Muskoka and the Haliburton Highlands - Ontario
Muskoka and the Haliburton Highlands - Ontario
A trip to the Muskokas and the Haliburton Highlands can transform an ordinary holiday into the experience of a lifetime. Whether you want to admire glorious sunsets, cruise crystal clear waters, or dine and dance at any number of its active communities, this region is a boater’s dream for all ages and tastes. Located two hours north of Toronto, the area attracts thousands of visitors each year looking for an exciting, relaxing vacation.
Situated just off Highway 11 is Huntsville, one of the most popular communities with countless inland lakes, sparkling rivers and cascading waterfalls. Adding more excitement are the several activities, services and events that are hosted there each season. Every year the popular Summer Arts Festival takes place – an eclectic mix of musical theatrical, dance and visual arts performances from local, national and international performers. The new Algonquin Theatre, a 408-seat venue, opened its doors last May and regularly presents live concerts, musicals, and ballets. The Muskoka River Bathtub Derby and the Antique, Classic and Custom Car Show are other popular attractions. But no matter what your interests are, excellent shopping, exquisite fine dining and challenging manicured golf courses await transient boaters.
History abounds and one attraction to attest to this claim is the Muskoka Heritage Place, home to Pioneer Village and the Huntsville/Lake of Bays Railway. Worth checking out are the blacksmith shop, sawmill plus a steam and marine museum – a 90-acre heritage site featuring the Portage Flyer, a fully operational 1928 steam train that transports riders along the Muskoka River.
Among many accommodations offered in Huntsville is the acclaimed Deerhurst Resort, globally acclaimed for its excellent cuisine, luxurious accommodations and amenities. A popular 18-hole golf course and even a private airstrip are other exclusive amenities.
Just to the east of Huntsville is Peninsula Lake, along with three other lakes – including the second largest, Lake of Bays. It offers more than 550 kilometers of sandy shoreline, and undisturbed beauty at its finest – a perfect place to trailer your boat and enjoy special times with family.
The Township Lake of Bays consists of three communities: Dwight, Dorset, Baysville and Hillside. Numerous lodges, cottages and resorts provide excellent accommodations. There’s no need to worry about services either. The area provides a series of marinas, plus an array of stores and eateries.
Heading north of Huntsville on Highway 60 leads to the canoe-building community of Dwight and scenic Algonquin Park. Algonquin’s lakes and rivers are mainly restricted to canoes and kayaks, but enthusiasts with their boat in tow can take the Highway 35 exit (via Highway 117) to Baysville and enjoy the eastern side of Lake of Bays. The highway also leads to Dorset and the famous Dorset Ontario Observation Tower. A few miles east is Kawagama Lake, reputed to be the cleanest lake in the province.
Venturing north past Lindsay on Highway 35 will take you to Minden, a 138-year-old community and the county seat for the municipalities of Haliburton County. It’s also known as the Haliburton Highlands. The route south to Minden, on Highway 121, leads to Kinmount, which is provincially recognized as the heritage site of an 1874 Icelandic settlement and the fabulous inland lakes surrounding Buckhorn.
The Haliburton Highlands provide the oppourtunity for many activities including golfing, wakeboarding and kayaking. It also extends westward to Bancroft, the Mineral Capital of Canada. In August, the community hosts its popular annual Rockhound Gemboree, the largest event of its kind that displays the region’s array of gems and minerals, many of which grace museums and private collections around the world.
TAKE A DESERVING BREAK... ON AND OFF THE WATER
It’s easy to be captivated with the Muskokas. The region extends along Highway 11 to several lakes and rivers that are easily accessible from Kilworthy at the region’s southern boundary. Highway 11 also leads to Bracebridge, located on a hill overlooking roaring waterfalls and both branches of the Muskoka River. In fact, Bracebridge is known as the waterfall capital of Canada with its 22 cascades along the town’s roads and trails. Every May, the community hosts the Festival of the Falls to celebrate its nature-bestowed heritage.
In addition to old homes and churches, there’s an impressive series of modern accommodations, restaurants plus an exciting nightlife. For those seeking a little more action, there’s the amusement park featuring a repertoire of rides, go-carts, an in-line skating track, and mountain biking.
To the south is Gravenhurst, another vital access point to Muskoka’s historical and globally prominent tri-lake interior. It’s acclaimed for being the first town in Muskoka and is a cultural capital with live theatre, museums and artisan colonies plus a 1901 opera house.
One of the most popular areas are Lakes Muskoka, Rosseau and Joseph. Properties vary from grand resorts from The Clevelands House, The Sherwood Inn and Windermere House on Lake Rosseau, to magnificent summer retreats and many turn-of-the-century boathouses.
But stargazing there isn’t limited to stellar sights that light up the summer sky. On any given day, you may bump into celebrities such as Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn or Martin Short, who own local summer residences.
The Hub of the Lakes is Port Carling, the centre of commerce for the Muskokas with locks connecting all three lakes. Like Milford Bay, Torrance, Port Sandfield, Windermere and Rosseau, Port Carling is abundant with activity and is a historical haven for boaters. Full service marinas (that offer boat rentals), fine dining and lodging can be found throughout this holiday destination, from Gordon Bay and MacTier in the southwest corner of Lake Joseph to Bala and Torrance, located on Lake Muskoka.
Outdoor enthusiasts can canoe, sail or motor throughout the area’s interconnected waterways, or golf, swim and hike to their hearts’ content.
For more information about boating in Ontario, click here.