the conservation specialists ERA Architects. The hotel draws inspiration from lakeside destinations high and low, ranging from Hamptons resorts to summer camp cafeterias. Hence, the design is rustic yet luxurious, preppy yet irreverent. The facade retains classic A-frames and naturally finished timber cladding, for example, while the interior goes a little wild with colorful details such as green leather seats and a pop art mural by Faile. Inside, the floral patterns and the gemstone motif of Kirsten Hassenfeld’s Cabin Fever contrasts with exposed brickwork and timber. Each space is textured with multiple materials, from hardwood floors to inlaid carpeting.
Nice and small-scale, the Drake Devonshire Inn contains eleven rooms and two suites. Options include the Stargazer crash pad with a skylight, a variety of more spacious guest rooms, Creekside balcony rooms, the family-friendly two-bedroom Loft, and the Owner’s Suite. All of the rooms are decorated with MacAusland virgin wool throws and an artisan doll, for a look that’s so twee it’s creepy. Featuring modern furniture, custom furniture, and original pieces of art, the rooms are both comfortable and design-forward. In most rooms, there is also a desk with Drake’s signature writing utensils and, in the Foundry guest room, there are antiques from the Brimfield Antique show. The Owner’s Suite is complete with a fireplace and dining table in addition to a unique mix of plush furniture and 3D artwork. Best of all, the spacious rooftop suite has a glazed wall and a private patio overlooking Lake Ontario from the hotel’s highest vantage point.
The Drake Devonshire Inn welcomes guests to try their “lake-to-table” dishes on the premises or to take a “gourmet brown bag” lunch to-go. Led by Chef Matt DeMille, Drake’s casual restaurant serves comforting entrées such as fresh fish and chips and vegetarian bucatini with squash and dandelion. Appetizers range from local mushrooms sautéed with hatcho miso vinaigrette to pimento cheese fries. Breakfast means waking up to locally roasted coffee and nosh such as blueberry scones with clotted cream and yogurt parfait with stewed fall fruit. Wines include the likes of local Hinterland’s Borealis sparkling, Vintner’s Daughter unoaked chardonnay, and pinot grigio from Three Dog Winery, plus a short list of imports. Beers run the gamut from Ontario’s Mill Street Organic Lager and Barley Days Harvest Gold Pale Ale to international favorites such as Stella and Guinness. Curated by the bartenders on staff, the list of cocktails is extensive yet easy to peruse. Dessert menus offer solid sweets to the tune of a blood orange tart with pistachio cream and caramelized white chocolate and sips like affogato, cognac, and port.
After a boozy brunch, visitors to Wellington will likely want to wander downtown, where antique shops, art galleries and boutiques await. Heading out with suggestions from the hotel concierge, travelers can go behind the scenes at art studios, stamp and sample vintage, tour the local distillery and the cider mill, and venture out on a sightseeing excursion.
Back at the Drake, there are several venues worth checking out as well. The inn’s public spaces include a porch, patio, and pavilion; cedar wood bleachers, a fire pit, and a courtyard garden; indoor and outdoor bars with fireplaces; a lobby general store; a panoramic dining hall, a modernist living room, and a game room called the Glass Box. Throughout the year, these areas showcase art exhibitions that are open to the community and host both cultural and private events. The current art show, Plein Air, scatters outdoor sculpture along the indoor-outdoor nooks and the grounds. Upcoming programming includes Mother’s Day Brunch, figure drawing classes, open mic nights, and sommelier talks, events which strive to appeal to tourists and locals alike. Additionally, the sections of the hotel can be booked for weddings, meetings, and parties. The attractions are many at this idyllic escape.
Photography by Nikolas Koenig