If you’re looking for a winter getaway and not sure where to go in Ontario, Gravenhurst and Muskoka are beautiful in winter, and affordable. From Toronto and most of Southern Ontario, the area is also a pretty quick drive, and there’s a lot to do when there’s snow on the ground.
From skating trails, and snowmobiling, to dog sledding, and brewery tours, Muskoka offers a great escape outdoors. If you’re looking for a few ideas for a getaway this winter, there’s a lot to discover. Here’s a peek at some of my favourite things you should check out on your next trip.
Between Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, and north into Huntsville, there are dozens of hotels, inns, and motels, with prices ranging from about $99 to around $250, depending on when you visit.
When my family stayed in Gravenhurst recently, we loved the Residence Inn by Marriott Gravenhurst Muskoka Wharf (285 Steamship Bay Road, Gravenhurst, Ontario). The hotel has free breakfast, a pool, nearby walking trails, and it looks out over the lake. The suites are also large and comfortable, and feature a full fridge and small kitchen. Our one bedroom suite included a fireplace too, so it was perfect for relaxing after a long, fun day outside.
And the location is also fantastic. It will only take about 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours to drive from Toronto and the surrounding area. From Gravenhurst, it’s also about 20 to 40 minutes to get to nearly any of the top destinations in Muskoka, including one of my favorite skating trails in the area.
The main reason we wanted to visit Muskoka was for the skating trail at Arrowhead Provincial Park. It’s a beautiful place to skate, and get outdoors for an afternoon. The park even has has special skating nights by torchlight, if you’re looking for something different or a bit romantic.
Arrowhead Provincial Park is about 35 minutes from Gravenhurst, or it’s a short 10-minute drive from Huntsville. The park is open 9am to 5:30pm in February and 9am to 6pm in March, and admission is just $20 per car on the weekends. You can also rent skates, in case you can’t bring your own.
The trail is 1.3 km long, and wide enough for three or four people to skate side-by-side, and it’s gorgeous, especially after fresh snow. When you arrive, there is a spot to sit and lace up your skates by small fire pits, and it’s sheltered a bit from the wind by all the trees.
There are four “Fire and Ice” skating evenings coming up still in 2019, when you can skate between 6pm and 9pm along the torch-lit ice trail. Those dates are: February 14, February 23, March 2, and March 9. Keep in mind that the skating trail is only open dependent on the weather, so it’s a good idea to check the Arrowhead Park’s Twitter feed for updates.
For other skating locations, Bala Ontario’s Muskoka Lakes Farm & Winery ( 1074 Cranberry Road, Bala, Ontario) also has a skating trail they call the Cranberry Ice Trail; and there’s also a skating park at Memorial Park Winter Village in downtown Bracebridge (Manitoba St & Kimberly Ave, Bracebridge, Ontario).
Snowmobiling, Snowshoeing & More
Muskoka is a great place to get away for snowmobiling, whether you own a snowmobile or not. There are countless trails through the region, and many have stops near restaurants, so you can take a break and enjoy a meal during your trip.
In Gravenhurst, you can rent snowmobiles near the Residence Inn, or through a number of other rental companies in the area. There are also snowmobile guided tours if you want to go out with a tour guide, rather than on your own.
You can also go cross-country skiing at Arrowhead Provincial Park, snowshoeing, or there are also a few places that offer dog sledding in the area.
One of the best resources for finding activities is the Discover Muskoka website, which gives great details on options in the area, if you need a little more help while planning.
It’s also a good idea to call ahead or check with companies before you travel to ensure rentals or activities are available when you’re travelling, or to book ahead.
If you love good craft beer, there are a number of great breweries in the Muskoka area, and one of my favourites–pretty much anywhere–is Sawdust City Brewing Company (397 Muskoka Rd. N Gravenhurst, Ontario).
The brewery, bar, and retail store is a fantastic place if you love beer, and you can take a guided tour on weekends, during select hours, or buy beer from the store. Their bar however is the real highlight of the space, offering 18 of their own incredible draughts every day of the week.
The brewery is also releasing one new draught every week this year, so even if you’ve been before, there’s new beer to try every week in 2019.
During my visit, I sampled four excellent brews, including Long Dark Voyage to Uranus, a perfect, chocolatey stout; Anticipation is Freshly Zambonied Ice, a sweet, delicious, Belgian-style ale; Skinny Dippin’, which is an oatmeal stout that was like blending coffee and chocolate; and Hali’s Comet, a dry-hopped amber ale that tasted like vacation to me, with a unique, hoppy finish.
I brought home a few cans of beer, plus a bottle of their exceptionally unique Hygge, a limited edition beer that starts out by blending pale ale wort with riesling juice from Malivoire winery, which is then fermented with house ale yeast and brettanomyces, followed at the end of the process by adding in oak spirals.
Other nearby breweries include Clear Lake Brewing Co. in Torrance, Lake of Bays in Baysville, and Muskoka Brewery in Bracebridge.
- The Gravenhurst Winter Carnival runs from February 13 to 18.
- Dorset Snowball Winter Carnival is February 15 and 16.
- Muskoka Hullabaloo is February 16 in Bracebridge.
- Baysville Winterfest is February 18.
- Muskoka Cup is February 23 in Huntsville.
- And A Weekend in Cottage Country with Chef Lynn Crawford is at Deerhurst Resort on March 1 and 2.
Watch video from above Gravenhurst, shot with the DJI Mavic 2 Pro: