Check Out These Awesome Things to Do in Gravenhurst!
If you are looking for some of the best things to do in Muskoka, then a stop in Gravenhurst will help you check off a whole bunch of them! This small town with a loads of history is located in the famed Muskoka region of Ontario. This makes it a popular destination in summer (and the rest of the year, too).
We really liked our visit to Gravenhurst. While Eric had been before it was Lisa’s first time exploring the town. We got up to lots with a bit of shopping, the top sights, the lake views, and the Muskoka Wharf filling our time. Gravenhurst also makes a great day trip from Toronto, if you were interested!
So, in this post, we’ll walk you through places to visit in Gravenhurst like parks, sites, and restaurants as well as things to consider when planning a visit (like hotels). From a ride on the Segwun or Wenonah II to visiting a great event in Gravenhurst, here’s our guide on exploring the beautiful town!
If you’re heading to Gravenhurst (and/or cottage country) check out these other posts:
- Our Visit to Sawdust City Brewing Co
- Hiking at Hardy Lake Provincial Park
- A Guide to Cottage Rentals in Ontario
Things to Consider When Planning A Visit to Gravenhurst
Before you head to Gravenhurst to explore the sights and enjoy nature, there are a bunch of things you should think about when you are trip planning. We cover some of these – season, accommodations, and getting around – in detail below.
Best Time to Visit Gravenhurst
The best time to visit Gravenhurst greatly depends on what activities you wish to do there and what season you want. This is because you can visit Gravenhurst all times of the year – but some are busier than others.
The summer season – being the Muskokas – is very busy because it’s the best bet for the hottest, sunniest weather. There are also a number of festivals and boat-related events in the summer season.
The spring will likely be wet and the bugs will be out around mid-to-late April but people do visit for the May Long Weekend. The fall is great because the colours of the changing leaves are just beautiful and the cooler weather means you get to bundle up a bit and enjoy the peace and quiet(er) town.
As for winter, you can visit then, too. While the weather might be a lot colder, there are lots of activities to do like snowshoeing, skating, snowmobiling, and more. Some seasonal shops and accommodations might be closed in winter but the ones that stay open might operate with reduced fares making it a great little town for a winter weekend getaway.
How to Get To/Around Gravenhurst
Gravenhurst is located in the district of Muskoka – the famed cottage and lake region north of Toronto. Because it’s the first major town in the area, it’s often described as the “Gateway to the Muskoka”!
It’s very easy to get to Gravenhurst. If you are travelling from the south (usually the GTA region), you can head up Highway 400 through Barrie. You then continue straight to continue on on Highway 11 at a point where (it’s clearly marked) the 400 and 11 go in different directions and split off from one another.
Once on Highway 11, take exit #169 onto Muskoka District Road 18 and that will spit you out right in downtown Gravenhurst. From Toronto, it’ll take around 1 hour 45 minutes without traffic to drive up. If you take the bus to Gravenhurst, you’ll be on the Ontario Northland from Toronto and will get dropped off at the Gravenhurst Bait and Tackle (141 Phillip St E) close to downtown.
Once you’re there, you can park downtown and walk the main drag. It’s not a huge downtown core. You can also find parking down at the Muskoka Wharf. It’ll be busy in the summer but there are always people coming and going and we found a spot no problem.
We plan on writing a detailed post for those wanting to know exactly how to get from Toronto to Gravenhurst.
Where To Stay In Gravenhurst
If you are visiting Gravenhurst and planning to stay for a night (or more), then you will need a place to stay. Luckily, there is a (small) number of places to stay right in town or in the surrounding area.
In short, there aren’t too many places to stay in the town itself but you will find a number of bed and breakfasts and a handful of hotels, resorts, or inns. There are also lots of cottage rentals/campsites in the area which would book up for the busy summer season!
Check out the Residence Inn by Marriott which is right on the lake at the Wharf if you want a hotel. For great bed and breakfasts, The Inn on Bay is steps from the town centre while Blue Spruce Bed and Breakfast is also close by and walkable to the Wharf! For a beachfront hotel/resort, check out Taboo Muskoka which is near Muskoka Beach Park!
Top Things to Do in Gravenhurst
So now that we’ve gone over a few of the basic details about Gravenhurst, let’s dive into the things that you can do, see, eat, and drink when you visit!
Explore Historic Downtown
A good place to start a wander of Gravenhurst is in the historic centre of town. This small stretch of street has a number of shops, restaurants, bakeries, cafes and more that you can check out. We parked here and went for a bit of a walkabout which was nice. Good for a bit of window shopping and familiarizing yourself with the area.
If you are looking for food, check out The Oar Restaurant (a gastropub) located a short walk from the main intersection where Muskoka Road North becomes South at Bloor/Bay Street. At the other end of downtown, Oliver’s Coffee is a good place to go for… great coffee!
There are a few specific sites to check out in downtown Gravenhurst. You can read more about them below!
Address for Downtown: Aim for 100 Muskoka Rd N, Gravenhurst, ON P1P 1S4, Canada
Gravenhurst Opera House
When walking the main drag in Gravenhurst, there is a good chance you’ll spot the famous Opera House. This historic building has been welcoming locals, travellers, and theatre-goers alike since 1901! Having almost been closed twice, the opera house stands as an enduring symbol of loyalty and history in this Muskoka town.
With a pretty full calendar of live music shows, theatre, comedy, and more, there’s usually something going on at the Opera House – especially in the summer season. You can check the schedule and learn more at the official website.
Address: 295 Muskoka Rd S, Gravenhurst, ON P1P 1J1, Canada
Arts at The Albion
If art is more your thing, there are a number of smaller galleries around the town to keep you busy. Right in the heart of downtown is The Albion – an old hotel from Gravenhurst’s past that now features an incredible collection of art!
Inside the gallery space, you find the works of 20 local artists who create in loads of different mediums. From paintings to carvings, stained glass, and more, Art at the Albion is like a punch to the senses – in a good way!
Be sure to stop in for a unique look at art inspired by the Muskoka area and beyond. You might find a great gift or even a piece for yourself. You can learn more about visiting on their website.
Address: 100 Muskoka Rd N, Gravenhurst, ON P1P 1S4, Canada
If you want live music, head for Peter’s Players. Located just a short walk from the heart of downtown Gravenhurst, this venue – created by a passionate local music lover named Peter – has been a staple for great talent and sold-out shows. Check out the website for upcoming dates so you can catch one if you are stopping by Gravenhurst!
Address: 830 Muskoka Rd S, Gravenhurst, ON P1P 1K3, Canada
Wander the Muskoka Wharf
No stop to Gravenhurst would be complete without a wander of the Muskoka Wharf down at the lakefront area – complete with a very long wooden boardwalk to guide you. You will find a number of shops, pubs, and restaurants right at the water’s edge that make for a memorable lunch or dinner experience at the Wharf!
Be sure to visit The Shipyards for great shopping and check the dates you visit for one of the many events happening like Rib Fest in July or the Dockside Festival of the Arts in August. As you walk, there is even a nice gazebo and historic plaque to tell you about the history of the lake and region as a hot spot for logging and as a resort area.
If you want to rent a boat to get out and explore the water, you can do so right there at the lake (if you want a motorized one). If you are looking for something quieter to take out on the lake, you can check out Muskoka Paddleshack (located just south of the town on Highway 11) for a reputable place for canoe and kayaks.
You can also do a boat tour with a private company. There are a few that leave right from the Wharf and you can find their signs and brochures to learn more onsite. We grabbed one for Big 3 Tours but didn’t head out on a tour because we weren’t sticking around! Overall, the Wharf is definitely a place to check out if you are in Gravenhurst since there’s lots to take in and it’s just lovely in the sunshine.
Address: Aim for 1100 Bay St, Gravenhurst, ON P1P 1Z9, Canada
Go on a Classic Muskoka Steam Cruise
Of course, one of the most famous things to do in Gravenhurst (if not in Muskoka) is to enjoy a cruise on one of the historic steamships. Leaving right from the Wharf at Lake Muskoka, two ships – the RMS Segwun and Wenonah II – take people out on the beautiful lake in the warmer season.
In fact, the Segwun has been doing that for OVER 130 YEARS as the oldest still operating steamship in North America. The Wenonah is a modern replica of the Wenonah so it’s more modern with air conditioning and an accessible elevator.
Today, you can hop on a simple sightseeing cruise or enjoy dinner onboard one of the two ships as they sail a busy schedule. Tickets for these cruises book up in advance so definitely be sure to look ahead if you know you are visiting Gravenhurst and want to go out for a cruise!
Address: 185 Cherokee Ln, Gravenhurst, ON P1P 1G7, Canada
Visit the Muskoka Discovery Centre
You can’t walk the Wharf without noticing the large red building on the water over near the Residence Inn. This is the Muskoka Discovery Centre which is home to a number of things and attractions that you should definitely check out!
Inside this massive building, you’ll find a centre dedicated to teaching you about the area and showcasing interesting aspects of the local town, history, nature, and more! The museum featured a number of permanent and rotating exhibits like Watershed Wonders about the natural environment.
Another highlight is the Grace and Speed Boathouse where you can find a number of restored vintage wooden boats – the largest collection of such in North America! The Centre also has a Kids Zone and a gift shop in the front area which is a great place to grab a classic Muskoka/Canadian souvenir! You can learn more about prices and hours at the official website here.
Address: 275 Steamship Bay Rd, Gravenhurst, ON P1P 1Z9, Canada
Visit the Gravenhurst Farmers’ Market
Across the street from the main boardwalk at the Wharf, you will find another top Gravenhurst attraction that draws a number of visitors each week: the Farmers’ Market! Established back in 1992, this market pops up every Wednesday from late May to late October from 9 am to 2 pm.
Over the course of the day, you can stop by a number of vendors selling everything from fresh produce and baked goods to artisan crafts, jams, clothing – you name it! The number of vendors in the summer gets close to 100 so there’s likely to be at least one tent to spark your interest! You can learn more about the weekly market here.
Address: 861 Bay St, Gravenhurst, ON P1P 1G7, Canada
Sample Beer at Sawdust City Brewing Co.
For those looking to wet their whistle while in Gravenhurst, you are in luck! Gravenhurst is home to one of the best breweries in Muskoka (and one of our personal favourites): Sawdust City! This brewery – located a short walk from the heart of downtown Gravenhurst on the main street – is a great place for craft beer tastings, tours, and more.
We’ve been to Sawdust City but we won’t dive into details in this post – you can read about our experience linked at the top of this post. In short, it’s a great atmosphere with 18 taps flowing with their delicious beer. They even have a storefront where you can grab cans if you are in a hurry or passing through town on the way to the cottage.
They have a great backstory and pay homage to the local area’s past through their name (logging town) and some of the beer like Little Norway (after the Norwegian pilots who trained in the Muskokas during WWII). You can learn more about their beer, tours, live music, and more here.
Address: 397 Muskoka Rd N, Gravenhurst, ON P1P 1G3, Canada
Explore the Norman Bethune National House
As if you hadn’t heard about enough history while visiting Gravenhurst, another site to visit is the Norman Bethune House. This National Historic Site of Canada is the actual house of Dr. Norman Bethune, a passionate doctor/medical innovator, war hero, and overall great Canadian on the world stage.
Today, you can tour the Victorian-era birth house as well as check out the more modern Visitor Centre that is loaded with artifacts and interactive exhibits to dive deep into his life and his role in shaping medicine. You can also find out how and why he was considered a revered icon in China (and still is even to this day). You can learn more about visiting the Norman Bethune House here.
Address: 297 John St N, Gravenhurst, ON P1P 1G4, Canada
Get Views at Lookout Park
Once you’re done at the Wharf or downtown, you might be searching for a little peace and quiet and some great views. Look no further than Lookout Park! This small green space is just a short walk (or quick drive) from downtown Gravenhurst.
At the top of a small hill is a roundabout where you’ll find a small rock knee wall. Over the edge, you will be looking directly over the beautiful lake and Wharf area. We really liked the views – it gives you a good perspective of the area once you have walked it in person! There’s also a playground close by if you are travelling with kids.
Address: 500 George St, Gravenhurst, ON P1P 1E9, Canada
Close by at that end of town you can find another park: Ungerman Park. This small green space right on the water is a semi-popular/semi-local sunning/swimming spot down on the rocks.
Interestingly enough, the grounds here used to be the site of a former German POW camp during World War II. Yeah, seriously. There is a historic plaque and small ruin to visit if you are there and want to learn a bit more about it.
Relax at Gull Lake Rotary Park
Another great green space in Gravenhurst is Gull Lake Park. This area has lots for everyone – from tables and volleyball to swimming in the summer. In fact, the beach runs with lifeguards on duty in the summer season (on a schedule) which is nice for those travelling with kids.
One of the local highlights is pulling up to the park on any Sunday night in July and August and listening to live music from what is known as “Music on The Barge” (the white and yellow floating thing in the photo). You sit on the grass, admission is by donation, and you get to hear great music with a Muskoka view behind. Awesome!
Address: 405 Brock St, Gravenhurst, ON P1P 1H4, Canada
Enjoy Winter in Gravenhurst
Of course, there are a number of things to do in Gravenhurst in the winter, too. Although the town may be a tad colder and quieter, that’s when you bundle up and enjoy what the outdoors have to offer.
Gravenhurst offers public skating at the Graeme Murray Arena as well as snowshoeing/skiing, and even snowmobiling. Check out the trails at Gravenhurst KOA or the hiking trails maintained by the town. You can also just wander the shoreline at the Wharf and take in the crisp air and the frozen lake. You can also stop by for the Gravenhurst Winter Carnival in February!
It’s a completely different vibe in winter than in summertime and it’s often a nice change. Then once you are ready to go back inside you can warm up with a beer at Sawdust City or a coffee at Oliver’s Coffee (both mentioned above)!
Visit the Muskoka Rails Museum
What, you thought you could get away from Gravenhurst without a single mention of the railroad history and how it shaped the region and province? No way! Located just a short walk from the core of downtown you can find the Muskoka Rail Museum.
This small museum is across the tracks from Gull Lake Park and is a good stop if you want a little taster of Muskoka history without spending too much time diving into something. It had recently moved to this location in Gravenhurst from Bracebridge (we understand) so give it a chance and check it out!
Address: 150 Second Street South, Gravenhurst
There are a number of things that aren’t right in downtown Gravenhurst that you also might want to check out if you are in the area. You can find them below:
Relax at Muskoka Beach Park
A short drive (or longer hike) from downtown Gravenhurst you will find a small but popular place to check out: Muskoka Beach Park. This small green space and sandy beach is a peaceful escape from town when it’s not too busy.
The nice thing is that parking is close to the park area and is free. The water is super clear over here, too and you’re close to a golf course and Taboo Muskoka should you want to check their facilities!
Address: 1141 Muskoka Beach Rd, Gravenhurst, ON P1P 1R1, Canada
Hike in Hardy Lake Provincial Park
If you want to get out for a bit of a hike but don’t want to venture too far from Gravenhurst, check out Hardy Lake Provincial Park. This small park is located to the northwest of Bracebridge and it’s an easy drive straight there from the heart of town on Highway 169.
Here, you’ll find a small number of maintained trail loops that allow you to get a taste of the Ontario wilderness without venturing deep into an area like Algonquin Park. We actually wrote a post on visiting Hardy Lake because we had a great day there once (linked at the top of this post)!
Address: Highway 169, Torrance, ON P0C 1M0, Canada
Enjoy the Muskoka Drive-In
For a night out to feel like you’ve gone back in time, check out what’s going on at the Muskoka Drive-in theatre! Located just outside the town to the northeast (close to highway 11), this drive-in screen has been a staple in the Gravenhurst area since 1952!
Amazingly – at a time when lots of drive-ins no longer exist – this screen on a rock is still going strong! Onsite, you can find a classic grill and snacks like popcorn and pretzels making this a great stop on a summer night for the family or a date night. There’s even a playground for kids.
Just remember that they are cash-only for an old school feel but do have an ATM onsite! You can learn more about the famous Muskoka drive-in here.
Address: 1001 Theatre Rd, Gravenhurst, ON P1P 1R3, Canada
Explore The Tree Museum
If you want another opportunity to get into nature for a hike, the Tree Museum might be for you. Located to the east of downtown Gravenhurst, this outdoor art gallery features works of artists among the trees and rocks. It’s advised to have a good hiking shoe on and to bring water.
You see the art by following a self-guided tour along the paths through the property. Admission is free and there is a seasonal schedule and opening hours. For a unique outing, you can learn more about the Tree Museum here!
Address: 1634 Doe Lake Rd, Gravenhurst, ON P1P 1R3, Canada
Ride at The Buckwallow Cycling Centre
If you came to Gravenhurst with a bit of adrenaline running, you might want to get it all out with a stop by the Buckwallow Cycling Centre! Located to the northeast of downtown Gravenhurst (very close to the Muskoka Airport), this network of trails is well-maintained and offers riders of all skill levels a place to mountain bike at their own pace.
The staff on-hand are super helpful and the setting is unique in the sense that you get to ride the Canadian Shield (rock) in places! You can learn more about visiting on their Facebook page.
Address: 1064 Reay Rd E, Gravenhurst, ON P0C 1G0, Canada
Gaze in the Torrance Barrens Dark-Sky Preserve
Last – but certainly not least – we have a treat for those wanting to get out at night to enjoy the Muskoka sky: the Torrance Barrens Preserve! Located to the west of downtown Gravenhurst, this natural area of wetlands, rocky terrain, and forestland offers explorers some of the darkest skies in the province.
The landscape and trees around you are naturally short and so what you have is a wide view of the sky from many different points in the vast area. In the absence of light pollution, you get amazing views of the night sky from stars to planets – and even the northern lights if the night and season are right.
The walking paths are good but the darkness can make them hard to traverse so be sure to bring a flashlight (but turn it off when you’re settled and gazing)! You can learn more about visiting here.
Address: Southwood Rd, Gravenhurst, ON P0C 1M0, Canada
And there you have it – a whole bunch of great things to do in Gravenhurst, Ontario! It’s a fantastic place to visit in any season whether you’re travelling with kids, as a couple, or as a group of friends passing through. Let us know if there is anything we missed – we’re always looking to make our posts as helpful as possible!
As always, Keep Exploring, eh?
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