Friday, July 11

Swimming in Muskoka and the Almaguin Highlands

The swimming season here in Ontario's Cottage Country is short, but oh so sweet. There is nothing like the feel of cool, clear lake water enveloping you on a hot summer afternoon, with a view of green hills rising up from the shore around you to meet a big blue sky above. Nothing else says 'vacation' quite so eloquently.

July and August are peak swimming months, but depending on the weather, it can start as early as mid-June and go on into September. Jim has even been known to jump in for a dip in October!

Guests who are new to the area always ask "is there anywhere to swim?" and are pleasantly surprised by the number and variety of options. Within a short drive, we have sandy beaches, smooth rocky dropoffs, deep steady rivers, and rushing rapids. We provide guests of the inn with directions and a map, and we're always happy to recommend our favourite spots. Here are just a few:

Long Lake
A quiet lake just 6 1/2 km from the inn, Jim and I swim here often. Similar to an Algonquin interior campsite, with shady trees and natural rock steps and ledges. There is no beach or slowly sloping entry here; instead the land drops off abruptly into the lake. Either you're in or your out. This is good for getting me in the water quickly (instead of slowly inching my way in) and we love the short drive through the woods to get there. Floating dock for jumping and diving.

Birch Beach
Sunny, wide, sandy beach at the south end of Doe Lake, between Sprucedale and Emsdale. Shallow, gradual entry, then swim out as far as you like. Sunny lawns and shady birch trees make this a great beach for lounging even if you don't feel like swimming. This is a large lake with motor boats; floating dock.

Clear Lake
Small sandy beach with warm shallow water. The beach is tucked in between cottages and motor boats and jet skis are on the lake, making you feel just like you're at a cottage. Grassy slope for sunbathing.

Brook's Falls
A lovely waterfall to visit at any time of year, Brook's Falls on the Magnetawan River is also a great swimming spot in the heat of summer. Splash in the rapids just below the falls, sit and soak in natural whirlpools, or swim in the deeper water downstream. More about Brook's Falls here.

Katrine Beach
Large sandy, shallow beach on a big lake. Popular with families. Playground, bbq stands, not much shade.

Magnetawan River Rapids
Unofficial and unmaintained as a swimming spot, but regularly enjoyed by local residents. Sit in on smooth bare rock in the rapids above a waterfall, or splash around in the river below the falls.

Arrowhead Lake and Stubbs Falls
With two lakes and the Big East River running through it, Arrowhead Provincial Park is a great place to spend a summer day. Swim at the beach or sun bath on the flat rocks by the falls. Canoe and kayak rentals are also available at the park.

Ilfracomb Beach
Sandy beach in a pretty little hamlet. Jim and I just discovered the spot in the spring and haven't tried the water there yet. It looks like a sandy, shallow entrance into a beautiful clear lake.

Hutcheson Beach
Large, popular sandy beach on Lake Vernon on the west side of Huntsville. Playground, change rooms.

As always when water is involved, use caution and common sense. Enjoy the many water features of Muskoka and the Almaguin Highlands, but do so at your own risk.

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