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Looking for the perfect summer getaway that’s not as overcrowded, but just as exclusive as the Hamptons?
Located 2 hours north of Toronto and a 1-hour flight from New York, Muskoka is the Hamptons of Canada. The Carnegies and the Mellons famously vacationed here and today celebrities like Kate Hudson, Cindy Crawford, Justin Bieber and Tom Hanks summer here.
Recognized by National Geographic as one of the world’s most beautiful destinations, Muskoka is surrounded by three lakes that host a large boating and golf community and private luxury lake houses. Muskoka is known for its fun summer activities and peaceful atmosphere.
We’ve asked Anne Hepfer, luxury interior designer, upcoming author of MOOD, and Muskoka resident, for a guide on the best things to do in Muskoka.
A Local’s Guide to the Top Things to do in Muskoka
Muskoka, Ontario is the ultimate vacation haven. It’s a hot spot for beautiful resorts and summer activities like water skiing, wakeboarding, wake-foiling, boating, golfing or fishing.
Cottage weekends are about escaping the hectic pace of city life and there’s something very meditative about the crystal-clear water, soaring white pines and rugged granite rocks here.
Yoga, Shopping & Ski Shows at SWS Marina
SWS is a family-owned business that is famous for its summer ski shows and lessons right on the water. In addition, they host Power Yoga classes every morning in the screened boathouse overlooking a marsh. This is my ideal way to relax by listening to crickets and frogs nearby.
After yoga, grab a coffee or smoothie and browse around the pop-up shop village including Snap Dragon, Lulu Lemon and more. On the SWS website, you can find dates to attend the water ski show (now in Bala), which is highly entertaining and fun for the whole family.
Try Wake Foiling Lessons
Surrounded by three big lakes (Muskoka, Rosseau & Joseph), the Muskoka region of Ontario is famous for its water sports.
The new hot sport is wake foiling, which is a new type of surfing behind a boat or a jet ski that feels like you’re floating in the water. If wake foiling is a little too intense, you can also find water skiing, wakeboarding and wake surfing lessons all over Muskoka.
Enjoy the Farmers Market in Lake Rosseau
Every Friday from 9 am-2 pm, the Lake Rosseau farmers market is held at the Waterfront Park. They provide fresh produce, as well as crafts from local artists and gourmet treats. This is a great place to pick up one-of-a-kind souvenirs.
You can also enjoy live music every week here while shopping around and getting a bite to eat. Up the hill is the historic town of Rosseau, which offers more antique shops and stores.
For amazing gourmet food, my favorite is the family-owned restaurant, “Crossroads” which boasts the most beautiful flower garden outdoor patio.
In Port Carling, a few of the best places for chic clothing and jewelry are Augustina, Cou, Lemonwood and L’Eau. Plus, Muskoka Bear Wear is a great place to pick up hoodie sweatshirts for the kids. For home furnishings and gifts, I love Artifacts, Lock & Quay, Muskoka Living and Lake Livin’ at Port Sandfield.
Travel by Floatplane
Floatplanes are common and a great way to get around especially to restaurants and other destinations on the water. The views of the Canadian Shield from the sky are spectacular. Hire a floatplane to fly out to San Souci in the Georgian Bay to a fish & chips restaurant called Henry’s.
Get Takeaway from Smokin Birds Barbeque
This is my husband’s favorite “grab ‘n go” in Muskoka. Located in Bala, this roadside smokehouse sells barbeque, seasonal sides and handmade juices. Finger licking good and perfect family take-out before the Bala water ski show (see SWS marina events for details).
Craft Beer Tasting at Trestle Brewery
Parry Sound, Georgian Bay is about an hour’s drive from Muskoka, where you’ll find the Trestle Brewery with a taproom serving craft beer brewed on-site. They serve food and have live music all summer long. This is one of the best spots to go on a Friday night at sunset with friends.
Where to Stay in Muskoka
Looking for a place to stay? Jayne’s Cottages will help you select a luxury rental to meet your needs and help with vacation planning for activities like horseback riding or golfing.
JW Marriot Rosseau
The JW Marriot is also a great place to stay with a beautiful spa with an indoor/outdoor pool, gym facility, as well as multiple dining options. The view over Lake Rosseau is magnificent. Adjacent to the hotel is The Rock – a spectacular golf course.
The Windermere House is one of my favorite dinner spots. It was an old hotel that burned down and was rebuilt. It has a great pub that serves delicious surf and turf. You can also dine on the veranda which looks out onto a green lawn that pours into the water’s edge.
Best Tips & Tools to Plan Your Trip
Author Bio: Anne Hepfer started her eponymous firm after relocating to Toronto 18 years ago. She was House & Home’s Designer of the Year in 2021 and has been featured in House Beautiful, The Wall St Journal, AD, and Domino to name a few. Her first ever book, MOOD, which will be released this September, speaks through the seven key emotions a brilliantly designed home should evoke: happy, relaxed, energized, cozy, sexy, tranquil, and nostalgic. It is available for presale on Amazon now.