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A house in the country

Ste. Anne’s Spa holds its own in the rolling hills of southern Ontario

If Ste. Anne’s Spa had a motto, it would be self-sufficiency. Sitting on a 400-acre property, the destination spa supplies its kitchen with beef from its own cattle herd, produce grown in its gardens and honey from its own hive of bees. The Ste. Anne’s Bakery makes its own gluten-free baked goods and spa guests drink spring water drawn from a natural aquifer on the property. The spa also carries its own skin care line made with herbs and flowers plucked from its land.

Ste. Anne’s Spa is situated in the heart of cottage country, nestled in the little hamlet of Grafton, Ontario. Originally part of a family homestead known as Grafton Castle, Ste. Anne’s started life as a summer home, and later became a bed and breakfast run by current owner Jim Corcoran’s parents. He purchased the property from his family and officially opened it as a spa in 1985.

“You feel like you’ve actually gone to Tuscany when you’re here,” says Director of Sales and Marketing Wanda Hoehn. “It’s rolling countryside with a view of Lake Ontario. The main portion of Ste. Anne’s spa is an 1800’s fieldstone castle. Definitely an old-world country-charm kind of place.”

Spa guests can either choose to stay close to the main building or wander the extensive property during their stay. The main building features a eucalyptus steam room, fitness room, change rooms equipped with their own hot tubs and saunas, and an outdoor hydrotherapy system that includes a hot tub, and cold plunge, and current pools. A short walk from the main building is the outdoor seasonal pool, supplied like all the other water features on the property with natural spring water.

Guests who choose to wander about the grounds will discover Ste. Anne’s many hidden treasures. Verdant hiking trails, English gardens, a serenity labyrinth, and stables where you can help groom the horses, feed the cattle, or muck out the barn all make for a unique and meditative experience.

A World Of Nourishment

As for spa treatments, they can be enjoyed either in the main building or from the comfort of one of Ste. Anne’s nine spa cottages scattered about the property. Seasonal treatment gazebos are also available for those who prefer to be closer to nature. 

All of Ste. Anne’s spa treatments utilize their own products, save for their Nourishing Seaweed Body Wrap, which uses a Seaflora product, and their Moor Natural mud wraps. Their Contouring Mud Stone Wrap and Skin Nourishment Body Therapy are among the most popular treatments, Hoehn says. Their most unusual treatment is the Minerva Aqua Polish.

“Part of it is getting a massage from a Scotch hose. Think high-pressure fire hose,” Hoehn says. “Then you get a bit of exfoliation and a Vichy shower.” It’s not for everyone, she says, but there are guests who request it every time they come.

A Feast For The Senses

For the famished, Ste. Anne’s kitchen serves up healthy, sumptuous food that is locally sourced as much as possible. Indulging without guilt is the theme here, says Hoehn. “We don’t use a lot of really rich sauces or that kind of thing, but we’re not a spa where you’re looking at calories or fat content.”

If physical food won’t suffice, guests can feast their eyes on the lovely fieldstone architecture of the main building. Several families, including that of current owner Jim Corcoran, have made their own improvements to the property throughout its centuries-long history. Currently, Ste. Anne’s is in the process of adding to their main spa building. Additional treatment rooms, accommodations and the expansion of the kitchen and dining room area are anticipated for the summer of 2016.

Home-Grown Luxury

Of all the elements that make Ste. Anne’s Spa so unique, nothing stands out more than their distinctive skin care line. All their products are made with natural botanicals and contain plants like marshmallow root and rose petals harvested on their property. 

“There are no preservatives, there are no chemicals, no parabens,” Hoehn says. “Anyone that tries the [skin care] line and if you’ve been to Ste. Anne’s, you immediately smell it and it reminds you of [the spa]. It has all the keynotes of the experience here.”

The decision to create their own product line was born out of a desire to have more control over the products they were using, Hoehn says. 
“There were certain elements we wanted that we just couldn’t find anywhere else,” she says. “We worked with a very skilled botanist and came up with our own skin care line.” Self-reliant and invested in its local environment, no doubt Ste. Anne’s Spa as it stands today would make its pioneering founders proud.

“All of that is born of the desire for Ste. Anne’s to have control over what we’re delivering to our guests,” Hoehn says. “If we’re not happy with the product we’re getting, we’ll grow it ourselves, we’ll do it ourselves, and then we know it’s local, we know it’s fresh, we know it’s chemical-free.”

Hermione Wilson

Hermione has a background in lifestyle and entertainment journalism. After graduating from Humber College’s journalism program, where she wrote for the school’s newspaper and various magazines, Hermione interned at TV Guide Canada, writing television reviews, and at Canadian Living, where she sampled goodies from the Test Kitchen.

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