Incorporated in 1875, Bracebridge is nicknamed "The Heart of Muskoka." Located on the Muskoka River, the town is home to waterfalls, historical buildings and an amusement park based on the North Pole’s finest: Santa Claus. There are also wonderful restaurants and a delightful brewery to explore. Part of cottage country, the area is well known for its rivers, lakes, views and outdoor activities. Named after a book by famed author Washington Irving, Bracebridge is a great place to watch the fall foliage change from green to auburn.
Where is Bracebridge?
Located north of Toronto, Bracebridge is in the District of Muskoka. Highway 11 is the most direct north/south route into Bracebridge. From the east, Highway 118 and from the west, take Highway 118 West.
You can also fly into Muskoka Regional Airport (IATA: YQA, ICAO: CYQA). Located 10 km south of the city, the airport accepts private aircraft and some commercial carriers provide seasonal service.
Things to Do in Bracebridge
Bracebridge has a variety of things to do for all ages. Kids and kids at heart should head to Santa's Village theme park. Since Bracebridge is located exactly halfway between the equator and the North Pole, it's the perfect place for Santa to spend his summers. A 24+ hectare park, you can play games for prizes, enjoy rides, watch live shows, take swan boat rides and of course, meet the Big Man and his elves. There are also six places to eat lunch or get a snack. Santa's Village is only open in the summers because (of course) we don't want to distract Santa from his Christmas preparations.
If you love the outdoors, you'll enjoy hiking, canoeing on the Muskoka River, biking, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.
Considered the waterfall capital of Muskoka, Bracebridge has four waterfalls in the area. Bracebridge Falls is located in downtown Bracebridge and is 12 meters tall. Wilson's Falls is located in the north part of town and is 10 meters tall. Take the short Wilson's Falls Trail to get a closer look. One of the steepest falls in the area is High Falls. At 16 meters tall, it's a sight to see. High Falls also has smaller waterfalls on-site and most of the High Falls area is accessible by wheelchair. South of Bracebridge is Muskoka Falls. Even though Muskoka Falls has a highway going over it, it's still worth a visit.
To get a closer look at Bracebridge's rivers and lakes, take a cruise on Lady Muskoka, a 31 meter long ship that has been carrying passengers down Muskoka River and Lake Muskoka for over 50 years. The cruise takes you to view nature and cottages of the area, including Millionaire's Row, where the rich and famous used to live.
Take a stroll in downtown Bracebridge on Manitoba Street and you'll learn about the town’s history. The brick-faced stone buildings look like something out of an old movie. The town's Fire and Ice Festival takes place on Manitoba Street each winter, and you can even snow tube down the street! When on Manitoba Street, don't miss the Clock Tower. Completed in 1915, it was initially a federal postal office and customs center with a large clock at the top. Today it's full of local businesses featuring art, music and clothing... and the clock still works.
Art and architecture lovers will find plenty to appreciate in Bracebridge. Chapel Gallery is a replica of the first Presbyterian church in the town. In business since 1989, Chapel Gallery features work by local artists and well-known Canadian artists. The gallery offers lectures, collections and workshops. Woodchester is an eight-sided home on 4 hectares above the Muskoka River and constructed more than 125 years ago. Used as a private event site, it doesn't have scheduled tours of the home, but you can still explore the grounds and experience the house from the outside.
After all your exploring, you'll be ready for something to eat. The dozens of restaurants in Bracebridge offer various choices, from pub food to fine dining. Afterward, head to the Muskoka Brewery. They create craft-brewed beers in a wide variety of styles like Session IPAs, sours and chocolate stouts. They also distill gin – be sure to to get a sample.
Bracebridge Neighbourhoods & Districts
Bracebridge has several districts to explore:
Historic center of town, where many seasonal activities take place.
Shopping area with big box stores.
Includes many independent retailers and multicultural shops.
Things to Know About Visiting Bracebridge
Whether you’re still in the planning stages or you’re already on your trip to Bracebridge, it’s nice to learn what the locals know about the city.
Where to go for a hike
South Monck and the Covered Bridge Trail is a scenic route that takes you through forests, across wooden bridges and eventually to a lovely waterfall.
Where to watch the sunset
Huckleberry Rock Lookout is one of the best places in Muskoka to watch the sunset, just follow the white markers on the trees and rocks along a 2.5 km hike to the lookout … and enjoy Mother Nature’s show.