Normally I am reporting in on the interesting "going-ons" in London...and I love doing that. But this month I find myself what feels like a million miles away in the beautiful lake district of Ontario, called Muskoka. So instead this week I am going to let you in on a Canadian secret, it's the incredible summer life in Muskoka.
For those who are looking to explore Canada, its beauty, its wilderness or even its summer social scene Muskoka is the place. New Yorkers have the Hamptons, Torontonians... if they are very lucky have Muskoka .
LIFE IS BETTER ON THE DOCK
Even if you don't go "in" the lake and personally since there is nowhere around to get a good blow-out I say, why bother getting my hair wet, life is unquestionably on the dock. Whether it is canoes, kayaks, swimming, jet-skis, boating, reading trashy magazines or ... writing a blog the dock is the centre of all things Muskoka.
It is the perfect place to snooze, recharge or entertain. It is true what they say, life is better on the dock.
COTTAGE LIFE IS WHAT YOU DO IN-BETWEEN MEALS.
Eating AND drinking is an incredible part of life in Muskoka. In fact cocktail hour can sometimes start with your eggs and bacon in the morning and not end until... well ...your eggs and bacon the next morning. I love the summer social scene, from the bar on the dock always ready for visitors, to planning, cooking and sharing meals with friends and family. Also what makes life different at the cottage is the men folk all seem to gather around the BBQ and actually cook. I mean it! They are cooking dinner...AND enjoying doing so. Can I ask, as a general rule how many guys know how to turn on their oven at home? There must be something primal about cooking on a BBQ and I for one am happy to see it. Just wonder how we can bring even a tiny bit of that primal BBQ mentality around a four burner gas stove in the kitchen?
When not eating at the cottage there are some fun seasonal restaurants nearby. Grand Electric in Port Carling is great for fish tacos and a cold Corona but prepare to wait in line, or you can wait at Frankies Surf Club (when there is not a wait to get in there). The JW Marriott Muskoka Chop House for steaks and great wine (all year) and on the casual side of dining for a chicken wrap, burger or salad Turtle Jacks. In Rosseau, Crossroads is still a local fave and new this season in Port Carling is The Cottage Bistro, great menu, offers cooking classes, open for lunch and dinner and takes reservations.
If you are in Muskoka and really want a fun, rocking night the best place to do that is the Kee To Bala. "The Kee" as it is known has been a concert hall since 1930 on Lake Muskoka and has hosted some incredible acts over its incredible history. Musicians like, Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong and more recently Snoop Dogg, RUSH and Drake have all passed through and shook those giant barn doors by the lake.
SUNSETS & SHOOTING STARS
During the summer my favourite time of day is sunset. In Muskoka during the summer months we can watch the sun go down from our dock, chardonnay or rosé in hand around 9:00 each night. Some summer evenings, if it's a clear night one can watch meteor showers in the way of shooting stars. Lots of opportunities for wishes to be made.
DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A COTTAGE HO?
So before the days of cottage ownership I was as a self proclaimed "Cottage Ho", relying on friends with cottages for weekend invites. If you are looking for a career as a "Cottage Ho" the terms are similar to that of the Chalet Slut or The Sofa Surfer, you come bringing at least one incredible meal for the entire group. From appies to dessert. You bring some great wine that will last the length of your visit and at least one special bottle as gift for your hosts. Fresh flowers always go a long way too. Trust me you follow these simple guidelines and you should always have a place to chill for the weekend.
WHERE TO STAY IN MUSKOKA..if you are not ho-ing it?
Before we bought our lake house (aka cottage) we would rent a place for a few weeks each summer. There are some incredible places to rent if one does not own a cottage. There are a number of online sites where you could find a place to rent. They can vary from a small cabin in the woods to a monster 10,000 sf mega cottages with staff. Even people who own these monster multi-million dollar places in Muskoka (Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Cindy Crawford, Martin Short) still call them "cottages" although trust me, that definition is totally out of whack the moment there is a place to land your helicopter.
My favourite Muskoka resort hands-down is the JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka. Condé Nast Traveller rated it Number 7 of 20 of top resorts to stay in Canada. I have stayed there many times prior to my cottage ownership days or if there was a lack of a good Cottage Ho-ing opportunity. There are some great restaurants, golf (not that I golf), pools, tennis, lake activities and a spa. Great place to have a romantic weekend.
My other recco is Windermere House, they call themselves "Lady of the Lake". It is the country's oldest hotel although was totally rebuilt to its former glory a few years back when a fire brought the place down after a movie shoot accidentally set the place a blaze. It has all the amenities one would require for a luxury stay.
If you have mini-van full of children I would suggest a more" kid valued" place called Cleveland's House. Think the movie Dirty Dancing but on a much smaller and way less sexy scale...and sadly no hint of the Patrick Swayze hot dancing instructor. They have a great program on the dock for kids to learn to wake-surf or waterski and families do tend to return year after year until the parents can't take it anymore. DO NOT go there unless you are happy with the sound of children everywhere. Their minimal wine list is not going to even come close to help numb the shrieking of children in the dining room. They do have babysitting if you have to escape and the JW Marriott is right next door. Come with kids or stay away.
There are many small boutiques, local designers, antiques, fairs, farmers markets that run all season. So if you get tired of sitting on the dock you could spend the day poking around shopping and finding treasures.
SOON...BACK TO LONDON
I will enjoy each sunset and muggy Muskoka summer day for all good things must eventually come to a end. Pretty soon it will be time to put down the rosé, pack the car and get back to the moderate temperatures of London. But in case you are wondering... my heart will and forever be sitting on the dock, by the lake in the last hours of the Muskoka summer sun....and this guy will forever be beside me..smelling just a little too much like wet dog.