As the crisp breeze of autumn sweeps through Ontario, there is no better time to embark on a journey to the picturesque town of Bala in Muskoka. Nestled amidst the vibrant hues of fall foliage, Bala transforms into a living fairy-tale, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in its natural beauty and rich cultural heritage.
Known as the “Cranberry Capital of Ontario,” Bala boasts not only breathtaking landscapes but also a fascinating history tied to this iconic red fruit. In this article, we will explore the enchanting autumn charm of Bala, highlighting its cranberry heritage, must-visit attractions, and scenic road routes for an unforgettable adventure.
Bala is over 150 years old
Bala was settled by Thomas Burgess in 1868. Thomas Burgess opened a sawmill and store to serve the area’s scattered settlers. Thomas Burgess named it after the town of Bala in Wales with which it is officially twinned.
The Cranberry Capital of Ontario
Bala’s claim to fame as the “Cranberry Capital of Ontario” is well-deserved. The town is situated in the heart of Muskoka, a region known for its pristine lakes, lush forests, and abundant cranberry bogs. As fall arrives, the cranberry bogs turn into a sea of crimson, creating a spectacular sight against the backdrop of the surrounding woodlands. This transformation is a testament to Bala’s deep-rooted connection with cranberries, which dates back over a century.
Visitors can explore the fascinating history of cranberry farming at the Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh & Muskoka Lakes Winery. Guided tours offer insight into the cultivation process and provide an opportunity to witness the harvest firsthand. The winery also offers a delightful array of cranberry-based products, including wines, jams, and sauces, making it the perfect place to pick up a taste of Muskoka to savor at home.
Bala’s Must-Visit Attractions
A visit to Bala would be incomplete without witnessing the mesmerizing Bala Falls. Cascading gracefully over rugged rocks, the falls offer a captivating display of nature’s raw power and beauty. Visitors can take in this awe-inspiring sight from the various viewpoints along the Bala Falls Trail, which also offers opportunities for picnicking and photography.
The Kee to Bala
Steeped in history, The Kee to Bala is an iconic music venue that has hosted legendary performers for decades. Even if there isn’t a live event during your visit, the venue’s rustic charm and lakeside location make it a must-see stop. Take a leisurely stroll around the grounds and imagine the echoes of music that have reverberated through its walls over the years.
For those interested in delving deeper into Bala’s history, a visit to the Bala Museum is a must. Housed in a charming heritage building, the museum showcases artifacts and exhibits that chronicle the town’s rich cultural heritage, including its ties to the lumber industry and cranberry farming.
Bala’s Museum is also known as the Anne of Green Gables Museum due to its historical connection to Lucy Maud Montgomery, the beloved Canadian author of the “Anne of Green Gables” series.
In the early 1920s, Lucy Maud Montgomery and her husband, Reverend Ewan Macdonald, frequently visited Bala and the surrounding Muskoka region. During their stays, they often attended the Bala United Church, where Reverend Macdonald served as the minister. This church is now known as the Bala’s Museum.
The association with Lucy Maud Montgomery and the “Anne of Green Gables” series stems from the fact that she was a contemporary of Reverend Macdonald. Additionally, Montgomery and her husband spent time in the area, and it is believed that the serene beauty of Muskoka, including the landscape around Bala, may have inspired some of the natural descriptions in her later works.
While the museum primarily focuses on the history of Bala and its local heritage, the connection to Lucy Maud Montgomery is honored through the nickname “Anne of Green Gables Museum.” This nickname serves as a tribute to the literary legacy of Montgomery and the timeless appeal of her beloved character, Anne Shirley.
It’s worth noting that the primary Anne of Green Gables Museum is located in Prince Edward Island, where the fictional story is set. This museum is situated in the actual Green Gables farmhouse that inspired Montgomery’s novel. The Bala’s Museum, however, pays homage to Montgomery’s connection to the Bala region and her influence on Canadian literature.
Scenic Road Routes
The Lake Muskoka Loop
Embark on a picturesque journey around Lake Muskoka, taking in the stunning autumn colors reflected on the water’s surface. This route offers breathtaking vistas, charming lakeside communities, and opportunities for lakeshore picnics.
Highway 169 to Torrance Barrens Dark-Sky Preserve
Experience the beauty of Muskoka’s night sky by taking a drive to the Torrance Barrens Dark-Sky Preserve. This route offers a unique perspective of the fall foliage and, after dusk, a chance to marvel at the stars in their full splendor.
Bala, Ontario, in the fall, is a true embodiment of a fairy-tale setting. With its vibrant cranberry bogs, enchanting waterfalls, and rich cultural heritage, it beckons visitors to immerse themselves in its natural beauty. Whether you’re exploring the cranberry bogs, taking in the sights and sounds of Bala Falls, or tracing the footsteps of musical legends at The Kee to Bala, this small town in Muskoka offers an unforgettable autumn experience. Don’t forget to hit the open roads and witness the splendor of the season through scenic routes. Bala is more than a destination; it’s an enchanting journey through Ontario’s autumn wonderland.