Reviewed by: The Urban Traveler (Click Here for Photos)
Overall Grade: A
Kid’s Rating: A+
Fun Factor: A
Best For: Families of all Ages.
Date of Stay: August 2009
The Lowdown: Located two to three hours outside of Toronto, Muskoka is the epitome of Ontario cottage country. There are tons of options for travel in Muskoka from camping to renting a cottage or visiting a local resort. Over the years we have done all three with our latest adventure to a small local resort, located on Lake of Bays. Although the summer of 2009 was known more for cool temperatures and rain we lucked out with the first nice week of the summer making our trip a huge success. I honestly think our kids had more fun here than anywhere we’ve ever traveled.
The accommodations vary from run down/rustic to luxury and prices can get extremely high. If the weather cooperates, there is nothing like a week relaxing on the beach or dock at a lake in Muskoka. This latest week was one of the best. We traveled with a number of other families, stayed at a local family resort and enjoyed all of the benefits of cottage life without the responsibilities of a cottage. Although the accommodations were definitely more rustic than luxury and the price was steep we would recommend it,
especially if you are traveling with a number of families.
Kid’s Comments: We had so much fun! We loved playing with all of the kids and living in a cabin. We were allowed to do lots of things on our own and there were fun activities for kids. I also really loved the food and there was lots of it (from my 10-year-old son). We got to stay up late. It was like going to camp with my family!
- The Lifestyle: As I mentioned, Muskoka is the epitome of Ontario cottage country and there is definitely a specific lifestyle associated with it. Obviously part of this lifestyle is leisure. Relaxation is key. Also, unlike most cottage communities, Muskoka is known for some serious luxury. Celebs and other members of the rich and famous have cottages here and luxury resorts and cottages abound. This means that there are tons of options for shopping, restaurants, and accommodations but it also means that even the most modest cottage or resort can be pricey.
- Activities: There is tons to do in the Muskoka area. Depending on where you are and what lake you are on there are some pretty good towns close by including Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, and Huntsville. In the Muskoka area you will find more than 32 championship golf courses, public beaches and parks, tons of great restaurants, movie theatres, local museums, shopping, boat cruises, Santa’s Village, you name it and you can find it in Muskoka. However, on this particular trip, all we needed was available to us at our little family resort. The kids went tubing and there was water skiing, a pool, tennis courts, as well as the cottage classics of shuffleboard, horseshoes and lawn bowling! But my favourite activity was lounging beach-side. There is plenty of that available in Muskoka too.
- The Convenience Factor: Muskoka covers a vast 2,500 square miles of beautiful wilderness and destinations can range from under 2 hours to 4+ so make sure you check out a map before booking. The only major warning from a convenience standpoint is obvious to any seasoned cottager leaving the GTA; always consider traffic. The mass exodus to cottage country on a summer weekend is enough to put you off before you even arrive. Try and plan your stay so that you are arriving and returning outside of typical high traffic times (Friday afternoon/evening and Saturday morning returning any time Sunday).
- The Scenery: Normally I wouldn’t give this its own separate point but in the case of Muskoka it needs to be said. Muskoka is beautiful country. The picturesque lakes, the beautiful sunsets (see above), the breathtaking views. Whether you are sitting on a dock at a cottage with a beverage in hand surrounded by friends, canoe tripping and camping on one of Muskoka’s beautiful lakes, or hiking through the vast and rugged landscape you can not help but be awed but this idyllic place.
- The Cost: I know, I know. I’ve said it before. But, believe me, it merits another mention. Muskoka is expensive. Obviously camping is your cheapest option but cottage rentals and resorts can get very steep. However, for many (including me) it is worth it from time to time to splurge a little. Basically what it boils down to is that you will likely get more bang for your buck elsewhere but, you won’t be in Muskoka!