As the heart of Ontario’s cottage country, Muskoka is a unique destination steeped in tradition, boasting a wealth of classic experiences that have captured the hearts of generations. It’s not all luxury boutiques, fine dining and boat houses the size of most large homes. There is more to it.
In this article, we invite you on a journey through the most classic Muskoka things to do and see, offering a nostalgic glimpse into the cherished pastimes that continue to captivate visitors year after year. From serene cruises on the glistening waters of Lake Muskoka to exploring historic landmarks that whisper tales of bygone days, these Muskoka moments promise something more and speak to the enduring beauty and life of a region before the fancy people took over.
A ride on the Segwun
Before people had the pleasure of Hwy. 400 traffic to contend with, there were steamships that transported city folk to beautiful Muskoka. This tradition lives on today aboard two historic steamships that offer cruises around Lake Muskoka.
Experience the opulence of a bygone era on these historic vessels that have been meticulously restored to their former glory. With each cruise, immerse yourself in the rich history and captivating tales of Muskoka, all while basking in the tranquil ambiance and scenic vistas that unfold before you. Discover the allure of a classic steamship journey, where elegance and history converge for an unforgettable and timeless experience.
With a history that began back in 1866, the Segwun, originally a mail-carrying vessel, is the last remaining steamship of the original fleet that helped establish Muskoka as a destination for nature-seeking travellers from the Big Smoke.
There are dinner and other speciality cruises available abroad this and two other steamships, the Wenonah II (1907) and the Wanda III (1915), which give visitors a sense of wonder and a connection to the history that helped establish Muskoka.
It is an essential Muskoka experience.
There is something special about sidling up alongside Lake Muskoka in Bala to watch a Tuesday night water-ski show by the folks at SWS Boatworks. The talent on display is amazing, often involving national-level athletes, but it’s more than that. It’s festive, it’s silly and it’s a fun time.
This has been ongoing in the Bala area and various spots throughout Muskoka for decades. Generations of families will attend the weekly gatherings to watch the show and listen to a truly cringe-worthy host offer up the best Dad jokes this side of Bracebridge.
More than just a show, the event is also a fundraiser to help raise money for the athletes participating who travel to international competitions to represent Canada. So give generously. The jokes are worth a fiver alone.
A night at The KEE
Every Muskoka cottager that has been in the area for more than a decade or so will have a story about a night at the KEE. It might have been the time the crowd danced so hard at a Spirit of the West show that the floor broke. It might not. But, if there is one thing for certain a night at this historic venue is another essential Muskoka experience.
Sure, the KEE might also host foam parties for local resort staff, but that’s not for you. You’ll be at The KEE to hear Blue Rodeo, or Kim Mitchell sing about his patio lanterns he loves so much.
Nestled on the shores of Lake Muskoka, this historic venue has been a beloved destination for concert-goers for almost a century. Once known as Dunn’s Pavilion when it hosted big band performances and dances, the Kee to Bala’s storied past dates back to the early 20th century hosting unforgettable performances by renowned international artists.
Since its transformation into the KEE to Bala in the 1960s, this legendary venue has maintained its reputation as a must-visit spot for music enthusiasts. With its rustic charm and idyllic lakeside setting, the Kee to Bala continues to draw crowds from far and wide, offering an incomparable concert experience steeped in tradition and musical history.
Classic Muskoka Drive-in
Step back in time and immerse yourself in the enchanting world of the Muskoka Drive-In, a cherished destination that preserves the timeless allure of outdoor cinema. Nestled just outside Gravenhurst, this hidden is Canada’s oldest operating drive-in dating back to 1952.
Amidst a symphony of crickets and the occasional chorus of frogs, and more than one mosquito, you’ll find yourself enchanted by the charm of watching films from the cozy comfort of your car.
For families, friends, or even solo movie-goers seeking a unique and immersive cinema experience, the Muskoka Drive-In promises an unforgettable journey into the realm of nostalgia. So, pack your comfiest blankets, and let the allure of the Muskoka Drive-In transport you to a simpler time like generations of cottagers have.
See the stars like never before
Immerse yourself in a mesmerizing celestial wonderland at Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Preserve, an astronomical paradise nestled in the heart of Muskoka. Renowned for its unobstructed views of the night sky, this enchanting preserve offers an unparalleled opportunity to witness the awe-inspiring beauty of the cosmos like never before. A true haven for stargazers and astronomy enthusiasts, Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Preserve promises an unforgettable experience under a blanket of twinkling stars.
Discover the timeless allure of the Dorset Scenic Lookout Tower, a classic activity owned and operated by the Township of Algonquin Highlands. Located off Highway 35, just north of Dorset village, this iconic tower offers captivating views of the surrounding landscape.Originally built in 1922 as a fire lookout tower, the current structure was erected in 1967, standing tall at 30 meters (100 feet) to provide visitors with an unforgettable experience. Annually, over 10,000 vehicles (60,000 visitors) pass through its gates, with peak Autumn days attracting more than 600 vehicles.Visitors are invited to ascend to the observation deck, perched at 142 meters (465 feet) above Lake of Bays, granting breathtaking tree-top panoramas. Ground level lookouts also offer splendid vistas. Amenities include picnic sites, restrooms, a tourist information kiosk, a gift shop, and a hiking trail.
Discover the timeless tradition of paddling to Muskoka’s enchanting waterfalls. Embark on a self-guided waterfall tour across the region, immersing yourself in rugged trails, picturesque cascades, and serene shores. While this journey promises great pictures and recreation, remember to exercise caution near waterfalls, as rocks can be slippery.
Embrace the natural beauty of Muskoka’s must-see waterfalls, such as Wilson’s Falls in Bracebridge, with a splendid walking trail and a serene picnic area. Indulge in the beauty of Stubb’s Falls, where the Little East River cascades down a rock chute, offering a pleasant 2.6 KM hike suitable for all skill levels. And, don’t miss the High Falls and Little High Falls site in Bracebridge, boasting five mesmerizing waterfalls. And that’s just a few.
Hit a classic Muskoka regatta
Celebrate the classic Muskoka tradition of the annual Muskoka Lakes Association Regatta, the longest continuously running regatta in North America. Since its inception in 1894 at the Windermere Hotel on Lake Rosseau, this event has charmed participants with various boat races and swimming events.
For 125 years, families have cherished the regatta’s focus on family, fun, and aquatic competitions held on the Saturday of every civic holiday weekend. Rowing, paddling, and swimming events offer something for everyone to enjoy.
As cottagers and enthusiasts eagerly anticipate this annual summer event, it continues to evoke cherished memories and bonds that exemplify the timeless spirit of Muskoka.