Considering an outdoor adventure? The wonderland of the Muskoka Lakes is only a few hours north from the fast pace of the city. While the area contains more than 1,600 lakes (the largest and most well-known include Lakes Joseph, Muskoka and Rosseau, offering countless hours of leisure and watersports), there are still many things to explore when the snow begins to fall.

Steeped in history and nostalgia, Muskoka was opened for settlement and organized in 1870 and spanning more than 800 square kilometers across communities encompassing Bala, Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, Huntsville, and Port Sydney. While every community offers its own unique experience, there are outdoor activities to satisfy every age and sense of adventure.

Historic Downtowns and Main Streets

The original general stores and merchant storefronts have been refreshed to welcome a new generation of seasonal and year-round residents. From antiques and second-hand stores, to fashion, sports and speciality shops, the main streets of Muskoka have a great deal to showcase. 

If you want to look the part, Muskoka Bear Wear features incredibly comfortable, Ontario made cottage clothing for all ages. Established almost 20 years ago, they’re famous for the signature Paw Pants, but their sweats, hats and toques have developed a global following, as their Instagram will attest.

When you’re finished window shopping, you have a multitude of options to grab lunch to-go or relax and enjoy a delectable dinner at a slower pace. 

Huntsville’s The Mill on Main features unique pub-style fare and fresh pizza and flatbread baked in a wood-fired pizza oven. If comfort foods are more your thing, Main St. Local Kitchen’s breakfast, sweet potato coconut soup and handmade Angus beef burgers may be more to your liking. Gravenhurst’s The Butcher’s Daughters boasts meals made in-house from scratch, with sauces and wholesome soups that simmer gently for hours. 

Walking on Water, per se

While the sound of boat motors and laughter fill the air throughout the summer, the sound of crisp snow crunching under your snowshoes and metal blades on ice can be heard throughout the colder months. The colder temperatures and snow won’t slow things down in this winter wonderland. Muskoka is filled with a multitude options when it comes to cross country skiing, tubing, and shoe shoeing in the winter, but if you want to enjoy a truly unique outdoor experience, try outdoor skating in the woods. 

Recognized by Travel+Leisure as one of the most Stunning Natural Ice Rinks Around the World”, Arrowhead Provincial Park is a destination for outdoor skating. From late December through mid-March, skate through the park’s forest amidst 100-foot trees on a frozen path and experience this winter event for yourself. When the sun sets, the experience is taken to an entirely different level along a torch lit path under the stars and the open sky. You can bring your own skates with you or rent a pair onsite. Closer to Bala? Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh offers a similar experience with a kilometre-long Ice Trail around their 12-acre marsh. Warm up après-skate at an open fire with a cup of hot mulled wine or cran-apple cider from the Muskoka Lakes Farm & Winery.

Mush! Let’s go!

While many Canadians have likely raced a toboggan or a crazy carpet down a hill, the winter sport of dog sledding, sometimes known as mushing, remains somewhat of an enigma. If you’re looking for an experience like no other and an opportunity to cross an item off your bucket list, there are options. Dog sledding used to be one of the most reliable means for transportation, but mushing has now transformed into a thrilling and nostalgic experience.

North Ridge Ranch in Huntsville offers one hour and half day tours throughout the winter with their pack of Alaskan Huskies and tour guides on private trails. With more than 500 acres of property, North Ridge Ranch provides this unique Canadian winter experience with a picturesque Muskoka backdrop. Small trips of a few sleds per tour offer a unique experience, allowing hands-on training and experience while the guide watches to ensure dogs and guests are kept safe.

Heading a little further north, Snow Forest Adventures shares the magic of winter in Algonquin Provincial Park. When you relax in the serenity of gliding along the trails or a frozen lake, you will quickly realize this is the recharging you have been craving. Snow Forest Adventures offers multi-night trips where you will learn to lead group of four-legged friends, meet new people and created memories that will last a lifetime. Multi-day trips feature heated tents and home cooked meals in a wilderness setting.

Choice Hotels in Parry Sound and Muskoka