There Are Plenty Of Great Things To Do In Huntsville, Ontario!
Are you looking to explore Ontario’s famed cottage country – the Muskokas? Then a stop in the largest town in the area – Huntsville – is not to be missed. This active little getaway spot is tucked into the Ontario wilderness and serves as a place to relax in or as a place to gear up as you head to your final destination.
We actually really like Huntsville. Eric used to spend his summers in the area and we often use Highway 60 to get to Algonquin Park/to head for Ottawa from the cottage. So, as a result, we pass through Huntsville every so often and know Huntsville fairly well. It’s a great place to look to in any season for a fun getaway whether you’re a couple, family, or with friends.
Huntsville has a great little downtown core loaded with restaurants, riverside pubs and breweries, and shopping, with a number of indoor and outdoor activities scattered around. The historic town is also known for various events throughout the calendar year – especially its famous Festival of the Arts. So, from great ice cream to lookout spots, here is our take on things to see and do in Huntsville, Ontario!
If you are sticking around the Muskokas, you might find these other posts helpful for planning your adventures:
- Top Things to Do in the Muskokas (coming soon!)
- Where to Stay in Muskoka – Resorts, Hotels, and more
- Things to Do in Gravenhurst
- Visiting Sawdust City Brewery in Gravenhurst
- Exploring and Hiking Hardy Lake
Things to Consider Before Visiting Huntsville
Before you head on up to cottage country, there are a few things you might want to know. From where to park and where to stay, here are a few need-to-knows about visiting Huntsville, Ontario!
Best Time To Visit Huntsville
The best time to visit Huntsville, Ontario is very much dependent on what you are looking to get up to. The only time we would say to potentially avoid visiting is the early spring since the melting ice has jammed up the rover and caused extensive flooding in the downtown core in recent years.
Of course, given the popularity of the Muskokas as a cottage region, the summer months are a very popular time to visit Huntsville. The town is in full swing to cater to locals, cottagers, campers, and those passing through in all directions.
Besides focusing on the town centre, summer is THE time for cottage rentals nearby. It’s a busy time for outfitters/outdoor rental places (for gear, watercraft, etc.). If you are not renting at a cottage/resort and just coming to Huntsville as a day or weekend getaway, there are numerous lakes, local beaches and parks, and trails to enjoy in the summertime. Eric knows Huntsville most in the summer months and it can be very fun – day and night!
Fall is also a great time to visit Huntsville because of the fall colours on the trees. An added bonus is that cooler weather often means the bugs are gone and the summer crowds have left – but the town is still very much alive.
The winter season does slow down compared to summer but there is certainly an industry to cater to winter wanderers looking to snowmobile, ice fish, cross country ski, snowshoe, and more. Having said that, there are numerous Huntsville events and festivals that run all throughout the year.
How To Get To/Around Huntsville
If you are looking for directions to get to Huntsville, you are in luck. Huntsville is pretty easy to get to. It’s located around 2.5 hours north of Toronto, and 4 hours west of Ottawa – if you are driving (traffic not included!).
There are also a number of ways to get to Huntsville – mostly car or bus. There is no train. For bus, the Ontario Northland runs from Toronto to Huntsville on the way to North Bay. Prices and schedules vary depending on the season. The summer season has Ontario Northland and Go Transit form a train/bus combination from Toronto Union Station to Huntsville that you can take (with a change in Barrie). You can find information here for the GO ON Muskoka Service.
Address for Huntsville Bus Station: Algonquin Cafe & Deli, 234 Main St. W, Huntsville ON P1H 1X1, Canada
That said, driving is the easiest way to get to Huntsville. From Toronto, you simply head up Highway 400 through Barrie, and then when the highway splits to become Highway 11 and Highway 400, take Highway 11. Highway 11 is a two-lane highway that will take you through Muskoka (Gravenhurst, Bracebridge) and eventually lead you to Huntsville.
You can get to downtown Huntsville two ways from Highway 11:
- Exit 219 for Muskoka Road 3 will spit you right downtown in minutes
- The ON-60 exit onto Highway 60 towards Ottawa is a tad longer (better if you need supplies, groceries, etc). Drive on Highway 60 and turn right at King William Street (Muskoka Road 3). You’ll head along King William (it turns into Main Street East) as you cross the bridge for downtown Huntsville.
Once downtown, there is plenty of parking on the street and in lots which makes visiting and walking around the core simple. Our go-to free lot is right beside River Mill Park. You can find it down King Street if you are driving along Main Street East.
To get around, while the area of the Huntsville is actually pretty hilly, the downtown core is very compact and walkable (with only a slight hill) on Main Street East. Other attractions (like the Lions Lookout) you’ll need a car to access and/or a good pair of hiking shoes depending on where you are starting from. For those with limited mobility, Huntsville does have a small public transit system you can use.
Where To Stay In Huntsville
Given that Huntsville is the largest of the town centres in the Muskokas (and has a ton of natural beauty to explore), there are lots of places to stay in/around Huntsville. There are accommodation options to suit all styles and budgets no matter the criteria. Whether you need a cottage rental for a long stay or you’re passing through and need a hotel, Huntsville has you covered.
If you are looking for specific accommodations by type in Huntsville, we’ve got experience there, too. For hotels in Huntsville, there are two main clusters of them: close to downtown and out by the highway. For a place right on the main street with a short walk to downtown, check out the Rodeway Inn King William. If you want a hotel closer to Highway 11, Eric stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on a work trip a while back and it was great!
For those looking for a quieter stay in Huntsville, there are loads of bed and breakfasts and cottage rentals. Morgan House B&B is a top-rated and tranquil stay just outside the main town on Highway 60. Colonial Bay Motel & Cottages is right on the water a short drive from downtown on Highway 60 and is great if you are heading for Algonquin Park (located east of Huntsville).
Lastly, because of the area’s natural beauty, there are a number of resorts that call the Huntsville area home. Notably, Deerhurst Resort is a very popular resort with lots to offer couples, groups, and families in all seasons. Eric has been numerous times to use the fun waterfront facilities, for dinner, and for the live shows and it’s always been a pleasant time. We will plan a stay soon because Lisa wants to check it out as well!
Read More: A Guide to Renting a Cottage in Ontario
Things to Do in Huntsville, Ontario
Now that we have covered the basics, let’s dive into the things there are to do and see in Huntsville! Of course, there are other things you can see or shops you can visit than the ones mentioned here. But this is a great list to get you started checking out the hot spots – and we’ll add to this post as we experience more!
Explore Main Street/Downtown Huntsville
If you have never been to Huntsville before, a classic place to start exploring the town is the historic downtown area on Main Street East. This compact area is packed with shops and restaurants. It makes a great place to window shop, grab supplies for your trip, enjoy a sweet treat, drink, or bite to eat, and much more.
If you are unfamiliar with the area, there is a little green space at the main intersection (Brunel Road + Main Street East) called Kent Park where (season depending) there is a little tourist information booth. You can apparently also stop in at the old Town Hall/Civic Centre for tourist information.
That said, there are some really great shops along Main Street that you can visit. A number of our favourites include:
- Algonquin Outfitters – An outdoor store loaded all to ceiling with all the gear + outdoor apparel you could ever imagine. They also do gear/rentals and have a bike shop.
- The Nutty Chocolatier – A place for sweet treats. Famous for homemade fudge and truffles, they also have “old-time” candy brands and a cold display of ice cream, frozen yogurt, and more.
- The Mill On Main – A classic Canadian-style pub serving up pub fare with great drinks on tap, too. Have a back patio area and live music. We’ve been, it’s great.
- Muskoka Bear Wear – A comfy apparel store great for cozy sweaters, pants, you name it. They also have “make your own t-shirts” screen printing available – Eric bought one years ago and still wears it!
- Artisans Of Muskoka – An artsy little shop featuring arts and crafts inspired by the Muskoka region.
- Huntsville Brewhouse – The Huntsville location of “Lake of Bays Brewing Co” which brews onsite. They have rotating taps, a pretty extensive kitchen menu, and Lake of Bays take home cans available for sale onsite.
Another notable place to see downtown is the old Town Hall. Built back in 1926, it’s a beautiful building in the heart of the town. Right beside the Town Hall, you can find the Algonquin Theatre/Civic Centre – a popular place for performances year-round from comedy to live music. You can check out what’s on at the Algonquin Theatre website.
Speaking of downtown history and the arts, if you have a chance you might want to pop by the Capitol Theatre. Opened back in the 1920s, this classic movie theatre is still going strong and shows summer blockbuster movies in an intimate, old-school theatre space. Eric has been many times and it’s great watching movies there!
This is another good time to mention that Huntsville has an initiative called Huntsville Festival of the Arts. This is not a “single event” but a number of events that take place throughout the year at different venues across the town/region. With a mandate to highlight the importance of the Arts in the community (and vice versa), you can check out what’s going on when you visit.
Address for Town Hall: 37 Main St E, Huntsville, ON P1H 2B8, Canada
Pro Tip: If you are a fan of Canadian Art, you can search for art at the “Group of Seven Outdoor Gallery”. Spread across downtown, there are dozens of replica Group of Seven paintings re-created as wall murals on outside buildings. See how many you can find!
Enjoy the Muskoka River
Of course, you cannot head for Huntsville’s downtown without enjoying the Muskoka River. The river cuts through the core of the town linking lakes of the area and is made for enjoying – both beside it and on it!
Starting out at the classic green Swing Bridge (shown above), you can hang out by the river at the little green space known as Town Dock Park. It’s a popular spot for boaters to come up and park to head downtown. Across from this park, you will see some riverside patios at Boston Pizza (which used to be “The Cottage”, RIP), which you can enjoy.
On the other side of the bridge, there’s a new brewery called Canvas Brewing Co. We actually haven’t been because they opened up after the last we visited. But you know that once we are back that’s a stop we are making for sure! The interior taproom looks gorgeous and the beers sound great!
On the side you are currently on, there are numerous places to grab a drink or a bite to eat. The On the Docks Pub is a very popular spot for locals and visitors to grab a drink, food, catch live music, etc. To be honest, Eric didn’t know it was called “On the Docks Pub” – we always called it “Pub on the Docks” so there’s a little tidbit for you.
Address On the Dock Pub: 90 Main St E, Huntsville, ON P1H 2C7, Canada
If you continue along the waterfront docks away from the bridge, you will come across the back of Algonquin Outfitters rental shop where you can rent a kayak, canoe, stand-up paddleboard, etc right then and there. If you are short on time, you can launch in the river and go for a day paddle before returning to your car downtown. The Mill on Main also has a back patio here with river views.
Continuing along, and you will end up at River Mill Park which is close to the parking lot we suggested. There’s a playground for the kids, a bandstand for performances, and more dock space to boat up to or to enjoy the river from. Overall, this area by the river is lovely and should be explored if you have never been to Huntsville before.
Enjoy the Views from Lions Lookout
Did you know Huntsville has a spot for amazing views of the region? We didn’t – and so we headed up to the Lions Lookout to check it out. It’s funny – Eric has been going to Huntsville for well over a decade and never knew this existed. Spoiler: We were definitely not disappointed!
The lookout is essentially a rocky cliff/hill a short drive from downtown. From the top, you get sweeping views of the lake (Fairy Lake) as well as multiple vantage points over the centre of town. There are even historical information plaques that you can read to learn more about what you are looking at.
To get up there, it’s a short drive from downtown and close to the Heritage Place Train Station. Look for Lookout Road, and follow the steep road up. There are numerous parking spots at the top but we can imagine it filling up in the summer or fall. There is also a parking lot when you turn to go up Lookout Road where people parked to hike up (it would take about 10/15 minutes).
In any case, we were just passing through so we stayed up there for a break (picnic lunch) and enjoyed the views. In fact, visiting this lookout as a picnic spot is one of our top things to do in Ontario!
There are picnic tables and places to sit – there’s even a little pavilion for more shade. It was nice to see people show up, snap a few photos, take in the views, maybe have a bite to eat, and head off on their way. The road loops at the top so the one-way traffic makes it fairly organized, too.
Address: Lookout Rd, Huntsville, ON P1H 1R1, Canada
Visit Muskoka Heritage Place
If you are travelling to Huntsville with kids or you’re interested in learning about the history of the area, then a stop at Muskoka Heritage Place is for you. This place is dedicated to preserving history – and making it fun to learn about, too. The Heritage Place is made up of an outdoor pioneer village, museum, and railway.
The pioneer village has authentic buildings set up to show what life was like in the late 1800s. Volunteers are there to tell you things – and often have activities for the kids to try. Onsite, there is also an indoor museum where you can learn about the past – specifically that of Huntsville.
A highlight is the classic miniature steam train which you can board at the Rotary Village Station (shown above) close to the Lions Lookout road. There’s also a Steam Museum here if you want to know more about the history of steam trains in Ontario! To plan your visit – and to look up train times – you can learn more about the Muskoka Heritage Place here.
Address: 88 Brunel Rd, Huntsville, ON P1H 1R1, Canada
Get Ice Cream at Kawartha Dairy
Now, if you have never had Kawartha Dairy ice cream, you might be confused. Why would we promote a Kawartha company (another cottage/lake region in Ontario) in the Muskokas? Well, that’s because Kawartha Dairy ice cream (founded in 1937) is delicious – and they have expanded across Ontario to the point where you no longer have a choice but to try it!
Notably, there is a Kawartha Diary ice cream shop just outside of the town centre on Highway 60. You would pass it if you were heading for Algonquin Park. If it’s the summertime, just look for the place with the line up outside the takeaway window!
In all seriousness, we love Kawartha Diary. You can stop to buy a larger take-home size as well as other dairy products – but the main draw is for their ice cream. They have a number of amazing flavours to choose from – and they will even let you sample a bit before you buy. Eric is always a fan of Moose Tracks while Lisa likes Chocolate Peanut Butter!
Once you grab your cone, they have outdoor seating with umbrellas so that you can enjoy your ice cream before hopping back in the car. You can learn all about Kawartha Dairy Ice Cream here.
Address: 178 ON-60, Huntsville, ON P1H 1G2, Canada
If you are looking for another ice cream place that is more local and closer to downtown, head for Belly Ice Cream. This small-batch ice cream maker is also apparently very popular. Truthfully, we have never been but will go the next time we are in Huntsville (and we’ll let you know how it goes).
Visit Arrowhead Provincial Park
If you come to Huntsville to experience nature, a great place to do so is at Arrowhead Provincial Park. Located just a few minutes driving north of Highway 11 from downtown Huntsville, this park is well-known among the Ontario provincial parks for a few reasons.
In the summer, the park is open for hiking. There are campsites, and even a number of smaller lakes and beaches, and points of interest like the Big Bend Lookout which is a scenic spot on the East River as well as hiking to Stubb’s Falls.
In the winter time, Arrowhead takes on a whole new popularity. If you are from the Toronto area, you may have seen photo of people ice skating on a magical looking outdoor trail? You likely saw photo from the winter ice trails at Arrowhead.
The park can get really busy in the winter season (especially on weekends) so if you are heading up to skate – or to enjoy the park for snowshoeing, etc – be sure to plan ahead by checking the conditions. You can learn more about visiting Arrowhead Park here.
Address: 451 Arrowhead Park Rd, Huntsville, ON P1H 2J4, Canada
Have Fun at Deerhurst Resort
There are a ton of resorts in Ontario to choose from (many are in Muskoka alone), but Deerhurst Resort is definitely one to visit. Founded just before the year 1900, Deerhurst Resort has been welcoming guests for well over a century!
This sprawling resort on the shores of Peninsula Lake is located just 10 minutes from downtown Huntsville. From onsite accommodations and food choices to indoor and outdoor activities in each season, Deerhurst definitely has something for everyone.
As mentioned above, Eric has visited numerous times to have dinner, attend a show, and use the waterfront facilities – all of which were great. Deerhurst also boasts a golf course, ski/wake school, an extensive spa facility, and an escape room, along with other things to do in winter like skating and snowshoeing.
Overall, Deerhurst is a pleasant experience. It makes for a great getaway if you are a couple, group of friends, or even a family travelling with kids. You learn all about what the amenities at Deerhurst Resort and you can book your stay at Deerhurst Resort here.
Address: 1235 Deerhurst Dr, Huntsville, ON P1H 2E8, Canada
Ski/Stay at Hidden Valley Resort
If you are visiting Huntsville in the winter, another great place to head for is Hidden Valley Highlands Ski Area. Tucked away close to Deerhurst a short drive on Highway 60 east of downtown, this smaller ski resort is a great place to fill the urge to hit the slopes. You can learn more about hours, prices, and snow conditions at the Hidden Valley Ski website.
The nice thing about Hidden Valley Ski is that you can head out for just the day or you can choose to stay nearby. In fact, there’s a great option if you plan on sticking around overnight (across the street)!
Located right beside the Ski Area is Hidden Valley Resort – a resort/lodge that boasts the ability to be both beside the lake and beside ski slopes at the same time! Hidden Valley (the resort) has an onsite bar/restaurant as well as pool and lakefront access so there is plenty to do in summer or in the winter. You can check the availability for Hidden Valley Resort here.
Address: 1755 Valley Rd, Huntsville, ON P1H 1Z8, Canada
Relax at Dyer Memorial
If you are looking to relax and have a little side adventure without going too far from Huntsville, then a trip to Dyer Memorial is for you. Tucked away deep in the woods north of Highway 60, this memorial and tranquil green space surrounded by trees is about a 25-minute drive from downtown.
The backstory to Dyer is actually pretty touching – a man built this monument for his wife when she passed away to remember her loyalty, generosity, and love. You can read the dedication plaque on the memorial when you arrive.
Around the large stone obelisk is a grassy area with a pond and some trails that also have benches for a nice sit down and some quiet reflection. It’s like a little oasis in the middle of the dense woods. Eric has been here numerous times and each time he visited was special.
Address: 1556 Dyer Memorial Rd, Huntsville, ON P1H 2J4, Canada
Explore Algonquin Park
Last – but certainly not least – we had to mention Algonquin Park. Admittedly, Algonquin Park is not located in Huntsville. The park is located about a 30 minutes drive from downtown Huntsville to the West Gate Entrance on Highway 60. The reason the two are so closely tied is that Huntsville is one of the last larger centres to grab supplies before heading into the Park (assuming you are coming from Toronto).
The good news is that you can head to Algonquin for the day to do hikes or you can adventure off on a multi-day hiking/canoeing trip. The bad news is that the park is massive and can be very daunting if you are new to the area and inexperienced with hiking and camping.
That said, we will write up a whole separate post on what to know when visiting Algonquin Park. We are by no means super experienced campers/trekkers, but Eric has been on multi-day canoe trips a few times and they have always gone smoothly. If you want to visit – even for a day – you will need a permit. You can learn about permits, hours, routes, and costs at the website for the Algonquin Park West Gate Entrance.
Address for Algonquin West Gate: Highway 60 at Kilometre Marker 0, Unorganized South Nipissing District, ON P0A 1H0, Canada (you can’t miss it)
Pro Tip: Algonquin Outfitters actually offers day trips from downtown Huntsville into the park and back with a guide!
Having said all of that, there are numerous other places to visit outside or around Huntsville that we haven’t yet checked out. Over time, we are making a point of visiting them and adding them to this list.
Some other popular things to do in Huntsville are: visit Sugarbush Hill Maple Farm, hike through the Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve, boat through the Brunel Lift Locks, adventure in Treetop Trekking Huntsville, and check out North Ridge Ranch in winter for dog sledding.
And there you have it – some awesome things to do in Huntsville, Ontario. Of course, different interests might be drawn to different things – but we think this is a great list to get visitors to the area started. Have a blast in Huntsville when you visit!
As always, Keep Exploring, eh?
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