Surrounded by famous lakes at the gateway to a spectacular park, this town is in the heart of it all.
Nestled among the highlands of the Canadian Shield and surrounded by the Muskoka Lakes, Huntsville is the biggest town in Ontario’s favourite cottage country. And you don’t have to travel far to find the water (or the woods)—the Muskoka River winds right through the community, home to three lakes and a provincial park. Take some time to browse the charming shops and cafes downtown, where you can spot murals by the Group of Seven, renowned in Canada and known for their boreal landscapes. Then stock up on gear and food before heading for the wilderness—you’ll find it in every direction.
Arrowhead Provincial Park Just northeast of the town centre, this park is all about its namesake lake. Swim at three separate sand beaches, or get out onto the water in a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard. Then hike 15 kilometres of trails, including one that leads to a tumbling waterfall. In winter, its ice skating trail is a wonder—1.3 kilometres winding through evergreen forest and illuminated by torches at night. Algonquin Provincial Park Huntsville sits at the western gateway to Alqonguin. Encompassing more than 7,500 square kilometres (larger than the province of Prince Edward Island), the park includes thousands of lakes, eight campgrounds, and 14 interpretive trails, plus a logging museum and an excellent visitor’s centre. Stay along Highway 60 or, even better, paddle a canoe or kayak deep into the interior, where you may just find an entire lake to yourself. Mikisew Provincial Park Spread along the shores of Eagle Lake, this is an excellent park to get out on the water. Get into a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard (all are available to rent at the park office) and paddle around the small islands that dot the lake, or take a dip at one of the three beaches. And when you’re ready for something different, hike one of their four interconnected loop trails, or play 18 on the disc-golf course. Georgian Bay Islands National Park A whole different experience than the relatively small lakes that dot Muskoka, this park on massive Georgian Bay is part of the world’s largest freshwater archipelago. Spend time on the white-sand beaches (lined with aquamarine waters), hike to scenic vistas, cycle through the woodlands, or get on your boat to explore endless islands.
July and August, the peak summer months, are the hottest and best for getting into the lakes and rivers, which can be downright chilly well into spring. But summer is also extremely busy, with seemingly half of Toronto, just to the south, renting cottages and camping in Muskoka. Bring bug spray if visiting in spring (days can be nice and warm in May, and evenings are nice in June), and know that autumn colours pop in September and October, peaking around Canadian Thanksgiving. While some attractions shut down into fall, there’s plenty to keep you busy in winter, including alpine and Nordic skiing, curling, skating, and snowshoeing.
- Huntsville is the largest town in Muskoka and also the best place to stock up on camping and other supplies. Options will be more limited in the smaller, surrounding communities. - Highway 11, which serves as the main street of Muskoka and connects the region with the greater Toronto area, becomes extremely busy on weekends, especially in summer. If driving up on a Friday or down on a Sunday, be prepared for heavy traffic. - If you’re headed north, pack everything you need before heading into the wilderness. Don’t count on mobile service away from town and the main highways.