An exciting $9M addition to the Muskoka Discovery Centre in Gravenhurst is telling the story of Muskoka in an entirely new way.
The facility is operated by Muskoka Steamships & Discovery Centre (MSDC), a charitable organization that also operates two iconic passenger ships – the Wenonah and the 108-year-old RMS Segwun, the oldest operating passenger steam ship in North America.
A third ship, the gorgeous 94-foot Wanda III, had been sitting at a dock in Muskoka Bay awaiting restoration for almost 20 years.
“This project started out as a boathouse for Wanda III, and grew from there,” says John Miller, President of the MSDC. “We decided there were so many stories that weren’t being told, and so many opportunities to do exciting work, so we just dug in and started raising funds.”
The 12,000 square-foot expansion features three new exhibits.
“Evolving Muskoka: Life on the Edge of the Shield” re-examines the past 250 years of the region’s history, viewing it through the lens of a paradox: how disruption, destruction and struggle led to a place renowned for peace, tranquility, and natural beauty.
“Misko-Aki: Confluence of Cultures” is a truly groundbreaking exhibit, a deep dive into the Indigenous presence in Muskoka – in the past and the present day. One of the things that makes this exhibit unique is the involvement of the Indigenous community.
“Indigenous stories have not been well represented in the past, and we wanted to remedy that – it’s a huge gap in the public’s understanding of this region,” says Gary Getson, Chair of the MSDC board. “But we also knew that those stories needed to be told by Indigenous people.”
The third exhibit is a beautiful boathouse for Wanda III. Even better, for the first time in years, Wanda will return to the water with passengers onboard.
Once the fastest private yacht in Muskoka, Wanda III is now driven by electric motors – part of the MSDC’s commitment to sustainability.
Wanda III will join her sister ships in offering passengers a unique view of the lakes. The steam-powered Segwun sails this season for the first time since 2019. She and Wenonah sail numerous times each week, giving visitors an unparalleled view of beautiful Muskoka.
“With the expansion to the MDC, we often tell people that some of the most interesting sights in Muskoka are indoors,” John says, adding with a grin: “but the view from the deck of the ships is pretty remarkable as well.”
TEXT A. WAGNER-CHAZALON | PHOTOS SCOTT TURNBULL