Photo: Bigwin Island Golf Club
A long-time Muskoka cottager and now full-time resident, real estate agent Dee Dee Weiland shares a few of her favourite things about marvellous Lake of Bays Ontario
Often referred to as that ‘other’ Muskoka for its more relaxed, laid back vibe, the marvellous Lake of Bays region has a long and storied history as a preferred place of rest (and play) for cottagers and residents alike.
Located in the northeastern corner of cottage country, this beautiful lake consists of some 563 kms of shoreline, and is in fact Muskoka’s second biggest lake (the biggest is Lake Muskoka). Around the lake, the three main communities of Dwight, Dorset, and Baysville offer everything the cottager or vacationer needs, from a variety of food and drink options to great shopping.
Other fun things to do in magnificent Lake of Bays include fishing and swimming, as well as canoeing or boating along its endless stretches of clear water, or simply hanging out on the dock and enjoying the spectacular views. Once the snow flies, it’s all about winter activities such as ice fishing, skating, skiing, and snowmobiling across some of the best Ontario snowmobile trails.
Thinking of buying a cottage or a second home… even a retirement home, or somewhere to work remotely? Then you’ll find some of the very finest luxury Muskoka real estate for sale in Lake of Bays – not to mention some of the best luxury cottages in Canada.
To help you discover the best things to do in marvellous Lake of Bays – as well as how best to experience that unique Muskoka lifestyle – be sure to read through this list of everything you need to know about this beautiful corner of cottage country Muskoka.
The Luxury Guide to Marvellous Lake of Bays Ontario
Luxurious Bigwin Island
Bigwin Island, located on the southern end of Muskoka’s second largest lake, has long been a popular place to cottage on Lake of Bays. Accessible year round, Bigwin is not only one of the top Muskoka golf courses, but the ‘Bigwin lifestyle’ also offers other sports and activities including tennis, basketball, a bridge club and yoga classes. There’s also a well-equipped gym with personal training, plus spa services as well as walking, biking, and hiking trails.
The award-winning Bigwin Island Golf Club, which celebrated its 100th birthday in 2020, offers golf lessons for all ages, both group and private. The spectacular Bigwin Island golf course offers a wonderful putting green as well as a chip and putt area, and a brand new driving range, completed in late 2019.
The social life at the club offers many opportunities to meet with friends, from their fine and casual dining choices, to their lakeside cafe. Enjoy dining with friends? Then meet up on the dockside café for an après-golf cocktail. Events include something for everyone: women’s and men’s golf leagues, tournaments, member/guest events (for men, ladies, and couples), as well as popular ‘nine & dine’ events.
Don’t Golf? No worries! The season of fun events starts with the ‘Spring Fling’ social, and continues with specialty dining nights including Rock n’Roll Rib Fest, Italian night, Caribbean night, lobster night, and the epic social of the year, the SS Bigwin party. Mother’s and Father’s Day brunches are also to be enjoyed. Long weekend brunches plus a superb Thanksgiving dinner are also offered for special family time. An event that both children and parents enjoy is the regular ‘drive-in movie’ nights.
There are also golf and tennis lessons plus fun camps to keep the children busy during long summer days. For older children the ‘BIGC’ is always looking for staff in the restaurants, halfway house, as well as Norway Point, and the Pro shop and back shop.
Some of the best luxury real estate in Muskoka can also be found on Bigwin Island, too. In fact, owning a Bigwin Island cottage opens up a vast array of social and entertainment choices, with specially-priced membership options available to residents of this island paradise on marvellous Lake of Bays.
Boating on Lake of Bays
Lake of Bays is not only the second largest lake in Muskoka, it’s also one of the cleanest lakes in cottage country. This is due to the fact it’s the first lake to receive water from the Algonquin Park watershed , just 30 kms away.
The Lake of Bays area is also well-known for its incredible shoreline. This stunning backdrop offers so many opportunities for family fun on the water that you could easily spend the whole day touring this magnificent, pristine lake… longer, of course, if you go by canoe or kayak.
Marinas abound here, some of which offer boating instruction for anyone new to the activity. Many of them also offer wakeboard and flyboard lessons, while fishing guides are available to show you the best fishing spots in Muskoka.
Across from Bigwin Island is the top-ranked Lake of Bays Sailing Club. This first-rate facility also offers special tennis and sailing camps for kids. Check out their website at https://lbsc.ca.
Enjoy a Haystack Bay Sunset
Take a sunset ride down to Haystack Bay. This quiet corner on Lake of Bays is where you’ll find Haystack Bay Marine, which puts on first class water ski shows throughout the summer. They’ll even put on a show for guests at your dock.
Haystack Bay is also famous for having been where country singer Shania Twain cottaged for many years.
Visit the Village of Dorset and Ride the SS Bigwin
The charming village of Dorset, an easy 30-minute car ride away from Huntsville, boasts a medical center, an LCBO, and the famous Robinsons General Store, which has been voted the # 1 country store in Canada year-after-year.
Dorset is also where you’ll find a number of great home décor shops, ice cream parlours, restaurants with patios on (or overlooking) the water, a great bakery, plus a pharmacy. There are also numerous art galleries here.
Dorset is also the home of the SS Bigwin, an historic steamship that offers various tours of the lake. This fully-restored vessel can be rented out for private functions – what better way to celebrate a special birthday, anniversary or wedding than to take out some friends for a cocktail party around beautiful Lake of Bays! Be sure to consider visiting for a tour of the spectacular Lake of Bays Fall colours, too.
If you’re looking for another destination that’s easy to get to by boat, there is an opening through Trading bay that takes you to Paint Lake (just look for the very pretty flowered bridge).
The Village of Baysville Ontario
The village of Baysville is another destination on the lake that’s only a short boat or car ride away. This popular vacation spot offers the same amenities as Dorset, and also hosts the always-fun Lake of Bays Antique Boat Show.
Looking for other fun things to do in magnificent Lake of Bays? Be sure to check out the family-focussed street fair the locals call the Walkabout festival. This excellent arts and crafts festival usually coincides with Canada Day fireworks on July 1st.
Other fun things to do in Baysville include:
- Visiting the local Baysville Farmer’s Market (Fridays from 2pm – 6pm)
- Enjoying a meal at the Cast Iron Restaurant, widely regarded as one of the top eateries in the Lake of Bays area
- Grab a quick bite at the Cheesus Murphy and the Grateful Bread food truck
- Pop into Miss Nelle’s Antiques & Café for an ice cream or specialty coffee and sweet treat (head to the adjacent waterside park to enjoy them!)
- Take a brew tour at the famous Lake Of Bays Brewing Company (and grab a few cold ones to take home with you!)
Delightful Dwight Ontario
The village of Dwight, situated right on the cusp of Algonquin Provincial Park, also offers a grocery / pharmacy store, lovely gift shops, a café, and the famous Dwight Trading Post, popular for its Muskoka souvenirs, ice cream, and their gigantic teepees and bear statues. It’s also home to Swift Canoe & Kayak, as well as an LCBO and post office.
Dwight Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches on the lake, and you can dock your boat here to enjoy the day. Dwight also hosts a variety of fun events, including an archery tournament and a beer festival, to name just a few things to do.
Have a canoe (if not, rent one!)? Pack a picnic lunch and meander down the Oxtongue River to the wonderful Ragged Falls. Here you can spend the day swimming, picnicking, and lounging in the sun.
Dee Dee Weiland was a long-tome cottager on marvellous Lake of Bays and is now full-time resident of Muskoka. She’s a realtor with The Property Gallery Realty Inc. You can read more about The Weiland Team here or visit their website at www.luxurymuskokarealestate.com.