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Cottage Country: Fun Things to Do in Muskoka, Ontario

Updated on August 10, 2013
Watching the sunrise over the lake in Muskoka.
Watching the sunrise over the lake in Muskoka. | Source

With its natural beauty and extensive system of lakes and rivers, Muskoka has become a premier vacation destination in Ontario. It is a popular vacation spot for outdoor enthusiasts, boaters, and families, especially in the summer months. In recent years, Muskoka has gained increasing popularity as a spot for Hollywood celebrities, professional sports players, and others to build extravagant vacation homes. Famous people with vacation properties and estates in the area include Tom Hanks, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Mike Weir, Martin Short, Cindy Crawford and Steven Spielberg.

You certainly don't have to be a millionaire to enjoy a vacation or weekend getaway in Muskoka. It is a great vacation spot for families, with lots of activities to keep everyone entertained. Located a 2 hour drive north of Toronto, it is easily accessible, but you will feel like you're much farther away from the city.

National Geographic Traveler Magazine voted Muskoka Cottage Country #1 in the Best Trips of Summer 2011 and one of the Best Trips in the World in 2012.

Video from Our Summer Vacations in Muskoka

Relaxing on the dock at a rented cottage in Muskoka.
Relaxing on the dock at a rented cottage in Muskoka. | Source

Places to Stay in Muskoka

There are less than 60,000 permanent residents in the district of Muskoka, but the population increases to at least three times that number in the summer months, as cottagers and vacationers descend upon the area. You won't find many small cabins in the area anymore, but there is quite a range of cottages and vacation homes to rent. There are modest places available suitable for a couple, right on up to huge homes that can accommodate 20 or more guests at a time - great for large groups or family reunions. Many of the "cottages" are really more appropriately called houses, and a lot of them are suitable for staying in year-round. Summer cottage rentals typically require a minimum term of one week, but you can rent a cottage for shorter periods in the off-season. Waterfront cottages are more expensive, but they really help you appreciate the true Muskoka experience.

For visitors that prefer not to stay in a cottage, there are also a number of hotels and resorts to choose from in Muskoka. I recently wrote about our family's weekend getaway at the JW Marriott The Rosseau Resort and Spa . If you're looking for luxury accommodations for your trip to Muskoka, you might want to consider staying here.

For those looking to get closer to nature, camping is also an option. There is a wide range of privately owned and provincial park campgrounds to choose from in the area. Algonquin Park, Ontario's largest provincial park, is located just outside the north east border of the Muskoka region.

Outdoor Fun

Muskoka has an abundance of activities for outdoor enthusiasts. The natural beauty of the area's lakes and rivers, forests and rock formations have made it popular as both a place to go for relaxation as well as more active vacations.

Kayaking on Clear Lake, south of Bala, Ontario.
Kayaking on Clear Lake, south of Bala, Ontario. | Source

Outdoor Activities in Muskoka

Water Sports & Activities
Outdoor Activities
Winter Sports & Activities
Canoeing
Hiking
Cross country skiing & snowshoeing
Waterskiing, tubing & wakeboarding
Mountain biking
Downhill skiing
Kayaking
Camping
Ice fishing
Swimming
Golf
Snowmobiling
Boating
ATVing
Pond hockey
Relaxing on the beach
Bird watching
Tobogganing & snow tubing
Fishing
Photography
Sleigh rides
It's nice to have friends with a boat and a cottage on Lake Muskoka!
It's nice to have friends with a boat and a cottage on Lake Muskoka! | Source

Places to Visit in Muskoka

show route and directions
A markerSanta's Village, Sportsland & Eaglecrest Aerial Park -
1624 Golden Beach Rd, Bracebridge,ON, Canada
get directions

B markerMuskoka Steamship Cruises -
185 Cherokee Lane, Gravenhurst, ON, Canada
get directions

C markerTorrance Barrens Dark Sky Preserve -
Highland Pond area, District Rd 13 / Southwood Rd, near Torrance ON, Canada
get directions

D markerGravenhurst Opera House -
259 Muskoka Rd S, Gravenhurst, ON, Canada
get directions

E markerMuskoka Wildlife Centre -
1266 Hwy 11 N RR 1, Severn Bridge, ON, Canada
get directions

F markerHidden Valley Ski Area -
1655 Hidden Valley Rd, Huntsville, ON, Canada
get directions

G markerGroup of Seven Outdoor Gallery -
37 Main St E, Huntsville, ON Canada
get directions

H markerLady Muskoka Cruises -
300 Ecclestone Dr, Bracebridge, ON, Canada
get directions

I markerJohnston's Cranberry Marsh & Muskoka Lakes Winery -
1074 Cranberry Rd, Bala, ON, Canada
get directions

J markerMuskoka Brewery -
13 Taylor Rd, Bracebridge, ON, Canada
get directions

Museums in Muskoka

Muskoka has many museums and historical sites that will interest history buffs.

These include:

  • Muskoka Boat & Heritage Centre, 275 Steamship Bay Rd, Gravenhurst
  • Muskoka Rails Museum, 53 Covered Bridge Trail, Bracebridge
  • Muskoka Heritage Place (Museum, Pioneer Village & Portage Flyer Train), 68 Brunel Rd, Huntsville
  • Muskoka Lakes Museum, 100 Joseph St, Port Carling
  • Bala's Museum with Memories of Lucy Maud Montgomery, 1024 Maple Ave, Bala
  • Little Norway Memorial, 1011 Airport Rd, Gravenhurst
  • Bethune Memorial House, 235 John St, Gravenhurst

Arts Events in Muskoka

Muskoka has a large community of talented artists and craftspeople, and there are many opportunities to view their work throughout the year.

The Muskoka Autumn Studio Tour has been held for 35 years. Visitors can visit a variety of artists in their studios to view their work and learn more about the Muskoka landscape that inspires them.

The Muskoka Arts & Crafts Association holds various events throughout the year, including The Summer Show - Canada's largest and oldest outdoor craft show, featuring over 200 creative artists from around Canada. The show in July 2013 will be 50th year for this event, which attracts over 20,000 visitors per year.

The association also holds an annual Christmas Show and Sale in late November, and a Spring Show and Sale in March.


Other Activities

Some other popular things to do in Muskoka include:

Shopping - local crafters, artists, and artisans for pottery, jewelry, paintings, photography, clothing, antiques, and other treasures

Farmer's Markets - featuring a wonderful variety of fresh produce, meats and cheeses, baking, preserves, maple syrup and crafts

Spa - get pampered with a relaxing massage, manicure, facial, pedicure or other spa treatment - or all of the above

Dining - sample local foods prepared by chefs at local restaurants and resorts

Relaxing - Muskoka is the perfect spot to curl up with a good book and a glass of wine and do absolutely nothing at all.

Many cottages in Muskoka are dog-friendly.
Many cottages in Muskoka are dog-friendly. | Source

More Information on Muskoka

For more information on places to stay and activities in the Muskoka region of Ontario, visit the Discover Muskoka website or the Ontario Tourism website.

5 stars for Muskoka as a family-friendly vacation destination

Muskoka has become one of my family's favourite vacation spots. It is an ideal place for outdoor enthusiasts, photographers, nature lovers, families and anyone looking for a relaxing vacation on the water. I highly recommend it!

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    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for the delightful suggestions and inviting pictures.

    • savingkathy profile image
      Author

      Kathy Sima 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you for stopping by Martin. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      What a beautiful place to vacation! Thanks for sharing so much detailed information and so many great photos.

    • savingkathy profile image
      Author

      Kathy Sima 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      You're welcome. Thanks for reading and commenting Rose. I appreciate the visit, as always.

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