Lake Kora: An Adirondacks Lodge Fit for a Vanderbilt


It’s not often that we travel advisors have the chance to stay at a property like Lake Kora. This historic “Great Camp” in New York’s Adirondack Mountains certainly qualifies as a luxury hideaway, but it is not a hotel. Lake Kora, with 14 primary accommodations and six additional rooms, must be reserved in its entirety. A few lucky travel advisors were recently invited to experience the property ourselves for two nights, and we quickly reached the conclusion that, for those who can afford it, Lake Kora is well worth the expense.

What sets Lake Kora apart is its secluded location, set on a 500-acre lake surrounded by 1,000 acres of pristine forest, and its rich history. Built in 1898 by Timothy Woodruff, businessman and lieutenant governor of New York, Lake Kora also served for a time as a retreat for the Vanderbilts. As you might expect, such owners appreciated both unspoiled nature and extremely comfortable lodgings. The craftsmanship in the original buildings is remarkable.

Main Lodge dining room - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
Bird Room Lounge in Main Lodge - Photo by Hideaway Report editor

The buildings themselves give Lake Kora a sense of history, but the Gilded Age atmosphere doesn’t stop with the architecture. Amazingly, much of the original furnishings and décor remains intact. In the meandering Main Lodge, under vaulted ceilings of immense wooden beams, boulder fireplaces warm sofas and chairs constructed from logs, as well as dozens of trophies from hunts a century ago (the numerous taxidermy pieces, ranging from bearskin rugs to mounted moose heads, can be removed on request).

In addition to several lounges and a heroically proportioned dining room, the Main Lodge contains several guestrooms, including some with fireplaces. But the grandest accommodations are in separate buildings. We had the fortune to stay in the Tree House, one of the most impressive accommodations in which we’ve ever slept. It contained no fewer than three woodburning fireplaces: stone-and-log hearths in the living room and master bath (what a delight to relax in the free-standing soaking tub before a blazing fire!) and a massive stone fireplace shaped like a throne in the bedroom. A polar bear rug lay in front of it, separating the fireplace from the log-framed king bed, one post of which was hewn from an entire tree. Various seating groups made from logs and wicker made for cozy places to curl up with a book; we also loved relaxing on our wide porch facing the lake. It’s not hard to understand why this cottage was a favorite of the matriarchs of the families that owned Lake Kora.

Tree House bedroom
Tree House bedroom - Photo by Hideaway Report staff

Other accommodations did not lack period details and creature comforts. Like the Tree House, the two suites in the Boathouse also have wood floors and impressive stone fireplaces, as well as terraces directly over the lake. Nearby, the Gardener’s Cottage has double-height ceilings, a lake-view patio and its own dock. We also loved the Island Cabin, set on its own private island a short boat ride away from the main docks. It has a massive double-sided stone fireplace, flanked by dining and living rooms. A long terrace has superlative lake views, which makes it an ideal alternative venue for cocktails or meals. Those wishing to make a night of it can sleep in the plush bedroom upstairs.

Two more large guest cottages, ideal for couples with kids, stand near the Playhouse, with a game room, cozy wood-paneled bar, full spa (complete with a forest-view Jacuzzi) and an extraordinary century-old two-lane bowling alley by Brunswick. The wood pins and many of the balls are original, as are the manual pin-setting mechanisms. One evening, we had a rousing tournament accompanied by after-dinner drinks.

Exterior of Cottages 1 and 2
Exterior of Cottages 1 and 2 - Photo by Hideaway Report staff

Guests can also take advantage of the pretty and well-groomed hiking trails around the lake, mountain bikes, tennis courts, a field hockey court and a softball field, where Lake Kora’s former owners sometimes hosted games played by the Yale and Harvard baseball teams. Corporate groups also have the use of the Old Powerhouse conference room, decorated with the original electrical control board for the property. Those celebrating weddings can hold the service in an elegant Romanesque-revival chapel. A multitude of diversions on the lake are also available, including beautiful vintage wooden canoes original to the property, as well as kayaks, bass boats for fishing and a speedboat for water skiing and tubing.

Interior of chapel
Interior of chapel - Photo by Hideaway Report staff

Of course, memorable activities and accommodations are all well and good, but an isolated property like Lake Kora also requires a high standard of cuisine. After cocktails in the Library/Billiard Room (also known as the Casino or the Family Room, depending on the group at the property), we sat down to a dinner of crispy-skinned branzino with shaved fennel and summer squash over fluffy gnocchi; tender bacon-wrapped venison with Brussels sprouts, chanterelles and smoked sweet potatoes; and a light but satisfying dessert of burnt honey cream with saffron-poached apples and candied pecans. We lunched the next day on the dock of the Boathouse, feasting on scallops over lobster mushroom risotto, and peanut butter parfait topped with fresh strawberries. Breakfasts, too, were memorable, served by the fireplace in the main dining room. We especially liked the well-balanced eggs Benedict with maple hollandaise and summer vegetables.

Poached egges benedict with summer vegetables, English muffin and maple Hollandaise
Poached egges benedict with summer vegetables, English muffin and maple Hollandaise - Photo by Hideaway Report staff

We left Lake Kora with great reluctance, recognizing the fact that we were unlikely to experience such a property again anytime soon. It’s not all that difficult to find a luxury rental for groups of up to 25 people or so, but few combine luxurious accommodations and anticipatory service with a rich, historic atmosphere and an exclusive, totally private setting in pristine nature.

Our two nights at Lake Kora allowed us to live for a moment like the Vanderbilts, and it was an unforgettable experience that will be difficult to top.

For more information and to reserve Lake Kora for your group, contact the Andrew Harper Travel Office at 800-375-4685 or [email protected]

Note: Lake Kora’s season runs from July through October, with a minimum stay of four nights in July and August and three nights in September and October.

By Hideaway Report Staff