If you’ve ever cruised through Ontario cottage country in the spring or summer, you’ll know that it often leads to a bit of meandering—exploring the local communities and stopping along the way for some delicious seasonal items.
There are plenty of fruit and vegetable stands, coveted dairy markets, and small restaurants along the highways of Muskoka, Kawartha Lakes, and Northumberland County, but the local bakeries may be our favourite stop. They’re also the perfect place to pick up gifts for cottage hosts (hint, hint).
Here are a few that are worth the detour.
Dooher’s Bakery, Campbellford
Campbellford’s Dooher’s Bakery has been offering home quality, from-scratch baking to Northumberland County for more than 60 years. In 1949, Muriel and Harry Dooher opened a small bakery with a wood-fired oven in Madoc, Ontario, a few-hour drive northeast of Toronto. Five years later, they moved to a shop in downtown Campbellford, where the family business (now run by sons Chris and Peter) became a fast favourite among the region. With more than 50 lakes within a 40-kilometre radius of Dooher’s, the bakery is smack dab in the middle of Ontario cottage country and often faces line-ups that run out the front door on summer weekends and seasonal holidays. Their doughnuts are a favourite among locals and the bakery boasts 20 different varieties of muffins daily. More info: www.doohers.com
The Bakery, Gravenhurst
Famous for their Chelsea buns, flaky scones, and most recently, their gluten-free items, this family-rum business has gained a loyal following among locals, cottagers, and tourists in the past 50 years. Now operated by second- and third-generation family members, Fritz and Ursula Rebelein originally opened the bakery in 1959 with no mixer, while using an old bath tub as the kitchen sink. As the name suggests, this Gravenhurst bakery is the bakery of the region that people flock to during the summer months. More info: www.thebakeryingravenhurst.com
Don’s Bakery, Bala
Don’s Bakery sits just 30 kilometres west of Gravenhurst in the small town of Bala, Ontario. “Don’s Scone,” a small roll typically used for sandwiches, is by far the most popular menu item during the spring and summer months. In more than 60 years of business, the bakery has changed hands five times and is often picked up by longtime cottagers of the area who would like to see the tradition of Don’s recipes and from-scratch baking continue. The store has moved only once since Don Lloyd opened the doors in 1947—nearly 20 years ago when then-owners relocated to the current location on the main strip and brought the original signage (and even shelving) with them. More info: www.donsbakery.ca
Henrietta’s Pine Bakery, Dwight
Henrietta’s Pine Bakery—most likely named for being surrounded by pine trees—sits alone at the fork of Highways 60 and 35 in Northeast Muskoka. Despite ownership changes, the bakery includes all original recipes and has been open every summer since 1963. Henrietta’s is a small shop with a small parking lot and booming popularity that often means cars can line the highways on summer weekends just to get a taste. The specialty is the sticky bun, but the true highlight is the Muskoka Cloud—an equally-popular, in-house creation best described as a tea biscuit that is baked with cream cheese and cranberries in the dough, then brushed with butter and finished with sugar. More info: www.henrietteaspinebakery.net
Doo Doo’s Bakery, Bailieboro
Doo Doo’s Bakery often takes the title for the best butter tarts in the province. Owner Diana Rogers has even received accolades from one of Ontario’s three butter tart trails, The Kawarthas Northumberland Butter Tart Tour. The bakery is known for their inventive takes on the Canadian favourite, including past award-winners like an “X-rated” tart filled with rum-soaked raisins, and another that combines maple and bacon. The small roadside bakery won awards for “best filling” and “specialty tart” in 2013, and “best overall tart” and “best crust” in 2014. More info: www.doodoos.ca
Zehr’s Farm Fresh Produce & Bakery, Glenarm
The smells of freshly baked breads and woodstoves that waft from the Zehr household to their bakery down the road are mouthwatering. In the small community of Glenarm, northwest of Lindsay, Ontario, Leroy and Fanny Mae Zehr prepare baked goods and preserves on their 100-acre farm without the use of any electricity. Their Amish family sells hundreds of pies a week during peak season (Easter to Thanksgiving) with melt-in-your-mouth menu items inspired by fresh local fruits. Regulars swear by the strawberry-rhubarb and bumble berry varieties. More info: www.foodneighbourhood.com