Gravenhurst and Huntsville are scenic, and they also have enough shops, restaurants, parks, and public squares to make them worth a visit. Unless you have kids and plan to visit Santa's Village , there's not much of a reason to linger in Bracebridge.
Gravenhurst is Muskoka's first town -- the first you reach if you're driving from Toronto and the first to achieve town status.
Sailing is one of Muskoka's greatest summer pastimes. Gravenhurst is home to the Muskoka Fleet, which includes a lovingly restored coal-powered 1887 steamship, the RMS Segwun. There are many options for cruising, such as a 1-hour tour; a 2 1/2-hour lunch cruise; and a 4-hour late-afternoon tour of Millionaire's Row, where the real estate is as dazzling as the natural beauty. Reservations are required for all tours; call tel. 866/687-6667 or 705/687-6667, or visit www.realmuskoka.com for more information. Tour prices start at C$18 adults, C$11 children 12 and under.
Year-round, there are theater performances at the Gravenhurst Opera House (tel. 705/687-5550), which celebrated its 109th anniversary in 2010. In summer, there are shows at the Port Carling Community Hall (tel. 705/765-5221).
Bracebridge: Santa's Workshop
Halfway between the equator and the North Pole, Bracebridge bills itself as Santa's summer home, and Santa's Village (tel. 705/645-2512; www.santasvillage.ca) is a fantasyland full of kiddie delights: pedal boats and bumper boats on the lagoon, a roller-coaster sleigh ride, a Candy Cane Express, a carousel, and a Ferris wheel. Mid-June through Labour Day, it's open daily from 10am to 6pm. Admission is C$27 children 5 and over, C$22 seniors and children 2 to 4, and free for children under 2.
Starting in the late 1800s, lumber was the name of the game in Huntsville, which today is Muskoka's biggest town. You can see some of the region's early history at the Muskoka Heritage Place, which includes Muskoka Pioneer Village (88 Brunel Rd., Huntsville; tel. 705/789-7576; www.muskokaheritageplace.org). It's open from mid-May to mid-October daily from 11am to 4pm. Admission is C$10 adults, C$7 children 3 to 12, free for children 2 and under. Muskoka Heritage Place also features the Portage Flyer Steam Train. Once part of the world's smallest commercial railway (running from 1904-58), it's been reborn as a tourist attraction and reopened in 2010 after a thorough renovation.
Robinson's General Store on Main Street in Dorset (tel. 705/766-2415) is so popular, it was voted Canada's best country store. Wood stoves, dry goods, hardware, pine goods, and moccasins -- you name it, it's here.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.