The Best Spots to Rent a Summer Cottage in Ontario

Ontario’s cottage country is brimming with activities and sights, such as the 19th-century Point Clark Lighthouse on Lake Huron
Ontario’s cottage country is brimming with activities and sights, such as the 19th-century Point Clark Lighthouse on Lake Huron | © Ilene MacDonald / Alamy Stock Photo

Summer in Ontario means “cottaging” season, the local term for Toronto and Ottawa folks’ annual migration to their summer cottages. Many spend the week boating on Lake Huron, fishing with a cold beer in hand and watching boats cruise by from their Muskoka chairs. Whether you’re a Georgian Bay regular or prefer the Kawarthas or Thousand Islands, read on to discover Ontario’s top spots to rent a summer cottage and even book one yourself with Culture Trip.

With the summer heat and humidity comes the urge to set sail for cottage country. With more than 250,000 lakes in Ontario alone, there are plenty of places to escape to. Just north of Toronto, Georgian Bay, the Kawarthas and Muskoka come up top, thanks to their proximity to the city. Meanwhile, the Thousand Islands, just south of Ottawa, draw in crowds for its wildlife spotting and freshwater diving spots. Read on to discover the top lakeside cottages to rent this summer in Ontario.

Georgian Bay

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  • The Georgian Bay, part of Lake Huron, is known for its pristine waters, just north of Toronto. While it encompasses many cottage-country areas, it’s one of the best spots to head to during the days of blistering heat. From the Bruce Peninsula, famous for its hidden coves carved into the Niagara Escarpment and the Grotto, to Tobermory and its Flowerpot Island, there’s no shortage of beauty here.

    Georgian Bay is brimming with many cottage-country areas | © Itsik Marom / Alamy Stock Photo

    Rockwood Resort

    Resort
    Map View

    This long-beloved family-run resort, about 171mi (275km) north of Toronto, has an inviting collection of updated mid-century waterfront cottages, each with a unique character. Fully equipped kitchens and screened-in porches (in select cabins) make summer living a breeze. You can spend your time boating on Lake Huron or hiking in the woods by day and swapping stories around the campfire at night.

    Muskoka

    Muskoka is the quintessential cottage country. From iconic Muskoka chairs dotting the area’s docks to its 1,600 lakes, this is the ultimate spot for renting a cottage. If you’re a first-timer, experience true “cottaging” at its finest. Take a dip in the pristine lakes, sip drinks on a dock, kick back by the bonfire or head off on a hike. If you’re looking for some culture or pampering beyond the lakeside, there are art galleries, museums, spas and festivals to enjoy.

    Muskoka is a great place for those new to ‘cottaging’ | © William Berry / Alamy Stock Photo

    Lakefront Cottage With Stunning Lakeview

    Guesthouse
    Lakefront Cottage with Stunning Lakeview
    Courtesy of Lakefront Cottage With Stunning Lakeview / Expedia

    Enjoy a one-minute commute to the shores of Lake Muskoka from this two-bedroom townhouse, which has plenty of room to spread out indoors and outside, where there is a covered terrace. The cottage is in a family-friendly community of villas, close to several beaches, golf courses and other Muskoka attractions, including Santa’s Village, a Christmas theme park. There’s plenty to do just outside your door, from yoga on the dock to stand-up paddleboarding.

    More info

    The Kawarthas

    In south-central Ontario, the Kawarthas is a chain of lakes that forms the upper part of the Trent River. Cottages dot the lakes’ shores, and houseboats can be seen docked or cruising along the waters. While the Kawarthas are perfect for escaping the city to unwind, there’s plenty for active cottage-goers – from hiking, cycling and golf to horseback riding, motorcycling and live-music gigs. Explore Carden Plain for birdwatching or one of the many conservation areas for a taste of true wilderness.

    Stoney Lake, part of the Kawarthas, is a lovely place for a cottage getaway | © Angelo Garcia / Alamy Stock Photo

    Balsam Resort

    Resort
    Map View
    Balsam Resort
    Courtesy of Balsam Resort / Expedia

    Make some memories at this low-key resort, accessible to the metro Toronto area. A-frame chalets and two-story cottage condos have the comforts of home, along with plenty of classic summer-camp activities. Play shuffleboard and horseshoes, swim off the beach and try fishing and boating on Balsam Lake. Breathe in the fresh pine-scented air and see why some families return here every summer.

    Thousand Islands

    The Thousand Islands is a remarkable group of more than 1,800 islands that straddle the US-Canadian border along the St Lawrence River. Once a retreat for the rich and famous in the 19th century, it’s now an outdoor hub for the athletic, surrounded by lush foliage and blue waters. Cruise through the waterways to see elaborate mansions such as Boldt Castle on Heart Island, head off on a fishing expedition or explore the area from above by helicopter.

    The Boldt Castle on Heart Island is part of the Thousand Islands | © Bert Hoferichter / Alamy Stock Photo

    Watermark Cottages

    Cottages
    Map View
    Watermark Cottages
    Courtesy of Watermark Cottages / Expedia

    Set on the Ontario side of the St Lawrence River, just across from New York State, this small collection of cottages overlooks a sheltered part of the waterway. In addition to spacious and thoughtfully designed interiors, each accommodation has a barbecue area, hot tub and firepit. They rent by the week, which will give you plenty of time to recharge and explore the many inlets, bays and islands of this laid-back region.

    Julie Fanselow contributed additional reporting to this article.

    These recommendations were updated on March 25, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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