Bayview Wildwood Resort
“Your vacation, your way”
Business View Magazine interviews Jason Stanton, General Manager of Bayview Wildwood Resort, for our focus on Top Hospitality Destinations in Ontario
Set on the shores of beautiful Sparrow Lake in Port Stanton, Ontario, Bayview Wildwood Resort is a picture perfect, Hallmark movie-esque destination. The popular, all-inclusive northern resort hosts vacationers year round, taking advantage of all four beautiful seasons. Truly, they have something special to offer.
“We have a very rich history here,” says the General Manager, Jason Stanton. “Bayview Wildwood Resort has been operating for over 122 years and it was in the same family for six generations up until 2017.” The Stanton family sold the resort to the Sunray Group, with Stanton staying on to continue as GM. When asked what makes Bayview Wildwood so special, Stanton shares, “Well, we are probably one of the very few resorts in Ontario to offer an all-inclusive style of vacationing.”
Bayview Wildwood offers all sorts of packages for its guests. And what’s unique about their offerings is that it’s not a one-size fits all. The go out of their way to cater to what you want. According to Stanton, “It’s basically your vacation, your way. You can customize your stay with us as much as you like. You can come and stay in one of our units and not have any meals attached to your package. That’s perfectly fine. If you want to just come and stay in and order takeout, That is totally fine, too. It’s completely customizable.” Guests are free to select the meals they want and the type of package that best suits. There is a wide variety of getaway specialty weekends, holiday events, mid-week specials, and more to choose from – anything and everything for the dream vacay.
The resort also provides activities and programming for their guests. Stanton explains, “It’s all about memorable experiences here at Bayview Wildwood – providing that unique experience that you can’t find anywhere else. And also bringing back the nostalgia and the history of times gone by. We still do things like a weekly talent show in the summertime. We have a magician. You can get dancing lessons. There’s things like yoga and bingo. We try to keep people as busy as possible. But if they’re looking for a quiet place to get away, we’ll pull up a chair for them right by the lake to relax.”
The choice extends to accommodations, as well. Bayview Wildwood offers hotel-style rooms, suites, duplexes, cabins, and cottages. The resort is just wrapping up the last of the room renovations this spring. The final 65 rooms completes a three-year long project of all units being redone. So the accommodations are updated and fresh. Many have a kitchenette. And ALL of them have a view of Sparrow Lake. Every single one!
That lake is home base for lots of activities. In the warmer months, there are boat rentals and boat cruises, canoes, kayaks, paddle boats, and an inflatable water park. And of course, fishing. In the winter, guests enjoy ice fishing and ice skating. In addition, the resort provides complimentary equipment for snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and tobogganing. And the fun just keeps on going with biking, hiking, tennis, yard games, shuffleboard. There are also indoor activities for rainy days: a pool, playground, pool tables, ping pong tables, and an exercise room.
Stanton reports, “There is just a tremendous amount of things to do for families. We have a really great following of people that caught on to this resort in the 1940s and 1950s. These families come to our resort year after year. They make it a summer tradition. You actually see a generation kind of pass through. Kids grow up and then bring their families back. I’ve grown up here and I’m sure many guests could attest to seeing me grow up here at the resort.”
The Stanton family has deep roots in the area. The town is even called Port Stanton. Captain Tom and his wife Ellen Franklin, along with their sons, Frank and Albert, are the founders of the resort. The first lodge was built in 1898. When the railway came in, there was a train station on the property. Albert and Frank Stanton even had a little shop called Stanton Brothers General Supply Store. There were steam ships that sat at the docks… People would get off at the train station and then the steamships would be there to pick them up and take them to all the different little lodges and campsites on Sparrow Lake. That earned it the name, Port Stanton. “I think my ancestors would be very proud,” Jason Stanton says. “I think they would be surprised that there are still members of the Stanton family that work here today. And I think they would be very proud of everything that we’ve accomplished throughout the years.”
The resort welcomes folks from far and wide, but the bulk come from the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) in Southwestern Ontario. “That’s where we see most of our clientele coming from,” says Stanton. “However, we do get people from all over Ontario and we get some people from other areas of Canada, as well. We also have a significant following in the summer months that come from the northern U.S., places like Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Michigan, and Ohio. So we do see quite a few Americans.”
Bayview Wildwood Resort has 60-80 staff in their off season and 100-120 during the peak summer season. As with all businesses these days, staffing poses some hurdles. “It’s definitely our main difficulty right now. Not only recruiting, but retaining staff, too,” Stanton says. “Growing up in this business and seeing the highs and lows when it comes to the boom and bust of business, we recognize that getting guests to the resort and generating revenue is not the main challenge for us. This present day, it is certainly the recruitment and retention of employees. It’s been incredibly challenging coming out of the pandemic. But, that being said, this issue was here before COVID. The pandemic just exacerbated the problem. It’s been there for quite some time.”
Indeed, belonging to the hospitality and tourism industry, Bayview Wildwood has gone through many ups and downs with the pandemic. “How many times have we heard the word ‘pivot’?” Stanton quips. “But I would say that, over the course of the entire pandemic, there’s probably been more positives than negatives to come out of it. We’ve seen the return of leisure business like I haven’t seen in decades.” The winter weekends have been exceptionally busy this year. He admits, “It’s great to see so many people coming up from the GTA to enjoy winter activities at our resort, where we weren’t seeing that pre-pandemic.”
Business is booming these days at Bayview Wildwood, perhaps because they have so many services and options available. It has allowed them to be creative and offer new things when their restaurant and dining services had so many COVID-related restrictions. One of those positives is the Bayview Market, which offers retail merchandise, as well as take-out. They feature pub style food and ice cream, there’s even a customizable build-a-bear activity – whole new revenue stream for the resort. Another positive is the new, flexible scheduling for guests. They used to offer one package style – the fully inclusive choice. Now that you can create your own custom tailored stay, the options are limitless.
Stanton’s vision is to continue the legacy his family has created at Bayview Wildwood Resort. He shares, “Now we have the backing of the Sunray Group that wants to see this resort continually improve and grow. We want to sustain our current offering of amenities and services and keep everything in as good of condition as possible.” Stanton’s wish list includes some larger projects, like more accommodations and better banquet and event spaces. He’d also like to maximize the use of the property, noting, “We’re surrounded by beautiful wilderness and we would definitely love to see an increase in our trail system. We offer cross country ski trails and snowshoeing trails but being able to take it to the next level, to possibly offer cycling trails, would be great to see.”
As they prepare to kick off another busy summer season at Bayview Wildwood Resort, it promises to be another success, rooted in family fun. Another season of bonfires, boats, and bocce ball. And another season of special memories.
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AT A GLANCE
Bayview Wildwood Resort
What: A popular Muskoka luxury resort
Where: On Sparrow Lake in Port Stanton, Severn Bridge Township, Ontario
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