The Muskoka area of Ontario, Canada is a rolling expanse of forest and lake, quietly beautiful. Highlights of the area include Georgian Bay with its rocky inlets and wood-lined shores. It was scenery like this - and further east, in the Algonquin - that inspired Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven painters. The view, as evening falls over the silver water, broken by the low outlines of islands (there are about 30,000 in the Bay) is hauntingly beautiful.
North to south:
- 1 Huntsville
- 2 Township of Lake of Bays
- 3 Bracebridge - a small town, but with some spectacular falls.
- 4 Gravenhurst
- 5 Magnetawan
The region of Muskoka covers a large area including many small towns. While Muskoka is physically similar throughout, experiences can vary depending on where you visit, as some are more laid back than others. Much of Muskoka, especially around Georgian Bay or any other body of water, is private property. Towns such as Honey Harbour are filled with fenced cottages whose residents may not be very welcoming. Unless you are renting a cottage, it is better to stay away from the towns and instead turn to the many provincial parks in the area. These offer parking, facilities, access to the water and campgrounds.
If you are interested in boating, do not expect to find boat rentals by Muskoka's lakes. If you drive in through Barrie, it has several rental shops you can stop at before heading further north.
You can reach Muskoka on a day trip from Toronto. Since it is such a large area, travel times can vary. From Toronto, most tend to take Highway 400 north, through Barrie, then have a choice of whether to continue on the 400 or change to Highway 11. The former generally takes you to western areas of Muskoka (i.e. Port Severn, Midland), while the latter takes you to the more well known cities of the area (i.e. Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, Huntsville).
Since there are so many lakes between the two highways and around them, there are hundreds of winding "cottage" roads taking a traveller to more specific areas and smaller towns, such as Bala and Rosseau. The main highways between the major two are highways 169, 118, and 69.
- Six Mile Lake Provincial Park. A park right off the 400. Parking, campgrounds and facilities available. Allows access to Six Mile Lake, perfect to explore on canoe. Much of the coast is private property, but still a great Muskoka experience. Ideal for a day trip.
- Algonquin Provincial Park (east of Huntsville on Highway 60), ☎ . Spectacular hiking, canoeing and camping among other things in this vast and beautiful provincial park. Visitors can often see moose along Highway 60. The interior of the park can only be visited by canoe or foot. There are self-guided trails for the less adventuresome. There are eight campgrounds, and reservations are usually required.
- Muskoka Steamships, Gravenhurst, ☎ , toll-free: , fax: . Operates boat cruises lasting from an hour to a full day on 3 connecting lakes. Vessels include the air-conditioned, diesel-powered Wenonah II launched in 2002, and the coal-fired steamship RMS Segwun of 1887.
- Redline Outdoors, 200 Townline Rd. Huntsville, ☎ . Provides services from fishing guides/charters to ATV rental, snowmobile rental and Algonquin adventure charters. Fishing guides and charters are offered within the Muskoka Region, bordering the Severn River System, Sparrow Lake & Lake Couchinging, north to the Huntsville Water Way, Lake of Bays & Muskoka.
- ReelPro Fishing Charters, 1217 Muldrew Lake Rd, Gravenhurst, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Daily fishing charters on Lake Muskoka.
- Pizza on Earth, 1009 Clan McKay Dr (south of Dorset), ☎ . Summer: 11AM-8PM daily, May to September. An authentic thin crust Italian pizza baked in a traditional wood-fired brick oven while you watch. One can eat in a small, but beautiful garden. Seasonal. $15-19 (14", 8 slice takeaway pizza).
A good place to party in the summer months, when it is much busier. There are places to drink around, ranging from small places to fairly large establishments. Private cottage parties are also popular, especially in areas further from the bars.
- The Kee to Bala, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A large venue with many concerts throughout the summer.
- Lake of Bays Brewing Company, 2681 Muskoka Rd, Baysville, ☎ , toll-free: , e-mail: email@example.com. Beers available all year include Crosswind Pale Ale, Spark House Red Ale, 10 Point India Pale Ale, and Rock Cut Baysville Lager. Seasonal beers also available. Hockey fans must try Top Shelf Vienna Lager (the official beer of the NHL Alumni Association).
- Residence Inn by Marriott Gravenhurst Muskoka Wharf, 285 Steamship Bay Rd, Gravenhurst (on pristine Lake Muskoka), ☎ , toll-free: .
- Trenanthia Cottage, Sparrow Lake, ☎ . A beautiful lakeside 5-bedroom, 4-bathroom cottage available to rent year-round in the Muskokas. Built-in Hot Tub open throughout the seasons. Surrounded by forest on 3 sides - a nature lover's paradise.
- The Rosseau (in the community of Red Leaves), 1050 Paignton House Road, ☎ . A JW Marriott resort and spa on Lake Rosseau.
May, early Spring for the areas, is peak time for blackfly and mosquitoes.