We tuck travel memories away like mental souvenirs. The long sun-drenched afternoons. The views of snow-capped mountains. The din of a crowded, sprawling market.
Shannon Hunter’s memory logs are a little bit different.
The booking process. The way the front desk staff greeted her children. The use of natural materials in the spa. The details in the pre-arrival email.
A designer by trade, someone who creates spaces, she’s always been inspired by how someone creates experiences — how thoughtful consideration of each part of the journey, big and small, is what defines the best trips.
It’s what spurred her, after years of idly daydreaming, to open her own resort. Wander the Resort. A curated collection of the best moments and standout details from weekend getaways and weeks-long escapes, transformed into 10 dreamy cabins by the beach in bucolic Prince Edward County.
This is Shannon’s story of how Wander came to be.
Discovering the County
It started with an article in an in-flight magazine. My husband, then my boyfriend, lived in Chicago the entire time we dated. We flew back and forth every month for years.
We had talked about buying a cottage together long before we thought about buying a house. Having been lucky enough to grow up with those family escapes in northern Ontario, we dreamt about giving those same experiences to our kids one day.
But then a new dream made itself known. Unbeknownst to us, we both read that same in-flight article. About this magical-sounding place, with pastoral landscapes and incredible food and wine and farm stands and beaches and cider houses… Noah brought it up first. “I just read this article about Prince Edward County …” We began dreaming up our life there before we even made our first trip.
Our first visit to the County was in the summer of 2013. Two years later, we were back, determined to make a move. It’s felt like our true home ever since. Sharing this place with friends, family and guests never gets old.
Looking at the County, we thought about where someone would stay if they wanted something elevated, luxurious, and design-focused, and where they'd feel equally relaxed with or without kids. We realized it didn't really exist.
Shannon Hunter Founder
Finding a Niche
I’ve had a sincere desire to create something that included the best of everything we had experienced while travelling. Looking at the County, we thought about where someone would stay if they wanted something elevated, luxurious and design-focused, and where they’d feel equally relaxed with or without kids. We realized it didn’t really exist.
We didn’t want to create something focused entirely on family travel. In our experience, that kind of travel feels like a trip and not a vacation; we’d return home feeling just as tired or stressed as we did when we left.
We wanted to create a place where you can bring your kids and everything you need as a parent is available without having to ask — but where your needs and wants are equally important and tended to. We also wanted it to be a place where people without kids can come and not feel like they’re in a family environment. Essentially, we sought to reinvent the resort.
Wandering for Inspiration.
When we decided to make Wander a reality, there were a few sources of inspiration I kept returning to in my mind:
My stay at BE Tulum. I hadn’t felt so relaxed and calm in years. The spaces were understated, inviting, rooted in the context of their environment rather than in juxtaposition. Everything you could need had been carefully considered and curated in a subtle way. Plus, there was no one at the pool shouting at you through a megaphone to get up and dance.
Nordic spas. The natural materials, the sound of water flowing, the focus on activating all of one’s senses.
Lazy summer afternoons on the beach. The kind that stretch into evening, until the kids are just silhouettes against the pink sky.
Family camping trips from my childhood. The smell of campfires and pine. My parents relaxed and smiling around the picnic table. Playing family board games by lantern light. Those are my favourite memories of my childhood. When my parents truly seemed to relax, I could see it in their eyes, in the way their shoulders dropped.
Moving from idea and vision to build and construct was quite a transition. The highs have been high and the lows have been low. Opening a resort isn’t a small feat; doing it in 2020 is something else entirely.
The roses. Writing up an offer to purchase the resort property with my then two-month-old son on my lap. Spending summer 2019 running the pre-existing resort with the former owners, learning the ins and outs. Excitedly drawing up the plans for Wander at night. Selling the contents of the former resort at a big yard sale, donating the proceeds to a local women’s shelter and giving other items away to newly arrived Syrian refugees. Forming new connections and friendships within the County community. Breaking ground.
The thorns. An unforeseeable global pandemic and all that came with it — construction delays, lockdowns, being ready to open and then having to hit pause.
But despite the challenges, seeing an idea come to life in such a tangible way has been hugely rewarding and exciting. Choosing materials, selecting products (most by local and/or Canadian makers and vendors), watching the property transform … What a gift. And the support and excitement from our local community and from future guests has been wonderful and so deeply appreciated.
All who Wander
I want our guests to feel like time stands still, whether they’re here for a week or a weekend. I want a stay at Wander to inspire those feelings of being at camp — the freedom, the connection to the outdoors and to the people you’re with, the time you take just for you. A sense of living in the moment. I hope guests feel that here.