Most people know of Muskoka as cottage heaven. With over 1,600 lakes, beautiful lush forests, and outdoor activities galore, it’s one of Canada’s best vacation destinations. There are so many things to do in Muskoka during any season, but the best time to visit Muskoka is in the summer. It’s all about cottage fun and waterfront adventures!
Muskoka is cozy, rustic and homey, with a hint of luxury if you’re looking for it. The region consists of five main townships: Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, Georgian Bay, Huntsville and Baysville. A nearby highlight is Algonquin Provincial Park, about one hour out of Huntsville. There are so many things to do in Muskoka, so we’ve made a list of our favourites to get you started.
When to visit Muskoka
There are plenty of things to do in Muskoka year-round but this area in the summer is heaven! Temperatures are ideal for a cottage vacation and the lakes average about 20 degrees so the waters are perfect for swimming.
Towards the end of September, the weather gets cooler and the fall colours attract local tourists. If you want to experience this beautiful phenomenon, we recommend booking your fall trip for early October. Thanksgiving is a popular time to enjoy a Muskoka cottage in the autumn.
In the winter, even when the waters are frozen, there are many fun things to do in Muskoka. Try new outdoor activities or participate in seasonal events throughout the holiday period.
As the snow starts to melt in the spring, the maple trees produce their sap. After maple season, Muskoka is pretty quiet until summer, as the waters are cold and the weather can be rainy.
What to do in Muskoka
If you’re coming to Muskoka in the summer, you’re probably going to be near a lake. There are 1,600 different lakes of varying sizes throughout Muskoka! The waters here are incredibly beautiful, and we’ve featured them on our Canadian Travel Bucket List. If your Muskoka cottage doesn’t come with a boat, there are countless boat rental services in Muskoka, offering motorboats, paddle boats, kayaks, boards, and even jet skis. Some companies to check out are Muskoka Boat Rentals in Gravenhurst, Northern Lakes Marina in Lake of Bays, and Huntsville Marine in Huntsville. If you like fishing, do it at your dock or with a fishing charter like Captain Action Fishing.
Get in the water
When it comes to swimming, the lakes near your cottage will probably be great, or you can head over to a Muskoka beach. There are over 40 beaches in the region. We have a few favourite places to visit in Muskoka, such as Port Sydney Beach, or Bracebridge Bay Park & Beach where you can catch fireworks on Canada Day. Some other great beaches are High Falls near Bracebridge, Dwight Beach in Dwight Bay and Muskoka Beach Park in Gravenhurst.
While you’re beach hopping, catch a performance of the Canadian National Ski Show Team. They do travelling shows all over Muskoka during summer.
If you’re interested in unique swimming activities in Muskoka, try scuba diving! You can explore shipwrecks such as the Waome in Lake Muskoka’s Milford Bay or the S.S. Mohawk and S.S. Mary Louise in the Lake of Bays’ Portage Bay.
Experience the heritage of Gravenhurst, Bracebridge and Hunstville
In Gravenhurst, you can check out some of the best vintage steamships. You’ll find North America’s oldest operating mail steamship right in Muskoka! When you deboard, you can explore the Muskoka Discovery Centre. This interactive museum presents the history of the area from Aboriginal origins to the introduction of steamships. On the second floor, there’s the Kids Zone for children.
There are some other pretty unique Gravenhurst attractions. During summer, you can catch Music on the Barge. Every Saturday in July and August, a different band plays just off the shore on a boat. After the sun sets, drive to the Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Preserve. From here, you’ll see the night sky completely untouched by man-made light. This is one of the most unique things to do in Ontario. Be sure to respect the land, keep your lights low or off, and don’t leave any garbage behind. You’ll need to stay up late for this one, but it’s an unforgettable experience.
Local Tip: The small-town Bala is a quaint, rural community between Bracebridge and Gravenhurst, with some great kids’ activities in Muskoka. The Bala Museum, located in the house where Lucy Maud Montgomery once lived, celebrates all things Anne of Green Gables. For a different kind of blast from the past, visit The Balacade. This retro arcade opened over 60 years ago and some of the video game cabinets seem to be just as old!
There’s more live music over in Huntsville. On Wednesday nights in the summer, you can see the Concerts on the Dock series. Bring a toonie or two for the band, sit on the grass and enjoy the sounds of summer nights. Another of the can’t-miss Huntsville tourist attractions is the Rotary Dockfest. It has typical festival fare, but the main draw is the annual Bathtub Derby. Contestants build their own mini motor boats out of bathtubs and compete to be the fastest!
While looking for things to do in Bracebridge, you’ll find some great lookout spots for aerial views. At the Muskoka Zip Lines and Aerial Park, you can view the Muskoka river from their aerial adventure courses. You and your little ones will get strapped into a harness so you can safely run, jump and climb through the treetops or soar across a zip line. For an all natural view, take a hike to the Huckleberry Rock lookout point. You’ll get a great scope of the surrounding area, and it’s the best spot to watch the sunset in all of Muskoka.
Explore the Georgian Bay
To get an even higher view, head over to Georgian Bay. You can embark on an airplane tour to see the surrounding area from a pilot’s view. Georgian Bay Airways has several tours to choose from, including wining and dining and hiking adventure experiences. We recommend the 30,000 Islands tour, where you’ll fly above Killbear Provincial Park and the ghost town of Depot Harbour.
After your flight, visit the Georgian Bay Islands National Park. There are hiking, kayaking and biking trails for visitors to explore. To get there, you’ll need to take a ferry from Honey Port. You can also camp overnight and catch a ferry back the next day. This is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, so it’s a must-do for nature lovers.
Also in Georgian Bay, you can see the waters and shores from a big cruise ship. The Island Queen will take you on a two or three-hour tour of some of the most beautiful spots in the Georgian Bay that can’t be seen from land.
Fall in Muskoka is quieter than the summer, but there’s no reason to avoid this season. The weather is cool but not cold, the waters are still open for boating (bring a sweater!) and the changing fall leaves are a sight to behold. If you’re a fall person, you’ll enjoy the seasonal activities in Muskoka.
Discover Muskoka’s rising craft beer scene
The fall is a great time to enjoy some brews. There is an emerging craft beer scene in Muskoka, and Brew Tours can help you discover it.
Alternatively, Muskoka Brewery offers 4 free tours per day from 12 pm to 3pm. Reservations in advance are recommended to enjoy this 30-minute tour where you will learn about the history of the brewery and taste a few samples of their best brews on tap.
If you’re more interested in caffeinated brews, the Muskoka Roastery in Huntsville offers an interactive showroom so you can see exactly how the coffee you’re enjoying is made.
Eat your way around town
Muskoka has some great places to eat all year round, but with BBQ season over and Thanksgiving and Halloween in the same month, fall is a good time to try some treats. Head over to Baysville for the best baked goods in all of Muskoka. The Humble Pie Butter Tart Factory and Pizzeria serves up the Canadian classic which they’re named for, and Erika’s bakery has all kinds of homemade comfort food. If these sound appetizing but you’re gluten sensitive, go to Beat the Wheat for gluten-free versions of all your carby favourites. Grab some snacks and go for a walk on the Baysville Historic Walking Trail to enjoy the Muskoka fall colours and the township’s history.
Visit the Muskoka Lakes Farm and Winery
One of the most unique things to do in Muskoka during the fall is a visit to the Muskoka Lakes Farm and Winery in Bala. This farm also has over 10km of hiking trails to see the Muskoka fall colours. Then, you can enjoy a cheese platter with some interesting wines made from a variety of fruits other than grapes. But the real highlight is their cranberry farm. During harvest time, the farm has a cranberry celebration with wagon tours, helicopter rides and wine tasting. Get a picture of yourself doing the Cranberry Plunge, where you can stand waist-deep in the water full of cranberries.
Take in the fall colours
The changing leaves in Muskoka are some of the best in the country. Muskoka is on the list of top 10 Canadian Destinations for fall colours. You’ll find something beautiful no matter where you’re staying, but we have a few recommendations. There are four trails in Huntsville you’ll want to hike, including the Lions Lookout where you can gaze over the town and Fairy Lake, and pretty much any trail in Arrowhead Provincial Park. Near Lake Muskoka, there are some great fall hikes that take you along the water. But our personal favourite is the Muskoka Chair Tour. There’s an interactive Google map showing you where you can find all 10 of the Muskoka chairs that have been strategically placed at the very best views Muskoka has to offer. This one is for hike lovers, as it’ll take a few days to cross off every chair on the list!
Bring the family along
If you want the little ones to experience the fall colours, try swinging through the treetops at Treetop Trekking Huntsville. Then, for some seasonal Muskoka kids activities, head to the Muskoka Heritage Place for an old fashioned train ride, a recreation pioneer village and the train themed Steam museum. Towards the end of October, the town begins to decorate in preparation for the annual Great Pumpkin Trail. On Halloween night, children can Trick-Or-Treat in the pioneer village.
Local Trip: For something really spooky, check out Paranormal Muskoka. This small group of people claim to have a gift for communicating and sensing spirits and offer tours and ghost hunting workshops in the most haunted places to visit in Muskoka.
Considering Muskoka is known for its beautiful forests and lakes during other times of the year, it should be no surprise that it becomes an outdoor playground in the winter. The Muskoka lakes freeze over, and the trees become frosty with snow and icicles. Winter in Muskoka means days filled with snow up to your knees and nights cuddled up by the fireplace. If that sounds good to you, strap on some skis and explore all the things to do in Muskoka in the winter.
Get in the holiday spirit
Around Christmas, many locals string lights up on their cottages and driving around to see them is an activity in itself. The towns hold Christmas events like markets and concerts, but the most special event happens at Santa’s Village in Bracebridge. Bring your little ones to celebrate with Santa and send him off before he returns to the North Pole to start Christmas’ preparations.
Try Cross Country Skiing
Head out a little farther to some of the 100 km of ski trails all over Muskoka. Many of the hiking trails we’ve already mentioned double as ski trails in the winter. The best places to visit in Muskoka for cross-country skiing are Muskoka KOA, Arrowhead Provincial Park and the huge Algonquin Provincial Park. At Algonquin, which is closest to Huntsville, you can rent equipment from Algonquin Outfitters. They’ve got everything from skis and snowshoes to winter bikes. For downhill skiing, go to Muskokas ski resort Hidden Valley Highlands in Huntsville.
For cross-country skiing, many visitors can find great routes by just going around their Muskoka cottage. If water is frozen solid, you can ski onto the lake. Be sure to always check with local weather agencies about the state of the ice when embarking on ski, skating or ski-doo activities on the water.
Local Tip: Have you ever heard of skijoring? It’s a wild winter sport where you get pulled by a dog or horse while you ride skis. If you’re bringing your dog to Muskoka, you can try out this unique activity in Algonquin Park. Even if your dog isn’t trained to pull you around, it’s a good place to just hang out with your furry friend. Rent some skis and head to the Sunday Lake Dog Sled Trail or the Old Trailway Trail.
Hit the ice
Muskoka has two very special spots for skating. Arrowhead Park has a beautiful skating trail that’s lit up with tiki torches at night. This is extremely popular, so if it fills up you should try the Muskoka Lakes Farm for Night Skating By Torchlight in Bala. This is one of the most romantic things to do in Muskoka and you can add hot mulled wine, cranberry cider and seasonal snacks to your experience.
Dash Through The Snow
Sometimes you’d rather sit back and be pulled while you enjoy the winter wonderland. In that case, Muskoka has two awesome options for you. From mid-November to April, the Back of Beyond Equine Center in Huntsville offers sleigh rides. You can snuggle up under a blanket on the Romantic Evening Sleigh Ride or bring the kids to jingle all the way on the Winter Sleigh Ride. Another of the cool things to do in Muskoka that’s very popular with kids is dog sledding. Go to the North Ridge Ranch in Huntsville for some cute and casual dog sledding, or the Wilderness Adventures in Algonquin Park for a serious overnight adventure.
Grab a sweet treat
At the end of winter, Muskoka gets maple fever. There are so many sugary things to do in Muskoka, as there are plenty of farms and sugarbushes providing a traditional sugar shack experience, complete with breakfast and pulled maple candy. Starting in March, restaurants like Whimsical Bakery and 3 Guys and a Stove feature seasonal dishes made with local maple syrup. In the main part of Huntsville, you can join the Muskoka Maple Festival on the last weekend of April.
How to Get to Muskoka
It’s only a two-hour drive from Toronto to Muskoka, and you’ll be going down the ON-400 highway for most of the way. From Montreal, it’s a seven-hour drive, and you can take the ON-401 most of the way until it meets the ON-400. Chartered buses like The Northern Airport Service and Hammond Transportation will get you from the Toronto Airport to Muskoka. Ontario Northland has also partnered with GO Transit to provide a limited bus service from the Greater Toronto Area to Muskoka in July and August.
If you prefer to fly, Porter offers a 25-minute flight from Toronto to Gravenhurst. Flights are only offered from late June to early September.
Where to Stay
You can drive from one side of Muskoka to the other in under three hours, so you’ll be able to explore the whole region if you want to. Keep in mind that Muskoka is very popular during summer, so be sure to book with Canadastays well ahead of your trip, or plan to go during the shoulder seasons.
Whether you’re coming to Muskoka for summer fun, the fall leaves or winter adventure, Canadastays has a rental for any kind of trip. With vacation homes in all of the main townships in Muskoka, you’ll be able to find your perfect Muskoka cottage wherever you choose to stay.