A playground for the rich and famous including Steven Spielberg, Kate Hudson and Tom Hanks, Muskoka is a peaceful haven that offers visitors a chance to relax, switch off and explore Ontario’s stunning scenery. Located just two hours north of Toronto, Muskoka spans 2,500 square miles and is a popular year-round destination. With a number of important milestones and anniversaries over the next year including the 150th anniversary of the R.M.S Segwun – North America’s oldest operating steam-driven vessel – now is the perfect time to visit. Here are some of the best things to see and do in this tranquil paradise.
Get outdoors: Home to more than 1,600 picturesque lakes, including Lake Muskoka, Lake Roseau and Lake Joseph, Muskoka is visually stunning and demands to be explored. For adventure seekers, Muskoka is a welcomed escape from city-life offering visitors the chance to enjoy a number of activities year-round.
During the warm spring and summer months, there’s plenty of water sports to enjoy including swimming, sailing, wakeboarding and water skiing. Muskoka is also home to a number of exceptional PGA-rated golf courses including Deerhurst Resort, Muskoka Highlands Golf Links, Taboo Muskoka Golf Course, J.W. Marriott and Bracebridge Golf Club.
With a number of national and provincial parks in the vicinity including Algonquin, Canada’s oldest provincial park, Muskoka is one of North America’s prime “leaf peeping” areas during the autumn months when the trees are ablaze with golden and auburn leaves. One of the best ways to see the changing leaves is to hike, bike or canoe along one of the many trails.
Late November to mid-March transforms Muskoka into a winter wonderland and with it the opportunity to mush with huskies, ski, snowmobile and snowshoe. For an experience that is hard-pressed to be found elsewhere, the Arrowhead Provincial Park Ice Skating Trail is a must-do, taking skaters through the wilderness on a dedicated 1.5km-long trail. Visit during one of the park’s Fire & Ice nights when the trail is illuminated by hundreds of Tiki torches for a truly unique experience.
For those who want to explore the great outdoors at a more leisurely pace, no trip to Muskoka would be complete without taking a scenic cruise aboard The Wenoah II or R.M.S Segwun, both of which play an integral part in the area’s history and celebrate their 150th anniversaries over the next year. With a number of different cruises to choose from including an hour-long general sightseeing cruise and a romantic sunset cruise, there’s something to suit everyone.
Rub shoulders with Hollywood A-listers: Sprinkled with charming villages and luxurious holiday homes, Muskoka is a favourite holiday destination amongst celebrities including Steven Spielberg, Kate Hudson, Tom Hanks, Cindy Crawford, Shania Twain and Martin Short. One of the best ways to see some of Hollywood’s most stunning estates is to take the scenic cruise Millionaire’s Row aboard The Wenoah II or R.M.S Segwun and marvel at this stretch of shoreline famous for its grand summer homes. Other A-list hotspots around Muskoka include The Water’s Edge Wine Bar and Grill at the Lake Joseph Club Resort, a favourite eatery amongst Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell and Kate Hudson; and Mexican restaurant, Grand Electric Muskoka in Port Carling, a favourite of Cindy Crawford.
Restore the soul: Away from bustling city life, Muskoka offers a peaceful sanctuary from which to switch off, relax and unwind. Home to a number of luxury spas in spectacular surroundings it is impossible not to leave feeling rejuvenated. Shizen Spa in Deerhurst Resort and Spa Rosseau at JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka Resort & Spa are just two of the luxury spas in cottage country. Muskoka’s lakeside location also means the destination offers vast stretches of beaches and no fewer than 30 public beaches to relax on including Sunset Park, Franklin Park and Valley Green Beach for those who prefer to relax outside.
Explore picturesque towns and villages: There are many charming towns and villages in Muskoka to discover including Rosseau, Huntsville, Bracebridge, Bala and Gravenhurst. Home to Canada’s largest in-water display of antique and classic boats, the Muskoka Boat & Heritage Centre in Gravenhurst offers a fascinating insight into the area’s history and culture. Visitors to the museum have the opportunity to step back into the past and experience the nostalgia of Muskoka’s famous resorts and ships of yesteryear. The museum makes for a great day out for families with a dedicated KidZone which includes an advanced float plane simulator and a LEGO building creative centre. Gravenhurst is also the setting of the Muskoka Independent Film Festival in October which showcases everything from full length feature films to social documentaries.
In Bracebridge, beer fans should visit the Muskoka Brewery which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. The brewery runs complimentary tours on Fridays and Saturdays at 12.30pm, 1.30pm and 2.30pm, and offers a number of refreshing beers to sample. For sommeliers, Muskoka Lakes Winery in Bala offers guests the opportunity to learn the intricacies of producing fruit wine on a tour, cold glass in hand. The winery is most famous for its unique cranberry wine from Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh, which also hosts the Bala Cranberry Festival every October when visitors don waders and head into the marsh themselves to join in the fun.