- Dorset Ontario community resource directory
- Accommodation & restaurants in Dorset
- Dorset events & tourist attractions
- Businesses, trades and real-estate services
- Ontario resorts & cottage rentals
- Gateway to Algonquin Provincial Park
- Historic Bigwin Island & Bigwin steam ship
WELCOME TO DORSET - THE COMMUNITY WITH A VIEW
Planning a day trip, a memorable vacation or looking for a progressive and friendly place to stay? WELCOME to DORSET, ONTARIO ~ The Community With a View ~ The place where dreams happen, where visitors come for a week and stay for a lifetime!
DORSET'S landscape has inspired generations of writers, painters and dreamers with its natural beauty, massive forests, pristine lakes, fantastic displays of Northern Lights and the Milky Way sprawling across the night skies echoing the haunting cry of the Loon. Today, it's here to enjoy and it's just two hours north of Toronto!
DORSET straddles the Districts of Muskoka and Haliburton and is located at the eastern shores of Lake of Bays. The downtown section spans "the Narrows" between Big and Little Trading Bays. Located at Highway 35 and the east end of Muskoka Road 117 it is an easy and scenic drive from the Greater Toronto area. Algonquin Park is only a further thirty picturesque minutes drive northeast.
Dorset is home to the world famous DORSET LOOKOUT TOWER and the widely known ROBINSON'S GENERAL STORE. The historic single lane humped-back bridge spans the channel between Big and Little Trading Bays and also boasts the village's only traffic lights. This is a popular spot to glimpse daring snowmobilers as they run the open waters in winter.
The DORSET HERITAGE MUSEUM reflects our past, present and future with features for visitors of all ages. Exhibits include early pioneer life, local settlers, traditional logging practices, maple syrup production and much more.
Come and visit the newly refurbished Lake of Bays Marine Museum located on Main Street, by the bridge. You can relive history by taking a cruise on the SS Bigwin during one of its scheduled cruises or for a special event. Learn more about the history of the lake, check out some remarkable local art, and purchase some novelty SS Bigwin items.
The year round population of Dorset is about five hundred but in the summer months the area is home to thousands of cottager's, visitors and resort vacationers. Winter snow bring almost as many to enjoy its splendor, do some ice fishing, snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing and other winter activities.
LAKE OF BAYS is the second largest of the big Muskoka lakes, offering miles of boating between the villages of Dorset, Baysville and Dwight as well as BIGWIN ISLAND and world famous golfing and cuisine.
KAWAGAMA LAKE (the largest lake in Haliburton) lies a few kilometers to the east and is considered one of the cleanest lakes in Ontario. Much of its shoreline is still crown land bordering onto Algonquin Park.
The vast areas surrounding Dorset are dotted with dozens of smaller, pristine lakes. Lush mixed forests and spectacular rock out-croppings complete the breathtaking scenery. We invite you to experience it for yourself!
A SHORT HISTORY OF DORSET
Dorset was first known as Cedar Narrows to European settlers. To the First Nations people, this area was their summer hunting, fishing grounds where many clans met to trade goods and stories while building up supplies for winter. Francis Harvey set up a trading post at Cedar Narrows in 1859 and became the first white settler here. He was soon followed by Zachariah Cole who had been part of the survey team that had mapped out the area for the government about 1860. Cole took a land grant and set up a hotel that catered to loggers. He named the village Colebridge but upon trying to register the name for a post office there was another village already in existence. The name DORSET was picked by some of the residents that came from Dorset in England.
The community boomed for several years due to the logging industry and at that time boasted five hotels, three stores, three churches, two sawmills, and one jail. The settlers in the area were tough and self-sufficient; farmers, loggers, fishers, carpenters, guides and mid-wives!
As the timber supplies began to run out, the village turned to tourism to take up the slack. Hunting and fishing camps, lodges and holiday cabins were built. The roads were poor and most of the visitors arrived in Bracebridge or Huntsville by train then by passenger steam boat to DORSET.
During the 1930's the roads were improved and this made the village accessible by automobile allowing more people to enjoy and partake in our scenery, boating, fishing, hunting, resort vacations and our beautiful lakes and rivers.
Enjoy a self-guided walking tour through the village. Brochures with detailed historical information on many of the area properties are available at the museum and several of the local businesses.
The Dorset Heritage Museum is open seasonally to show and explain to you much more about our ever changing history. A must see for all visitors!! Please contact the museum if you would like to book an off-season group visit.
Written by J.S. DENNIS, Surveyor in 1862
"I have the honor to report to you the completion of the service on the Bobcaygeon Road.
This service involved the laying out of a range of free grants on each side of the road in the Townships of Ridout, Franklin, Sherbourne and McClintock. It is as a general thing a hardwood country, but hilly and stony, in some places taking the latter character to a degree which will seriously interfere with its prospects of settlement. At the same time I think the greater parts of the land will be taken up.
Should this part of the country become entitled to importance as a settlement, the locality around Trading Lake, will no doubt be a favorite one from the beauty of the scenery and the better quality of the land in the neighborhood.
Should it be still the policy of the Government to reserve plots for town or village purposes, I would suggest a reservation with that in view at Cedar Narrows, lot 30 on each side of the road in Ridout and Sherbourne and on both the north and south sides of the river."