15 Best Lakes in Muskoka to Visit, Swim & More
Muskoka is best known as cottage country in Ontario. One of the key factors that makes Muskoka a top summer destination in Canada is its lakes! With hundreds across the region, how do you choose what are the best lakes in Muskoka? Well, I’ve answered that question for you below!
As a frequent visitor to the Muskoka region for decades, I’ve visited endless Muskoka lakes. In this Muskoka travel guide I’m sharing everything you need to know about each lake. Discover what each lake has to offer, including beaches, fishing, trails and more. Plus, I’m sharing some of my favourite activities nearby to help you choose which is the best lake in Muskoka for you!
10 Best Lakes in Muskoka
Muskoka is home to some of the most incredible lakes in the world! With water that’s crystal clear and surrounded by breathtaking forests, one of the top things to do in Muskoka is explore its lakes. The four largest lakes, Joseph, Rousseau, Muskoka and Lake of Bays, make up 30% of the lake surface in Muskoka. However, there are over 1500 lakes in Muskoka. So, which is best?
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The most well-known lake in Muskoka is Lake Muskoka! At a whopping 89 km², Lake Muskoka is the largest lake in the region. It stretches from Gravenhurst in the south to Port Carling at its north end.
This majestic lake is mostly within the Township of Muskoka Lakes with smaller sections in the townships of Gravenhurst and Bracebridge. Plus, it’s connected to Lake Rosseau via the Indian River.
Surrounding Lake Muskoka are a few of the top small towns in the region including Gravenhurst and Bala. In addition, the lake is also home is a number of resorts and cottages for rent in Muskoka, making it one of the best for accommodations.
Lake Muskoka offers plenty of things to do! Boating and water activities are a big draw in the summer. There are a number of public boat launches on its shores. Fishing is another popular activity with a healthy population of lake trout. Other fish in the lake include lake whitefish and northern pike.
One of the best things to do in Gravenhurst is take a boat cruise of Lake Muskoka! A cruise is an incredible way to experience the lake. Plus, you’ll pass by the famous Millionaires Row on Lake Muskoka that’s home to stunning homes!
Dotting the shores are some of the best hiking trails in Muskoka too! There’s Hardy Lake Provincial Park and Brydon’s Bay. In addition, the lake boasts a number of golf courses like Taboo. Plus, some of the best lookouts in Muskoka offer views of the lake!
If you’re keen to swim or work on your tan, there are a number of beaches on Lake Muskoka. These include, Kirby’s Beach, Baycliffe Beach, Bowyers Beach, Muskoka Beach.
The most serene of the top three lakes is Lake Rosseau. At its northern edge is the charming little village of Rosseau. It’s home to a variety of cute shops, a bakery and a fantastic restaurant.
Lake Rosseau is an oligotrophic lake, meaning its deep, clear, and generally free from weeds. Thanks to its clear and mostly algae free water, Lake Rosseau is one of the best lakes in Muskoka for swimming.
In the village of Rosseau is Rosseau Waterfront Park. This lovely park is home to a sandy beach and playground. You’ll also find public washrooms as well as change rooms with showers.
With its beautiful bays and numerous islands, paddling and sailing are popular on Lake Rosseau. Plus, you’ll find one of the best waterfalls in Muskoka on the lake, Lower Rosseau Falls! There is an upper falls but from the top of the lower falls you see all the way to the lake.
Lake Rosseau is home to two of the most famous places to stay in Muskoka. Located on the east side of the lake is the historic Windermere House. This Victorian-style resort has been a staple for over 100 years.
On the west side is the JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka Resort & Spa. This luxury hotel features incredible amenities, restaurants, and more. Plus, you’re minutes away from The Rock golf course.
The resort is also home to one of the memorable activities in winter in Muskoka. Under a blanket of snow, the resort’s patio is transformed into an incredible dining experience called Ice Caves. It features an ice bar and snow globes to dine in.
One of the best Muskoka boat cruises is on Lake Rosseau. Departing from Port Carling, Sunset Cruises offers a unique perspective on the lake and its history.
On the edge of the Canadian Shield, Lake Joseph is one of the best lakes in Muskoka! Like Lake Rosseau, the lake is also an oligotrophic lake. Along with being one of the clearest lakes, Lake Joseph is the deepest lake in Muskoka.
Unlike other popular lakes in the region, Lake Joseph doesn’t have any major towns along its shores. The lake is located within Seguin Township and the closest town is Rosseau to the east.
Thanks to its quiet and clear waters, Lake Joseph is home to Billionaire’s Row. Its northern shore is home to a stretch of lavish cottages. Kevin O’Leary from Dragon’s Den owns a cottage here.
Thanks to its calm waters, Lake Joseph is great for swimming, sailing, and paddling. One of the lake’s beaches is Lake Joseph Centennial Beach. Located on the north shore, the beach is great for swimming and picnics. In addition, it is home to a boat launch. However, its small, so you’ll want to get there early.
One of the most beloved things to do on Lake Joseph is fishing. The lake is home to a variety of different species. Top populations of fish include lake trout, pike, walleye, bass, and whitefish.
Lake Joseph is also home to some great places to stay! On the northwestern shores is Rocky Crest Golf Resort. Along with an 18-hole golf course and pools, the resort has a lake-view restaurant. Accommodation choices include cabins and a number of suites.
One of the most romantic hotels on the lake is Sherwood Inn! It features an award-winning wine cellar, spa, and exceptional dining.
For those looking for nearby fun, you’ll find lots of things to do in Parry Sound. Located 30 minutes north on the shores of Georgian Bay, I recommend taking the 30,000 Islands cruise!
Lake of Bays
Stretching from Baysville in the south to Dwight in the north is Lake of Bays. Most of the lake is in the Township of Lake of Bays with a southwestern part being part of the Huntsville.
Lake of Bays is one of the largest lakes in the region and home to around two dozen islands. The largest is Bigwin Island. The island is home to the Bigwin Island Golf Club as well as multiple Indigenous burial grounds.
The lake offers some of the best places to experience fall in Muskoka! Take a Lake of Bays cruise aboard the SS Bigwin out of Dorset in the summer or fall. To take in the fall colours around the lake, hike to the top of the Dorset Lookout Tower.
The towns around Lake of Bays are home to a variety of great places to eat. In Dwight, pop into Erika’s Bakery for delicious goodies that make for a perfect picnic. Dorset has Zachary’s Restaurant with a lakeside patio. And Baysville is home to Miss Nelle’s and Lake of Bays Brewing Company.
Paddlers love Lake of Bays! The lake has plenty of bays to explore. Plus, its home to a popular canoeing route via the Hollow River that connects it to Kawagama Lake.
There are a couple of beaches on Lake of Bays. Off of Highway 35, just north of Dorset, is a small beach, with boat launch and dock. On the north end is Dwight Beach. This sandy beach also has a boat launch, picnic tables and iconic Muskoka chairs!
Fishing on Lake of Bays is fantastic too! Fishermen will find rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, and brook trout. If you’re lucky, you could catch 20-pound lake trout! In the winter, ice fishing is common on the lake.
At nearly the halfway point between Huntsville and Rosseau is Skeleton Lake. This stunning Muskoka lake is the result of an asteroid hitting the area around 800 million years ago. It created a crater that is now where the lake sits.
Another interesting story from the lake’s past is how it got it name. Skeleton Lake got its name over 125 years ago when surveyors found human skeletal remains along the shore.
Stories aside, Skeleton Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in Muskoka! It has an exceptionally high water clarity and is known as one of the cleanest and clearest lakes in the area. Part of the reason for that is because the lake is spring fed.
Skeleton Lake is a great spot for water sports like windsurfing, sailing, and paddling. The larger of the two main islands in the lake is a popular spot for locals and visitors to go cliff jumping.
Fishing is another beloved activity on the lake. There are marinas and a public access off of Skeleton Lake Road to put your boat in. Fish you’ll likely catch include lake trout and bass.
Just off of 141 Highway is Fish Hatchery Park. This is the former site on an old fish hatchery on the lake that is not home to hiking trails. It’s also a great spot for picnicking and playing Frisbee in the large open area near the parking lot. Plus, along the trail that leads to the lake you’ll find Hatchery Falls!
Sandwiched between Georgian Bay and Highway 400 is McCrae Lake. This large, three-pronged lake is located within McCrae Lake Conservation Reserve. There are no facilities within the reserve, making it a non-operating provincial park.
I’d dare say its one of the best free provincial parks to visit. However, this hidden gem has been discovered in recent years and it VERY busy on the weekends. So, I highly recommend either getting there really early or go during the week to avoid crowds.
Thanks to the lake being located in a park, there is no development around it. This offers a purely wild Muskoka experience!
The lake is a popular spot for canoeing and camping, as there are approximately 50 campsites around the lake. Hiking is another favourite activity at McCrae Lake. There’s a trail that runs roughly 14 kms that takes you right to the lake.
Or you can enjoy a shorter hike of about 3 km (one way) to Eagles Nest, the park’s infamous lookout point. Standing atop a 100-foot cliff, the lookout offers an epic view over the lake.
McCrae Lake is also home to both a waterfall and rapids. You can access the waterfall close to the parking lot. And McCrae Rapids can be accessed via canoe. The rapids connect the lake to Georgian Bay.
Another must-see at McCrae Lake is Elephant Rock. The landmark is actually an island of granite rising up from the waters with a pine tree.
A short drive west of Gravenhurst along Muskoka Road 169 will get you to Hardy Lake Provincial Park. Along with being one of the smaller parks, it does not have any facilities and camping is not allowed. However, this park is home to my favourite lake in Muskoka!
The park is home to three hiking trails. One will take you to the shores of Lake Muskoka, which lies just north of Hardy Lake. If you’re looking for one of the best fall hikes in Ontario, the hike around Hardy Lake is it!
The Hardy Lake Loop Trail, which is approximately 8 km, circles the lake. At a comfortable pace, it will take between 2 to 3 hours. But I encourage you to take your time! Plus, thanks to no motorized boats being permitted, the reflection of the Ontario fall colours in the lake are spectacular!
Hardy Lake is famous for having one of the best boardwalk trails in Ontario! There are actually a couple of boardwalks taking you out over the water along the trail, but one it a showstopper! (See photo above)
Along with hiking, another activity you can enjoy on Hardy Lake is paddling. Thanks to the still waters and scenic views, kayaking and canoeing around the coastline is ideal.
Now that this hidden gem is rising up the ranks as one of the best Ontario provincial parks, be prepared for busy weekends. There is a large parking lot off of 169, but it fills up fast in the summer and fall.
Southeast of Gravenhurst is Kahshe Lake. Stories of what the name means are varied. One is that it’s taken from the Ojibwe word Kah-she-she-bog-a-mog meaning Lake of Healing Waters. The waters of the lake are a brownish colour. The colour is due to the boggy streams and organic plant matter that feeds the lake.
Stories say, that much like the brown waters from a tea bag that help reduce swelling and such, that the lake waters are healing.
But all stories aside, this incredible lake is in true Muskoka fashion. The shoreline and lake itself are covered with rugged and barren rocky outcrops. Dotting the lake are a number of large and small rocky islands. So, be cautious when boating.
There’s a boat launch on the west side of the lake, off of South Kahshe Lake Road. Another, Denne’s Marina, is on the northern side of the lake. Kahshe Lake is large and connected to Bass Lake.
There is a beach on Kahshe Lake. Nagaya Beach is located on the northern end, close to Denne’s Marina. The beach is where you’ll find one of the many events held on the lake, the Kahshe Lake regatta.
The lake is flanked to the north and south by conservation reserves. To the south is Kahshe Lake Barrens Conservation Reserve. And to the north is Jevins and Silver Lake Conservation Reserve. Both reserves are home to hiking trails worth exploring.
One of the best beaches in Muskoka is at Gull Lake! Covering just over 100 hectares, this medium sized lake is very shallow. The maximum depth is 8 metres.
The beach is in Gull Lake Rotary Park, minutes from downtown Gravenhurst. The large park is a great place to spend a summer day in Muskoka. Its home to shady trails, floating docks, and restrooms. There’s also ample parking in the lot.
One of the big attractions of Gull Lake is Music on the Barge. This unique experience is held on a barge off the shores of the park. Music on the Barge is a concert series that has been running for over 50 years. Sunday nights in the summer, the lake is the backdrop to an incredible free show!
Gull Lake is home to a number of coves and bays. There are also two islands on the lake. For those looking to access the lake by boat there is a public boat launch at the south end in addition to the dock at the park.
For those looking to snag some fish Gull Lake is a solid choice. The lake is home to a number of species including rainbow trout. I’ve read that Lily Bay and Maple Cove are good spots to catch largemouth bass.
On many road trips from Toronto to Muskoka a must stop is Lions Lookout. A visit to this incredible lookout point is one of the top things to do in Huntsville and offers sweeping views over Fairy Lake.
Fairy Lake is the deepest lake in Huntsville and located right in the heart of town. In 1853 the lake was named by surveyor Alexander Murray because of its natural beauty. Since that time the lake is now heavily developed. But measures are in place to help protect it.
Boating is a common activity on the lake. The lake is connected to Peninsula Lake as well as Lake Vernon, giving boaters 60 km to explore. If you don’t have a boat, rentals are available at the Huntsville Marina on the north end of the lake.
You can also paddle the lake! Kayak and canoe rentals are available from the Algonquin Outfitters shop in downtown Huntsville. Plus, right behind the store is a park and docks where you can access the water.
Keen fishermen will love the abundance of species found within Fairy Lake. Major finds include smallmouth bass, lake trout, northern pike, and walleye.
Huntsville is often referred to as the gateway to Algonquin Provincial Park! It’s a great place to base yourself when exploring Muskoka as well as the Algonquin Park trails.
If you’re looking for a great place to stay in the area then book your stay at Fairy Bay Lakehouse. This lovely guest house is located just outside downtown and right on Fairy Lake.
More Incredible Lakes in Muskoka to Visit
Three Mile Lake – Northeast of Port Carling is Three Mile Lake. This small, shallow lake has a max depth of 4 metres in the main basin. The lake features a public boat launch, picnic area and Echo Beach. The beach is located in the north end of Hammell’s Bay. At the west end is Dee Bank Falls. There are also a number of cottage rentals and places to stay on Three Mile Lake.
Mirror Lake – In Port Carling, just south of downtown is Mirror Lake. It’s a beautiful lake for its proximity to town and quiet shores. The max depth is 8 metres of this small lake. There’s a beach at Hanna Park as well as a playground, washrooms and picnic tables.
Mary Lake – Reaching north of Port Sydney is the beautiful Mary Lake. The lake is home to a number of islands and is a popular fishing lake. Mary Lake is one of the cleanest lakes in Muskoka and is lovely to paddle. There’s a marina near the north end and in the south end is Port Sydney Beach. Port Sydney is also home to a waterfall and Indian Landing, a famous tree to visit in fall in Ontario.
Stewart Lake – A favourite lake in the region is Steward Lake in MacTier. There’s a lovely white sand public beach and boat launch in MacTier. Steward Lake is great for fishing with popular fish being smallmouth bass and pike. It also has a depth of 20 meters.
Lake Vernon – West of downtown Huntsville is Lake Vernon. Along with being the largest lake in Huntsville, Lake Vernon is home to three public boat launches and a public beach. Hutcheson Beach stretches over 100 metres and is great for swimming. One thing to note is that the beach does not allow dogs.
Discover which is the best lake in Muskoka for you!
So, grab your swimsuit, sunscreen, and sense of adventure, and discover the best lakes in Muskoka! Each offering something for everyone and sweeping natural beauty, you’ll be sure to make memorable memories in Muskoka!
Frequently Asked Questions about the Best Lakes in Muskoka
The best lake in Muskoka is Lake Muskoka because of the number of things to do on the lake. Plus, Lake Muskoka is dotted with many small towns, places to stay and a few boat cruises.
The nicest lake in Muskoka is Lake Joseph, one reason being that it is one of the clearest lakes in Muskoka.
Of the four top lakes in Muskoka, Lake Muskoka is the best for the sheer volume of things to do on or near the lake. In addition, Lake Muskoka is home to a number of access points and resorts.
Lake Muskoka is the largest lake in Muskoka and home to the best beaches. The lake is approximately 12,100 hectares.
The district of Muskoka is home to 1600 lakes.
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