Located about 140 kilometres north of Halifax, Nova Scotia, a 5-star golf and leisure resort called Fox Harb’r sits on an enviable piece of real estate. Its 18-hole golf course offers spectacular views of the ocean. The property boasts hundreds of acres of forestry. When the tides are out, the resort’s private slice of the Northumberland Shore is composed of 5 kilometres of partially sandy beaches.
The architectural planning here was clever, as all facilities cater to the resort’s best asset: the land itself. The junior Olympic pool is surrounded by large windows that recede to a vaulted ceiling, offering open, airy views of the coastline and meticulously manicured grounds. Each treatment room of the on-site spa has a window, allowing natural light to create a soothing atmosphere. And a 4885-foot private airstrip on the premises ensures that affluent guests arriving in jets are treated to a bird’s eye view upon arrival, allowing them to fully appreciate the scope of the property and its facilities.
Ron Joyce (better known as the co-founder of the Canadian Tim Hortons franchise) was clearly onto something when he purchased this piece of land, a stone’s throw from his hometown of Tatamagouche, in ’87. He devised a plan to turn it into a haven for “luxury without pretension”, and the resort has been no stranger to high-profile guests; Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, George W. Bush, Wayne Gretzky, and Prince Edward have all visited. And for you golf lovers out there who like to follow in the footsteps of pros: yes, Tiger Woods has played a few rounds here.
Fox Harb’r recently opened its doors to several Toronto-based journalists in a tourism push towards wealthy urbanites in search of a weekend getaway. While many of us usually think that the words ‘resort’ and ‘down south’ go hand in hand, it’s worth noting that this northeastern resort has done a good job in making use of all that the region has to offer: sporting clays, five stand and pheasant wing shooting, fly fishing in one of the fully stocked trout ponds, a yacht charter, outdoor tennis courts, kayaking, mountain biking, horseback riding, outdoor volleyball, and—surprisingly, for the climate—a private vineyard.
When approaching Fox Harb’r by land, guests are initially greeted by a large wrought-iron gate – not to keep people out, we were assured, but to lend some grandeur to a visitor’s first impressions. The resort is open to locals, in keeping with Joyce’s initial vision of developing this land as a way of giving back to his community.
The hospitality I experienced during my stay was impeccable, down to the last thoughtful detail. For instance, several guests arrived by shuttle long after the kitchen had closed, and the staff took it upon themselves to prepare a light meal in the event that they were hungry upon arrival. This was a thoughtful gesture that demonstrated the staff’s commitment to fine customer service. I personally would have liked to see an after-hours café on the premises for those of us who like to grab a coffee or energy bar at our leisure, without having to inconvenience staff (however accommodating they may be).
The kitchen, run by Executive Chef/Sommalier Shane Robilliard, features a seasonal menu with a focus on high quality local ingredients – Atlantic lobster and smoked salmon, Nova Scotia wild berries, and fresh maple syrup tapped from local trees. With a certified on-staff horticulturist who tends to the grounds and expansive greenhouse, the kitchen also has access to farm-to-table herbs and greens that have been grown right on the property.
A personal favorite was the spa, Dol-άs (a Scottish term for “escape”). Here I received an excellent massage from a Registered Massage Therapist. For a resort that totes golf as its main attraction, it’s great to have personnel with advanced knowledge of the body’s muscles – which, let’s face it, can get fatigued after a round (or two) on the course. The spa is attached to a fitness centre that is somewhat small, but then again, this isn’t the sort of destination you visit to stay inside and be a gym rat. It does have what you need to get a quick and effective workout into your day.
Another favorite was the clay shooting, which I quite enjoyed. For those unfamiliar with the pastime, it’s essentially a kind of target practice; clay disks are fired into the air and the participant must try to shoot them. An instructor was present to guide us in technique and strategy, and there’s an impressive amount of discipline required. This was my first time clay shooting and after my experience in Fox Harb’r, I’d definitely partake in the sport again.
Fox Harb’r is, at heart, a golfing destination, though it’s designed with variety in mind. The outdoor activities and amenities make this an ideal retreat for golf lovers who want to bring the whole family along. (And no one needs to feel guilty!) That being said, the course is also meant to attract corporate events and quick visits, with a Par 3 golf course that serves as a smaller companion to the 18-hole. The resort offers a “Stay And Play” Package, which includes 3 days of unlimited golf with oceanfront accommodations. The private airstrip also makes it possible for the most die-hard golfers among us to drop in on a quick day trip, play a round, and jet into the sunset.
The accommodations themselves are new and comfortable, with exterior styling that compliments the landscape, including green rooftops and plenty of balconies – perfect for relaxing with a glass of the local wine, Jōst, at the end of the day.
Admittedly, I would have liked to see more upscale finishes in the interiors. As a designer myself, there are particular things that I tend to look for when it comes to luxury, and certain elements were not to my taste. I think that the high-end clientele that frequents these kinds of establishments find beauty in thoughtful details. Fox Harb’r didn’t have that extra finesse in some of its amenities, the sort one would expect of an upscale resort; for instance, there was no vanity mirror in my room and the hairdryer was miniature.
There is, however, the option for high end design with Fox Harb’r’s vacation homes. For those in search of a more long-term relationship with the area, the resort offers many ownership opportunities. The grounds of the resort contain a variety of fully-serviced lots, up to a half acre in size, upon which a buyer can build a custom vacation home. With the option of sea, golf, or vineyard views, buyers can choose to either work independently or with the resort’s design team to create a custom slice of paradise – including large fireplaces, granite counters, custom wood cabinetry, and private decks.
A vacation at Fox Harb’r is certainly an alternative getaway to the beachside resorts of Turks and Caicos or the surfing paradise of Hawaii. For the golf fanatics of the world, Fox Harb’r offers a beautiful oceanside course and outdoor activities that provide variety to the daily tee-off.