Media Articles

Luxury ‘cottage’ breeds loyalty

By WAYNE NEWTON, THE LONDON FREE PRESS Travel Section – August 18, 2012

Walking up to the front door, I hesitated.

This didn’t look like a bed and breakfast — it wasn’t a Victorian house on a shady street and instructions to new guests to just walk in seemed intrusive.

From the street, Brentwood on the Beach, located off Hwy. 21 south of Bayfield in St. Joseph’s, still looks like a millionaire’s private home.

It was built as a five-bedroom, 10,000-square-foot “cottage” in the 1970s by a vice-president of Woolworth’s department store.

It’s now a nine-bedroom luxury bed and breakfast and retreat owned by Joan and Peter Karstens and it’s distinctly different from a cottage we once rented up the road, where gaggles of spiders descended each night from a kitchen-light fixture.

While Brentwood itself is comfortable — with unexpected features such as an indoor salt water pool, sauna and whirlpool — it’s the beautifully landscaped private lawn, complete with rock garden, waterfall and barbecue area, that first made my jaw drop.

Stairs leading down a cliff to the private beachfront was jaw-dropper No. 2. It’s a Caribbean-feel spot, complete with shaded hammocks and a well-used fire pit. I was tempted to spend my entire weekend on the hammock.

During our weekend at Brentwood, we shared the delicious breakfast buffet with guests from Michigan and the Niagara area and a couple who had just been married on the beach at nearby Pinery Provincial Park.

Joan, a former flight attendant, and Peter, a German businessman, have broadened Brentwood’s appeal with special events, such as readings by authors and quilting bees, along with corporate retreats.

Brentwood on the Beach: Quilters and artists rule during the off season By Katherine McIntyre- 
CANADIAN LODGING NEWS- Sep 2012BLUEWATER, ON—Joan Karstens never stops moving with the times. After ten years as a flight attendant, she took a right turn in life. She bought and opened Brentwood on the Beach, a nine bedroom inn on the south shores of Lake Huron.

During the twenty-three years she has been running the inn, she has married, and Peter Karstens is now a partner and efficient maintenance manager. But it is her imaginative methods of keeping a lakeside inn occupied during the off seasons that makes Brentwood on the Beach unique.

In summer, owning an inn on an endless sandy beach, with a lookout to watch the sunset in a rosy red blaze,  a major barbecue facility for  guests’ use, extensive grounds, plus nine well appointed guest rooms with lakeside views, finding guests is no problem. But the scene changes in the off seasons.

To keep their inn profitable, the Brentwood team developed a series of hobby retreats which they hold, in the shoulder seasons from March to May and again in September to the end of November. Quilters, artists, scrap book collectors, and knitters return year after year to participate in these five day workshops—partly for companionship, partly for a holiday and partly for stimulation with like-minded hobbyists.

For a retreat, the inn provides bedrooms, a work room, two guest sitting rooms, a substantial breakfast and appetizing dinner.  Hobbyists’ work space is a large bright room with excellent overhead lighting and 16 work tables, plus a kitchen where participants can make their own tea and coffee. Participants come with their gear, quilters with sewing machines, irons, ironing boards, and fabrics; artists with easels and canvases; and knitters with their skeins of colour.

Over the Christmas season it is corporate party time, while in the New Year, it is ‘escape the winter blahs’ with spa getaway packages. During each season, the inn gives personalized service for business retreats. Word comes back that “Retreats are successful because they are distraction free.”

Somehow Joan Karstens juggles these varied events while keeping the inn open 365 days a year.

Each guest is treated to a buffet breakfast that includes bacon, eggs, sausage and often homemade breads or muffins. Eggs Benedict appear at Sunday brunch and there is a full evening dinner for retreat guests. All the nine bedrooms, complete with their own small fireplaces have private bathrooms and vistas of the ever changing waters of Lake Huron.

In early spring, birders view flocks of migrating tundra swans on their way to the Arctic.  Come summer, the focus is the lake, barbecues, sunsets, outside amenities and the area’s natural beauty.

But the Karstens’ energies are not completely taken up running their inn. Joan has recently been part of a team that won a Governor General’s award for the development of a theatrical production depicting a slice of history of the St. Joseph area. They discuss and suggest local activities, on the south shore of Lake Huron that include hiking in Pinery Park, summer theatres and local museums.