Fox Harb’r – A Love Letter to Nova Scotia

Fox Harb’r Golf and Spa Resort is the creation of sole owner Ron Joyce. The property is located on the pristine north shore of Nova Scotia. After spending two days there I left determined that not only would I return, but I will work towards residing there myself.

I recently read a review from a somewhat satisfied guest who stated that while they had a lovely stay, there was not much to do if you didn’t golf. They clearly didn’t visit the Fox Harb’r I visited.

While the Championship Golf Course is one of the defining features considering it is showcased through every window, there is so much to do besides golf.

That said, for me, I was there for the golf.

I had been invited as part of a Fam Trip and met with a group of journalists to experience many things the resort has to offer.

Ron Joyce’s vision of creating unpretentious luxury has achieved exactly that.

Nestled on just over 1100 acres, the property boasts The Championship Golf Course, The Executive Course – a nine hole pitch and putt, a day spa, a 25 metre junior olympic pool, mineral pool, hot tub, fly fishing, horse riding, beach volleyball, tennis, hiking, cycling, a relatively new vineyard, a deep sea marina and a state of the art clay pigeon shooting facility.

I cannot believe that a fellow guest complained there was nothing to do besides golf.

The opulent front gates adorned with numerous foxes create a grand entrance and I smiled in delight as I spotted the golf course for the first time.

I am mad about golf. We are two years into our love affair and it is one that will continue for the rest of my days, so after being contacted about my preference for spa or horse riding, my immediate response was golf first and then whatever else I had time for.

Turns out we had time for so many adventures.

First port of call was our accommodations. There are numerous guest housing on the property with a multitude of other types in the works. We were staying in the executive suites and I could not have been happier. I admit to turning on the taps for the spa bath as soon as I entered my room and while that was filling I took everything in. The understated design with high quality finishes give you a sense of opulent comfort.

Our rooms were adjacent the runway (did I mention that private jets can arrive at any time?) and the balcony off my room overlooked the golf course with views across to the ocean.

I didn’t want to leave.

After relaxing in the enormous bath, I dressed and headed to the Cape Cliff Dining Room for dinner. Upon entering I was greeted by Executive Chef Shane Robilliard and we chatted briefly before we turned our attention to other guests arriving.

President Kevin Toth, his wife Deanna and Sales Manager Eric Lum joined us. I had a good chat with Kevin, mostly about golf as we swapped stories about our Scottish golfing adventures before we sat for dinner.

Fox Harb’r certainly knows how to do things well and the food is phenomenal. Harvesting fresh organic produce from the lovingly tendered onsite garden, I am not sure who likes their job more – horticulturalist Michael Stewart or Executive Chef Shane Robilliard.

In fact everyone who works at Fox Harb’r seem to love their jobs and the staff I spoke with are genuinely happy to be there.

Shane creates delectable treats and the trout mousse hors d’oeuvre was amazing. The lobster piled on slices of cucumber and the mushroom toasts were delicious but my favourite was the trout mousse.

Shane catches the trout himself from the well stocked trout ponds that are onsite for residents and guests to enjoy a spot of catch and release fly fishing. Shane on the other hand catches and creates.

Dinner was a gourmet dream and I would have been happy with just the plump scallops but the dishes kept coming. The cucumbers and tomatoes in the salad are harvested onsite with all the other produce sourced as locally as possible.

Nova Scotia is bountiful in seafood and produce and the rack of lamb main course was out of this world. I was able to have quite the food chat with Shane following our main as we talked cooking, produce, the growing season and having a well stocked larder full of local wares.

The wines that accompanied each course were specially picked by Shane and the Chief Sommelier to ensure the delicate flavours of the wine enhanced our dining experience. I really had no words when the blueberry cheesecake was place in front of me as I was too busy devouring it.

Again the blueberries are sourced locally as not far from Fox Harb’r is one of the world’s biggest blueberry suppliers and blueberries were my breakfast choice both days as I couldn’t go past the blueberry and yoghurt granola accompanied by a blueberry smoothie.

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We got an overview of the 16 year plan for the property from the new nine holes of golf to be added to the Championship Course (reworking The Executive Course) the extension to the vineyard, the walking trails to the numerous housing and accommodation options – some of which are already under construction.

Ron Joyce is certainly writing a love letter to Nova Scotia.

We had a tour of the spa before heading out to explore some of the residences. The onsite properties are available turnkey and have been tastefully decorated by a local interior designer. My preference is for the hearty leathers and timbers over the light airy Cape Cod feel, however there is something to suit every taste. The properties vary and you could design and build your own home or purchase something that is completely furnished down to the silverware.

My mind was whirling working out how I am going to live there.

I don’t need a massive house so an apartment or townhouse would be perfect or perhaps one of the new cottage accommodation options that are yet to be constructed would be ideal.

I love the east coast of Canada – one of my favourite places in the world.

As we drove around the property, I marvelled at the enormity of the civil construction works and questioned the various works undertaken to create the lifestyle utopia that is Fox Harb’r.

After visiting Michael Stewart in the greenhouses (I had greenhouse envy) we swung past the lighthouse and Ron’s property when he is in residence before enjoying a quick lunch prior to teeing it up.

The golf course played me but what a stunning track. The undulating fairways, various changes in elevation and well placed sand and water hazards (thanks to Graham Cooke) makes this course a great test of golf and I plan to return to see if I can master it.

I played with fellow journalist Tom Bedell and we had the pleasure of teeing it up with the Director of Golf, Elliot Isenor on the front nine then swapping Elliot for President, Kevin Toth on the back nine. My back nine was much improved and the vistas across the ocean can only make you smile regardless of how you are playing.

What a fantastic day!

I certainly did not threaten Tiger Woods’ course record 63 and in fact was closer to doubling it but that did not dampen my golfing experience.

We had a couple of hours before heading to Ron’s residence for a specially prepared lobster boil so I had good golf chat with Liam at the pro shop before once again enjoying the enormous spa bath in my room.

The sun was starting to drop as we arrived at Ron’s residence and we all flittered in and out capturing the sunset behind the lighthouse and marina from the deck before sitting down to another spectacular feast created by Shane Robilliard – I might have told him I loved him.

The food was amazing and I admit to having seconds as I needed to experience the camomile crusted salmon again and have a little more lobster and I didn’t even notice the fresh berry salad on the first pass.

Some of the wines we had with dinner were from local vineyard Jost Winery who will be processing the grapes harvested from the Fox Harb’r vineyard. Currently at Fox Harb’r there are 28,000 vines planted with another 11,000 to be planted next year which will increase the vineyard to 25 acres when complete.

New residents can take ownership of some of the vines and harvest and bottle their own wine if this is of interest.

Following another berrylicious breakfast we were off to the Sports Lodge. Peter Phillips (Director of Sport Shooting) was instructing us on the art of clay pigeon shooting. I must say I was a little nervous as I never shot a gun (besides a BB gun once when I was 14) and wasn’t sure what to expect.

The Sports Lodge is decorated exactly as a sports lodge should be with leather and timber and artwork and is rugged and yet high quality workmanship in all aspects. There are a few items in the lodge that belonged to Johhny Cash and I took a few photos to send to a friend who is a massive Cash fan – much to his delight.

We got our safety instructions and donned our safety glasses, vests and ear protection before heading outside to the shooting bays. The boys decided it was ladies first, so step up I did. Peter talked me through everything and made me extremely comfortable feeling the weight and recoil of the gun first by having me shoot from the hip.

I was shooting a 20 gauge as I had never shot before while the marksmen amoungst us wielded the 12 gauge.

Peter explained everything and closely monitored and talked me through the process of shooting a moving target. My first couple of attempts hit nothing and then Peter told me to line up and move the gun with the target and quietly close my left eye before firing. I did exactly as he said and I shot two targets in a row.

Two targets my first time shooting!!!! I was delighted. Peter is a great teacher (maybe I am a good student) and while the rest of the boys shot nearly everything that moved their way, I was chuffed with my first clay pigeon experience.

I am not sure how we fit so much into two days but following the shooting it was off for a spot of fly fishing. I am not a lover of fishing as I get bored and prefer to have a book however it was my first time fly fishing and I was happy to have the wrist action right but I was quickly bored and constantly pulling the line in too early. The water was heaving with fish (once pellets had been thrown in) but none that wanted to nibble my line.

As we said our goodbyes to Kevin and Peter we headed off for a wine tour and lunch at Jost Vineyards with Eric Lum. We had briefly met owners, Carl and Donna Sparkes the previous evening as they are residents at Fox Harb’r and had popped in for a quick hello before our lobster supper. They own three vineyards in Atlantic Canada under the Devonian Coast Wineries brand with Jost being the vineyard that will be processing the grapes harvested at Fox Harb’r.

On arrival we met Carl and Donna and were joined by chief winemaker Jonathan before touring the facility and tasting the freshly pressed grape juice. We enjoyed a fantastic lunch of squash soup, seafood casserole followed by apple pie with home made ice cream, all accompanied by a selection of their wines. While I loved the crisp Tidal Bay, my favourite was the maple dessert wine. Sweet, smokey deliciousness in a glass.

Post lunch and a couple of group photos it was off to the airport for the start of my other adventures – running a NFP sponsoring junior golfers all over the world – but that is another story altogether.

Fox Harb’r, named not for the abundance of foxes but for General Fox who settled in Atlantic Canada after fighting in the Boer War, has a little something for everyone. There is always another adventure waiting around the corner or perhaps a soak in the tub is what you seek, regardless you will fall in love with the place.

I look forward to visiting again when I am back on the east coast of Canada next summer.

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