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Fall Cranberry Harvest in Bala, Ontario

A visit to Muskoka Lakes Farm & Winery is a delightful day trip to enjoy the outdoors. Visit in the Fall to see the gorgeous colours and check out the cranberry harvest at Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh.

Landscape shot at Johnston Cranberry Marsh. A cranberry marsh in the foreground and trees with autumn coloured leaves in the background.

Autumn in Ontario is the perfect time to get outdoors, see the fall colours and revel in nature.

On a trip to Parry Sound to teach a couple of workshops, I extended my stay to visit Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh located in Bala, Ontario. I was expecting a short tour of the cranberry marsh and was delighted to find that there were also some beautiful hiking trails.

A wooden shelter with the words Parry Sound on it sits on a wooden dock on the lake.

Parry Sound (Ontario)

Instead of a hotel, I opted to stay in a cute 1 bedroom cottage in Parry Sound, Ontario with a private dock. Peaceful, quiet, and away from the hustle, this little oasis was the perfect place to decompress after teaching. It was early autumn and a little too chilly to hang out on the dock, but I bet it’s fantastic in the summer!

Muskoka Lakes Farm & Winery

Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh is located about 3 hours from Toronto and about 45 minutes from Parry Sound in Muskoka Lakes Farm & Winery. It’s open 363 days a year for skating or snowshoeing in the winter, wagon tours, hikes to the sugar bush in the spring for maple syrup season, or a simple hike to enjoy the fall colours.

I visited just a couple of weeks before the Cranberry Harvest and it was fairly quiet, with most people spending time at the marsh. We started our day with a self-guided hike through the trails and didn’t see another person the entire time!

With over 10km of easy trails, you could spend hours just wandering and exploring nature.

There are 6 different trails taking you through wetlands, past the old marsh and cranberry beds, past picnic sites, and waterfalls. We did a big loop and spent a couple of hours walking, taking photos, and enjoying the quiet time in nature.

Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh

The plunge pool filled with cranberries at Johnston Cranberry Marsh in Bala, ON

Bala, known as the Cranberry Capital of Ontario, has been home to Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh for three generations. Cranberries, most often consumed at Thanksgiving, are a fruit native to Canada. A little bit tart, cranberries can be white early in the growing season and turn red later in the season.

With sustainable growing practices, the farm grows 27 acres of cranberries in the wetlands which amounts to about 300 – 500,000 lbs of cranberries per year! The cranberry harvest happens once per year so Fall is a great time to visit.

The plunge pool filled with cranberries at Johnston Cranberry Marsh Bala ON. 4 people are standing in the marsh wearing hip waders.

Don some hip waders and get right into the midst of all the cranberries for a fun experience and some great photos at the Plunge Pool, or just walk the trails.

A close up of a cranberry marsh with the greenery and a slice of water at Johnston Cranberry Marsh in Ontario.

Right off the path you can get up close to the beds to see how cranberries are grown. I hadn’t really thought about it I didn’t really expect that cranberries were grown down low and under the water in the marsh.

Other things to do

You could spend the entire day with the family on the farm going hiking, seeing how the cranberries grow, or taking a wagon ride. There is a small cafe on-site if you want to grab a sweet treat or warm drink, a store to get all things cranberry and souvenirs, and if you want there’s also the winery for some adult beverages.

If you are just visiting the store there is no charge but the activities, including trail access, require a ticket for a small fee or you can go all in and get an all-access pass on weekends. It’s definitely worth a visit!

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