Orillia: The Gateway to Ontario's Cottage Country

Living in Orillia puts you in the perfect position to travel to some of Ontario’s most beautiful towns and parks without having to worry about the travel time to get back home. Orillia has been considered one of the best spots to stop, permanently or otherwise, on trips around the Trent-Severn Waterway, the 300+ km canal that connects Lake Ontario at Trenton to Georgian Bay (Lake Huron) at Port Severn.

One of our favourite places to explore is the Muskokas, so we put together this handy list of some of our favourite towns and attractions in cottage country for you to visit on your next family trip there. First up:


Gravenhurst is considered the “Gateway to the Muskokas” and is only about 25 minutes from Orillia. We love walking down historic downtown Gravenhurst and taking in all the shops, as well as the Gravenhurst Opera House, the Muskoka Arcade, and all the festivals that happen during the warmer months.

Port Carling

Port Carling is known for its shopping and atmosphere—so if you need some retail therapy, head into town! Port Carling is only an hour from Orillia, so stay for an afternoon and explore the myriad shops along Muskoka Road. Don’t forget to stop by The Wall while you’re there!


Bracebridge is one of our favourite spots in the Muskokas, not just for Santa’s Village, but for it’s stunning downtown, only about 35 minutes away from Orillia. Walking down Manitoba Street you can find a variety of shops selling anything you could want, from gourmet coffee to cottage décor, to antiques, to the Owl Pen Book Shop and beyond. Go for the shopping but stay for the waterfront—park on Wharf Road and walk along the northern branch of the Muskoka River.


Huntsville is about an hour from Orillia and has a lot going on any time you visit. Walking down Main Street you will see some unique shops peddling cottage attire and décor as well as the lovely Muskoka Heritage Place, the primary historical centre in Huntsville. Muskoka Heritage Place features 18 authentic pioneer buildings, two museums, and a genuine open-aired train ride, all situated on a beautiful 90-acre site. You will not regret adding Huntsville to your list of stops in Muskoka!


Bala was a hidden gem of the Muskokas and is now a cottage season staple! At less than an hour from Orillia, it features some of Muskoka’s most charming shops and nature, as well as the famous Kee to Bala, a stunning live music venue whose stage has been graced by the likes of The Ramones, Snoop Dogg, Sam Roberts and many more. Stop by the Balacade for a bit of nostalgia and then swim in the Bala Falls, an awesome natural rock formation and waterfall. If you are stopping in Bala, do not leave without grabbing some sweets from Don’s Bakery (the doughnuts are legendary).

Have you been to any of these Muskoka towns? We bet you definitely will now! Let us know on Instagram and Facebook.


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