March 13, 2014
What do Goldie Hawn, Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Bill Murray have in common? They all have holiday homes in Muskoka, Ontario. Often called Toronto’s Hamptons, this region has been the pristine playground of the rich and famous since the end of the 19th century. Take a look at our essential guide to summer in Muskoka to join the A-listers on holiday.
Drive just two hours north of Toronto, and you’ll find a glacially-carved landscape filled with more than 1600 lakes, granite cliffs, and hardwood and pine forests. Put simply, it is gorgeous. Providing the perfect backdrop for boating, golfing or simlply basking in the summer sun in a Muskoka chair – the rustic wooden Adirondack recliner that has become synonymous with the place itself – Muskoka is the ideal holiday destination.
Bordering Georgian Bay and the 30,000 islands to the west, and Algonquin Provincial Park to the east, the region encompasses approximately 3,890 km² and is centred around three large interconnecting lakes – Muskoka, Rosseau and Joseph. There are also several small towns to explore, including Huntsville, Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, Port Carling and Bala.
The classic Muskoka holiday revolves around a resort. Golf or spa? Lake or pool? Hiking or tennis? Life is easy on these properties, where the biggest decisions are what activity to indulge in of an afternoon. Numerous resorts dot the region, but one of the best loved is Deerhurst Skyline Resort. It was here that the world’s leaders gathered when Canada hosted the G8 (where undoubtedly they made bigger decisions than the ones listed above).
Spread across 760 acres of waterfront and forest, the Deerhurst Resort feels secluded despite having more than 400 guest rooms and self-contained condos. It’s known for its highly ranked golf courses, which use the landscape of rock ledges and cliffs as obstacles. Another fixture is the nightly entertainment show – Shania Twain performed on stage here before catapulting to stardom. And then there are the endless outdoor diversions, which include kayaking, canoeing, jet-boating, paddle boarding, treetop trekking and horseback riding.
Other notable resorts include Shamrock Lodge, a family-run property with a home-away-from-home feel, Clevelands House, with its fantastic kids’ program of pirate cruises and camps, and Taboo Resort and Spa, for an upscale experience.
And though admittedly hard to do, it’s worth getting off the resorts.
Discover small town treasures like scones from Don’s Bakery in Bala – the stuff of legends in these parts – and craft beer from Griffin Gastropub in Bracebridge, just one of many local spots where you can try suds like Mad Tom IPA and The Legendary Muskoka Oddity.
Immerse yourself in the Canadian wilderness at some the best parks in the province, including Arrowhead Provincial Park, Algonquin and Georgian Bay Island National Park.
Visit St. Nick in the town of Bracebridge, where you’ll find Santa’s Village, an old-fashioned amusement park set within a dense pine forest. It’s where Santa resides in his off-season, and a must-see if you’re travelling with young kids.
Alternatively, cruise the lakes on a historic steamship. The RMS Segwun, based in Gravenhurst, runs several tours, including one of “Millionaires Row” that passes the cottage mansions of Muskoka’s wealthiest inhabitants.
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Have you spent the summer in Muskoka? What were your most memorable experiences there? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.
Written by Jennifer Merrick