Most of the towns, beaches, and scenic spots of Muskoka are bustling and busy on a summer afternoon. Not Ilfracombe. This tiny hamlet is actually part of the municipality of Huntsville but it's nestled on Buck Lake in the north-west corner of the township, far from shops or restaurants or crowds.
We often like to spend an afternoon at the beach there, or even just a half-hour if that's all we can fit in our day. The beach is sandy and the shoreline shallow; so shallow, in fact, that the water is as warm as a bath and swimmable even in the cooler days of late August and early September.
A short drive past the beach is a beautiful old stone church, built in 1886 and still in use today. If you want to stop and take pictures, turn up the road just after the church to access the small parking area at the back of the building.
Continuing further south beyond the church is a shady picnic area, also on the lake. Pooches aren't allowed at the beach but you can let your dog have a swim here. It's also a great place to put in a canoe or kayak. You can paddle around Buck Lake if you like open water, or take a little tour up the river (you'll see it when you drive over the bridge on the way to the picnic spot).
Muskoka in the summer is often a busy, exciting, high-traffic destination. A visit to a quiet hamlet like Ilfracombe is the perfect foil when you want a little less excitement in your getaway and a little more breathing space.
To get there from the inn, you head west from our parking lot (away from the direction of Hwy 11) and follow Fern Glen Rd, past Round Lake, to it's terminus just south of the town of Sprucedale. Turn left (south) on Stisted Rd and follow it for 10 lovely kilometres to Ilfracombe.
Stisted Road is in great shape, paved and not too busy. It winds and turns, going up hills and down, and passes through a section I always think of as Sherwood Forest, where the trees knit together overhead forming a green (or, in the autumn, red) tunnel.
South of Ilfracombe, the road becomes Ravenscliff Rd and meanders its way all the way to Huntsville proper. Watch for the Hutcheson Beach Road if you want to sample another beach along your way.
I can't tell you about Ilfracombe without mentioning Badger Paddles, a small, family-run business making hand-crafted one-of-a-kind solid wood canoe paddles. They make the paddles at their shop in Ilfracombe but it's not a retail store. Visit their website for information on where to purchase their paddles and paddlesocks. Badger Paddles.