The sweetest of days is almost here: the return of (legally allowed) patio season in Ontario. 

Yesterday, the Ford government announced that Stage 1 of the province’s long-awaited reopening plan would begin on Friday night at midnight. 

This means that all of the province’s patios can open for business to serve a sunshine and fresh air-seeking clientele of diners who are eager to make up for lost time. 

So, if you find yourself in the Muskoka region, these eight breezy patios are reliable options. 

Turtle Jacks 

Location: 123 Medora St., Port Carling

A seat on the sprawling patio of Port Carling’s Turtle Jacks is more coveted than ever this year after a long winter of lockdown. Located right on the water of Lake Muskoka, the bustling patio is a go-to for ‘dock and diners,’ and offers a variety of upscale, cottage-inspired comfort food and cocktails. Menu highlights here include everything from fish tacos and a selection of burgers, to blackened Basa or chicken, and shrimp and sea scallop fettuccine. Seating is available on a first come, first serve basis.

Water’s Edge Wine Bar and Grill

Location: 1072 Elgin House Rd., Port Carling

Lovers of wine and a see-and-be-seen vibe can celebrate the fact that The Lake Joseph Club’s Water’s Edge restaurant will finally reopen its lakeside patio for the season – social distanced-style, of course. Here, you’ll find a comforting but elevated cuisine that’s hyper focused on local ingredients. In addition to a naturally vast and well-curated wine list, this spot also serves specialty craft cocktails that complete the dockside sipping experience, including Kenny’s Blueberry Mojito and cold brew coffee cocktails. Seating is available on a first come, first serve basis.

Sawdust Brewing Company

Location: 397 Muskoka Rd.N, Gravenhurst

Celebrate the province’s reopening with a quality cold one at Gravenhurst’s Sawdust Brewing Company. Offering traditional, all-natural ales and lagers in a variety of styles, Sawdust is a favourite among those with a love for craft beer. The brewery’s patio will soon open for the season, with social distancing measures in place, as well as safety measures like the elimination of flights, caesars, or growlers. Seating is available on a first come, first serve basis.

Dock of the Bay Steak and Seafood Grille

Location: 1110 Bay St, Gravenhurst

If the start of summer and a juicy steak or exquisite glass of wine go hand-in-hand, make a reservation at the soon-to-reopen Dock of the Bay. Located on the stunning Lake Muskoka, this picturesque spot offers a comforting selection of gourmet seafood, steak, and pasta from their charming lakeside deck. The restaurant was voted one of Canada’s top outdoor restaurants in 2019 by OpenTable diners. Call 705-687-7723 to make a reservation.

On the Docks Pub

Location: 90 Main St. E., Huntsville 

Local watering hole On the Docks has been a staple among Huntsville’s locals and cottagers alike for decades. Located right in the heart of Huntsville on the Muskoka River, the pub features three lively patios that will be a hot ticket in town to enjoy some socially distanced pub grub and bevies this summer. Seating is available on a first come, first serve basis.

Lakeside Bala

Location: 3068 Muskoka District Rd.

If you’re looking to take the patio experience a step above the typical burgers and beers (though they have both), hop in the boat or car and hit Lakeside Bala. The fine dining spot offers fresh steak, risotto, gourmet sandwiches, and salads for guests to enjoy from their lakeside terrace on Lake Muskoka – often complete with live jazz (even in COVID times). Despite the elevated cuisine, the vibe here avoids venturing down a stuffy route. Call for reservations.

The Old Station

Location: 88 Manitoba St., Bracebridge

A Muskoka staple since 1985, Bracebridge’s The Old Station – located in a former service station – is a reliable spot for Canadian cooking at reasonable prices. Hit their patio this season to enjoy an extensive menu that’s filled with creative takes on summer patio staples and refreshing signature cocktails. Word of advice: say yes to the truffle frites. Seating is available on a first come, first serve basis.

Rocky Crest Golf Resort

Location: 20 Barnwood Dr, MacTier

After a round of golf on its pristine golf course or as a stop on a boating excursion, hit the breezy lakeside patio at Rocky Crest Golf Resort on Lake Joseph for a meal and a refreshing cocktail. The resort's Bayside Patio and Lounge offers casual dining with lake views. Here, the menu consists of light favourites that are best enjoyed in casual beachwear (in our opinion) to match the refreshingly unstuffy Canadian summer vibe.