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Cottage Country: Fun Things to Do in Muskoka, Ontario

Kathy is a freelance writer from Canada who is always on the lookout for fun things to do with her family.

Watching the sunrise over the lake in Muskoka.

Watching the sunrise over the lake in Muskoka.

Muskoka, Ontario

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.

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 northeast border of the Muskoka region.

Relaxing on the dock at a rented cottage in Muskoka.

Relaxing on the dock at a rented cottage in Muskoka.

Outdoor Fun

Muskoka has an abundance of activities for outdoor enthusiasts. The natural beauty of the area's lakes, 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.

Outdoor Activities in Muskoka

Water Sports & ActivitiesOutdoor ActivitiesWinter Sports & Activities



Cross country skiing & snowshoeing

Waterskiing, tubing & wakeboarding

Mountain biking

Downhill skiing



Ice fishing






Pond hockey

Relaxing on the beach

Bird watching

Tobogganing & snow tubing



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!

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 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.

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.

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!

© 2012 Kathy Sima