Monsters, Monuments & Museums: Fall Touring Fun in Ontario’s Cottage Country
Please note: Our new ‘Great Canadian Wilderness’ website has replaced the old one that ran under our company name, Explorers’ Edge. From time to time in an older post, you may see references to Explorers’ Edge.
As the heat of summer transitions to the splendour of fall, road tripping is all about viewing the colourful landscapes along the way. Outdoor adventurer Martin Lortz maps out some fun stuff to discover in addition to the leaves.
While the spectacular autumn colours are reason enough to point the wheels towards the great Canadian wilderness just north of Toronto, what if I tell you that you can enhance the annual viewing experience with a bit of learning and maybe a touch of fright? Top up your gas tank, fire up the engine and flick on the GPS: ‘Monsters, Monuments and Museums’ are waiting for you in cottage country!
THE TREE MUSEUM
Located east of Gravenhurst along Doe Lake Road, a sign directs you to a grassy parking lot where you are further instructed to follow a dirt lane into the woods on foot. The path leads you for about a kilometer to the gates of The Tree Museum site. Here you will find in the midst of the forest – art! Canadian and international artists express their creativity here with works that represent the relationship between man and Nature. At any given time there are 10 to 15 works on site; some are permanent, others temporary, all of them captivating.
This forest experience is as much a hike as an art show, so be prepared to be out in the woods for a while; appropriate footwear is a a must, water and food recommended (consider picking up some homemade goodness on the go from Well Fed Deli in Gravenhurst before making the trek – their Bottle Box Lunches are perfect for this trip). The Tree Museum is open year round and entrance to the site is free of charge. What a wonderful way to explore the forest!
THE BIG CHAIR
The ‘Muskoka chair’ has gained a reputation as a must-deck or dock accessory that reaches well beyond regional borders. There’s one chair that stands out above all the others, however. Located in the Sawdust City Brewing Co. parking lot in Gravenhurst, this bright yellow, 21-feet tall and 16-feet wide monument will do the trick. It’s the perfect place to take a break – if you can get up there that is. Don’t forget your camera for an iconic social media post.
THE BALA BOG MONSTER
The Muskoka Lakes Farm & Winery in Bala, Ontario is home to cranberry bog fun in all four seasons. Now you can also head there to visit on of the area’s most famous statues, “Koilos.” Created by Michael Christian, Koilos originally made its way from Toronto to the end of a dock on Lake Muskoka, spent a little time on the main drag in Bala, and now oversees the fun at the cranberry marsh. Called the ‘Bog Monster’ by locals, it is now one of the most photographed statues in Ontario.
RENE CAISSE MONUMENT
Located in Totem Pole Park on the corner of Ontario Street and Warf Road in Bracebridge, this bronze statue created by Huntsville sculptor Brenda Wainman-Goulet pays homage to local hero Rene M. Caisse, who in 1922 discovered an original herbal formula that helped ease the pain and suffering of cancer patients. The park and the Rene Caisee Monument is a perfect way to end or start a stroll on the trails surrounding gorgous waterfalls in the centre of town. Planning to stay in Bracebridge? Be sure to check out the events lineup at the Rene M. Caisse Memorial Theatre too.
CHIEF FRANCIS PEGAHMAGABOW MONUMENT
A national hero, Chief Francis Pegahmagabow was born in nearby Shawanaga First Nation and raised in Wasauksing First Nation. He is the most highly decorated Indigenous soldier in Canadian military history, and a three-time recipient of the Military Medal. Upon his return from the war, he continued to serve in the Algonquin Regiment militia and was elected chief of Wasauksing First Nation in 1921 and again in 1942. His life-sized bronzed statue is situated in the Town of Parry Sound outside the Charles W. Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts, appropriately located at the start of the Algonquin Regiment Waterfront Fitness Trail on the shores of Georgian Bay.
THE SCREAMING HEADS
On the outskirts of Burk’s Falls along Midlothian Road you will find the 310-acre canvas of artist Peter Camani, known as the Screaming Heads. Visitors are welcome to wander amongst 100 or so 20-ft concrete sculptures that adorn the landscape – a setting viewed at its best in October, draped in the spectacular fall colours of the Almaguin Highlands region. Access is free, however there is a voluntary donation box at the entrance.
TOM THOMSON MONUMENT
Located on site at the Huntsville Civic Centre and Algonquin Theatre, the bronze statue by artist Brenda Wainman-Goulet of Tom Thomson painting an outdoor scene in Algonquin Parkis so realistic, canoe and all, that it will leave you feeling like you were there with him. This popular tourist attraction is just the first step for those interested in Tom Thomson and who are wiling to adventure. If time permits you can partake in a guided full day canoe trip on Canoe Lake, offered by The Portage Store, where you can paddle the path of Canada’s most celebrated painter.
THE DYER MEMORIAL MONUMENT
Set in a park-like setting over looking the Big East River, the Dyer Memorial is an impressive monument built by Detroit Lawyer Clifton G. Dyer in memory of his wife, Betsy Browne Dyer. The couple developed a passion for the area starting with a tent and canoe in 1916, eventually building a cottage on the site in 1940. Eleven kilometres outside of Huntsville, just getting to the location feels like an adventure. The road in continues to narrow to a single dirt lane, which with increasing leaf coverage, heads precariously up hill. Once here you are treated to an impressive display of landscapes and off-shoot paths.
PLACES TO STAY
While traveling the region, we enjoyed overnight accommodations at Four Ninety Muskoka Bed & Breakfast in Gravenhurst, and at Bondi Village Resort in Dwight on Lake of Bays.
This fall head to cottage country for the leaves, the lakes – and the monsters, monuments and museums!
To plan your stay, click here.
Guest Blogger: Martin Lortz
Martin is a freelance photographer and writer specializing in the outdoor lifestyle. Whether he is covering power sports or family-oriented pursuits, his passion for capturing the beauty of nature and the people who partake in it is evident in his work. His photos and articles have appeared in magazines such as Ski Canada, Explore, Bike, Mountain Life, Snow Goer, Kayak Angler, and Family Camping.
Photos by Martin Lortz