As much as I love travelling and taking long trips to go to the countries I have never visited before, I also think that one doesn’t have to spend many hours on the plane in order to see unusual places and experience wonderful adventures. I try to do my best in appreciating what I have ‘under my breath’ because believe me – there is so much beauty everywhere on this planet. My bucket list includes both more local and foreign places I would like to visit one day and recently I was really lucky to have been able to cross out one of them – Muskoka in Ontario.
There is of course no better way to get to places and embrace the journey than while on a road trip. Thanks to Ford of Canada, which gave me the amazing opportunity to put my foot on the gas and make some memories, I was able to experience Muskoka while driving the new capable and connected Ford EcoSport.
On The Way To Muskoka
Konrad and I went to Muskoka for three days, we decided to choose this destination for our road trip with Ford of Canada because we have never really had a chance to go on a road trip in Canada and we thought that this is an ideal time to go on one for the first time. We have also always dreamt of going to Muskoka around the fall season, so I think everything worked out perfectly.
Another reason why we chose Muskoka is because it has not only gorgeous lakes, but also long and picturesque roads that allowed us to really test the possibilities of the new Ford EcoSport. While driving many of them, we were able to admire astonishing rocks along. They really emphasize this area’s natural beauty and make its scenery even more charming.
The trip to Muskoka itself was definitely not the easiest thing as our phones completely lost the signal once we exited the highway and we got lost in the wilderness without having any idea of where to drive. Honestly if it hadn’t been the Ford EcoSport’s SYNC 3 and its built-in navigation system that helped us find the right route, we would have probably still wandered in the woods. The 8-inch touchscreen looks and acts very similar to a phone – a driver can swipe, zoom in, zoom out the map and do everything super quickly. Moreover, I was able to do everything I would normally do on my phone without getting distracted by my actual phone.
Once we finally found the civilization again, we felt very relieved. There are many small towns in Muskoka that we drove through and we were amazed by the slow-paced life people live there. In Toronto, it is very easy to fall into the craziness of a big city where we constantly rush, hustle and run out of time. In Muskoka though, people seemed to be calm (no one was speeding or honking on the streets), have more time, and act more peacefully. Definitely, people there are very friendly and welcoming as some had the time and courage to initiate the conversation with us (of course we were doing a bad job pretending we were not typical tourists) and recommend us places to visit. There are a few restaurants, many hiking trails and plenty of parking space (free parking is something that I am completely not used to and was trying to convince Konrad that parking meters must be hidden somewhere).
📍First Stop: Hardy Lake Provincial Park
We got to Muskoka in the evening, so we were a little bit tired but we still wanted to make the most of our time there and explore its beautiful wilderness. We went to Hardy Lake Provincial Park, which provides hiking access to the shores of both Hardy Lake and Lake Muskoka, two of the most picturesque and rugged shorelines, characteristic of the lake-studded Precambrian rock landscapes of Muskoka. Originally settled in the 1870s by homesteaders, the park was acquired by the province in 1980 and is now designated as a Natural Environment Park to support exceptional life science values.
We chose a lovely 3-kilometres trail that traverses rocky outcrops, natural shoreline and forested areas. It was a pretty moderate hike with some steep ascents and declines. Although we were very lucky to be in the park to experience a beautiful sunset, I don’t think we gave ourselves enough time to complete the trail before it gets dark or maybe I was just walking not fast enough… Anyways, what I am trying to say here is that it is crucial to remember that wilderness has its own laws and habitants, so hiking at night (without any signal in your phone) and disrupting animals may not be the best idea unless you want to meet a bear or any other big, fluffy, cute looking but dangerous predator. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of the living creatures, but that night I prayed to not to meet any.
Now, moving from discussing the topic of fauna to some flora facts in this park. It is worth mentioning that it has a rich community of Atlantic coastal plain species. These species are there because at one time, much of present day Ontario was submerged beneath numerous glacial and post-glacial lakes. When the ancient Lake Algonquin receded, it left a remnant community of Atlantic Ocean shoreline plants behind, which I think is pretty amazing!
📍Second Stop: Gravenhurst Farmers’ Market
The next day we stopped in Gravenhurst known as ‘cottage country’ as its location makes it a perfect place to relax in a small, cozy vacation home by the lake. The town centre borders on two lakes: Lake Muskoka, which is the largest lake in the region, and Gull Lake, a smaller cottage-bordered lake. Gravenhurst is also famous for its farmers’ market, which has been named the best seasonal farmer’s market in Ontario.
Established in 1992 in the heart of Ontario’s scenic cottage country, the Gravenhurst Farmers’ Market has become one of the region’s most popular attractions. As many as 80,000 local residents, cottagers, and tourists frequent the market annually to partake in a broad array of fresh Ontario produce, arts and crafts, and special events.
Local maple syrup, honey, sweet treats, smoked trout, and seasonal fruits and vegetables from across Ontario are just a few of the products you can take home on a weekly basis (the market is open every Wednesday from May until the end of October).
The farmers’ market always changes with the seasons. During the summer months, shoppers are treated to fresh Ontario strawberries, blueberries, peaches, beans and other summer harvests. As the season changes to fall, market go-ers can bring home the fall harvest with apples, cranberries, squash, pumpkins and more.
📍Third Stop: Muskoka Steamships
Muskoka’s steamship heritage is older than Canada as the first ship steamed Lake Muskoka in 1866. The fleet of Muskoka Discovery Centre includes three ships RMS Segwun, Wenonah II, and Wanda III. First, Segwun is a 130-year-old historic steamship, the only steam-powered Royal Mail ship in the world. She is North America’s oldest operating mail steamship and an Ontario tourism icon. Second, built in the style of a 1907 Muskoka vessel, Wenonah II complements the RMS Segwun. This ship is a modern interpretation of a traditional steamship and is named in honour of Wenonah, the first steamship to sail Lake Muskoka. Third, Wanda III remains the finest example of the private steam yacht era. She is currently undergoing restoration and is now docked beside the Muskoka Discovery Centre.
A classic Muskoka cruise is called Millionaire’s Row. Near Beaumaris there are cottages that have been handed down from generation to generation for over 100 years. Many were built by wealthy Americans who first visited the area to hunt, hence the name Millionaire’s Row. They enjoyed the region so much that they brought their families to spend the summer away from the polluted cities of the industrial northeast. More than a century ago those families travelled to their cottages by steamship from Gravenhurst. Millionaire’s Row sailing replicates that steamship experience.
Experiencing Muskoka from the deck of a steamship is definitely a must as it gives the opportunity to see many beautiful places in just a few hours. I always really enjoy ship cruises and like to think of them as the time when I can take a new perspective on things and see them in a way I would never be able to see from the ground. Millionaire’s Row was a very informative, relaxing and entertaining cruise – I would recommend it to everyone who wants to explore Muskoka while learning about its many interesting facts.
The views from the ship were absolutely amazing! We were there in September when the leaves where slowly changing the colours, which made the whole experience even more magical.
At one point, Konrad also had a chance to steers the ship, which was pretty crazy. He was of course super happy while I was hoping no passengers will suffer from seasickness. But don’t worry, we all made it alive!
On The Way Back Home
On the way back home we decided to take a detour to explore more and enjoy driving Ford EcoSport for a little bit longer. We both found ourselves feeling like we have been owning and driving this car for years even though we had it only for a couple of days. The experience of driving it felt so natural and right, we didn’t have to do any adjustments or changes in our habits in order to have a pleasant trip.
However, the thing that surprised me the most was the maneuverability of this car. During this trip, it occurred to me that making U-turns to spontaneously stop for taking pictures is very easy when driving Ford EcoSport. Konrad a.k.a Car Expert explained to me the whole science behind it and wow let me tell you I have never known how much I can appreciate the tight turning radius!
Since the car itself is a compact SUV, it provided us with a lot of comfort and convenience. It seemed to us like a perfect vehicle for a couple who lives in a big city but also is always down for a weekend gateway. On the one hand, the size of this car is ideal for squishy parking spaces in a big city and crowded streets. On the other hand, its capability and capacity can be used to its fullest potential when on a road trip or an adventure out of the city. The trunk can easily fit all you need for a short trip. We put all of our baggage there, all of the technology (we had A LOT of it, definitely more than the actual baggage) we had with us didn’t fit in the trunk but to be honest we were not even mad about it because most of the time we were taking advantage of the quick-charging outlets and USB ports to ensure we have charged equipment to stay connected with you, take pictures and create videos. Another great and unusual thing about this car is its tailgate, which is a swing-gate and opens to the side – which of course makes it a perfect opportunity for a cute picture!
By the end of this post you can probably tell how much I love nature. I was very happy to learn that EcoSport features auto start-stop technology which reduces emissions and is more fuel efficient when waiting at red lights. I really appreciate that Ford made an extra step to be more eco-friendly. I think that considering there are more cars on the roads than ever, every vehicle these days should have this technology. Of course, it all will not change in one day, but I hope to inspire you today to go somewhere for the first time, appreciate the beautiful nature we were given and make greener choices.
Let me know your favourite memories from your first road trip babes!