Huntsville Celebrates 125 Years of Tourism – and Counting!

It’s time to celebrate 125 Years of Tourism in Huntsville! For more than a century, visitors have been drawn to North Muskoka—for its stunning lakes, trees, and granite outcroppings, for its abundance of outdoor activities, for its history and culture, and for its welcoming people.

For all of these things, and more, the Huntsville area’s enduring appeal is something to celebrate, and two exciting new commemorative attractions will do just that.

Huntsville’s early and continuing popularity has been due, in no small part, to Deerhurst Resort, which opened its doors in 1896. Two oversized Muskoka chairs, painted with heritage murals, will grace both Deerhurst and Downtown Huntsville to mark the resort’s milestone anniversary—which occurred in 2021—and acknowledge the historical connection between the two.

Deerhurst founder Charles Waterhouse, who emigrated to Canada from England, had his sights set on farming, but was convinced by Captain George Marsh of the Huntsville Lake of Bays Navigation Company to open a resort on the shores of Peninsula Lake. It was a decision that would lead to decades of hospitality and put Huntsville on the map as a prime tourism destination.

Billed at the time as a fine English tourist house with 18 rooms, Deerhurst offered a week’s stay and three meals a day for just $3.50 per person. Until the 1930s, guests could only access the resort via steamship through the canal between Fairy and Peninsula Lakes, which was excavated by hand in the 1880s.

Early Deerhurst Resort

Deerhurst remained a summer resort until the 1970s when Bill Waterhouse, Charles’s grandson, embarked on ambitious renovations to make Deerhurst a year-round operation with conference facilities, a lounge with entertainment—home to Canada’s longest-running variety stage show and where country superstar Shania Twain got her start—and winter activities. A redesigned Deerhurst Lakeside golf course and a new Deerhurst Highlands golf course cemented the resort’s reputation as a go-to destination. In 1989, the Waterhouse era ended when the family handed the reins to new owners.

In June 2010, Deerhurst, and Huntsville by extension, were featured on the international stage when world leaders gathered at the resort for the G8 Summit.

By that time, Deerhurst had grown to 760 acres from its original four and could welcome more than 1,000 overnight guests, but its growth didn’t stop there. A residential community was later developed around Deerhurst Highlands golf course, and in 2015 a $500-million master-planned community complete with hotel, residential, and mixed-use buildings was approved. The first project of that master plan, Lakeside Lodge, opened in 2019 on the site of the original lodge. Deerhurst is a crown jewel of Huntsville that has helped put Huntsville on the map.

The Muskoka chairs were unveiled on Saturday September 3, with a public celebration and live music in Downtown Huntsville, while a celebration for resort guests took place at Deerhurst.

The chairs are a reminder that Huntsville and Deerhurst are a family—you can relax here or relax there. Both have been a unique destination for more than a century, and now, as then, the haunting call of the loon, the majestic forests, and the sparkling lakes beckon to all who desire the perfect getaway.

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