Photo: Elton Law / Shutterstock.com
The Town of Gravenhurst in Muskoka offers plenty of great reasons to top your list of places to live in cottage country. Whether you’re already a Muskoka resident looking for a fresh start or are considering a move here from elsewhere in Canada, Editor Dee Dee Weiland shares her insights into living in Gravenhurst Ontario.
Muskoka is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful regions in Canada, boasting over one thousand lakes, lush forests, and open skies.
One of the most quintessential towns in Ontario’s cottage country is Gravenhurst, a simultaneously quaint and vibrant town that marks the gateway into the region. Gravenhurst’s rich history and great community will have you wanting to come back season after season (or even make the permanent move) so that you can keep experiencing all that this town has to offer.
Read on for a rundown of some of the many great things to do, see, and know about living in Gravenhurst Ontario.
Luxury Living in Gravenhurst Ontario
Welcome to Gravenhurst – ‘The Gateway to Muskoka’
Gravenhurst is the first town you hit heading north into the Muskoka region – hence the nickname ‘The Gateway to Muskoka’. This is a definite bonus for anyone commuting to their cottage so that you can be relaxing on the dock as soon as possible. Gravenhurst is about a two-hour drive due north of Toronto and around four hours from Ottawa, but it’s also home to Muskoka Airport if you feel like flying in.
Gravenhurst is bordered by two lakes, Gull Lake and Lake Muskoka, the latter of which is the largest lake in the Muskoka region. This means there’s tons of water access in town, and a lot of great options for lakefront real estate as well.
The town isn’t very large, with a year-round population of around 12,000 which gives it a charming small-town feeling and community. The population swells in the summer, with lots of visitors coming to spend time in the sun and on the lakes. There’s also a big boom in the Fall when the leaves begin to turn and the whole region changes colour.
The town, though, is beautiful no matter the season, with picturesque snowy winters and blooming springs as well.
Check out today’s Gravenhurst weather here.
What You Need to Know About Gravenhurst Real Estate
If you’re looking for luxury Muskoka real estate, Gravenhurst is a great place to start looking. The town is on the shores of one of Muskoka’s most desirable lakes, and there are tons of smaller, more private lakes just a few minutes out of town. So whether you’re looking for a big family cottage or something smaller, there’s plenty of waterfront to go around.
Downtown Gravenhurst has a cute historic vibe and a great community. If you want to move in town, there are some great bungalows to start out with, as well as some residential developments.
There are also spacious Gravenhurst condos for sale. Two of the best condo developments are located on Muskoka Wharf, the town’s ambitious mega-million dollar waterfront hub. The best of these units even come with superb views over Lake Muskoka.
Find out more about great luxury Gravenhurst real estate options at www.luxurymuskokarealestate.com/resources/gravenhurst.
The Serious Stuff – Gravenhurst Schools, Healthcare, and Services
Gravenhurst is fully equipped for whatever needs you might have, either through services available directly in town or in other Muskoka towns close by. Gravenhurst has one high school with around 400 students and some great programs for practical education, including co-op and Special High Skills Majors in both hospitality and health.
There are also two elementary schools in town, Muskoka Beechgrove Public School and Gravenhurst Public School, each with an enrollment of around 300 students. All of the schools are a part of the Trillium Lakeland District Schoolboard.
In terms of healthcare, Gravenhurst itself has a local clinic through the Cottage Country Family Health Team, and there are also nearby hospitals with 24-hour emergency departments in both Bracebridge and Orillia. Gravenhurst also has its own fire department, and is covered by the Ontario Provincial Police to keep everything safe.
Get more info about these and other important services available to those living in Gravenhurst Ontario (and visitors) at www.gravenhurst.ca/en/services-and-info/services-and-info.aspx.
The Fun Stuff – Things to do in Gravenhurst
Because Gravenhurst is such a multi-seasonal town, there’s interesting stuff going on year-round. The Muskoka Wharf has a ton of cool attractions. These include boat cruises on the RMS Segwun, North America’s oldest still-operational steamship. She and her sister ship, the more modern Wenonah II, offer a variety of sight-seeing tours of the lakes including a trip to Millionaires Row to see the expansive cottages of a laundry list of celebrities.
Gravenhurst is also home to a number of interesting museums. These include the Muskoka Discovery Centre, which teaches about the history of the area with a variety of interactive and kid-friendly exhibits. There’s also a Parks Canadahistoric site downtown, the Bethune Memorial House, which celebrates the birthplace and achievements of the famous Canadian doctor, Norman Bethune.
One of the most exciting museums though has got to be the Tree Museum, a free outdoor art gallery that integrates sculpture with the natural landscape. If you visit in the winter, you’ve got to check out the Gravenhurst Winter Carnival, a weekend-long festival of winter events that takes over the town each year.
Find out more about these and other fun things to do when living in Gravenhurst Ontario here.
Gravenhurst Sports & Recreation
Muskoka is renowned as one of the best places in Canada to golf, and Gravenhurst is no exception. The town is home to the Muskoka Bay Golf Club, one of the top 10 golf courses in Canada according to Golf Digest, as well as several other top-tier courses including the popular Taboo Resort. There are plenty more courses in the region, so you’re guaranteed variety.
(Editor’s Note: Be sure to check out our fun list of some of the most memorable golf holes in Muskoka, which includes these great Gravenhurst golf courses.)
If golf isn’t your game, Gravenhurst has some great sports facilities to keep you in shape. There’s a large YMCA facility in town with a full-sized pool, weights and cardio rooms, and fitness programming for all ages. There’s also an ice rink at the Centennial Centre in town, as well as tennis courts, a baseball diamond and a skate park, so there’s a ton of ways to keep fit.
Because Gravenhurst is on two lakes, there are also some great public swimming spots on both Gull Lake and Lake Muskoka. There’s also a public splash pad on the wharf which is great for kids.
Learn more about Gravenhurst sports and recreation here.
Arts & Culture in Gravenhurst
Gravenhurst is a hub of arts and culture in Muskoka, a role that is cemented by the historic Gravenhurst Opera House. Opened in 1901, this incredible theatre has been heralded as one of the birthplaces of Canadian summer theatre and has had its stage graced by many powerhouses of Canadian theatre, including Donald Sutherland and Kate Reid.
The Gravenhurst Opera House now plays host to many performances throughout the year, including comedy specials, concerts, and local and travelling theatre productions.
Gravenhurst is also home to some great music venues, including The Barge, an outdoor concert space where the stage actually stands in the water of Gull Lake. Another unique Gravenhurst music venue is Peter’s Players, which offers intimate concert experiences that are truly unforgettable.
For the retro at heart, Gravenhurst is also home to the Muskoka Drive-In, a genuine drive-in theatre that shows all the latest cinematic releases and even offers double features – just remember to bring the bug spray since they’re located in the woods.
Check out this website for more info: www.gravenhurst.ca/en/explore-and-play/arts-and-culture.aspx.
The Gravenhurst Food & Drink Scene
The Muskoka Wharf in Gravenhurst has some of the best restaurant patios in Muskoka, each of them offering some amazing views of Muskoka Bay. Dock of the Bay and Boston Pizza both look directly onto the bay, and are great spots to have a meal or grab a drink.
They’re especially enjoyable on Wednesday evenings in the summer when the weekly free water-ski show is happening, performed by members of the Canadian National Ski Show Team and SWS Muskoka. Grab a coveted spot on the patio to watch a great show while you eat (reservations are highly recommended).
Some of the best restaurants in Gravenhurst are actually away from the water, like The Oar gastropub, which specializes in using fresh and local ingredients. You’ve also got to check out the Saloon at Sawdust City Brewing Co, where they’ve got tons of their local beers on tap, as well as live music and weekly trivia. You can also enjoy some bites from the food truck on-site while you’re there and pick up some cans to take home with you.
For more great dining experiences and restaurants in Gravenhurst, see www.gravenhurstchamber.com/experience-gravenhurst/eat/.
Where to Shop in Gravenhurst
Gravenhurst is a great place to shop, and not just for the essentials, but also for some interesting and unique finds. Check out the Shipyards on the Wharf, which has a wide selection of home décor, apparel, art, and other goodies from a bunch of different local vendors. The shipyards is also where you’ll pick up some great Muskoka souvenirs, too. They also serve Starbucks coffee at the on-site Wheelhouse Café so you can sip a beverage while you shop.
And if you’ve got little ones, you might be interested in checking out Minds Alive Toy Store to fill those rainy days at the cottage.
Gravenhurst is also well-stocked with all the essentials you’ll need for your household. In terms of grocery stores, there’s a Sobeys, an Independent, and a selection of local markets and vendors. There are also a few hardware stores, pharmacies and even an LCBO and Beer Store.
Learn more about shopping in Gravenhurst Ontario on the Gravenhurst Chamber of commerce website at www.gravenhurstchamber.com/experience-gravenhurst/do/shop/.
Try Before You Buy – Where to Stay in Gravenhurst
If you’re thinking of buying a home or cottage in Gravenhurst, you might want to come for a visit before you commit.
Get a feel for the Muskoka lifestyle by staying in one of the area’s top luxury resorts, like Taboo Muskoka or Muskoka Bay Resort – and maybe play a few rounds of golf while you’re at it. If you’re hoping to stay a bit closer to town, maybe check out the Marriott Residence Inn on the Wharf.
Another great way to test-drive before making a move is to rent a cottage in Gravenhurst, either on Lake Muskoka or one of the smaller, more remote lakes. There are many different companies you can use to find the perfect cottage to rent, and there’s also a strong Airbnb scene in the area, so there’s lots of variety.
Check out this article for more info on great Muskoka cottage rentals: https://luxurymuskokas.com/muskoka-cottage-rentals/.
Dee Dee Weiland is Lifestyles Editor of LuxuryMuskoka, a member of The Weiland Team real estate professionals, and an expert on lifestyles and living in Gravenhurst Ontario.
Cottage Country Class: The Best Luxury Hotels in Muskoka
Travel expert and luxury lifestyles guru Kim Kerr shares this list of the very best luxury hotels in Muskoka, Ontario, for a weekend getaway
The Best Comfort Food Restaurants in Muskoka
Guest Contributor Yana Yagupolsky shares this tempting list of favorite comfort food restaurants in Muskoka for 2023
The Best Gourmet Grocery Stores in Muskoka
Guest Contributor Yana Yagupolsky shares this list of the best gourmet grocery stores in Muskoka for foodies and kitchen creatives
Cottage Cravings: The Best Restaurants in Muskoka
Guest Contributor Yana Yagupolsky reveals our list of the top restaurants in Muskoka for incredible cottage country dining experiences
Top Things To Do in Muskoka at Christmas
The Top Things To Do in Muskoka at Christmas include Santa’s Village and a Muskoka Heritage Place Train Ride