Bracebridge is a town of 16,000 people (2016) in the Muskoka region of the province of Ontario. Its most notable and first recognized characteristic is the modern, European-style downtown. In the summer, the small town's population increases significantly providing recreation for tens of thousands of tourists and seasonal residents.
The municipal boundaries of Bracebridge encompass the smaller communities of Clear Lake, Falkenburg (a ghost town), Falkenburg Station, Fraserburg, Germania, Lakewood, Matthiasville, Monsell (a ghost town), Purbrook, Rocksborough, Springdale Park, Stoneleigh, Uffington and Vankoughnet.
Bracebridge is shaped by its proximity to Lake Muskoka to which it is connected by 6 miles of the Muskoka River. The abundant water power afforded by the great waterfall at the foot of the downtown powered the first factory. The arrival of the Grand Trunk Railway cemented the town's role as a transportation hub for the area.
Modern settlement of the town began in the 1860s, beginning at first with a few log huts. The Muskoka colonization road had been completed to the first falls on the north branch of the Muskoka River by 1862. Entrepreneurs began to take advantage of the area's water power. With the advent of steamship service on Lake Muskoka a few years later, Bracebridge prospered as the main distribution centre for the region.
Car travel is the most popular way to reach Muskoka. It is on the 45th parallel, approximately 190 km north of Toronto. Take Highway 400 north through Barrie and continue north up Highway 11 in the direction of North Bay. In the summer, Highway 400 and the two northern highways (Hwys 11 and 69) will always be packed heading north on a Friday and south on a Sunday. Dual lanes in each direction have eased the traffic in the past few years, however on 'long weekends', travel to Muskoka is always busy and can take several hours from the Toronto area: Victoria Day (the Monday before May 25), Canada Day (July 1), Ontario Civic Holiday (first Monday in August), and Labour Day (first Monday in September).
Winter travel to the region can be tricky depending on the weather. Bracebridge and the surrounding area do get several winter storms per year, and can be difficult to access if you are not used to winter driving. Winters have become milder, and improved roads in the area in also help. However, this can vary from year to year as it lies on the cusp of the strong snow-belt areas of the country.
The Greyhound Canada bus has limited service to Bracebridge from Barrie (and in turn, Toronto), North Bay, and Parry Sound. Ontario Northland may also pick up some of the schedule. It is advisable to check the services offered through their websites.
Ontario Northland no longer offers passenger rail service to Muskoka.
- 1 Muskoka Airport (YQA IATA) (5 km (3.1 mi) south of Bracebridge). During the summer, FlyGTA offers flights from Toronto's Billy Bishop (Island) Airport Thursday through Sunday for $140 one-way.
In the summer, you can park your car and take advantage of Bracebridge's trolley service. The trolley runs around town to various destinations including to Santa's Village. Getting a taxi is never a problem in Bracebridge, as there always seem to be several whenever needed. Bracebridge is small enough to see on foot as well, however Santa's Village is slightly outside the city, and would be difficult to walk to from downtown.
Muskoka is famous for its picturesque scenery. The downtown area of Bracebridge has many small shops along the main street and a small park at the centre of town.
- The Lady Muskoka Steamship, 300 Ecclestone Dr, ☏ . The 300-passenger Lady Muskoka offers an incredible sightseeing opportunity. The "Lady" is 104 ft long, 24 ft wide, fully-carpeted and has been thoroughly renovated. The ship is handicapped accessible and has a children's play area. 2-3 hour cruises, lunch cruises, dinner cruises. Snacks and full bar. Cruise only: adult $38, teen (13-18): $24.25, child (4-12) $17, infant (0-3) free.
- 1 Woodchester Villa (Octagon House), 15 King St. Visit one of Canada's only octagon-shaped houses, up the hill from Bracebridge Falls. It was built in the 1870s. The gardeners free to visit. The house is used an event space.
- 2 Bracebridge Falls. In downtown Bracebridge. There is a parking area Drive by the corner of Ecclestone and Entrance Drive from where you can access some walking paths that lead to the falls.
- Santa's Village and Sportsland Theme Park, 1624 Golden Beach Road, ☏ . Open year round, it's a popular destination for families. Younger children can visit Santa and participate in age-oriented fun, while teenagers can enjoy go-karting, mini-golf, batting cages, Laser Tag, and video arcade. Camping and cabins available.
- Wilson's Falls Trail (from Hwy 11 turn on to Pine Street from Taylor Road at the lights by the Baptist Church, follow Pine to the end and turn right on Dawson Crescent and left on Rogers Road). A 7.5-km easy-to-moderate hiking trail.
- Resource Management Centre Trails (travel north on Hwy 11 past the Cedar Lane overpass, continue about 5 min to the turn off to the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) trails; when pulling off the highway, make sure you stay to your left which proceeds into the parking lot), ☏ . Stunning natural beauty regardless of the season. Groomed cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking and mountain biking trails within a woodland setting along the Muskoka River. Single track mountain bike trails available.
- Georgian College. Bracebridge is home to Georgian College's Muskoka Campus. The campus offers diploma programs in Addictions Counselling, Bilingual Administrative Affairs, Paramedic, Advertising, Art & Design, Automotive Marketing, and Aviation Management.
- Muskoka Furniture, 195 Wellington Street, Unit 7, ☏ . High-quality, authentic Muskoka furniture. All pieces sold are hand-crafted.
There are many places to enjoy great food in Bracebridge, from cafés and delis to bistros and fine food restaurants. The small town is home to over 40 eating establishments making it a drawing point of the region based on cuisine alone.
- Old Station Restaurant, 88 Manitoba St, ☏ . Summer hours: Sunday 11:30AM-8:30PM, M-Th 11:30AM-9PM, F Sa 11:30AM-9:30PM. Gluten-free and vegetarian choices available. Mains $21-39, burgers $13-18.
- Riverwalk Restaurant, 1 Manitoba St, ☏ . Tu-Sa 11:30AM-2:30PM and 5:30PM-8:30PM (and Su in the summer). By the waterfalls on the shores of the Muskoka River. Mediterranean-inspired dining room. Menus change to reflect seasonal ingredients.
- Fresh Kutz Market & Grill, 195 Wellington St, ☏ . M-F 8AM–7:30PM, Sa Su 8AM–2:30PM. Sandwiches, burgers, steaks, pork chops.
- Camp Muskoka Coffeehouse, 72 Manitoba St, ☏ . Daily 8AM-8PM. Fresh coffee, sandwiches, homemade baked goods, soft serve ice cream?
- Muskoka Brewery, 1964 Muskoka Beach Rd, ☏ . Brewery taproom Su–W 10AM–6PM, Th 10AM–7PM, F Sa 10AM–8PM. Tours are free, and run W-Su every hour from 11AM–4PM.
- Kelly's Kitchen Pub, 5 Manitoba St, ☏ . Daily 11AM-2AM. Upscale Irish pub with Irish and international menu.
As much of Bracebridge's economy is based on tourism, there are plenty of places to sleep in the area. The summer season can become quite busy so as it is not necessary to book ahead, it is certainly recommended if you have particular tastes.
- Santa's Village Cottages, Cabins, Yurts & RV/Tents, 1623 Golden Beach Rd, ☏ . Camping beside the beautiful Muskoka River. Tenting and full services available with general store. Camping $42-70 depending on level of service, bunkies and yurts from $82, cabins from $105, cottages from $200.
- Bracebridge Inn, 133 Manitoba Street, ☏ . Near downtown Bracebridge, near shopping, Bracebridge Falls, and across the street from Memorial Park. Close to a laundromat, movie theatre, trolley service, banks, and restaurants.
- Wellington Inn, 265 Wellington Street, ☏ . In downtown Bracebridge, close to all of Bracebridge's attractions, it welcomes long-term guests. From $140.
- Quality Inn (Muskoka Riverside Inn), 300 Ecclestone Drive, ☏ . Offers 54 climate controlled rooms, workout facilities, dining room, indoor heated pool, business centre, sauna, and bowling alley, on Muskoka River. From $156.
- Lakeview Escape, #1515 Muskoka District Road 118 West, ☏ . Luxurious cottages and suites, for 2-6 people, and smaller, comfortable rooms in a lake setting. Spring and Fall $195-325/night, summer summer $1500-2300/week.
- Inn at the Falls, 8 Mahaffy Court, ☏ , toll-free: . Well-prepared gourmet meals and upper-end accommodations in a beautiful setting and a convenient location. A favourite with honeymooners. From $135.
- South Muskoka Memorial Hospital, about 2.5 km from Highway # 11. An 84 bed hospital. Emergency facilities available, X-ray, ultrasound, mammography, lab, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, dietary services, mental health echocardiography.
Bracebridge is a great place to stay while exploring the Muskoka region. Other picturesque destinations in the area include Port Carling, Bala, Rosseau, and Parry Sound. Day trips to Sudbury to visit Science North and the Big Nickel are also quite easy to do in the summer while the roads are good.
|Routes through Bracebridge|
|North Bay ← Huntsville ←||N S||→ Gravenhurst → Barrie|