Shrouded by pines, on the water and enveloped by 1,000 pristine acres, Lake Kora camp was beloved by its owners the Vanderbilts not just for its tranquility but because it made a perfect setting for unfettered revelry. In the early 1900s – before New York’s modern-day nobility sought refuge from the hoi polloi in the Hamptons – the Astors, Rockefellers and their contemporaries summered upstate in the fresh, cool air of the Adirondack mountains. With such illustrious neighbours to impress, the Vanderbilts’ parties became legendary.
Though their fortunes may have waned, this summer provides a unique opportunity to discover the pleasures enjoyed by America’s most storied families. Previously only available for exclusive-use hire for $15,000 and up a night, Lake Kora’s disparate lodges can now be booked individually.
Though some guests charter seaplanes and land directly on the lake, it’s straightforward (and appropriately languid) to reach the property by train. Those original esteemed visitors chartered private trains with maids and butlers and though America’s modern-day rail services don’t come anywhere close to this extreme level of comfort, the journey to Albany is beautiful and the subsequent drive to the lodge provides an opportunity to explore the bucolic beauty of a vast state still so dominated in international visitors’ consciousness by its capital city.
When finally in situ, guests will find that Lake Kora itself retains much of the rustic charm and amenities that entertained the Vanderbilts. While performances by dancing bears are nowadays prohibited, the property still contains its original indoor bowling alley, a library crammed with first editions and sturdy 100-year-old canoes that have already navigated every nook of the three adjacent lakes.
Accommodation is Arcadian too. Branches extend from the bed’s headrest to the ceiling in the master suite of the expansive Tree House cabin. A couple of simple cottages are enveloped by a well-tended lawn; two boat houses stand directly beside the glass-still water – their shared, elongated patio make a good spot for a morning coffee. Available throughout the resort, all meals are included in room rates and visitors will sample what is supposedly typical Adirondack fare. Berries are gathered from the surrounding forest, fish is caught locally and breads are homemade; barbecues can be arranged on warm summer days, s’mores can be crafted by the bonfire on cool evenings.
Activities are unaffected too. Complimentary equipment is on hand for windsurfing, kayaking and sailing, fishing and biking. There’s an outdoor tennis court and indoor squash court; the former ice house contains a sauna and hot tub.
Management can arrange for a storyteller or musician to visit if further distraction is desired, but those spectacular, serene surroundings should be enough to soothe and sustain even the most frenetic of urbanites for a few days. While today Lake Kora is better suited to relaxation than debauchery it’s hoped visitors will channel the spirit of the Vanderbilt’s in one respect: by making the most of the wilderness rather than the Wi-Fi.