The Georgian Bay, a large bay that makes up part of Lake Huron, is known for its pristine waters. While the Georgian Bay encompasses many cottage country areas, it is one of the best spots to head to during the days of blistering heat. From the Bruce Peninsula, which is 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.
Big Rideau Lake, located in Eastern Ontario near Tay Valley, is a hidden gem, tucked away from the typical cottage country-goers heading north of the city. If you’re in the mood for a peaceful getaway, this is the place. From waterfront cottages and marshy wetlands to shallow rocky flats at Sand Island and sandy shores of Sherwood Shores, there’s plenty of peaceful waters to get your feet wet. Rent a boat, grab a chair and kick back.
Deep in Western Ontario, you’ll find Lake of the Woods, a lake that separates Ontario and Manitoba from Minnesota, making its way into parts of the United States. Although it’s a bit of a trek, Lake of the Woods is well worth the drive: as one of the natural wonders of North America, it boasts over 14,000 islands and more than 105,000 kilometers of shoreline (more than Lake Superior). There are waterways with wet marshlands, endless wilderness for the avid hunter, waterfalls and glacier-carved shores. If you’re looking to expand your cottage country knowledge, opt for this unique experience at Lake of the Woods.
Located between Lake Couchiching and Lake Simcoe, Orillia is considered Ontario’s outdoor playground. From boating, swimming and skiing to hiking and cycling, this is the perfect spot for adventurists and thrill-seekers. With a name like ‘Sunshine City’, it’s no wonder that people flock to the waterfronts of the city, like the Couchiching Beach Park, Centennial Park and the Port of Orillia, boasting large parks, beaches, playgrounds, a lakeshore boardwalk, a touring ferry and an outdoor theatre. If you’re making your way to Lake Country, Orillia makes for the perfect spot to start your cottage country visit with close proximity to Muskoka and Algonquin Park.
Only two hours from Toronto, Prince Edward County is a small cluster of towns located along the shores of Lake Ontario. This sunny haven has risen in popularity as the perfect destination for sandy beaches, but, it’s not just for sitting along the shores of the lake with a beer in hand; Prince Edward County is full of things to do. From antique shops and farmer’s markets to breweries, wineries and art galleries, this is the perfect spot for those who want the novelty of cottage country without the isolation it brings.
Muskoka, more formerly known as the ‘Muskoka District Municipality’, is the quintessential cottage country. From the iconic Muskoka chairs, which can always be seen on the shores and docks of this district, 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. Pristine lakes, wildlife, beautiful scenery and vistas, boating, sipping drinks on a dock, kicking back by the bonfire, or going on a hike. There’s also plenty of local breweries and wineries making their name in the industry, so be sure to get your hands on some of the best in the business. If you’re into stepping outside the cottage, there are art galleries, museums, spas, events and festivals. Named one of the Top 20 Must-See Places and 10 Best Trips of the Summer by National Geographic, you don’t want to miss this one.
Lake Rosseau, located about 200 kilometers north of Toronto, is surrounded by cottages, some dating back as early as the 19th century, making it the ultimate cottage-goer’s dream. The lake straddles the borders of two townships, with the south end of the lake in Muskoka and the north in Seguin, the area boasts some of the most incredible views with a stunning scenery of deep blue waters and wilderness. Head to the northern tip of the lake where you’ll find the village of Rosseau, a charming area that has played host to summer visitors for decades as the location of one of the original Ontario summer resorts. Delve into its historical background at the Windermere House, head to Port Carling, take in the beauty of the area, and maybe even spot a celebrity.
The Kawartha Lakes, commonly referred to as ‘The Kawarthas’, are a chain of lakes in south-central Ontario that form the upper part of the Trent River, with many of the lakes located in Peterborough. Cottages dot the shores of the lakes, and houseboats can be seen docked or cruising along the waters. While the Kawarthas are perfect for escaping the city and getting a slice of tranquility, there’s also plenty of things to do for the more active cottage-goers. There is hiking, cycling, skiing, golf, horseback riding, motorcycling, sightseeing, live music and bird-watching in addition to the usual boating affairs. If you’re new to the area, be sure to explore one of the Provincial Parks, Carden Plain for bird-watching, or one of the many Conservation areas for a taste of true wilderness.
Thousand Islands is a remarkable sight to see. This group of over 1,800 islands that straddle the US-Canadian border in the St. Lawrence River should be on your list as a must-visit destination. What was once a retreat for the rich and famous in the 19th century is now an outdoor hub for the athletic, surrounded by lush foliage, islands and blue waters. Here, cruise through the waterways while viewing elaborate mansions like Boldt Castle on Heart Island and Singer Castle on Dark Island, take part in fishing or hiking, discover the area by cycling or by helicopter, go on a tour of the area or a dinner cruise, golf, kayak, attend a festival or event, or just simply kick back by the cool waters enjoying the beautiful scenery.
Sauble Beach, known for its white, sandy shores and pristine waters, is a little nook perfect for those in the mood for a secluded cottage experience. Tucked away in an unincorporated community in South Bruce Peninsula on the eastern shore of Lake Huron, Sauble Beach is more of the resort-type experience with restaurants, shopping, golfing, fishing and a beautiful beach.