This article was originally published in the 2020 Spring issue of Invest In Style Magazine.
One of the most coveted addresses in the heart of Muskoka’s cottage country,
Port Carling is home to hundreds of families, year-round, and thousands more during summer months. Incorporated as a village in 1896 (population 100), Port Carling, Muskoka’s oldest community, is the largest urban centre in the Muskoka Lakes Township.
Two-and-a-half hours north of Toronto, Port Carling hugs the shores of Mirror and Silver lakes. In the heart of its downtown, boat locks that welcomed the first steamships in the early 1900s, join the larger lakes Muskoka and Rosseau – hence Port Carling’s nickname, Hub of the Lakes.
Known locally as The Wall, a giant photo mosaic of the RMS Sagamo entering the Port Carling locks in the early 1900s, covers the side of the Muskoka Emporium. The 111’ by 45’ mosaic, made up of more than 9,000 images, tells the story of the daily lives of residents of the village’s first century, from 1860-1960.
Family homes, from modest waterfront cottages to new build luxury retreats on private islands, provide residents and guests with peaceful settings (think morning yoga on the dock) and
a laid-back, community atmosphere. Well-kept boathouses – many with guest quarters – dot hundreds of kilometres of pristine shoreline.
Downtown, Port Carling’s wide sidewalks and dock-side cafés invite leisurely afternoon strolls. Upscale restaurants, art galleries and boutiques, as well as brand-name retailers and ice cream shops, welcome residents and visitors. There’s something here for everyone including summer camps for kids, art and music festivals, and theatre and musical events in the new community hall. From July to September, the Port Carling Farmer’s Market sets up every Thursday in Hannah Park. Muskoka Lakes Museum, on James Bartleman Island Park, downtown Port Carling, opens from Victoria Day through to Thanksgiving.
Local water sports include paddle boarding, kayaking, and rowing (lessons as well as rentals). Nearby, hiking trails meander through the ruggedly beautiful Canadian Shield. Huckleberry Rock Lookout Trail, in Milford Bay, lets you stand on some of the oldest rocks in the world and watch the sun set on the little islands that dot the lakes.
While Port Carling is best known as a summer playground, the natural wonder of the area also makes it ideal for winter activities. When frozen, the lakes invite skating, snowmobiling, and shoreline walks impossible in the summer.
A snowmobile trail runs right through Port Carling and there’s public skating at the local arena.
Port Carling hosts a number of annual winter activities. The Muskoka Lakes Christmas Market, held in the village’s community centre (November 7, 2020), is followed by Winterfest, the first full weekend of February. This family-friendly winter carnival includes horse-drawn carriage rides, fireworks and a polar bear dip… for those who really, really look forward to summer.
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