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Bala, Ontario

Bala is a community located in Muskoka Lakes Township where Lake Muskoka drains into the Moon River.

It is considered one of the hubs of cottage country located north of Toronto, Ontario. Thus, its year-round population of several hundred is swamped by thousands of seasonal residents and day-trippers. It is known as the Cranberry Capital of Ontario.


It was settled by Thomas Burgess in 1868. He named it after the town of Bala in Wales with which it is officially twinned. Located on the Canadian Shield, it proved unsuitable for farming and its fortunes declined as logging became less economically viable.

In 1914, the town incorporated with Burgess’ son as the first mayor. Three years later, a small hydroelectric dam was set up on the river. Muskoka Road 169 still traverses the top of the dam. The town was large enough to be served by the Ontario Provincial Police. In 1971, the town was amalgamated with other townships and municipalities to form the Township of Muskoka Lakes.

Culture and entertainment

Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of the Anne of Green Gables books, visited Bala in 1922. Based on a tenuous connection to a beloved Canadian author, Bala's Museum, a community museum featuring L.M. Montgomery, was opened in the 1990s. The more established, larger and more wide-ranging community museum remains at the Muskoka Lakes Museum in nearby Port Carling, Ontario.

Bala maintains a link with its agrarian past by hosting the Bala Cranberry Festival each fall on the weekend after Canadian Thanksgiving. Other notable sources of food are Don’s Bakery, which has sold delicious bread, pastries and cookies for decades. Don's is famous for scones and people drive through Bala specifically to purchase them. They also put in larger orders to take home to their freezer for a reminder of summer in the winter months when the bakery is closed.

Since 1942, under various management and names, the community and the surrounding area was offered live musical entertainment. In the 1940s and ‘50s, Big Bands like Mart Kenney, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman and Louis Armstrong played at Dunn's Pavilion. Since the 1960s, rock musicians like David Wilcox, Kim Mitchell, The Ramones, April Wine, Burton Cummings and Jeff Healey played at The Kee to Bala, as it had become then. More recently, bands such as Sum 41, The Tragically Hip, The Sam Roberts Band, Hinder, Finger 11, Three Days Grace, Sloan and Theory of a Deadman grace the stage at The KEE. In the 1980s, Bala and Port Carling were also featured in a hilarious skit by The Frantics on Boot to the Head. In the skit, a man on his way to Bala bores his companion to distraction in part by endlessly enumerating the communities' features.

Once a week in the summer months, students from a nearby water ski school perform aquatic stunts for audiences at a local park. Students form pyramids, jump obstacles, ski barefoot, and, on occasion, ski while wearing alpine skis.

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