Everyone needs to get away from the fast pace and noise of the city to decompress every so often, and just a couple of hours north of Toronto lies the perfect spot: Muskoka. With its clean lakes, lush forests, and brilliantly starry skies, this region is a favourite of National Geographic, which has named it one of the “100 Places That Can Change Your Child’s Life” and listed the neighbourhood as one of the Ten Best Trips of Summer.
Stretching from Algonquin Provincial Park on the east to Georgian Bay on the west, Muskoka has an estimated population of just over 61,000 (with a seasonal population estimated at 84,000). With approximately 1,600 lakes and dozens of golf courses, it can truly offer something for everyone, whether you prefer to tee up, boat, swim, hike, or just kick back on a dock. A weekend up north is just enough time to indulge and get a taste of Muskoka magic.
Leave in the morning if you can to make the drive up north (if you’re heading up in the afternoon or during rush hour, be prepared with a music playlist and accept that you will hit traffic). Take the 401 to Highway 400 N to Barrie where you’ll connect with Highway 11. Make your first stop for lunch at Webers (it’s on Highway 11 just north of Orillia), which has been serving charcoal-broiled burgers to those who are cottage-country bound since 1963.
Drive to Muskoka Roastery Coffee Co. in Huntsville by 1 p.m. where every Friday you can learn how they handcraft their coffee. (Bonus: You’ll be able to purchase whole beans fresh out of the roaster.)
After you’ve gotten your coffee fix, spend the rest of the day settling in so that you can breathe in that fresh country air. For dinner, head to 3 Guys and a Stove, where the flavourful food draws from various influences, ranging from Thai to Caribbean.
Start your day by packing a picnic lunch and then set off on a cruise on one of the many beautiful lakes in the area. History buffs might prefer seeing the sights aboard a steamship or the Lady Muskoka, if they find themselves near Lake Muskoka, Rosseau, or Joseph. But if a pontoon is more your style, then steer that car toward Lake of Bays. Sporty types who prefer to enjoy the water more actively should opt for canoeing, kayaking, or standup paddleboarding instead (there are also plenty of guided canoe trips you can take advantage of).
With your picnic lunch, stop into one of the 11 provincial parks in Muskoka to eat al fresco. The most famous is Algonquin Provincial Park, but the others, such as Ragged Falls Provincial Park and Six Mile Lake Provincial Park, also offer breathtaking views.
After lunch, get yourself moving by hiking the trails in the park. Algonquin Provincial Park is massive, at nearly 7,700 square kilometres. You may even encounter some wildlife—including moose, black bears, and timberwolves—while hitting up the trails. Before you go, make sure you brush up on what to do if you encounter any of these creatures.
Spend the evening exploring Gravenhurst (about an hour’s drive away), and grab a bite at The Oar & Paddle Restaurant and Pub. Enjoy a pint with your meal at this cozy joint where they continually push the envelope in creating flavour combinations. Try the wild boar, venison, and blueberry burger with bacon and sundried tomato, mayo, and maple chevre—it’s a tasty and unforgettable dish.
Ease into your Sunday by keeping the itinerary low key. Spend the morning doing a driving tour, which is available year-round but is most spectacular in the fall, when the leaves have started to change colour. Or book a spa appointment to indulge in some pampering before you have to return to work on Monday. Enjoy a couples massage at JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka Resort & Spa or get glowing with a Sweet Body Polish at Trillium Spa, where they use a maple sugar scrub to exfoliate you from head to toe.
After lunch, tour some galleries where you may find that perfect piece of art for your home. In the early 20th century, Muskoka was the inspiration to the Group of Seven, and its beauty continues to inspire many artists. A must-see is the Group of Seven Outdoor Gallery, where you’ll find more than 90 murals spread out along a beautiful trail celebrating these artists and the one who inspired them, Tom Thomson.
The Muskoka region’s incredible scenery has influenced some of Canada’s most famous artists, and it remains just as impressive today. After a weekend of fresh air, natural beauty, and artistic inspiration, it’s time to head back into the city for another week of work—but you’ll certainly want to head back for another visit soon.
Want to discover more of what Muskoka has to offer? Learn more about properties in this district at Sotheby’s International Realty Canada.