Chetek, Wis., might not be the first place that leaps to mind when you are mulling over romantic getaway spots, but it happens to be home to the only Midwestern resort that has earned membership in the prestigious Relais & Chateaux hotel and resort group. Canoe Bay is not easy to get to (two hours’ drive from the Minneapolis–St. Paul airport), and it is not a place for pets, children, smokers, extroverts, loud family reunions, or those who need a telephone as much as they need oxygen. It is for people, especially couples, whose idea of a blissful respite involves the illusion of being alone and apart from the civilized world while still being surrounded by its pleasures.
Canoe Bay succeeds on both counts, particularly the former one. When Dan Dobrowolski, who runs the resort with his wife, Lisa, led a tour of the property on a day in mid-October when the resort was at its full occupancy of 36, no guests could be seen. Dobrowolski suggested that some of them might have been exploring the hiking trails on Canoe Bay’s 280 acres of wooded land. Maybe some were kayaking, rowing, canoeing, or fishing on one of the property’s three private lakes. Or the guests were simply cocooning in the 18 suites and cottages. “Quiet and time to let the brain rest are things we specialize in,” says Dobrowolski.
Should you choose to remain indoors, Lakeside Cottage, Canoe Bay’s newest and most opulent accommodation, is the preferred place to do so. It features two fireplaces, a surround-sound entertainment system, a kitchen, a wet bar, a dining nook, and a custom-built oversize bed. A large Plexiglas wall that spans the length of the living room offers views of the deck and Lake Wahdoon. There is also a personal spa area, which features an elliptical trainer, a steam shower, a Finnish wet/dry sauna with cedar interior, and a Jacuzzi for two facing a window that overlooks the lake.
What most brings out your inner hermit is Canoe Bay’s nearly invisible staff. “We don’t want to be in your face. We don’t want you to even see us,” Dobrowolski says. It is as if the resort employs pixies. Housekeepers never arrive unbidden. In fact, guests can specify just how much housekeeping they would like, from the deluxe four-star service to none at all. The arrival of breakfast and lunch is announced by a knock at your front door. By the time you open it, the staffer is gone, the sumptuous meal sitting on your doorstep providing the only proof of his existence.
A prix fixe, multicourse tasting dinner is served at the Inn building, where a dress code is in effect. Every night brings a new menu that is planned around fresh, locally produced organic ingredients. A private table is available in the new red wine cellar, which holds 3,000 of the resort’s 10,000 bottles. (The rest are stored in other locations on the property.) However, most guests choose to eat in the dining room, perhaps just to remind themselves that they are not completely alone in the Wisconsin wilderness.
Canoe Bay, 715.924.4594, www.canoebay.com