Places to Visit on a Muskoka Vacation

By: Robert Thomson


Muskoka is a regional municipality of Canada, located on the western side of Georgian Bay in Central Ontario. Meaning "red earth" in Ojibwa, Muskoka is named to honor the chief who held leadership at the time the British gained control of the area. The term symbolizes the Ojibwa loss.

Just a two-hour drive north of Toronto, Muskoka is a glorious land, filled with farming towns and small villages of picturesque beauty. The region, with its charming qualities and abundant waters, attracts more than two million visitors per year. The region includes the Lake of Bays, Georgia Bay, and Muskoka Lake. The Muskoka, Kawartha, and Haliburton Lakes regions are known collectively as Cottage Country, as charming cottages abound in the villages and towns throughout these areas.

The Muskoka region contains three major lakes and other various smaller bodies of water as well. The major lakes include Muskoka, Joseph, and Rosseau, any one of which makes a grand vacation spot, offering visitors canoeing, waterskiing, windsurfing, kayaking, sailing, and other water adventures. Campgrounds near all of these lakes make them a destination for those seeking a break from city life.

For those who prefer indoor accommodations to campground stays, Muskoka's grand hotels offer visitors a comfortable stay and rich history. Many of these hotels sprung up in response to increased traffic in the region during the steamboat and railway eras of the late 1800s. Still other accommodations are available at bed and breakfasts, smaller hotels and motels, and individual cottage rental locations.

Regardless of where one sleeps, daytime in Muskoka can easily be filled with a variety of enjoyable activities. Taking in the scenery alone can be an adventure. Surrounded by the rocky countryside, the shining wonders of the region's lakes, light colored beaches, and a multitude of small islands, Muskoka is perfect for those who appreciate nature.

Any number of smaller towns in Muskoka can offer a quiet dining or shopping trip for those seeking something a little more off the beaten path. Muskoka's three largest towns, Bracebridge, Gravehurst, and Huntsville, give visitors many options for activities in the summer season.

Bracebridge, located in the heart of the Muskoka region, is the waterfall capital of Canada, and home to 22 waterfalls. The town overlooks a number of waterfalls in addition to both of the Muskoka River's estuaries. The town itself was built up around a waterfall, with the Muskoka River at the town's center.

The Woodchester Villa, a house constructed in an octagonal shape, is one of Bracebridge's many tourist stops. Built in 1882, the Woodchester Villa is now a local history museum. Muskoka Arts - Crafts sits on the grounds of the Woodchester Villa and offers visitors the chance to see art in variety of mediums, as well as periodic workshops and lectures.

Bracebridge's Inn at the Falls was originally constructed as a residence in the 1870s, and later became an inn in 1943. The Inn at the Falls is a favorite spot for weddings but is also purported to be haunted by at least three ghosts.

The town of Gravehurst, gateway to the Muskoka Lakes, is another common tourist spot in the region. It is home to many historic sites as well, including the Gravehurst Opera House, built in 1901, and host of theater performances throughout the summer season. Visitors to Gravehurst may enjoy hiking trails, snowmobile trails, and steam boat cruises.

Muskoka's town of Huntsville rests along the Muskoka River and is home to 144 separate lakes. Huntsville is host to numerous festivals through the year, including the Festival of the Arts, Hay Days of Summer, the Maple Syrup Festival, and Winter Fest.

Other destination spots in Muskoka offer visitors any number of activities and adventures. The Muskoka Lakes Museum in Port Carling gives a comprehensive history of the area to visitors, including native history, information on the pioneer period, and the boat-building history of the region.

The Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve is another favorite spot for visitors in the region. The reserve offers The Wolf Center which is the home of an actual pack of Timber wolves. The forest and reserve offer mountain biking, hiking, and snowmobile trails. Visitors can participate in tours of the forest canopy, wildlife observation, and wilderness camping.

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