Don’t expect to slap on a plastic bib and stockpile Wet-Naps when the dinner bell rings for the Saturday afternoon barbecue at the Point in upstate New York, the first North American property to earn a Relais & Chateaux distinction.
Overlooking Upper Saranac Lake, the feast instead sees guests breaking from midday activities and sitting down to linen-draped picnic tables complete with place settings and uniformed staff standing by at the ready. Thankfully, though, for those who worked up an appetite hiking trails or playing spirited games of cornhole, there’s nothing delicate about the buffet, which features mac and cheese, pulled pork and venison and wild boar sausages, not to mention baskets of fried chicken wings and onion rings delivered right to the table. (Pinkies out.)
Located in the Adirondacks—an exact address is provided only after booking—the Point is the former Great Camp Wonundra of William Avery Rockefeller, who built the secluded compound on the banks of the lake during the 1930s as a retreat from the grind of daily life. It would be another half-century before it opened as an all-inclusive resort, one that welcomes pets but enforces an 18-plus policy, unless a party rents out the entire 11-guestroom compound. (Even Bill Gates was once turned away for having a kid in tow.)
The Rockefellers would no doubt feel at home here today, thanks to a staff that still embraces the Great Camp mentality of relaxation and socialization. While meals can be delivered to the guestrooms for a private dining experience, vacationers are encouraged to dine at two communal tables in the Great Hall, where seven-course candlelit dinners with wine pairings are followed by a spread of cheese and a sampling of fine ports in the Pub. Attire is black tie on Wednesday and Saturday nights to keep with Great Camp tradition, but don’t be fooled by formalities—this is still a vacation. Drinks and conversations flow freely between tables, and the chef has even piped football score updates on the rims of plates for fans missing a big game.
That’s not the only way the kitchen staff makes guests feel welcome. Executive chef Loic Leperlier and the team invite guests to help forage the Point’s 75 acres for flora and fungi used in signature dishes. And while it’s unlikely anyone feels a hunger pang between the three indulgent meals served each day, the kitchen’s doors are always open for anyone looking to take a peek at prep, snag a midnight snack (try the truffle popcorn) or grab a morning mug of coffee or tea to sip as the sun rises.
Those looking for something harder are also in luck. With four open bars on the property, and another private bar in the Boathouse suite, guests are never far from a collection of top-shelf bottles of liquor, wine and bubbles. Help yourself (single malt scotch sampling, anyone?) or call a staff member to play bartender, whether you’re inside the Pub clubhouse playing pool or down in the boathouse. From there you can take out water skis or fishing equipment, captain an electric boat, canoe or paddle boat around the lake or request a ride on a 33-foot 1929-replica Hacker-Craft, during which you’ll get the oral history of the lake, its former Great Camps and current residents. Call up to the kitchen before you depart, and a picnic basket with Knob Creek bourbon and warm cider will arrive for the trip—a perfect pairing for the blankets already on board on windier days.
You’ll find those same blankets and some pillows waiting on Adirondack chairs surrounding the roaring bonfire after dinner each night, alongside a bundle of sticks and s’mores fixings (and another bar—this one built into the side of a lean-to originally constructed by the Rockefellers). Look skyward for a view of the stars that has remained unchanged since the days the family called this place home.
When you head back to your cottage for the night, you’ll find a fire already burning, an oatmeal raisin cookie on each nightstand and a carafe of port waiting to be poured. Sip it slowly, and in the absence of in-room television and WiFi, drift to sleep by the glow and crackle of the stone fireplace as you rest up for whatever your next day entails, whether it’s a brisk hike or just a trip to a lakeside hammock.
– Skip the five-and-a-half-hour drive up north by taking one of the three round-trip flights Cape Air offers from Logan to Saranac Lake each day. The Point provides airport transportation, and the send-off includes a boxed lunch.
– In the mood for an impromptu trip? On May 27-30, the Point is hosting a fourth-generation maker of Old Rip Van Winkle for a weekend of Pappy pairings and tastings.
The Point (518-891-5674) thepointsaranac.com