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A weekend getaway guide to Muskoka

Posted by Guest Contributor / May 17, 2012

Muskoka Weekend GetawaysIt's time to getaway for the weekend. Muskoka anyone? The countdown to cottage season is quickly coming to a close, and when the clock strikes Victoria Day there may as well be a federal mandate to trade in martini glasses for mason jars. The summer season is here and that can only mean one thing: for the coming months we'll settle for nothing less than all-navajo-everything.

Cottage country is quite simply our Zion: a piece of paradise in our backyard (and the birthplace of Canadian craft beer). From May 2-4 forward the line that separates city from country will be a bit blurry, and as the Wu-Tang Clan once said, C.R.E.A.M...cottages rule everything around me, and that's the hard truth. So kids, it's time to start your engines, hit the open road, and head to the back of beyond where the produce is local and the living is easy.

Here's my guide to how to do Muskoka right.

Perfect Pit-Stop
As you're cruising North on Highway 11, you can't miss Weber's. No, really, you can't: its iconic bright orange bridge ensures no road warrior can drive by without grabbing some grub. So pump your breaks and bite into a barbecued burger (and fries with extra Lawry's seasoned salt) inside Weber's signature CN railway car turned dining room.

Caffeine Fix
Handcrafted caffeine is a must for mornings in cottage country, and when in Muskoka it'd be sacrilegious to drink anything other than 100% Canadian owned and operated Muskoka Roastery java. Pick up a pack at any Independent Grocer in the Bracebridge/Gravenhurst area.

Muskoka OntarioGet Baked
Cherished for its fresh-from-scratch goodies, Don's Bakery is best known for its whole wheat scones (which local patrons recommend using as sandwich buns). A landmark in Bala Falls, Don's is a favorite port of call for an en route pastry pick-up.

MuskokaDrink Up
Get to know the low-pro hole-in-the-wall that is Griffin Gastropub, which will win you over with its locally sourced food and impressive lineup of craft beers. With a comfortable crowd and friendly service, Griffin is a go-to spot for the epicurious beer buff.

Get The Scoop
If you're craving a cone on a sunny afternoon, stop by Ice Dreams Soda Shop, a retrofitted creamery where you can soothe your sweet tooth with none other than a creme brûlée milkshake. Lactose isn't your thing? Then sip on their signature sweet green tea.

Fancy Footwork
From moccasins to Muskoka chairs, the Indian River Trading Co. can only be described as a "one-stop shop" for the Muskoka cottager. Stop in and sweep up some cottage country essentials.

Beer Run
Brewer: Muskoka Brewery
Brew: Mad Tom IPA
Style: India Pale Ale

Need a soundtrack for the ride up? Check out mine at the bottom of this post.

Writing by Mara Sofferin who spends her days helping people find cottages via CottageCountry.com. Weber's photo by Sean Orr from the blogTO Flickr pool. All other photos by the author.



que / May 17, 2012 at 09:23 am
That play list is a joke, right?
tears replying to a comment from que / May 17, 2012 at 09:29 am
Are you sad that your garage band music isn't on it?
what where / May 17, 2012 at 09:34 am
You type in a few meagre words about a couple of things and then you don't even bother to tell us where any of them are.
que replying to a comment from tears / May 17, 2012 at 09:37 am
Nope. Simply stating the obvious about that list.
AV / May 17, 2012 at 09:39 am
Here's a tip... Webers is on Highway 11 which does not lead to Muskoka. Highway 169 leads into Muskoka. Highway 11 leads to Gravenhurst (amongst other places).

When the kids that write your articles are old enough to get a license and drive, they'll realize how poorly thought-out this post was.
lumpythigh / May 17, 2012 at 09:41 am
Those scones look heavenly. Is that jam and clotted cream on them?
follow the links! replying to a comment from what where / May 17, 2012 at 09:48 am
I don't know if you've used the internet before, but all of the venues are textlinks, click on them and they'll direct you to the website where you can figure out how to get there.
Jamie replying to a comment from que / May 17, 2012 at 09:50 am
What awesome, mind-blowing songs everyone loves would you put on, Que?
Ratpick replying to a comment from AV / May 17, 2012 at 10:08 am
"Here's a tip... Webers is on Highway 11 which does not lead to Muskoka. Highway 169 leads into Muskoka. Highway 11 leads to Gravenhurst (amongst other places).

When the kids that write your articles are old enough to get a license and drive, they'll realize how poorly thought-out this post was."

Um, AV? Hwy 11 leads right into the eastern heart of Muskoka. I suggest you get out your map and see for yourself, friendo.
Mr Knowledge replying to a comment from AV / May 17, 2012 at 10:09 am
Hey AV - you know it's funny - this map I'm looking at shows Gravenhurst at the bottom of Lake Muskoka.
Ratpick replying to a comment from Mr Knowledge / May 17, 2012 at 10:18 am
Yes it is. Gravenhurst is sort of a main town of the Muskoka region. It's where you catch the famous Muskoka boat "Segwun"

AV, any comment? Maybe retract your ad hominem attack?
tommy / May 17, 2012 at 10:22 am
Webers is highly overrated.
Parry Hoot / May 17, 2012 at 10:25 am
1. Find a dock.
2. Sit on it.
Cyril Sneer / May 17, 2012 at 10:28 am
Yeah thats some pretty awful music on there.
Lazar / May 17, 2012 at 10:31 am
Weber's burgers are not worth it. You may want to try one just so you can say you waited in line for 90 minutes and we able to eat them near some railway passenger cars... but as a burger...not worth it...

And one other things, when you do head up to the Muskoka region, try very hard NOT to say the "Muskokas"... they get really pissed off when you say that, so you can't say that you haven't been warned.
stinky inky / May 17, 2012 at 10:43 am
Yay! Let's all go down to mommy and daddy's cottage and mooch off of them some more!

The Me Generation is at it again, trying to live lives that they cannot afford.

BlogTO: will you ever try to address the sense of entitlement and the absurd spending habits of 20-30-somethings?
JB / May 17, 2012 at 10:53 am
While I don't agree on some of the track selections, there are some great picks on there. blogTO should be called haterTO. Complaining about someone's taste in music is equivalent to tweeting, "Who The Fuck Is Paul McCartney".
the lemur replying to a comment from AV / May 17, 2012 at 10:56 am
Hwy 169 ends at ... Hwy 11 before it even gets to the Muskoka Lakes area.
Sandra / May 17, 2012 at 11:06 am
Sheeple lined up to spend money on Webers hockey puck burgers hahahaha
Pk replying to a comment from stinky inky / May 17, 2012 at 11:12 am
Jesus, inky... have a beer and chill already. It's an article about heading to the cottage. Grind yer axe elsewhere...
bratty hipster replying to a comment from tommy / May 17, 2012 at 11:14 am
I really loved Webers as a kid going up to the cottage or up to camp but now that I am older and wear skinny jeans and Doc Martens with ironic Tshirts I think Webers is stupid.
Joe Scratch / May 17, 2012 at 11:24 am
I wish I had friends with cottages.
Alex replying to a comment from stinky inky / May 17, 2012 at 11:28 am
Awww, someone jealous that other people can afford cottages? That's because we have good paying jobs and didn't go to school for a BA and then assume a good paying job with benefits should be handed to us because we went to University.

I'm kind of sick of people referring to us as the Me generation. Every generation has slackers and people who think they're entitled to stuff. Don't believe everything you read in the Grid buddy.
haha replying to a comment from stinky inky / May 17, 2012 at 11:43 am
You're hilarious.

stinky inky replying to a comment from Alex / May 17, 2012 at 11:57 am
Alex replying to a comment from stinky inky / MAY 17, 2012 AT 11:28 AM
"Awww, someone jealous that other people can afford cottages? That's because we have good paying jobs and didn't go to school for a BA and then assume a good paying job with benefits should be handed to us because we went to University."

LOL. You're funny, Alex. Didn't you know? People who buy cottages can't afford them in the first place. That's why there's something called mortgages & consumer loans.

I would ask your other cottage buddies what their net worth is. I bet that most are in the negative.

As for me, I have a law degree (not a BA, thank you very much), and have a net worth that you can only dream of. You can, too. But, you better educate yourself about how money really works.
CashMoney! replying to a comment from stinky inky / May 17, 2012 at 12:18 pm
Are you suggesting that we all become ruthless lawyers and make lots of money so we can purchase our cottages with cash and then go on blogs talking about how much more my net worth is than yours?
HULKFORD / May 17, 2012 at 12:21 pm
Todd Toronto / May 17, 2012 at 12:30 pm
"Patio Lanterns", "Ahead by a Century", "Summer of '69" and, what the heck, "Call Me Maybe."

There's your cottage soundtrack.
dee / May 17, 2012 at 12:37 pm
"we'll settle for nothing less than all-navajo-everything"
This...this pains me so much. You know the Navajo are a people of the southwestern USA, right? Muskoka was mainly inhabited by the Ojibwe, and today you can find the Wahta Mohawk Territory in Muskoka. So I think if you're trying to help people enjoy Cottage Country, at least try to be accurate in terms of whose land was stolen to build those cottages on, please!
stinky inky replying to a comment from CashMoney! / May 17, 2012 at 12:39 pm
CashMoney! replying to a comment from stinky inky / MAY 17, 2012 AT 12:18 PM
"Are you suggesting that we all become ruthless lawyers and make lots of money so we can purchase our cottages with cash and then go on blogs talking about how much more my net worth is than yours?"

Let me say this more simply, if I may: Stop spending money you don't have! Or, better yet, live BELOW your means--that doesn't include going to the cottage. And, if that fails, get acquainted with Thomas J. Stanley. That is all.

Jen / May 17, 2012 at 12:46 pm
There's a correction needed here:

They are Don's Scons. The buns are nothing like scones. They are soft, fluffy, and delightful and the white ones are MUCH better.

Aaron / May 17, 2012 at 12:49 pm
To those who always seem to pop up whenever Webers is mentioned on a blog, etc, please shut up. It's getting old. To say Webers is overrated is to first assume Webers and its patrons think it's the end all of burgers. Neither has ever made that claim. I, for one, think they're tasty. They're the burgers I grew up with and looked forward to every time I hopped in the car with the fam to spend our week o' fun up in Muskoka. I still look forward to them. The line is NEVER 90 minutes worth of wait. Not even close. We get it, you're far superior in your taste and appreciation of food to the point of labeling yourself a 'foodie'. Enjoy, knock yourself out. But please, stop thinking any of us lesser consumers of food give a crap, because we do not, you sad, little clowns.
lol replying to a comment from stinky inky / May 17, 2012 at 01:00 pm
hey wet blanket, why are you getting your panties in a knot over some of us visiting a friends parents cottage? its pretty fiscally sound, its a nice break from city life and its a good time with friends and family. where is the beef? We all read the same gridto article. it was pretty great. what does going to a friends parents cottage have to do with it?
Pk / May 17, 2012 at 01:01 pm
Did anyone else think they'd be getting a lecture about ecomomics from ol' Stink Ink whey they clicked on this story about cottages and playlists? Sheesh...
Care Bear replying to a comment from stinky inky / May 17, 2012 at 01:09 pm
"Im a lawyer who spends his day trolling blogs and showing off how much money I suposedly have."

Pipe down fool, I love how you are generalizing everyone who reads BlogTO as a overspending, debt ridden yuppie but YOU are a big shot lawyer with a super high net worth.
Alex replying to a comment from stinky inky / May 17, 2012 at 01:36 pm
Wow, you're a lawyer and you don't really understand how mortgages work, do you? The whole mortgage system worked fine for decades before the recession (and continues to work fine), and the junk mortgages that caused the recession were NOT normal. Based on your knowledge of mortgages I would definitely recommend you not get one until you talk to an expert (and that does not include the banker who gets a hefty commission if you sign one).

I'm sorry you think that someone's goal in life should be a high net worth. You're not exactly helping the greedy, soulless, lawyer stereotype are you? I don't know anyone that owns a cottage, that's what rentals are for. I also don't keep track of my friend's net worths', that would be insanely creepy. I don't know anyone my age (20's) that has a huge debt either. I'm pretty sure that's just a stereotype perpetuated by magazines and newspapers, because articles like that make people feel smarter than everyone else and feel worried about the future so they keep buying the newspaper to find out what else is wrong.

Cottage rentals are very affordable and are definitely not going to bankrupt someone or put them in a huge debt. Buying a cottage is another matter, but people don't buy a cottage for a single summer, they do it for a lifetime if they have enough money to afford a second home. Cottages rock! Nothing beats a nice long weekend cottage rental to get away from the city and chill with friends.
CashMoney! replying to a comment from stinky inky / May 17, 2012 at 02:55 pm
I don't think I got it. Perhaps if you wrote your ENTIRE argument in Caps it would hit home a little harder. Thank you though for being so concerned in how BlogTo readers are spending their money! Perhaps you should stand on the street corner and lecture those walking by. We could even get you a sign.

I do like the knowing peoples net worth though. I think I'm going to start opening with that line when I meet people.
Ben / May 17, 2012 at 04:24 pm
I clicked this link almost exclusively to make sure that a post about a Muskoka weekend included mention of Mad Tom. Nicely done!

Great guide.

For all of you that are worried about the mention of a highway that leads to Gravenhurst instead, you can drink Sawdust City beer instead.

And, while I don't mean to join the chorus of haters here, in terms of your playlist, why not just listen to Etta James and Ben E. King perform their own songs? Far better than any covers, in my opinion.
balding, fat & no friends / May 17, 2012 at 04:58 pm
I wish I could go to the cottage this weekend, too. But, no one has invited me. :(

Can someone invite me, please? Very lonely and needing a special friend.
starsux / May 17, 2012 at 06:58 pm
Weber's never claimed to be good at anything other than offering a place for the kids and family dog to stretch their legs and make a peepee. It does an excellent job of that, hence the long line-ups.

It also offers unremarkable but decent burgers, fries, etc. Here's a tip. Order the double burger. Much better than a single.
Bala / May 17, 2012 at 07:00 pm
Bala bay inn patio is the best! Great beers, food and hot waitresses.

Webers sucks.
JD / May 18, 2012 at 06:13 am
Webers is a landmark. It has been for many years.

It's food is not bloggable nor will it be reviewed by hipster foodies. It is the standard fare of burger joints pre 'gastro'.

It's consistent, fresh and ready fast. It makes feeding a hungry and excited carload of kids easy. There are no 90 minute minute line-ups. 9 minute maybe.

It is also nostalgic. It predates the internet and probably most of you reading this. People have been lining up for years for a reason.
Bruce Mandrake / May 18, 2012 at 01:49 pm
iSkyscraper / May 21, 2012 at 01:59 pm
What a mess of ocmments. Yikes. Let me add to the pile!

1) As a weekend guide, this post makes little sense. There is no route mapped out, and you have people going all over the place. (Bala, then Bracebridge, then back to Bala...) It should be arranged more like the "Best of" posts on Blog TO, with a map key so that people can understand the locations. Or make it route based.

2) Who is this post aimed at? A day tripper returning home for the evening? Someone looking for access to the water? Odd that you list no suggested accommodations or parks with public beaches (there are quite a few). It's a very incomplete list seemingly aimed at people who already have cottages, who will therefore already know all of these businesses.

3) Corrections: Don's Bakery is in Bala And yes, it is spelled "scones" though pronounced "scons". And they are nothing like actual scones, more like triangle-shaped dinner rolls, soft and fluffy. (see bags on bottom right of this image: http://bit.ly/Lm58ns) I have no idea what your picture is of, but that is not what local cottagers think of as "Don's scons". Maybe we've just been mixing up rolls with scones all these years... Also, there is no town of "Bala Falls" (unless you are referring to the actual rapids near the bakery). Ice Dreams is not in a former creamery but in the former Don's, vacated when Don's moved to the former supermarket years ago. Still super cute place though.

4) Lexicon: Muksoka is a tricky word, and you should be careful to clarify what you mean. "Muskoka Region" means both the "Muskoka Lakes" (Muskoka, Rosseau, Joseph) and the lakes around Huntsville/Lake of Bays and all the stuff inbetween and around them. This post seems to only deal with the loop circling Lake Muskoka proper (Gravenhurst-Bala-Port Carling-Bracebridge). Is that the intent?

5) Webers: seems overrated if you go all the time, but live elsewhere for a while, come back, and you'll savour every bite. So good. Should make mention of the Key Man (you can identify him by his button), who has been flipping burgers there for decades and will give you a nod if you go, say, a couple hundred times. The guy is awesome. Other Weber's trivia -- that orange bridge is the original bridge over the railway that used to connect the CN Tower to Front St. Weber's bought it when the convention center and Skydome changed the area -- people kept getting hit by cars crossing the highway. And the railcar theme came from surplus boxcars being the cheapest way to create refrigerated storage back when Weber's first opened. Only in recent years did they add more train cars for washrooms, seating, etc. Rule of thumb - if the line is more than 6 or 7 people out the door, it will be a long wait. Otherwise they move at rocket speed, taking payment long before you get to the counter and opening the second side when it gets busy.

5) Highways: Even in the strictest definition of the word "Muskoka", it is perfectly correct to refer to Highway 11 as the way to the region. It's been that way for nearly a century and even after highway downloading the main route for anyone on the east side of the Muskoka Lakes or anyone headed to Lake of Bays/Huntsville is still to take Hwy 11. (The western side now has the new Highway 400 extension as a back door to Bala, Port Carling, Lake Joseph, etc.) As for 169, which for people too old to read this blog would have been the original Highway 69, it was killed by downloading and is now only informally called "Highway 169". Technically it is now Muskoka Road 169, though no one actually calls it that. This was and remains the upgraded version of the Bala Road from Gravenhurst. (It continues as a Simcoe County road south of Gravenhurst heading SE to Hwy 12). If you want to get a sense of what a provincial highway looked like in the 1960s, take Old Torrance Road as you approach Torrance from the east. This short section of road is the original and untouched highway that used to run into the (abandoned) middle of Torrance before heading back out to its current route. Narrow shoulders, high grades - picture 3 or 4 hours on that in the back of a station wagon and you'll get a sense of what driving to Muskoka used to be like.
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