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Despite being one of the smallest municipalities in Muskoka population-wise, Lake of Bays has a surprising number of excellent cultural events, activities, and attractions worth exploring.
Leading the way are countless opportunities to immerse yourself in the Lake of Bays’ rich artistic heritage. It was in nearby Algonquin Park that Canada’s Tom Thomson, a founding member of the famous Group of Seven, painted some of his best-known artwork. Contemporary artists like John Murden and the Artists of the Limberlost continue this legacy today.
Artists and crafters from many different disciplines can also be enjoyed at the annual Baysville Arts & Crafts Festivals, a much-anticipated summer event that in 2024 will have been held here for 37 years. Want to combine art with those spectacular cottage country fall colours? The popular Muskoka Autumn Studio Tour, a lovely scenic drive that includes Lake of Bays artists like Murden, is just the ticket.
The Best Things To Do in Lake of Bays
Notable cultural attractions in Lake of Bays include the Dorset Heritage Museum, the historic SS Bigwin steamship, and the Dorset Lookout Tower. One of my favourites, the Lake of Bays Brewery, offers tastings and tours, as well as the chance to sit down to enjoy a relaxing pint. A great time to visit is during the always-fun Baysville Walkabout Festival, a chance to indulge yourself in two great pastimes: shopping and beer.
Another group with a strong cultural presence in the area should also be mentioned: the Lake of Bays Heritage Foundation. This volunteer group does an excellent job of preserving the “natural, built and cultural heritage” of the area.
And when it comes to outdoor excitement, Lake of Bays sure delivers. Along with neighbouring Algonquin Park, one of the best (and largest) of Ontario’s provincial parks, this beautiful lake offers some of the top opportunities to experience wildlife and nature in Canada.
Experience Great Outdoor Adventures
Topping the list of incredible experiences are the endless miles of watersports available. Whether it’s boating, jet skiing, sailing across the lake here, or kayaking and canoeing along the countless rivers and streams, you’ll never run out of adventure.
Better still, why not try a little wilderness camping? Companies like Algonquin Outfitters can put together packages covering the basics, from canoes to cooking gear, right up to luxury camping adventures that include prepped meals, pitched tents, and treats.
Lake of Bays and Algonquin also offer endless hiking and biking trails, too, and regularly feature on the nation’s triathlon and mountain-biking circuits. And once the snow flies, these same trails become popular with cross-country (or Nordic) skiers and snowshoe enthusiasts. Lake of Bays is also popular for the many miles of snowmobile trails that crisscross the area, including crossing its many frozen lakes, which are also popular for ice fishing.
Bigwin: Enjoy the Luxurious Island Life
A fixture on the Muskoka social and golfing scene for decades, Bigwin Island is the pinnacle of luxury in Lake of Bays. Best known for its golf course, Bigwin Island Golf Club, this magnificent island is also where you’ll find some of the most sought-after real estate in Lake of Bays. These million-dollar Muskoka cottages come with privileges, including social memberships to the golf club’s world-class amenities.
The resort opened 100 years ago during the roaring 1920s, with the golf club following soon after, and quickly became a favorite of Prime Ministers and celebrities. It also became a popular stop for the big bands of the era, drawing all the big stars of the day.
Today, the Doug Carrick-designed par 72 course offers a charming and fair but demanding challenge. The fairways are lined with hard forest and sand bunkers, with many spectacular views over the lake. Signature holes? Personal favorites include “The Lookout,” the sixth hole, and the eighteenth, which ends up at the club’s spectacular Clubhouse for some post-golf fun.
Relaxing Lake Views and Sunsets
Take a scenic drive around Lake of Bays and you’ll find no end of lovely spots to stop and enjoy beautiful lake vistas and sunsets. In addition to the region’s public beaches, which are especially pleasant before the busy summer period starts, you’ll find great views from the public parks and docks in the communities of Baysville, Dorset, and Dwight.
A personal favourite when it comes to sunset is undoubtedly the view from the public dock at Dwight Beach. Grab an ice cream from nearby Dwight Market, pull up a chair, or dangle your feet off the end as the sun sinks.
Speaking of beaches, Lake of Bays has more than its fair share. And don’t worry about crowds. Time your trip right and you’ll arrive at the water as everyone else is heading back to their cottages. Weekdays are quietest, and an evening picnic is just as much fun (if not more so, given the cooler temperatures) than a picnic lunch.
Check out the Township of Lake of Bays’ website to find out more about its public spaces.