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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

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In Travel & Visitors Guide Reviews

A secluded piece of paradise is a mere 300 miles from Milwaukee.

In Travel & Visitors Guide Reviews

We stayed in one of the luxurious Lakeside Cottages.

In Travel & Visitors Guide Reviews

Canoe Bay features Frank Lloyd Wright inspired architecture throughout.

In Travel & Visitors Guide Reviews

The lodge features yet another way to relax.

In Travel & Visitors Guide Reviews

Delicious breakfast brought straight to our cottage.

In Travel & Visitors Guide Reviews

One of the resort's three lakes.

In Travel & Visitors Guide Reviews

The pristine view from our cottage.

Chetek's stunningly relaxing Canoe Bay offers the highest end retreat


If you've never heard of the ultra-luxurious Canoe Bay resort, don't feel too badly. The one-of-a-kind getaway in Chetek, about 300 miles northwest of Milwaukee, doesn't do much marketing to our area -- its Web site, in fact, only lists driving distances from Eau Claire, Chicago and Minneapolis.

But let me spill the secret of Canoe Bay: if you have the means -- and you'll need to, since it's extremely upscale and very expensive -- you won't regret a weekend getaway in this most private and secluded of properties. For a honeymoon, big anniversary or lavish escape, you can't do much better anywhere in Wisconsin.

For those who know what a "Relais & Chateau" property is, that will probably be enough to paint a picture of Canoe Bay, about an hour north of Eau Claire. For those who don't, it's an extremely rare designation among privately-owned hotels, and Canoe Bay is the only one that holds it in the entire Midwest.

Obviously, I don't have the means to spend a weekend at a resort in which the private cottages cost more than $800 per night, and dinners are "prix fixe" at $75 per person. But when the resort's PR liaison invited my wife and me to spend two nights at Canoe Bay, I reminded her (as I do with all similar offers) that a hosted junket doesn't buy favorable editorial coverage. It turns out they didn't have much to worry about. In many ways, Canoe Bay is the most luxurious property I've ever visited.

Relaxation is the name of the game at this resort, which is a converted church retreat. Activities don't exactly abound: other than feasting on world-class dinners and breakfasts, you can canoe, swim, fish or kayak on the resort's lake. You can arrange for a massage. You can work out in your own private fitness room or at the lodge's small facility, and you can hike some easy trails. And that's it.

Which, amazingly, is more than enough.

The couple who owns Canoe Bay has gone through extraordinary measures to convert the 280-acre property into a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired haven of peace and quiet. "Inspired," however, is the key word. Even by commissioning an architect from Taliesen West, the feel throughout is more "upscale lodge" with Mission-style touches everywhere. Sharp angles, uses of native stone and Prairie Style furniture everywhere help with the Usonian feel, but don't expect to stay in a little corner of Taliesen. The design aesthetic here is clean and perfectly executed, however -- modern, spotless and perfect to the tiniest detail. (Admittedly, we didn't see the Rattenbury Cottage, which was created by a student of Wright's, but if it's anything like the rest of the property, it's clearly stunning, too.)

We stayed in one of the two Lakeside Cottages, our own spacious house with two fireplaces, an expansive view of Lake Wahdoon, a steam shower, sauna, whirlpool and elliptical machine. The bedroom houses a gigantic "Emperor" bed -- six square feet larger than king-size and apparently the biggest in the hotel industry. With indirect lighting emanating from the angular soffits and stone walls carved from locally quarried dolomite, calling it a cottage does it a bit of a disservice. Between its white oak furniture, unique cantilevered deck and built-in spa, a couple could live comfortably in this structure year round.

Across the resort is the lodge, an A-Frame library with hundreds of books and yet another spot in which to relax. Without phones in the room, and admittedly spotty cell phone reception on the entire resort, the lodge is the only place with wi-fi, should one feel a dire need to connect back to the world.

Overall, the property has six suites and 15 cottages spread out among three lakes and specially-planted native foliage. You won't find any kids or dogs here, either. This is an adult-only, couples' retreat that doesn't allow smoking anywhere on the premises. It's not at all surprising that Canoe Bay is regularly named one of the most romantic hotels in the country.

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Talkbacks

bignorman17 | April 21, 2009 at 10:20 a.m. (report)

I took two friends there when I was in Chetek and we all had the hot beefs. They are the best I have had and when I return I will again have the hot beef. AMAZING.

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viewfromnyave | April 20, 2009 at 12:12 p.m. (report)

I second Legally Blonde's recommendation. Then head across the street to the B&B later that night for a couple cold ones and a pizza.

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LegallyBlonde | April 20, 2009 at 11:07 a.m. (report)

If you're ever in Chetek again, go to "Bob's Grill". It is on the main road and has the most ridiculous Hot Beef Plate you'll ever see. The potatoes and gravy make you want to be a better man.

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viewfromnyave | April 19, 2009 at 9:53 p.m. (report)

20 years ago, Chetek was a great little town. Now it might as well be Lake Geneva.

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electra225 | April 19, 2009 at 10:10 a.m. (report)

After your description of traveling to Bavaria to pick up your new BMW and this week's episode with the SPD, I didn't think you could possibly come across as any more self absorbed and pompous. But you've somehow managed it, and I tip my cap to you. I wonder what the people who don't "have the means" and don't know what a "Relais & Chateau" is will do for relaxation.

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