One of the best things to do when visiting Toronto is actually to escape Toronto…and head two hours north to the picturesque region of Muskoka. Think: spectacular views of glassy black lakes…lush green trees…beautiful blue skies and fresh, clear air.
A view from the “Muskoka” Chair
Old Map of the Muskoka Region – From the Toronto Public Library
The Muskoka district spans approximately 6,000 square kilometers and is made up of over 1,600 small freshwater lakes, including Lake Muskoka, Lake Rosseau, and Lake Joseph. It is a now a popular destination for city dwellers to spend their summers — in fact, the region is home to a population of only 50,000 people, but in the summertime it draws a very large seasonal population due to the fact that there are 100,000 “seasonal” properties in the region. These properties range from small cottages to very large retreats of Hollywood stars and successful business people, overlooking the beautiful glassy lake water and incredible scenery. This is also a very popular destination for many kids who head up to summer camp.
View of Lake of Bays, Muskoka Region
The name “Muskoka” is believed to originate from a native indian leader named “Mesqua Ukee” (which translates to “not easily turned back in day of battle”). The region was first believed to be inhabited in the early 1600s by native Indians. In the 1700s, European fur trappers were known to frequent the area, but there was no significant settlement believed to have existed in the Muskoka region. However, the region was later settled in the mid-1800s and became a very profitable source of logging due to the dense forest and the close proximity to the newly built railway.
The region is known for its unparalleled beauty. Some of the most iconic Canadian art is believed to have been painted here. The Group of Seven painters, known for their work in the early 1900s, were thought to have frequented the Muskoka region and many of the landscape paintings that can now be seen in museums and galleries in Canada depict the beautiful lakes and trees of the area.
Lake of Bays, Muskoka Region
Muskoka is the perfect escape from Toronto. If you are planning on visiting Muskoka, the best time of year to visit is in the months of July and August. This is because the lake water tends to warm up by this time (after all, it is Canada and these lakes freeze over the winter!) and the bugs are at their lowest numbers at this time. In mid-May to end of June, there are an abundance of nasty black flies in the region. These nasty little gals (only female black flies bite as they require blood protein to make eggs) take bites out of their prey (read: humans!) by injecting an anticoagulant into the bite site (which usually doesn’t initially hurt…but soon begins to itch like crazy!). Once the black fly season is over, the mosquitoes come out in full force. It only takes a few really hot days to eradicate these pesky insects.
If you’re looking for a place to stay, one of the best ways to find a great rental property is to go online and rent directly from an owner. For the best experience, make sure you have lake access! It’s even better if you can rent a boat and have access to one of the major lakes…with 1,600 small lakes making up the region, remember that many of the small lakes don’t have boat access to the larger lakes. If you opt not to rent a cottage or cabin from an owner, there are a few resorts that you can stay at if you prefer to be in the company of other vacationers. The larger lakes have an abundance of water sport activities — from waterskiing, wakeboarding and jetskiing to canoeing and kayaking, to SUP…
Generally, the area has become much more developed over the past 10 years. As such, traffic has also increasingly become a problem! A car ride up north on a Friday afternoon will likely take you at least 1.5 to 2 times longer than on a weekday (read: at least 3 hours!) and can be frustrating. Don’t forget to stop off at Weber’s to get a charbroiled hamburger and milkshake for the ride up! But, given the increase in traffic, that has also meant that many amenities are easily within reach by just simply hopping in your car and taking a small drive. The towns of Bracebridge, Gravenhurst and Huntsville are close by and these towns have major retailers like Walmart, Home Depot and major grocery and liquor stores. And, there are various golf courses and country clubs that are also accessible.
A duck swims across the glassy lake, Muskoka Region
Picturesque View, Muskoka Region
Happy Travels…northern Ontario, Canada doesn’t get more beautiful than this!
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