Fairytale forest villas are set in 1,000 acres of private wilderness at Lake Kora, an inimitable upstate escape buried deep in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. The century-old Great Camp has seen its fair share of summer excess – railroad tycoon Alfred Vanderbilt is one of its esteemed former owners – and the hedonistic spirit of the Gilded Age lives on. Days here are filled with pleasure-pursuits in vintage boats on the lake, leisurely sports in the grounds, and hiking or biking through the virgin woodland. Cocktails in the casino are followed by family-style feasts in the storied dining hall, then roasted marshmallows around the lakeside log fire, or a round of tenpin on the Playhouse’s antique bowling alley. So round up your nearest and dearest for a camp you won't forget.
Get this when you book through us:
A champagne reception on the night of your arrival
11am, check-in 2pm, but flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £16512.96 ($21,578), including tax at 8 per cent.
Rates include à la carte breakfast, lunch and dinner, non-alcoholic beverages, most activities and equipment.
The century-old bowling alley was equipped with the world’s first mechanical pin-resetting mechanism – get down in ‘the pit’ to find out how it works. New York’s monied came here for nature, but didn’t want to go without home comforts, so the estate got its very own electricity network – you can see the preserved machinery in the Old Powerhouse. The camp was constructed almost entirely from local spruce, cedar and pine wood, with ironwork hammered out by the on-site blacksmith.
The hotel is closed from 1 January to 30 June; 16 October until 31 December.
At the hotel
Watersports boathouse, spa, bowling alley, squash court, gym, softball field, roller hockey, tennis court, billiards room, library, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV and DVD player, kitchen, minibar, tea- and coffee-making facilities.
Our favourite rooms
There’s nothing flat-pack about any of the lodges, but the Tree House is the most unique. You don’t have to be a clambering Boy Scout to stay there either – the name comes from the tree that gnarls its way up the bedroom wall, forming part of the bed itself and hosting a stuffed owl in its upper reaches. Then there are the three stone fireplaces (one by the freestanding bathtub), cozy curl-up nooks, and the porch looking out to the lake. The most splendid isolation is at the Island Cabin, which can only be reached by boat, or the Gardener’s Cottage, with double-height ceilings and its own dock. Kids and big kids will revel in the Indian Room, where Native American artifacts are dotted around the log-frame twin beds.
The former icehouse has been converted into a two-storey spa, with a sauna and a forest-view whirlpool. Book in for an individual or couples’ beauty treatment, or request the masseuse for your rub-down of choice.
Lake Kora’s early owners nicknamed it Kamp Kill Kare, so be sure to leave your worries at the gate. There’s no need to weigh yourself down with tomes from home either – the lakeside library is stacked with classic literature. The prized assets are the antique first editions, including works by one Jane Austen.
The minimum stay is four nights in July and August, and three nights in September and October.
Kids have to be aged 12 or over, unless you book the whole property, in which case all ages are welcome.
Socialites should grab a spot in the middle of the table, either facing the fireplace or with its warm crackle at your back.
Well-worn boots and waxed jackets for exploring outdoors; a pinch of Gilded Age glamour for cocktails in the casino and dinner.
The hub of the main lodge is the grand dining room, where guests are invited to feast together at the 20ft fire-side table. Candlelit dinners are served family-style, with a menu of American classics such as Waldorf salad, roast lamb, and traditional apple pie sweetened with maple syrup. There’s plenty of variety too – one day lunch might be a hilltop picnic, while another day it’s a barbecue by the boathouse. The kitchen staff source ingredients from the estate and the surrounding area, so expect lake-fresh trout, foraged wild mushrooms and berries plucked straight from the trees. Requests are welcomed, so if that deer you spotted in the woods has put you off tonight’s venison, just ask to go off-menu.
Each evening, the pre-dinner cocktail hour heralds the end of a day of adventure and the beginning of an evening of indulgence. It’s usually hosted in the ‘casino’ lounge, where you can spin the roulette wheel, shoot some pool or just flop by the fire. Some days the bar relocates to the boathouse or the island, but the local beers, wines and house cocktails flow just as freely in any case. In the Playhouse, there’s the Pirates’ Pub, an English-tavern-styled den – ask the Lake Kora staff for opening times, or BYO beers. Back at your own lodge, there’s a kitchen with a well-stocked minibar, including free soft drinks.
Breakfast is served from 8am to 10am. Lunch is usually at 1pm, with dinner at 7.30pm.
All meals can be served in your lodge, rather than the main dining room.
The Lake Kora estate is nestled in the dense forest of Moose River Plains, part of the Adirondack Park in upstate New York. It’s due north of NYC, due south of Montreal, and due east of Toronto.
The closest airport is the Adirondack Regional Airport, an hour-and-a-half drive away; to get there, take a Cape Air flight from Boston Logan International Airport, or charter a private plane. Albany airport is two-and-a-half hours by car from Lake Kora; it has direct routes to major cities around the eastern US, including Chicago and Atlanta. The Smith24 team can arrange your flights and transfers; call anytime, day or night.
Amtrak’s Adirondack service runs from Penn Station in New York City to Montreal daily. The express covers NYC to Albany in two-and-a-half hours, and you’re treated to Hudson Valley views on the way.
The stay is around five hours’ drive from New York City. Take Route 87 to Lake George, then head west on Route 28. Follow it along the shore of Lake Raquette, then turn left onto Sagamore Road. You’ll find the gates of the Lake Kora estate after around 20 minutes’ drive through the forest, and from there the main lodge is two miles up a winding gravel path. The best place to hire a car is at an airport, whether it be Albany or in NYC (psst, Smith24 can help with this).
Helicopter is not only the snazziest but also the most practical way to arrive. It takes an hour direct from New York City to the landing pad on the Lake Kora estate. Call the Smith24 team to arrange this or any other of your travel needs.
Worth getting out of bed for
If ever there was an excuse to switch off WiFi and let notifications go unread, it’s the 1,000 acres of private wilderness on your doorstep. The lake is the star attraction, ably supported by the boathouse – take your pick from vintage wooden cruisers, antique canoes and vroom-vroom motorboats for a pootle, paddle or powerdrive across the water. Alternatives include fishing, sailing and windsurfing, or you can get suited and booted for waterskiing and wakeboarding – if you’re more of an armchair athlete, try tubing instead. Back on dry land, explore the woods on foot or by mountain bike, or stop by the kit room en route to playing tennis, squash, basketball, softball or roller hockey. The playhouse is the place for after-dinner hijinks, either around the ping-pong table or on the historic bowling alley, where getting a strike is almost as satisfying as mastering the old-school mechanical pin resetter. Nature’s playground should keep you plenty entertained, but if you’re pining for civilization, head off-site to the village of Blue Mountain – the Adirondack Experience museum can tell you everything you want to know about the Great Camps, and there are music concerts as well as art exhibitions throughout the summer season.
There’s not a soul as far as the eye can see, let alone a commercial kitchen – but fear not, the in-house staff can keep you mightily well-fed and watered.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this woodland estate in the Adirondack Mountains and unpacked their pine cones and pressed flowers, a full account of their Great Camp break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Lake Kora in upstate New York…
‘It’s a small world’, said no one ever, after going to Lake Kora. Push open the tree-trunk gate at the entrance to the estate and you enter a Tardis of nature – a land of neverending pine forest and fawn-trodden tracks, where the mountain air is pierced only by loons wailing across the mirrored lake. It’s utterly untouched by humankind, save for the small cluster of wooden lodges on the south-facing shore. Built in the 1890s as one of the illustrious Adirondack Great Camps, the estate’s star-studded list of former owners includes New York Lieutenant Governor Timothy Woodruff and Gilded Age magnate, Alfred Vanderbilt. In days gone by, whole families of New York gentry would journey north by private railroad carriage to spend uproarious summers by the lake, indulged by armies of servants and joined for fireside powwows by their Great Camp neighbours, the Rockefellers, Astors and Morgans. Then, as today, this was the ultimate escape from the city – a place to lose yourself, and find yourself.
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Lake Kora’s Guestbook below.
No Smith members have posted their reviews of Lake Kora yet. You could be the first!