Looking for things to do in Port Carling and Muskoka Lakes? Here are the essential experiences, laid out in order by time of day. You may want to plan out a few weekends to visit, or talk to us about getting yourself a cottage, because you’ll need lots of time for the most essential experience of all – relaxing by the water and forgetting that time even exists.
Wake up in time for a sunrise (at least once!)
View the sunrise from wherever you choose – but I’d highly recommend picking a bay or smaller section of lake. It’s not just about the sunrise itself – it’s the mirror-like reflection of the morning clouds on the lake that really make early Muskoka mornings magical.
Check out the Port Carling Wall
The Port Carling wall is a local icon. I recommend grabbing a coffee at Beveragino before walking over to the wall. From there you can enjoy the sun and views on the docks, or walk downtown to do some shopping.
Don’t forget to find the blue and red Muskoka chair while you’re there – the wall is part of the View the Lakes tour, said to showcase the best views in Muskoka.
Visiting the Muskoka Lakes Museum
The Muskoka Lakes Museum is set on James Bartleman island, between the locks. It houses a collection of artifacts and interactive exhibits showcasing the way life was in Muskoka. I’ve been to a lot of museums around the world, and believe me when I say this is a special one.
Lunch on the Waterfront Patio at Turtle Jack’s
You can walk or drive there of course, but the best way to go is by boat! Turtle Jacks is a classic choice, but there are a few great waterfront restaurants to check out. Or, grab takeout from York & Mason, Portside Fusion, or one of the many other choices in Port Carling and bring it down to the docks for a picnic.
Going out for ice cream
Check out Mooskokas right in Port Carling, or go by boat to Silver Streams Market on Lake Rosseau. It’s located right across from Port Sandfield Marina. Pro tip: they make amazing sandwiches.
Visit Stone Cottage Antiques (Little Red Barn Antiques)
Or visit one of the many antique stores in the area – there is another along Hwy. 118 that opened this year – just look for the red, white, & blue ”antiques” sign (before you hit Windermere nursery on your way into Port Carling).
Visit the LCBO by boat
The LCBO in downtown Port Carling is located right at the water – park your boat outside and head in for some drinks. This is a unique Muskoka experience and a definite must! Just remember the golden rule – water on the water, and beer on the pier!
My favourite? Jumping off the boat a few minutes before we dock at home, so I can swim in for a drink. Passengers only, of course…
Boating through the locks and up to Lake Rosseau and Lake Joe
Boat from Lake Muskoka up the Indian River to the Port Carling locks, then through to Lake Rosseau. From there you can head toward Port Sandfield, and under the bridge to Lake Joe. Interested in checking out some interesting builds in the area? Message us and we’ll give you a list of must sees!
Visit the Sherwood Inn on Lake Joseph
Visit the spa, have a few drinks, have dinner, or do all 3! I highly recommend having dinner out on the patio – watching the colours change with the sunset over Lake Joe while surrounded by all those big tall trees is just lovely. And the food is amazing, which certainly doesn’t hurt.
Catch a Sunset at Huckleberry Rock Lookout Trail
Huckleberry Rock Lookout Trail is one of the absolute best places to catch a sunset in Muskoka. Watch closely for the white marks on the rocks to follow the trail up to the lookout point – some of the oldest rock in the world at well over a billion years old. The exposed rock dotted with lichens and moss is gorgeous to begin with, but the view is out of this world. You can see right across Lake Muskoka.
This is a favourite of mine year round, but I think fall is the best time to visit (link to fall in Muskoka blog post). Be warned – there is a small portion of the trail which is steep, and the trail can be very icy in the winter.
So there you have it – lots of things to do in Port Carling and Muskoka Lakes! If you need a few more (or ideas for an area we haven’t covered yet), give me a shout at Len@cottageinmuskoka.ca!
The Port Carling is 9,028 pictures pieced together into a 111ft. x 45ft. mosaic of the RMS Sagamo passing through the Port Carling Locks in 1922.
There are 906 individual photographs, which depict life in Muskoka Lakes between 1860 and 1960. They can be viewed in the nine foot lower portion of the mural – from there up the photos are replicated.
Don’t forget to find the red and blue Muskoka chair while you’re there – the wall is part of the View the Lakes chair tour, said to showcase the best views in Muskoka.
The shoreline is an extremely valuable and important area – not only for personal enjoyment and property values, but for the health of our Muskoka Lakes, and the critters we share them with.
Did you know a natural shoreline can:
Protect against erosion?
A natural shoreline is perfectly engineered to protect against erosion. Native vegetation along the shoreline strengthens the structural integrity of the land and prevents it from falling apart. The roots of the plants grip the earth and provide structure, and the foliage and leaves of the plant reduce erosion caused by rainfall and winds. Aquatic plants and buffer plants right along the edge of the shoreline also lessen the effects of wake hitting the shore.
Maintain or improve water quality?
Buffer plants and shoreline gardens reduce incidences of soil erosion, which has the added benefit of protecting fish habitats.
“One could think of it this way: waterfront plant buffers are like eyelashes to our lakes: they keep the grit and goo out”
Filter overland pollutants and absorb extra nutrients?
Vegetation along the shoreline not only helps slow the movement of surface runoff, but the roots of this vegetation also help absorb surface water – trapping excess nutrients and pollutants in the soil.
An excess of nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen is one of the factors that can cause an algal bloom – much like how fertilizing your lawn causes it to grow faster. Given that the other main factors are weather related, keeping these nutrients at a reasonable level are the best defence cottagers have against algal blooms. There are many types of algae – an excess of any of these can be harmful to the aquatic ecosystem, but some types (like blue-green algae) can have dire consequences when it comes to our health and the health of our pets. Most other common types of algae are at their most harmful once they’ve died – they sink to the bottom of the lake and decompose, reducing the amount of oxygen available to fish and other aquatic organisms.
Consuming toxins from a blue-green algae bloom can include headaches, fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and other more serious effects. It can also kill dogs and other animals. According to the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, “people not on public water supplies should not drink surface water during an algal bloom, even if it is treated. In-home treatments such as boiling and disinfecting water with chlorine or UV and water filtration units do not protect from blue-green algal toxins.”
Blue-green algae does more than just threaten our health though – it also threatens our property values. Of particular note is the 2005 toxic algal bloom in Three Mile Lake in Muskoka, a lake which has had more than it’s fair share of blue-green algae related woes. This toxic bloom resulted in property values on Three Mile Lake dropping by about 25%. I guess that’s not much of a surprise to anyone after hearing about the health risks… but we should also mention how repulsive it can look and smell. According to former Township of Muskoka Lakes Mayor Susan Pryke, the worst hit areas of Three Mile Lake “looked like pea soup, with bits of algae floating in the water, sort of like chunks washing up on shore,” and smelled like “garbage that had been left sitting out too long.” Lovely.
Protect wildlife habitats, while ALSO reducing the number of geese that come on your property?
Throughout their lifecycles, the majority of our native Muskoka species depend on a healthy shoreline. The riparian zone (the area that lines the border of the water, with rich moist soils where diverse plant communities can grow) is used for sources of food and shelter, breeding, migration, and for rearing young. This area is also essential when it comes to preventing geese – geese are attracted to open spaces with easy access to the water, and they like to feed on short grass. If you have a goose problem then I’m willing to bet you probably have a grass lawn. A shoreline barrier of native Muskoka shrubs and tall vegetation can help deter them from hanging out on your property.
Moving into the water from the riparian zone, we enter the littoral zone – the submerged area of shoreline where the sunlight still penetrates through to the lake bottom. According to Muskoka Watershed Council, the littoral zone is “the richest natural environment that most of us will ever come into contact with,” with as much of 90% of the species in the lake either living in or passing through this zone. This area (and the aquatic plants and downed trees that it consists of) is responsible for providing oxygen to the lake, spawning areas, shallow protected nursery areas (for fish and amphibians), foraging areas, and hiding spots.
Protect the economic benefits associated with tourism?
Nature is one of the major appeals of Muskoka! Wait to catch a sunset while you watch a Blue Heron fish nearby, a family of ducks float past, or any number of other native Muskoka species encounters. Or just enjoy floating in a lake that isn’t thick with potentially dangerous, smelly, pea-soup like blue-green algae… either way, if the health of our lakes isn’t protected it will result in major tourism-related economic losses down the line.
So, how do you naturalize your shoreline?
Getting started with naturalizing your shoreline doesn’t have to be some gargantuan effort – there are some very low effort ways you can get started on your journey to a healthier shoreline for your Muskoka cottage. Let’s look at a few ways you can help work towards a more natural Muskoka, in order of increasing difficulty…
Creating a no-mow zone near the shoreline to allow vegetation to re-establish
This one could not be easier – simply leave an area along your shoreline unmowed. It is recommended that you leave at least 10 feet, but any amount of shoreline buffer is better than nothing! Ideally you would also minimize the amount of entries you have into the water, leaving 75% of the length of your cottage shoreline to re-naturalize.
Bonus points if you follow this “no-mow” philosophy in the shallow water along your shoreline by using your dock as a bridge to get over the weedy shallow parts of the water rather than clearing the weeds to create a swimming area. That way you can still enjoy a clear area to enjoy the water, without harming this essential habitat.
Placing or allowing woody debris to accumulate along the shoreline
Unless a fallen tree is a hazard to boats or swimmers, consider leaving it be! Not a lot of shoreline trees fall around the lake during a year… and clearing a bunch of them away at once can have disastrous consequences to the habitat they were supporting. By the way, submerged wood not only creates hiding and spawning spots for fish, it’s also a major food source for crayfish, aquatic insects, and small fish.
Active planting of native species
So, you’ve already begun to leave the strip of land nearest to your shoreline alone to re-naturalize… but why not help it along even more by planting some native grasses, plants, shrubs, and/or trees? This is also beneficial in terms of appearance – Muskoka has so many beautiful native plant species, so there’s no need to sacrifice the aesthetics of your cottage. People are often surprised how much they love the look of a naturalized shoreline garden.
Removal or “softening” of existing hard structures like retaining walls
While these hard structures may provide a temporary solution to erosion, they can cause damage to neighbouring properties. They can also eventually fail and damage the shoreline they were originally placed to protect.
Instead of removing these structures entirely, there is also the option of protecting the wall (and your shoreline) with softer measures such as planting buffer vegetation. In the case of rip rap, planting can be done between the rocks – the roots of the plants will help with structural integrity, and the foliage of the plants will help to protect against erosion from waves.
Royal LePage Lakes of Muskoka Realty’s Port Carling and Bala Offices Rebrand as Luxury Brokerage, Johnston & Daniel
Royal LePage Lakes of Muskoka Realty is excited to announce that as of December 6th, 2017, our Port Carling and Bala offices are rebranding as the newest offices of established luxury real estate brand, Johnston & Daniel.
Meeting the growing demand for luxury real estate in Muskoka
With the significant increase in demand for luxury real estate services in the region, Johnston & Daniel is the perfect offering for Muskoka’s real estate market. As a division of Royal LePage, Johnston & Daniel offers the service of a luxury boutique brokerage backed by the scale, synergy and credentials of Canada’s largest and oldest real estate company.
Clients will have access to an intuitive and custom-tailored experience and will benefit from a robust and collaborative real estate network, a hallmark of Johnston & Daniel’s culture.
Active clients can rest assured that we have taken great measures to plan and prepare for a seamless transition while remaining focused on their needs. Outside of re-signing documents under the new brand, current clients will not be affected.
We look forward to this exciting new chapter and the opportunity to serve Muskoka’s growing luxury real estate market proudly under the prestigious Johnston & Daniel brand.
About Johnston & Daniel
Since 1950, Johnston & Daniel has been representing the distinctive properties in Southern Ontario’s most affluent neighbourhoods. Offering caring, intuitive service and building long-term relationships, Johnston & Daniel is the standard of excellence in real estate.
We are almost there – part of the way through March. Lots of snow, ice and cold, but things will look very different in just a few weeks. Here from the Muskoka Lakes Association is the March NewsBites.
Courtesy of the Muskoka Lakes Association
Welcome to March 2015 NewsBites
The MLA is pleased to inform our members that we will be presenting the MLA’s 2014 Water Quality Initiative Report to Bracebridge, Sequin, Gravenhurst, and Township of Muskoka Lakes councillors over the next two months. Water Quality Director Andrew Watson presented our Continue reading Muskoka Lakes Association March NewsBites→
Not to be missed is this wonderful show at the Port Carling locks. From the MLA:
The Age of Elegance – Saturday August 9, 2014 from 10 am to 4 pm.
Old photographs of life in Muskoka are irresistible. Whether you see them at the Muskoka Boat and Heritage Centre in Gravenhurst or are lucky enough to have peaked into to a friend’s old family album, the images take you back to a dreamy time – graceful old cottages, beautiful mahogany launches, sporty little gentlemen’s racers, and men and women dressed in their finery. What was it like to live in the “Age of Elegance”?
A few of the cottages in those photos have been maintained and can be seen today on parts of the Muskoka Lakes. Not so visible are many wooden boats, several approaching their centennial, hidden away in boathouses around the lakes. Mostly they were built right here in Muskoka for Muskoka cottagers. They may have been bought and sold, but they stayed in Muskoka accumulating history as integral parts of summer life for the generations that interacted with them.
The MLA Antique Boat Show is a bi-annual event held in Port Carling and sponsored by the Muskoka Lakes Association. It was started in 1971 by the late Bob Purves to honour boats that have been built in Muskoka or have spent most of their life in Muskoka Waters.
Come out and enjoy a day with these fine craft and their owners along with displays including vintage outboard motors, seafleas and antique Buicks from the 1920’s. One of our presenting sponsors will also be bringing a brand new Bugatti Vitesse that will be on display for all to see. It’s not very often a million dollar car comes to Muskoka!
The Show is on Saturday August 9 and runs from 10 AM until 4 PM at the Port Carling locks. Admission is free.
This event would not be possible without our presenting sponsors; Grand Touring Automobiles, Northfield Capital, Purves Redmond Insurance Brokers and Walker’s Point Marina.
The following was issued April 22, 2014 at 5:00 p.m.:
The Ministry of Natural Resources – Parry Sound District is advising area residents that a Flood Warning remains in effect.
Residents within the Parry Sound-Muskoka area are advised that some additional or prolonged flooding will occur within known flood-prone areas of many rivers and lakes. Recent warm air temperatures and rainfall has now accelerated the melting rate of the remaining snow pack with an increased runoff into local waterbodies. High water levels or flooding will occur over the next 24-48 hours within Lake Muskoka and the Moon River as part of the lower Muskoka River sub-watershed.
Residents are advised to keep a close watch on conditions, regularly check for updated messages and exercise caution around rivers and lakes as high water levels and flows continue. There is the potential for higher water levels and flows than what is currently being experienced.Residents may wish to take action to protect property in flood-prone or vulnerable areas. MNR is closely monitoring the weather and developing watershed conditions. Further updates to this Flood Warning will be issued as appropriate.
Description of Weather System
The current weather forecast through to Saturday April 26th is for daytime temperatures in the range of 5-10 degrees Celsius with near freezing nighttime temperatures. Today’s forecast is calling for a range of 3-30mm of rainfall Friday through Saturday.
Description of Current Conditions
A significant amount of the remaining snowpack has melted in recent days due to warm air temperature and rainfall, increasing the runoff into local river systems. A significant amount of snow still remains within local watersheds at higher elevation areas including the western slopes of Algonquin Park; the headwaters of some local river systems. Forecasted temperatures and rainfall will continue to melt the remaining snow pack with continued runoff into local river systems and lakes.
Expiry Date: This message will expire Friday April 25, 2014; 5:00 pm
Terminology: Notification Levels
WATERSHED CONDITIONS STATEMENT – FLOOD OUTLOOK: gives early notice of the potential for flooding based on weather forecasts calling for heavy rain, snow melt, high winds or other conditions
WATERSHED CONDITIONS STATEMENT – WATER SAFETY: indicates that high flows, melting ice or other factors could be dangerous for such users as boaters, anglers and swimmers but flooding is not expected.
FLOOD WATCH: potential for flooding exists within specific watercourses and municipalities
** FLOOD WARNING: flooding is imminent or occurring within specific watercourses and municipalities.
For more information please contact: Ministry of Natural Resources Parry Sound District: 705-646-5509 or 705-646-5531
A close watch on local conditions and weather forecasts from Environment Canada is recommended. Environment Canada bulletins can be found at http://weather.gc.ca/
Did you know that Gravenhurst Bay in Lake Muskoka is 4 to 5 times cleaner than it was 1970?
Did you know that everyone alive in the 70’s had toxic levels of lead in their blood?
Did you know that Muskoka has only half as many acid lakes as it once did?
Well, how about this then: if it wasn’t for the life in lakes, we would all be blind, deaf , stupid and dead.
To be blunt; we would all be blind, deaf , stupid and dead if it wasn’t for the life in lakes.
Learn how the reduction of phosphorus resulted in a clean up in Gravenhurst Bay while the International Joint Commission was still debating whether its carbon or phosphorus that spikes algal growth? This local Muskoka cleanup helped convince the world that phosphorus is the cause of cultural eutrophication. This phenomena is of increasing concern as population grows and the climate heats up; after all, we learned from this lecture, that algae really love heat.
Current photo of lake in China where people swim in an algal bloom.
Revisit the change to unleaded gas which got the toxic levels of lead out of our blood. Dr. Yan also discusses the many benefits of the ban on DDT, as well as the immediate benefits of the recent Ontario ban of cosmetic pesticides and herbicides. Also be sure not to miss houses disappearing from view as the Sudbury environment improves over 40 years!
After showing cottages by boat (they were mostly island cottages for sale) on Lake Muskoka and Lake Rosseau all day Saturday, we knew that we had planned well. We finished up around 6:00 pm at the top of Lake Rosseau, in Cameron Bay across from the Village of Rosseau, and just in time for dinner.
Fortunately our favourite Muskoka restaurant Crossroads Pub & Grill is just across from the village public docks. Crossroads is one of Muskoka’s best kept secrets – and that’s not just our opinion; check out the opinions of others on TripAdvisor. As you may see, the only criticism is that it takes a while to get your food served. That’s true, but having your meal made on the spot for you, well, it is absolutely worth the wait. Richard and Julie run a fantastic, community engaged restaurant serving a lot of local products. Pure. Simple. Delicious. Check them out in action. I think they didn’t notice their Videographer spelled restaurant wrong at the end:)
So, having arrived at 6:30 for dinner, meeting up with family and friends and taking our own sweet time to order and enjoying our fabulous meals, we weren’t back to the boat until 10:15. Even at the height of summer in Muskoka, it’s getting pretty dark. With a dock waiting on lake Muskoka, we had a long way to go: all of Lake Rosseau, half of Lake Muskoka, Indian River, Mirror Lake and the lock at Port Carling between them – which closes at 8:00 PM.
It’s a surreal experience, at cruising speed on the black surface of the lake. I know the way, but it is COMPLETELY different in the dark. Nothing is familiar; everything you normally use for guidance is gone. I know that Lake Rosseau goes from close to 300ft. depths in the north to 100ft. or so in the south toward Port Carling; but it’s the edges I’m more worried about, and the rock shoals here and there. Anything other than that safe depth of water would be an absolute, potentially life threatening, disaster. This becomes little trouble though if you have, like I do an iPad and Navionics. For about 15 bucks I know, within a reasonable margin, where I am, where I am going and where the hazards are. All lit up on the iPad screen – you have to turn the brightness all the way down at night – really excellent!
The main lock at Port Carling closes at 8:00 PM, and we arrived there around 11:00PM. Fortunately there is a self-serve lock available. It’s tricky manoeuvering around to the smaller lock in the dark. There are marker buoys set, but no good lighting – if you have docking lights, put them on to pick up the reflective tape on the buoys. Head for the blue dock edge and tie up.
The self-serve part of the Port Carling locks is easy. Head over to the booth – we pay annually (about $85) for lock use, otherwise there is a drop box for your payment on the honour system. Then, you just stick your hand in the hole, move the lever in the direction of whichever gate is open, hold the lever in that position until the gate closes and the lock fills. It is crazy with bugs attracted by the light right over your head – but no biters for whatever reason.
The rest of the trip through Indian River and down into Lake Muskoka was just as beautiful as the Lake Rosseau passage. And again, no problem with the assistance of the iPad and Navionics. We docked about midnight. Nice adventure!