Reg Bellefontaine opened the door of the deck at Fort Simpson’s Mackenzie Rest Inn and strode purposefully toward a guest staying at his bed & breakfast. “I can’t help it,” he said as he slid a plate of food in front of her. “It’s in my nature.” Then he walked back inside and returned to his supper.
Being a host comes naturally to Reg. “When guests come to our home, I look at them as extended family members,” he says. “Every now and then I make an upside down pineapple cake and ask guests if they want to come down for coffee at 8 p.m.”
He came to Fort Simpson from Alberta when his wife Lois accepted a nursing position. “We came for six months – and that was 22 years ago.” When he spotted the house, which overlooks the Mackenzie River and floatplane docks, he realized it was meant to be. “I instantly knew it was a wonderful spot and it would make a wonderful place for people who visit Fort Simpson to stay,” Reg says. “I like people and l like talking to people. This fit like a glove.”
The couple converted the former RCMP barracks and jail into a seven-bedroom bed and breakfast decorated with antique furniture. They opened their doors in 2010. Since then guests have included former Prime Minister Paul Martin, premiers from Western Canada and members of the Canadian Snowbirds aerial acrobatics team.
Guests gather around the dining room table for a hot breakfast and warm conversation. In fact, the opportunity to meet people and bring guests together is his favourite part of operating the Mackenzie Rest Inn. “This is why I picked running a B&B rather than a hotel. It gives people a chance to meet over breakfast.” The gregarious Reg denies he’s a born storyteller. “I just open my mouth and words fall out,” he says.
He recommends that guests take in a historic walking tour of the town, play a round at the 9-hole golf course, enjoy a flightseeing tour into Nahanni National Park Reserve and perhaps stay at one of the fly-in lodges in the area.
But one of his favourite things to do is to go for a walk on the beach. “It’s peaceful. You hear the birds and feel the wind and just chill out.” He also enjoys a trip to Sambaa Deh Territorial Park. “Ray Michaud is there and the man was born to do the job,” Reg says. “He takes people on an interpretive walk along the river. Just a walk with Ray alone is worth it.”