Destination Ontario: Huntsville
The gateway to all things Canadian
Huntsville is well-positioned to take advantage of some of Ontario’s most revered natural beauty. With a population in excess of 20,000, it’s the largest town in the Muskoka Region, and is the western entrance to Algonquin Provincial Park. Located in the hilly terrain of the Canadian Shield, the town is dotted with an abundance of lakes, and draws visitors from around the world.
As a home base, Huntsville is becoming a desired residential destination. Only a two-hour drive from Toronto, living full-time in this vibrant, waterfront community is especially appealing.
On the drive north, from the GTA, the presence of the Canadian Shield is felt in the changing landscape with it’s towering pines and hardwood forests. Huntsville, was (and is) a magnet for many acclaimed visual artists, including Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven. Huntsville boasts a Group of Seven Outdoor Gallery with more than 40 outdoor murals celebrating their work.
The Huntsville Art Society hosts skill-sharing workshops, exhibits and art shows throughout the year. Huntsville supports a number of festivals, including the Huntsville Festival of the Arts. Other creative outlets include the annual Muskoka Novel Marathon, and Film North – Huntsville International Film Festival.
Artists’ studios are often open to visitors, and a variety of performances are scheduled year-round at the state-of-the-art Algonquin Theatre.
Located on the northern edge of Huntsville is Arrowhead Provincial Park, which is part of the Ontario Parks System. During the winter, a man made skating trail winds through the forest.
The oldest, and one of the largest, Algonquin Provincial Park covers 7,652 square kilometres (about one and half times the size of Prince Edward Island). More than 2,400 lakes and 1,200 kilometres of rivers and streams are located in the park.
In addition to a wide variety of hiking trails, canoe camping is one of the most popular activities. This wilderness experience provides visitors a journey through the vastness of the interior of the park, which is inaccessible by any other means. Canoe Lake and Lake Opeongo provide the two main access points to some of the best canoeing in Canada, with hundreds of navigable lakes and rivers, forming a 2,000-kilometre interconnected canoe route system.
Fishing is allowed in the park with a valid fishing licence. Bass, yellow perch, trout and pike can be found in the waterways, and the deeper you go into the park, the better the fishing.
Algonquin Park is home to 55 mammal species, 32 kinds of reptiles and amphibians (none venomous), and more than 140 species of breeding birds. Moose, white-tailed deer, beavers and black bears are often sighted.
The Town of Huntsville anchors much of the Muskoka region, and is a popular stop for cottage-goers to stock up on supplies. In addition, seasonal visitors return again and again to wander through the shops in the historic downtown core, and to take a break from cooking. Huntsville has a wide selection of culinary options from cafes to fine dining, as well as casual pubs along the waterfront.
In 2011, The Toronto Star ranked the town as the best place to take a summer trip. As a holiday destination, you’ll find spectacular resorts, full-amenity hotels, family operated lodges, charming bed and breakfasts, cottage rentals, and, of course, campgrounds of every level – from trunk to wilderness camping.
There is no shortage of things to do in, and around, Huntsville. For those who love to be physically challenged, the area hosts international triathlons, cycling tours, marathons, golfing, paddling events, hockey tournaments and ski loppets. Adding to the list of fun things to do are parades, a bathtub derby, beer festivals, fall fairs, farmers’ markets and fishing derbies. The Muskoka Heritage Place is home to the Muskoka Museum, Muskoka Pioneer Village and the Portage Flyer Train.
From the breathtaking visual wonders and the call of the loon, to the scent of fresh pine and the invigorating splash of diving into a fresh water lake – there’s nothing quite like Huntsville.
Photography, Courtesy of the Huntsville/Lake of Bays Chamber of Commerce