muskoka lakes

How to spend a fall day in the Muskoka Lakes

In the summer months, many Ontarians pack up their cars and head two hours north of Toronto to Muskoka for a cottage country getaway. At the heart of the region, the Township of Muskoka Lakes offers the quintessential Muskoka experience.

Lakes dotted with both cozy cottages and multimillion-dollar waterfront properties, striking rugged landscapes, and charming communities attract visitors from near and far.

While some may think of it exclusively as a summer destination, the magic of fall in Muskoka should not be missed.

Blanketed in a stunning kaleidoscope of bright foliage, it’s the perfect time to curate that moody fall playlist and set off for a road trip, hike, explore the small towns, and so much more.

Here's how to spend a fall day in Muskoka Lakes.

Coffee and Breakfast

What better way to fuel up for fall adventures than a hot caffeinated beverage and quick bite from a local cafe?

Roasting their own coffee beans in small batches, Oliver's Coffee is a reasonably priced coffee shop, with several locations throughout Muskoka Lakes. I recommend their London Fog and Breaky Bagel.

If you're in search of a sit down restaurant with traditional breakfast options like bacon, eggs, or pancakes to start your morning, Bass Lake Roadhouse is a homey tried-and-true local favourite in MacTier open year-round.

Morning Activity

Bala is one of the anchoring communities in Muskoka Lakes and is also the cranberry capital of Ontario. Get the true Bala experience and head to Johnston's Cranberry Farm at Muskoka Lakes Farm and Winery.

You could easily spend several hours here, from wagon ride tours around the marsh, wading through floating cranberries, or sipping mulled wine by the fire pits.

The farm also has over 10 km of hiking trails to explore, a cafe, as well as a shop with wines, ciders, preserves, and delicious frozen foods you can purchase to go.

After exploring the farm, drive 15 minutes along the scenic highway to Port Carling, a historic community nestled between Lake Rosseau and Lake Muskoka.

It may look like a bit of a ghost town during off-season, but Port Carling never loses its charm. From afar it doesn’t look like much, but check out The Wall, a 111-by-45 foot mosaic made up of 9028 photos of Port Carling's earliest residents.

Shop for quirky and unique decor at Barnboarded Antiques, or pop into Red Canoe Gallery and marvel at 100 per cent Canadian-made art.


With daily specials and a robust coffee menu, York & Mason Cafe in Port Carling is a delicious lunch option for gourmet sandwiches, bowls, drinks, and pastries.

Their duck confit grilled cheese with blueberry glazed onions is the perfect combination of sweet and savory, or go for the BBQ Jackfruit sandwich.

For a more intimate setting, Portside Fusion is the place to go for lunch with a view, with seasonally-changing menu items like burrata salad or grilled octopus.

Afternoon Activity

One of the best ways to see the fall colours in Muskoka is from above with a hike at Huckleberry Rock Lookout Trail.

This 2.9 km loop treks over some of the oldest rock in the world to a vista overlooking Lake Muskoka, and is easy enough of a trail for those not so sure-footed.

Prefer a relaxing afternoon with a side of luxury? The JW Marriott resort is breathtaking, with its elegant design and panoramic sweeping views.

While the spa services here will cost a pretty penny, sometimes we all need to invest in a little R&R.

Visit the newly-opened Hydrospa Muskoka and try their Reinvigoration Circuit, including a Himalayan Salt Cave, outdoor heated pool and hot tub, and cold plunge shower above Lake Rosseau.


For dinner, Lakeside Bala is a fine dining restaurant with a small curated menu as close to the lake as you can get. Every seat both inside and out has a view of Lake Muskoka.

Beveragino in Port Carling is another great option as one of the area’s newest restaurants, with a Mediterranean-inspired menu.

If you've spent your afternoon at the Hydrospa, consider one of the resort's award-winning dining options, such as Teca for Italian fare or Muskoka Chophouse for steak and daily chef's features.

Evening and Late Night

During the off-season, you won’t find much open in terms of nightlife. Luckily, there is still plenty to do once the sun sets. For a one of a kind experience, you can sample flights of vodka and snack on tapas in a -15°C ice bar that is open year-round at the JW Marriott.

You’ll want to bundle up before heading into the Crystal Head Vodka Ice Bar where you’ll be surrounded by ice and a wall of illuminated crystal skulls.

Astronomy-lovers, you’re in luck. Just outside Muskoka Lakes in Gravenhurst, Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Reserve is a conservation area world renown for stargazing.

With unobstructed views and no light pollution, Torrance Barrens received the honour of being named the world’s first permanently designated Dark Sky Reserve. Grab a blanket and your camera; this is the place to see stars, galaxies, and even Northern Lights.

Lead photo by

Roozbeh Rokni

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