Starts and ends in Bala
Approx. 23 km / 14 miles
About 5 – 5 1/2 hour drive depending on number of stops
Bala IS the cranberry capital of Ontario, and they are darn proud of it. Local chefs, bakers and even the local grocery store all get behind their beloved berry, especially during harvest time. This tour takes you to all of the town’s hot spots, a local well-known hiking trail, and the chance to spend a night at a one-of-a-kind Beer Spa.
Directions and tour highlights:
- Start at Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh to experience the Bog to Bottle tour. If you’re the adventurous type, and you’re visiting the farm during the cranberry harvest season (September 26-October 31), you’ll want to have booked a spot on their famous Cranberry Plunge. Suit up in a pair of farm-supplied hip waders and plod into a sea of floating cranberries to discover how it feels to be a cranberry-grower. Don’t forget to bring your camera to snap a photo of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! While bookings must be made during the weekday, this experience is included as a part of their All-Access Weekend Pass. The Pass also gives you access to a guided wagon tour, tutored wine tasting, and full access to the Cranberry Hiking Trails. Afterwards, stop in at the farm’s cozy gift store to bring home a bottle of their cranberry-instilled wine. From there, take the Frank Miller Memorial Route Hwy 169 into the town of Bala.
- Go for a hike on Hardy Lake trail to work up an appetite. Follow the way you came back into the charming town of Bala.
- Have a late lunch or early dinner at the cozy Bala Bay Takeaway. They offer numerous tasty, cranberry-inspired dishes, including the chicken clubhouse wrap with cranberry mayonnaise, beer-battered halibut & sweet potato fries with cranberry tartar sauce, cranberry BBQ chicken dinner, and festive cranberry pizza.
- Drive past the falls to get back to the main street. Park the car to look at the mammoth statue downtown Bala (and snap a photo). Walk down the street to do some shopping.
- Pick up some fresh cranberry sausages at Bala Freshmart to cook on the BBQ when you get back home.
- Finally, head to the Muskoka Beer Spa in Torrance to spend a night in one of their rustic – but luxurious – new cabins. Enjoy your own private cabin that comes fully equipped with in-room draught taps, complimentary snack foods, and access to an amazing library of vintage VHS tapes. While there, be sure to look up for some spectacular star-gazing opportunities. The Beer Spa is located just a few kilometres away from the Torrance Dark Sky Reserve, a designated Dark Zone.
- Not looking to stay overnight? Check out the Clear Lake Brewing Co. instead, also in Torrance, and just minutes away from the Beer Spa. Enjoy one of their refreshing cranberry radlers, a light choice for a pint. Or, try their cranberry iced-tea, an OG malt beverage flavoured with Ice Tea and a touch of Johnston’s Cranberry Juice. specially brewed in celebration of the harvest season.
If you want to gain a true appreciation for cranberries, make sure to include the Muskoka Lakes Farm & Winery on your driving tour. Their Bog to Bottle Tour is the only one of its kind in the world, and has been designated a Canadian Signature Experience.