PWC Travel: Exploring Ontario’s Muskoka Region

A haven for PWC enthusiasts

Ontario has many fabulous navigable waterways for PWC touring, especially to enjoy the fall colors. This past summer I put almost 2,000 miles on my 2010 Sea-Doo GTX exploring many of them. One of my absolute favorites is cruising the Muskoka Lakes. It’s a full day trip, and trailering my two-bed Triton trailer up from Toronto and back adds a total of about four hours driving time on Highways 400 and 11, but that’s time well spent indeed. Alternatively, you could stay at one of Muskoka’s lakeside resorts while cruising and exploring for several days.

Muskoka may be Ontario’s most famous summer playground and its name is synonymous with “cottage country.” Located about one and half hours north of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Muskoka encompasses 1,600 lakes nestled into 2,500 square miles of territory. It’s anchored by several key towns located near Highway 11 — Bracebridge, Gravenhust and Huntsville, plus several other communities such as Port Carling and Bala. During the summer, the Muskoka population swells as tens of thousands of pretty well heeled cottagers take advantage of fun in the sun on its clear and sparkling waters.

The three most renowned lakes in the area — Muskoka, Rosseau and Joseph —are also the largest, and best of for personal watercrafting. They are interconnected, easily navigable and dotted with marinas so gas is always handy. One of the best things about PWC riding on these mostly weed-free lakes is that you can easily avoid every rock (and there aren’t that many). Why? Because with cottagers owning so many expensive boats, every rock, shoal and channel is very well marked! Muskoka also has many public launches, so depending on where you are coming from, it’s simple to find one that’s close and accessible.

From the GTA, I’ve found the best launch point is near the new Muskoka Wharf complex at the Gravenhurst harbor. This launch is free, with lots of (free) parking, fuel at the next dock, nearby dockside restaurants (including Boston Pizza), and even a new Residence Inn by Marriott on site if you choose to stay over.

Locking through at Port Carling.Locking through at Port Carling.

One of my favorite Sea-Doo rides is to cruise out of Muskoka Bay into Lake Muskoka proper. Once there, I turn to port and follow the west shore all the way through Bala Bay and up the Indian River to the lock at Port Carling, where Turtle Jack’s Restaurant is a neat spot to eat, with a dock of its own. Port Carling has two side-by-side locks; it’s easier for PWC’s to take the easterly one, which is smaller and quicker (fee: $10 bucks return per PWC).

From this lock, it’s a short jaunt to the south end of Lake Rosseau, where I typically turn to port again to ride along the south shore through the Port Sandfield cut and into the southern end of Lake Joseph. From there, I’ll tour north along its west shore, circumnavigating that lake until reaching the Joseph River, which cuts through back to Lake Rosseau. Then I head north past Red Leaves, the new J.W. Marriot Resort (Wallace Marina is a great place to stop and re-fuel)), to the Town of Rosseau’s new public wharf where we usually tie up our PWC and walk up the street to the Crossroads Pub and Grill for lunch.

After eating, it’s east side all the way. We climb back on board our craft, heading south to explore the Lake Rosseau shoreline, swinging into Skeleton Bay and past Windermere House before cruising back into Lake Muskoka again via the Port Carling lock. Then it’s down through Millionaires Row at Beaumaris, and past Taboo Resort to the white lighthouse that marks the entrance back into Muskoka Bay. Here you may pass either the RMS Segwun or the Wenonah II cruise boats on your way back to Gravenhurst.

New Red Leaves Marriott Resort on Lake Rosseau.New Red Leaves Marriott Resort on Lake Rosseau.

Thanks to hundreds of bays, island and channels, these three Muskoka lakes seem to have an endless shoreline to explore by PWC. If it’s a windy day, the backwater areas are well protected from any chop, so for the most part, you can avoid riding the wide-open parts of the lakes. Don’t worry about getting lost, either. With many marinas, resorts, boaters and cottagers around, all you have to do is ask!

But the real bonus for PWC riding here is ogling the eye candy, and I don’t mean the human kind. The “cottages” of Muskoka are an astounding spectacle. Simply, they are some of the most amazing structure I’ve ever seen – to say nothing of the boathouses. They take your PWC tour to a level of man-made sightseeing unsurpassed anywhere else. Add in the compelling natural beauty of Muskoka’s Canadian Shield topography and you’ve got a fine recipe for an unbeatable ride.

The best time to explore the Muskoka Lakes by PWC is during the week, when boat traffic is lighter. On prime summer weekends, you really have to keep a sharp eye out a full 360 degrees as countless boats of all sizes criss-cross the waterways. But extra vigilance is a small price to pay for a PWC ride that will have you exclaiming to your friends: “Boy oh boy, you shoulda seen these Muskoka mansions…talk about outta this world!”