Bracebridge is a town of 17,300 people (2021) 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.
- 1 Ontario Northland, 300 Ecclestone Dr, toll-free: . Operates primarily in Northern Ontario.Between North Bay and Toronto including stops in Huntsville, Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, Washago (some trips), Orillia (stop trips), and Barrie.
- Corridor 11 Bus. Regional bus services between Orillia and Huntsville, offering a few daily trips Monday through Friday. Buses in Orillia connect with Simcoe County regional buses. No service on holidays, or in late December.
Passenger rail service through Muskoka was discontinued in 2012. As of 2023, service is expected to resume in the mid-2020's.
- 1 Muskoka Airport (YQA IATA), 1011 Airport Road (5 km (3.1 mi) south of Bracebridge just off Highway 11, on Gravenhurst Parkway). Late June to early September, FlyGTA offers flights from Toronto's Billy Bishop (Island) Airport Thursday through Sunday from $140 one-way (35 min).
- Northern Airport Service offers a daily scheduled shuttle service from Pearson Airport (Toronto, YYZ IATA) to Bracebridge. The trip takes about 2 hours.
Getting a taxi is never a problem in Bracebridge. 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.
- Bracebridge Transit. Monday-Saturday, (excluding holidays). Hourly local service in a loop throughout the centre of town. Adult cash fare $2.50.
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.
- 1 Santa's Village and Sportsland Theme Park, 1624 Golden Beach Rd, ☏ . 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.
- 2 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.
- 3 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.
- 4 Bigwind Lake Provincial Park (East of town, via Hwy 118). Preserved as a natural ecosystem, the park does not offer any services or facilities. Trails through the park provide unmaintained mountain biking, hiking, and snowshoeing routes for a more challenging outdoor retreat. As of 2023, plans are underway to develop facilities for camping, visitor services, and maintained trails, with construction starting in 2024. Until campsites are officially opened, camping in the park is prohibited.
- 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.
- 1 Old Station Restaurant, 88 Manitoba St, ☏ . Su-Th 11:30AM-8PM, F Sa 11:30AM-9PM. Gluten-free and vegetarian choices available. Mains from $30, burgers $21-25.
- 2 Fresh Kutz Market & Grill, 195 Wellington St, ☏ . M-F 8AM–7:30PM, Sa Su 8AM–2:30PM. Sandwiches, burgers, steaks, pork chops.
- 3 Bracebridge Barrelhouse, 295 Wellington St, ☏ . 11AM-10PM daily. Barrel-aged beers by Lake of Bays Brewing, paired with pub food, snacks, burgers and pizza.
- 1 Muskoka Brewery, 1964 Muskoka Beach Rd, ☏ , email@example.com. Su-Th noon-6PM, F Sa 11AM-6PM. Tours are free, and run W-Su every hour from 11AM–4PM.
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.
- 1 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.
- 2 Bracebridge Inn, 133 Manitoba St, ☏ , toll-free: . 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.
- 3 Wellington Inn, 265 Wellington Street, ☏ . In downtown Bracebridge, close to all of Bracebridge's attractions, it welcomes long-term guests. From $140.
- 4 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 $211.
- 5 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 $195-385/night, summer summer $1800-2675/week.
- 6 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. Built in the 1870s, this Victorian hotel is reputed to be haunted by up to 4 ghosts. From $185.
- 7 The Rosseau (in the community of Red Leaves), 1050 Paignton House Rd (42 km west of Bracebridge along Highway 118 and District roads 7 and 28), ☏ . A JW Marriott resort and spa on Lake Rosseau. Studio from $440.
- 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.
- Gravenhurst — the next town on the Highway 11 corridor, heading south towards Orillia and Toronto. A regular stop for seasonal residents stocking up on supplies or looking for an evening in town.
- Huntsville — the next town north on Highway 11, and Muskoka's largest. It's also at the northern edge of Central Ontario; continue into the Near North toward Sudbury, or head east on Highway 60 into Algonquin Provincial Park.
- Haliburton Highlands — a number of small communities in a rural are to the east, set among pristine lakes and forests on the Canadian Shield, offering quieter cottage country and outdoor recreation.
- Parry Sound — a detour west through Part Carling leads to Parry Sound on Georgian Bay. It is roughly in the centre of a freshwater archipelago that stretches from French River to Midland, and home to several provincial parks that provide a range of camping and canoeing experiences.
- Sudbury — the next major destination for a long distance road trip, about 250 km (160 mi) north, featuring Science North and the Big Nickel.
|Routes through Bracebridge|
|North Bay ← Huntsville ←||N S||→ Gravenhurst → Barrie|