Contributor Kim Kerr-Dearsley shares her love of cottage country Ontario with this list of the top luxury Muskoka resorts and hotels
Muskoka has seen its fair share of grand old resorts come and go. Way back at the end of the 19th century, these charming-yet-rustic vacation lodges attracted city-dwellers to the district’s cool fresh lakes and tree covered shores to escape the hot summer months.
Word of this wild paradise spread, and before long the rich and famous from across Canada and the US arrived and built their own version of the grand old hotels. The breathtaking scenery, clear lakes, and fresh air ensured Muskoka became one of the top places to visit in Canada for those seeking a chance to escape not only the heat of summer, but also the congestion and pressures of business.
These days, the original inns and lodges that survived the years are thriving, and have in fact been joined by a whole new breed of luxury Muskoka hotels, resorts, B&Bs, and other boutique accommodations (yes, even glamping!). In fact, there are now numerous resorts and hotels to choose from, ranging from sprawling 5-star luxury hotels to elegant family-run cottage resorts that focus on the experiential side of luxury.
Whether you’re looking for a wilderness retreat or a romantic couples getaway – perhaps a combination of both – or even a world-class spa destination that just so happens to have a championship 18-hole golf course attached, we can help with our list of the top Luxury Muskoka resorts and hotels.
The Top Luxury Muskoka Resorts & Hotels
Deerhurst Resort, Huntsville (Featured Resort)
Built in 1896 by Charles Waterhouse, a young immigrant from England, Deerhurst was the first major resort on the northern lakes around Huntsville. Accessible only by steamboat, the resort’s opening week attracted just two guests paying the princely sum of $3.50 per week (including meals).
Fast forward a century or more and Deerhurst is now Muskoka’s largest resort, capable of hosting over 1,000 guests in 400 high-end rooms and luxury suites. It now occupies such a large swath of land – some 800 acres on Peninsula Lake – that there’s plenty of space for everyone and little crowding, even during the busy summer season. And you don’t have to walk far from the main buildings to stumble across deer silently making their way through the forests, and the peacefulness of the sunset at the end of the lake and the call of the loon still hold the same appeal today as they did for Charles Waterhouse and his guests over a century ago.
Deerhurst Resort is also well known as an entertainment hub. It was here Shania Twain cut her teeth (she’s now a cottager on Lake of Bays), and regular music programs include the likes of Holly Cole and Chantal Kreviazuk. Add to the mix two 18-hole golf courses, a luxury spa, 45,000 sq ft of meeting space and an extensive waterfront, and it’s easy to see why Deerhurst can handle events as large as a G8 Summit (which it did in 2010).
Read More: To learn more about what has undoubtedly become one of the top resorts Muskoka has to offer, read the full feature story on LuxuryHuntsville.
JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka Resort & Spa, Rosseau
Boasting some of the best lake views in Ontario, the JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka is the address of choice for those seeking the ultimate in luxury experiences in cottage country. Located high atop a 100-foot granite bluff overlooking one of Muskoka’s wealthiest lakes (Lake Rosseau is famous for its celebrity vacationers and million dollar summer homes), Canada’s only JW Marriott is, for good reason, frequently featured on Condé Nast’s Traveler Readers’ Choice List of Top Resorts.
For those seeking top-notch amenities, The Rosseau certainly delivers. Highlights include a private beach and year-round indoor-outdoor swimming pools, a well-equipped fitness area, and the popular Spa Rosseau with its many bespoke services and treatments. The resort also offers a variety of great dining experiences, most notably the intimate Teca restaurant.
The Rosseau has also created an exciting menu of experiential opportunities for its guests, too. In addition to artistic endeavors such as painting, sculpting and craft workshops, guests can enjoy guided nature hikes, canoeing and kayaking, biking, campfire sing-a-longs and stargazing. Come winter, guests can enjoy activities such as snowshoeing, skating and snowmobiling.
To learn more about this leading luxury Muskoka Resort, visit their website here.
Windermere House Resort, Windermere
Windermere House had surprisingly humble roots considering its present day status as one of Ontario’s classiest boutique-style hotels. Founded in 1870 as a family home, it expanded rapidly as ever-increasing numbers of sportsmen and vacationers descended upon the pretty village of Windermere by steamer.
The ‘Lady of the Lake’, as this splendid Victorian-styled resort has affectionately come to be known, soon became the place for Toronto’s rich to stay when wanting to mingle with the in-crowd of cottagers who made Lake Rosseau their summer home. And so things remained until a tragic fire during filming of The Long Kiss Goodnight burned the resort to the ground.
Rebuilt in 1997 and then stunningly refurbished in 2008, the resort looks better than ever and has managed to retain its reputation as one of Muskoka’s classiest destinations. Its sumptuously decorated rooms and suites are some of the most luxurious in Muskoka.
The lake views, regardless of where you happen to be in this top-rated Muskoka hotel, are simply stunning. But it’s from the huge porch that wraps around the main level of the building that you get that sense that Windermere House is still very special, and has lost nothing of her luster. The views are equally stunning from Windermere House’s fine dining establishment, the Rosseau Grill, as well as from the Windermere Pub & Patio, popular for its al fresco casual dining.
To learn more, visit the website at www.windermerehouse.com
Port Cunnington Lodge, Dwight
Port Cunnington Lodge, which recently celebrated its 130th anniversary, was established on beautiful Lake of Bays in 1890 and has been family run since day one. Situated on 22 acres of prime real estate (you can see historic Bigwin Island, a hang-out for the likes of Hugh Grant and other Hollywood stars, across the bay) the resort boasts a very private 1,800 ft of very private shoreline.
The resort has over the years added several luxury family chalets to the property, although the original Victorian style lodge is still very much its centerpiece. The resort’s newest accommodations include state-of-the-art eco-friendly cottages, each with four bedrooms and four-and-a-half bathrooms plus a single bedroom guesthouse attached by a deck and able to accommodate up to 20 guests.
Port Cunnington Lodge also offers a variety of traditional-style accommodations, with some of the older (but still wonderful) chalets, each with a lake view, ranging in size from 1,300-3,000 sq ft. All of them look different, which adds an intimate, almost village-like feel to the property, and are great alternatives to renting cottages in Muskoka for their resort amenities.
Learn more at https://portcunningtonlodge.com.
Severn Lodge, Port Severn
Located in Port Severn near Georgian Bay, Severn Lodge is one of the few original family-run resorts still operating in Muskoka. Dating back to the mid-1800s, the historic lodge features over 2,000 ft of waterfront. Situated in a tranquil, sheltered bay on 100 acres on the northern shores of Gloucester Pool, the western most lake of Ontario's historic Trent-Severn Waterway, Severn Lodge overlooks the same picturesque pine-clad islands that appealed to Canada’s famous Group of Seven painters.
Due to its proximity to Georgian Bay, it’s possible to boat from Severn Lodge all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, resulting in the occasional sighting of some very large yachts. The resort offers guests use of its boats, including an antique Ditchburn wooden vessel that's been on-site for years (though not as long as the nearly 100 years the family have owned the resort itself). The Main Lodge was built to serve as area headquarters for the Georgian Bay Lumber Co before eventually being sold to a wealthy social club for use as a vacation retreat before ultimately becoming part of Severn Lodge.
Whether it's for a romantic weekend or some quality family time, today this fully inclusive resort offers vacation and getaway packages featuring luxury accommodations with spectacular waterfront views, fantastic food, and a wide variety of recreational opportunities. Supervised children's activities are both educational and fun and include arts and crafts, picnics, water sports, bon fires and corn roasts.
Accommodations run the gamut from the smaller lodges surrounding the Main Lodge to individual cottages. For those wanting to do their own cooking, European plan housekeeping cottage packages are available with accommodations in fully equipped studio and three-bedroom suites and cottages.
Check out the Severn Lodge website at https://severnlodge.com.
Bayview Wildwood, Severn Bridge
The 110-year-old Bayview Wildwood Resort is one of Muskoka’s closest lakeside getaways to Toronto. Situated in the historic lakefront village of Port Stanton on the shores of Sparrow Lake, it’s just a hop-skip-and-a-jump south of Gravenhurst and an easy drive to the popular Hardy Lake Provincial Park. This popular family resort is also only a few minutes’ away from the picturesque town of Orillia and is accessible via the Trent-Severn Waterway, a stretch of canals and natural rivers and lakes connecting the southern tip of Muskoka to Georgian Bay and the town of Collingwood.
Families have been visiting Bayview Wildwood for three generations to relax by the lake and enjoy children’s programs, safe sandy beaches, the convenience of an optional all-inclusive resort meal plan and a wealth of indoor and outdoor recreational activities. Children stay active playing basketball, shuffleboard, learning to canoe or kayak, swimming in the outdoor heated pool (or the year-round indoor pool) and exploring the playground.
Structured activity programs invite them to meet new friends and give mom and dad some time on their own. Modern conveniences and comfortably appointed lake view accommodations ranging from suites to the refurbished Albert Manor, a huge five-bedroom 100 year-old heritage home that sleeps 12. But Bayview Wildwood isn’t just for families. Couples can enjoy romantic lake view suites with fireplaces, fine dining, evening entertainment and spa services, and Casino Rama (a 20 minute drive) offers world-class entertainment and a chance for a flutter.
Bayview Wildwood is a great destination any season. The large property permits time for reflection on the dock, paddling on the quiet waters or exploring the nature trails in summer, along with outdoor activities including boating, fishing, beach activities, hiking, cycling and tennis. In the winter months include ice skating and curling on Sparrow Lake, sleigh rides, snowmobile safaris and tobogganing.
Visit their website at www.bayviewwildwood.com.
Rocky Crest Golf Resort, MacTier
Delta Hotels and Resorts’ Rocky Crest resort isn’t just a great place to stay, it also just so happens to have some of the best golf in cottage country. Located on the shores of Lake Joseph near MacTier, just a short drive (or boat ride) from the popular summer vacation destination of Port Carling, its Tom McBroom designed course is framed by granite and wonderful lake views. Accommodations include spacious suites and villas perfect for a spot of après golf fun.
Visit the Rocky Crest website at www.rockycrest.ca.
Clevelands House Resort, Minett
The granddaddy of Muskoka’s resorts, Clevelands House was established in 1883 and is a popular choice for those looking for fun family-focused hospitality. Set amidst 408-acres with 3,000 ft of waterfront on Lake Rosseau, the property still has an old fashioned charm, especially evident when North America’s oldest operating steamship, the RMS Segwun, pays a visit.
In addition to its dining, there’s plenty to do on-site, including tennis (the resort has 16 courts), golf (the resort has its own 9-hole course, while the luxury 18- hole The Rock is close by), swimming (four pools), boat rentals, cruises, and waterskiing. The resort’s kid’s programs include the one-acre Play World, swim programs, movies, arts and crafts, entertainers, sports and nature explode ration.
Accommodations run the gamut from hotel-style rooms to lakeside bungalows and cottages, for rent by the week or weekend. Clevelands House is also popular for its Muskoka weddings, as well as for corporate stays and large family parties and reunions.
Kim Kerr-Dearsley is a Muskoka-based travel writer.