It’s the land of the blue lake, green pine, and silver rock. Muskoka’s two-lane roads meander among them, along rivers and lakes, with stops in lakeside villages sporting ice cream stands and general stores. There are art studios, antique stores, and mom-and-pop shops along the way, as well as restaurants featuring local favourites.
Best part: Driving tours are easy to navigate thanks to free maps available through Muskoka Tourism. Plus, most Muskoka driving tour ‘trail heads’ are within a two- to three-hour drive from the Greater Toronto Area, with easy access off Highways 400 and 11.
Some favourite drives include…
Lake Muskoka Circle Tour
It starts and ends in Gravenhurst off Highway 11. This 95-km tour takes you past Gravenhurst’s famous old Opera House with its legendary hauntings by past theatre players and you-can’t-miss-it, town-dominating steeple. The tour meanders through Port Carling and Bracebridge, winds by the great big cottages of Beaumaris and takes a direct shot through Huckleberry Rock, a kilometre-long, man-made, highly photogenic rock cut.
Don’t miss… the chance to cruise Lake Muskoka aboard the RMS Segwun or Wenonah II, which depart from Gravenhurst and can include a sail along Millionaire’s Row at Beaumaris. Also don’t miss a tour of the Muskoka Wildlife Centre, an interactive learning centre and a refuge for hundreds of wild animals native to Ontario, including wolves, moose, lynx and a snapping turtle. Open weekends only through autumn months, the Centre at Severn Bridge also features 50 acres of walking trail.
Where to eat: Pasta or ribs at the Pasta Tree & Smokehouse in Bracebridge, or tacos by the railroad tracks at Sully’s.
Muskoka’s Rugged Coast Tour
It starts and ends at Port Severn, just off Highway 400 at exit 162. This 50-km tour takes in Port Severn, the final lock on the Trent-Severn waterway, pretty Honey Harbour, and the astounding Big Chute Marine Railway, which lifts everything from tiny boats to massive yachts up and down and 18-metre cliff made of solid Muskoka granite.
Don’t miss… a chance before you travel to check out the Fall Leaf Colour Report for updates on leaf colour changes around the Honey Harbour and Port Severn areas.
Where to eat: Dine amongst the yacht owners at Port Severn’s Top of the Cove restaurant, serving simple fare with a busy view of the waterway and the fancy boats resting at South Bay Cove Marina.
Lake of Bays Circle Tour
It starts and ends at Baysville, Ont., exit 193 off Highway 11. This 80-km driving circuit swings past the 30-metre-high Dorset Lookout Tower, the quaint waterside gift shops of Dorset, and the sweet little old church at Norway Point that hosts hundreds of summer weddings.
Don’t miss… an opportunity to climb the Dorset Lookout Tower. Yes, there are 128 steps and yes, the tower is a 30-metre metal structure perched high on a hilltop… but the view of Lake of Bays and the surrounding fall foliage is worth all extra effort.
Where to eat: Baysville’s freshly made fare at the Cast Iron Restaurant is a local favourite; arrive early, the place is busy.
For more Muskoka driving tours, routes and directions, visit discovermuskoka.ca.