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Ours to Discover

Ours to Discover: Fall is officially cranberry season

Enjoy the changing leaves, but don’t forget to also appreciate Ontario’s other fall colour, cranberry.

By Karen Kwan Wheels.ca

Oct 9, 2022 4 min. read

Article was updated 2 months ago

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About this series: Wheels wants to inspire you to explore. This series of daytrips and longer drives highlight great experiences you can have in the province, ands show you why Ontario is “Ours to Discover.”

With autumn officially here, it is harvest time in many places across the province – including in Bala. This community, located on Highway 169 between Gravenhurst and Parry Sound, is the cranberry capital of Canada and the perfect spot for a mid-fall visit. Get ready to experience a dose of bright colours, and not just from those rapidly changing leaves.

In the morning: Leaving Toronto, drive north on Highway 400 toward Gravenhurst before heading west on Highway 169. The journey should take about two-and-a-half hours. Bala is part of the larger municipality of Muskoka Lakes and plays host to a popular cranberry festival each October – which this year takes place from the 14 to the 16.

Make Muskoka Lakes Farm & Winery your first stop. Located just a short drive past Bala, it is one of only two cranberry marshes in Ontario. (The one other is in Greely, a rural community near Ottawa. While too far to visit on a day trip from Toronto, Upper Canada Cranberries is a unique spot to see while in the nation’s capital.)

Cranberry

Muskoka Lakes Farm & Winery is home to the Johnston Cranberry Marsh where, in the fall, you can see the bright red berries being harvested, go on a wagon or walking tour of its trails, and get into the actual bog by taking a Cranberry Plunge (be sure to book in advance). Wearing a pair of waterproof waders, you can walk through the marsh water to where the cranberries have been collected in a heart-shaped area for the ultimate fall-harvest photo opportunity.

Throughout the year, the business also hosts a bog-to-bottle experience, where visitors will be taken on a guided tour to learn how the cranberries are processed, and wine tastings – all are made from cranberries and blueberries (as well as apple, in the case of its Georgian Bay Rosé). The winery also produces cider, which you can purchase in the shop alongside a selection of preserves, baked goods and hot sauces.

Around noon: Spend a couple of hours exploring the Muskoka Cranberry Route. This route includes more than 30 stops across the region, so you’ll have to narrow down your stops if you are only on a day trip. Make your choices while eating lunch at Bala Bay Takeaway. The restaurant serves several cranberry infused items, including its chicken wrap and the tartar sauce to go accompany its fish and chips.

In the afternoon: Following lunch make sure to visit the Clear Lake Brewing Co., one of the stops along the Muskoka Cranberry Route, in the nearby community of Torrance. Purchase a day pass so you can experience its Muskoka BeerSpa and kick back for a couple of hours by enjoying its hot tubs, pool, saunas, loungers and gardens. Those not driving can enjoy the brewery’s Cranberry Radler – made with Muskoka cranberry juice – or its refreshing craft beer cocktail, the Radler Rocket.

Cranberry

Once you are rejuvenated, drive to Bracebridge, less than 40-minutes away, to pick up a few treats on your way back to Toronto. Stop at Rich Hill Candles for some beautiful cranberry-scented candles before popping into Unique Muskoka for some cranberry jalapeno jelly – the perfect hot and spicy addition to your cheese boards.

Finally, stop into the Muskoka Olive Oil Co. for a bottle of cranberry-pear olive oil (great for dipping some crusty bread into) and some of North Country Fudge’s decadent cranberry-raspberry fudge. With souvenirs and gifts procured, start your drive back to the city.

For the drive

Listen to “The Cranberry Chronicles,” a podcast from the Cranberry Institute, in which the host, a registered dietitian nutritionist, speaks with health and industry experts about this antioxidant-rich fruit.

Cranberry

TIMELINE: Drive Guide

  • 8 a.m. Leave Toronto

  • 10:30 a.m. Muskoka Lakes Farm & Winery

  • 12:30 p.m. Bala Bay Takeaway

  • 1 p.m. Clear Lake Brewing Co.

  • 3:30 p.m. Shop in Bracebridge

  • 5 p.m. Drive back to Toronto


Note: Times are suggestions only

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