I had intended to tell you which Muskoka town I decided to call home the day after I told you who I was and suddenly we’re midway through November (though it’s hard to tell based on the weather we’ve been having!)
That was my view Wednesday afternoon; so heavenly compared to the sea of boxes I sat in a week earlier when I went back to Toronto to move the balance of our house north for once and for all!
It had been a few months since I’d been back and I was once again reminded how much the city has changed. While its this great landscape of variety in culture, options and activities there was a serious downward trend in my trajectory when it came to both use and enjoyment with the rise of the internet. It transformed how I communicated with people and conducted business and as an entrepreneur, a do-er and an always ahead of the curve type gal what I came to realize I missed for so many years was a strong sense of community, filled with passionate and happy people, and having easy access to things I wanted to do in my free time.
So where did I end up? I quickly ruled out Huntsville, Lake of Bays and Georgian Bay areas of Muskoka and having grown up in a town of 2500 I knew all about spending your day driving to the larger towns next door for basic services, so the decision ultimately came down to Bracebridge or Gravenhurst. I’ve spent a lot of time in Bracebridge because we use the marina on the that side of the lake but I’d never remotely thought about living there before and when I did it didn’t excite me. When I started dating my now husband I spent a lot of time driving back and forth through Gravenhurst regularly and noticed things changing – and for the better. When I started to think about what I really wanted in a hometown Gravenhurst was an easy decision.
I’m well aware many of you are thinking to yourself ‘OMG why would she ever move there?!’ You are not the first and certainly won’t be the last! It’s widely acknowledged that cottagers haven’t been enticed to visit Gravenhurst but that is the exact thing that makes me even more excited to be here. Gravenhurst is in a MAJOR transition phase; if you’re a have to see it to believe it type you’re going to have to wait 5 or 10 years but the wheels are in motion and these 3 key factors quietly at play behind the scenes:
Gravenhurst did hit a a low like most small towns do, and driving down the main st portrayed a less than desirable environment in it. I’m pretty sure it was the meth capital of Ontario back then but folks that ship has long sailed. In the last 10 years Gravenhurst has been quietly filling it’s streets with amazing people who have lived all over the world.
I’m not just talking about the retiree population who started to call Muskoka home 20 years ago and continue to disappear to the south once their US day count clocks 0 again, rather too an influx of 25-50 year olds, with or without families. They are doctors, dentists, lawyers, pharmacists, entrepreneurs, marketing and communications folks, teachers, floral and graphic designers, the tech savvy, wellness professionals, athletes, government staff, entrepreneurs, etc and they are all contributing and bringing businesses and life to the area. Some came back after being away for school and work; some moved here for a job; some came for the lifestyle; some came to be closer to family and friends; more and more continue to show up for the affordability factor. There is nothing more refreshing that surrounding yourself with like-minded people and Gravenhurst is full of amazingly welcome and warm people with insanely diverse backgrounds and varied paths.
Never have I experienced a more engaged community than the 13,000 or so year round residents who call Gravenhurst home. Its as if some imaginary creature cast a spell on the town that was simply ‘for the betterment of the community.’
I have already gotten involved in so many local initiatives but from volunteering to business, politics to sports, or social affairs the one thing that holds true across the board is that everyone understands the purpose of community and that they need to do their part to chip in, in whatever way they can. Every week I learn of new initiatives that someone starts simply because they know it would benefit someone else in the community. I’m literally blown away by the want-to-make-it-better attitude that encompasses this town.
Great people, great causes, great energy. Moreover many outsiders don’t realize the town has mega historical significance, and slowly but surely its being restored to it’s glory. Check out the wharf used to look like.
With a need for lumber settlers honed in on Muskoka forests. Originally known as McCabes Landing and later as Sawdust City (yes just like the brewery), Gravenhurst was littered with lumberyards. Railways then surfaced to transport lumber to other parts of the province. Passengers started to travel on the trains in the 1860s as things flourished. The line ended at the Gravenhurst wharf so they transferred to mail ships like the Segwun to get to hotels and resorts. As a result, a booming tourist scene took hold. People wanted their own boats to access the lake so a boat building industry began. With boats came access to land, and one after another summer homes went up throughout the 1900s. Twenty or so years ago the retirees started converting summer homes to 3 or 4 season places, a trend that’s still ocurring today. Sure I’m obsessed with all things vintage, but a historian I never was. I have a huge amount of respect for a town who not only collectively values its past, but is deliberately attempting to restore it to its glory, piece by piece. The passion I see in Gravenhurst is infectious and so inspiring!
Calling Gravenhurst home couldn’t feel more right. Between it’s quaint character potential (reminiscent of Elora) and the four season playground (akin to Collingwood), it has all the makings to be on one of those top 10 best places to live lists. I’m so thankful for the warm welcome from the community to date and even more excited to participate in the growth of this unbelievable town.
If you live here and our paths haven’t crossed yet reach out.
If you’re visiting and need ideas just ask.
If you are looking for a new place to check out, put it on the list.
If you are looking for an amazing place to work bring your biz.