OLD ORCHARD INN & SPA – Where Everything Blossoms

Nestled within the trees of the Annapolis Valley’s town of Wolfville lies the Old Orchard Inn which has been welcoming guests for over half a century.  We sat down and spoke with General Manager, James Clouthier about the inn’s historic past, what it offers its guests today, and what developments are in store for the future along with what the region’s premier accommodation is doing to promote tourism in the Land of Orchards, Vineyards, and Tides.


Opened by the Wallace Family in 1972, the 25-acre property has stood the test of time. Housing a hotel with 111 guestrooms, a full-service restaurant, a third-party spa, and a sundeck with views of Mount Blomidon, there is much to experience at the charming inn. Other amenities include a heritage barn that serves as a popular wedding venue, an indoor full-sized heated pool, a conference room, and 29 seasonal cottages that operate between June and the end of October.

In 2022 the business received new ownership, a group of seven community-minded shareholders eager to redevelop the inn, six of whom are Nova Scotians. 

General Manager, James Clouthier, has been with the inn since December 2022. No stranger to the hospitality and tourism industry, he began working as a dishwasher at the age of 13, eventually finding his way to the hotel sector where he spent 11 years with a company, managing a total of five hotels.

“One of our shareholders, the Managing Director, used to be my leader at the previous company I worked for. When he told me about this project and how excited he was about it, it seemed like a natural thing to come back home and give it a go.”

Our goal is not only to grow our business but to help grow the economy and tourism in the Annapolis Valley, Clouthier says the inn is passionate about collaborating with other local businesses and using local products.

“We believe that there’s a level of responsibility that comes with the ownership of an iconic property like this. We want to see local restaurants, service providers, and producers succeed. We engage as many local producers to use their products as possible. At the end of the day, we’re not here to compete with anybody else. Growth through collaboration is what success looks like to us”. 

Serving a diverse selection of Nova Scotian wines, craft beers, and spirits is just one of the ways Old Orchard is showcasing local products. The business is also striving to redefine tourism in the Annapolis Valley, which typically is viewed as a summer and fall destination. By offering more activities as part of its redevelopment, the inn is hoping to appeal to visitors during all seasons and to become a base camp for exploring the valley all year long. 

“We want to be that place where you start your adventure and where you lay your head at the end of the day. We want people to spend not just a night here, but a few days or a week. We want them to eat at local restaurants, go to farmers’ markets, check out the wineries, breweries, distilleries, and cideries, and see all the craftsmen that are here and the products that they produce.”

The inn’s redevelopment is estimated to take 3 – 5 years and has already made major headway with a section of rooms being reconstructed with high-end touches. Guests can expect to find the carpet floors replaced with vinyl planking, beams added to the ceilings, and upgraded electronics and appliances. An additional 31 rooms are expected to be updated by June 2024. 

Other recent updates to the property include a state-of-the-art fitness center located in the pool house, pickleball courts, and a seven-basket disc golf course. An outdoor family fun area with fire pits, picnic tables, and BBQs will also be ready for use in the spring with plans to add an outdoor movie theatre. 

“A lot of our activities are geared toward providing people with a resort-style experience where they can have fun options without having to drive anywhere. We’ve hired a new entertainment coordinator to help elevate those offerings,” says Clouthier.

For guests looking to be in the wilderness, the inn is developing a walking trail that surrounds the property and is working with neighbours to create a 20 km cycling trail, which will allow for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing during the wintertime. Another exciting addition will be a hallway off the lobby that tells the history of how wine production came to be in the area.

The Inn is also passionate about offering experience packages. Ranging from a pamper and dine spa experience to private tours of the Annapolis Valley. The most popular package is a culinary country dinner curated by the inn’s Red Seal Chef, Joe Gillis, who walks participants through a four-course menu that uses fresh local ingredients. 

“Chef Gillis has been with the property for 30 years now. He is absolutely amazing at what he does. Further down the road, we will develop other packages. The more we’re able to offer, the more packages we’re able to create.”

While the inn offers extensive amenities, Clouthier believes it’s the property’s hospitality and dedicated staff that make the guest experience top-notch. 

“The staff are the heart and the soul of Old Orchard Inn. From a warm welcome at our front desk to a clean room and friendly smiling faces on your walk there, we provide an inviting atmosphere. There is a lot of turnover in the industry, but we don’t seem to have that problem. Many of our staff have been here for 10, 20, even 30 plus years. We are blessed with some of the most amazing hospitality professionals in the industry.”

Other establishments may have difficulty maintaining staff, but the Old Orchard Inn has the challenge of keeping up with the demand to grow their staff. Highly engaged in finding quality hospitality workers, the inn is looking to bring in new staff from other countries through its immigration program. Recognizing that hospitality starts at home, the inn is on a mission to ensure a positive, inclusive, and diverse work culture for its staff.

“We try to go above and beyond for our staff because we want to set that example and have them provide that same level of service for our guests. We have folks here from all over the world who identify in different ways- everybody is welcome to celebrate that and be a part of our team. It brings a lot of enlightenment and culture into the workplace.”

The inn also partners with the NSCC Kingstec Campus, providing paid practicums for students enrolled in the culinary program. The practicum offers the potential for ongoing work with the inn and is a way to keep local talent employed within the province. 

“It has been a wonderfully successful thing for us to do. Last year we brought in seven students for their work practicum and six of them are still working here today. We have staffed our kitchen with a handful of students who have the drive and desire to produce an amazing plate. Our youth are the way of the future. We see so many of them leaving for other opportunities out of province and we’re doing what we can to keep that talent here.”

Giving back to the community is important to the Old Orchard Inn and in 2023, they collaborated with the Valley Regional Hospital Foundation’s Festival of Lights, hosting its donor appreciation night.

“There is a strong connection to the community within ownership and management. We’d like to do a couple of collaborations with the foundation and are hoping to get to the point where we’re able to help them do some substantial fundraising.

At the end of the day, The Old Orchard Inn is championing for the success of the Annapolis Valley while being the ultimate escape for those looking for a relaxing getaway close to home. 

 “The Halifax area is our biggest feeder market. It’s a busy life and not everybody has time to travel for a day to get to a destination. We are just an hour outside of the city but at no point in this valley do you look and see anything that resembles the hustle and bustle of a city. You can leave the city behind in an hour and be here in the fresh air with beautiful views and all that the valley has to offer.”

by Cortney Ellis