The Briars evolved over 170 years from a working farm to one of Ontario’s prominent resorts.
In 1878, Dr. Frank Sibbald fell in love with The Briars, purchased the property – and the property has stayed in the Sibbald family ever since. Not surprising, Sibbald Point Provincial Park, a popular camping destination on Lake Simcoe is actually just down the street from The Briars.
The Briars grew over the years and a golf course was added in 1922. During World War II, The Briars Inn & Country Club was born.
During the 1970s, fulfilling a dream shared with his father, John Sibbald and his wife Barbara renovated the Manor House as a new centre for the resort, complete with guest rooms, games room and dining rooms. An outdoor swimming pool and several meeting rooms rounded out this first round of renovations. To meet growing demand, a wing with indoor swimming, fitness facilities and a congenial pub was added, larger meeting and conference spaces were created, and the resort began year-round operation.
The drive to The Briars from Toronto is not that long. In fact, it only takes a little over an hour – making it a great weekend escape from the city.
When my friend and I arrived, the first thing we did after dropping our stuff off in our suite, was take a walk down by Lake Simcoe. Though the lake was still frozen over, it was a beautiful sight to see.
Though it wasn’t too cold, compared to the winter we had here in Toronto – it was cold enough to not want to stay outside very long. LOL So we headed back to our suite where we fell in love with the view. We could see some of the grounds and actually Lake Simcoe, itself.
I spent a lot of time on our balcony, just enjoying the view and the peace and quiet that came with it. My weekend at The Briars was seriously the most relaxing 48 hours I have had in a long, long time.
The Briars offers multiple dining options. You can purchase packages that include all of your meals, or you can go a la carte. There is the main dining room, where we had all of our meals that weekend, and there is Drinkwaters Lounge.
Drinkwaters Lounge serves snacks and light meals, and is a great place for a relaxed meal or a cocktail. You can also enjoy live music and dancing on long weekends and most nights in July and August.
The walls outside of Drinkwaters Lounge are lined with art created by local artists that are actually for sale.
Six generations of the Sibbald family have transformed The Briars from farm to cottage community, to luxury resort and spa. John Sibbald followed in the footsteps of his forefathers when he chose to live at The Briars after leaving the coal dust of Toronto behind in the 1950s.
The Briars is a large resort, however – you never not feel like you aren’t at a family owned bed and breakfast type of accommodations.
When you visit, be sure to book a history tour with one of the more than eager staff, who will give you a tour of the history room and explain some of the background into The Briars and its rich history.
Though located on Lake Simcoe, and widely popular during the summer months, obviously – The Briars is open year-round, and offers many winter activities.
Some of the winter activities that are included in overnight guest packages include cross-country ski trails, hiking trails, skating (on the pond or Lake Simcoe), and tobogganing on the mount. At an additional cost you can rent cross-country ski equipment, go snowshoeing, or even ice fishing.
We took advantage of the decent weather and bicycles the area. We went all over the grounds, and even the surrounding area.
Although the property has changed over a century and a half, the genuine hospitality and beautiful natural surroundings of the Briars remain just as authentic as ever.