In Canada, cottage rentals are a comfortable way of enjoying the country. Although some refer to them as accommodations, a cottage rental experience can be a vacation itself. The price of cottages is similar to that of hotels (cottages typically range from $500-$1600 a week during summer and about $300-$1000 a week during winter), and they usually include multiple beds and full kitchens. Many cottages are on the shores of lakes; such cottages often include canoes, kayaks, or paddle boats available to renters free of charge. Websites such as CottagesInCanada have comprehensive cottage rental directories.
A good number of city-dwelling Canadians (especially those from the Toronto area) own cottages in the country which are frequently used as summer colonies and weekend retreats. In order to help cover the cost of mortgage payments on a cottage, many of these Canadians rent their cottages to travelers. Others simply buy cottages and rent them as entrepreneurs.
Most cottages are on a body of water, although some are not. In general, non-waterfront cottage rentals are not very popular and rent for lower prices.
Most cottages include multiple bedrooms, full kitchens, and a large amount of property, although exceptions always exist.
The amount and layout of beds in a rented cottage varies from single-room cottages for couples to multiple-bedroom cottages for families or business retreats. Most cottages usually require renters to bring their own sheets, blankets and sometimes pillows, although some will supply bedding for renters. If a cottage renter does not explain what to bring, always ask. The last thing you want is to have to vacation without a bed.
The vast majority of cottage rentals do not supply food. Always bring your own, and if there is food there already, only eat it if you are absolutely certain it is fresh. Most cottage rentals have a fridge and oven; few cottages have dishwashers.
Most cottages have indoor bathrooms, although some have outhouses. Always ask the owner.
Electronics and Communication
Most cottage rentals have on-grid electricity and heat, although some cottages appeal to the 'bare necessity' crowd by being off grid and having only a fireplace for heat. Cottages without electricity are cheaper. Most cottages with electricity are on-grid (usually with buried power lines) although some have generators.
Cottages sometimes have landline telephones, although a good number do not. Because of their remoteness, few cottages have cell phone reception, and when they do, it is usually very poor reception that often cuts in and out. As a result, it is good to have some degree of first aid training to handle any medical emergencies that may arise.
Bringing your pet to the cottage can be a terrific experience. There's nothing like watching your dog jump off the dock into the lake. Check with the private cottage owner prior to renting and make sure that they allow pets...many do not.
Very few cottages have cable television, although a small number have satellite television. Cottages with computers are extremely rare. Ones with internet access are even rarer. Those that do have internet are usually very expensive (over $1500 a week during the summer).
The lack of communication options is often what makes a cottage enjoyable; isolation from our stress-filled world is one of the reasons why many Canadians love their cottages.
Many cottages also have firepits for campfires. Usually wood is supplied, although newspapers and kindling are usually not. Always ask when renting a cottage.
Lakefront cottages often include canoes or paddle boats available free of charge, with rowboats and motor fishing boats sometimes available on request for a fee.
One of the most important things to always ask a cottage owner is the water condition. Poorly installed water systems may have salt and/or sulphur in them, depending on the location. A sulphur-water cottage is a truly unpleasant experience. Drinking this water may make you ill, and the sinks, tubs, and toilets will often have brown stains in them. To complete this negative image, sulphur makes water smell horrifically bad.
As a rule of thumb, be extremely wary of any cottage owner that says "bring your own drinking water".
When getting a waterfront cottage, try to aim for a cottage that is on a rocky lake rather than a sandy lake. Although a sandy lake may sound better for swimming, "sandy bottom" is often used as a cover-up for a quick sand bottom. Also note that the amount of beach or shallow water entry available will vary greatly by waterlevels. Ask the cottage owner or rental agency whether the water level was unusually high or low when the photo was taken.
Unlike most other accommodations, cottages typically do not charge based on how many nights you stay; instead they usually charge based on how many weeks you stay. Weekend rates are usually around a third of a weekly rate, with long weekends sometimes having higher rates.
Weekly summer rates can vary from as little as $400 to over $4000. Cottages near the bottom of the price list will often lack basic features.
The price of a cottage rental varies across the country. In general, cottage owners in British Columbia and the Prairie provinces will charge higher than cottage owners in Ontario or Atlantic Canada. In Quebec there is no good rule of thumb; some regions of Quebec (such as the Laurentians) can as expensive as British Columbia, whereas other regions (such as the Nouveau-Quebec area) can be among the cheapest in the country. If a property is an easy day trip from a major city (like Toronto or Vancouver) the price goes up significantly. Northern Canadian rates are typically low, but keep in mind that it is quite expensive to get up there and all supplies (including basic groceries) trade at very inflated prices once there.
Most cottage owners charge significantly more during the summer than other times of the year; a cottage that charges $1000/week in July may charge only $550/week in January. Many cottages are closed during the winter.
You do not usually pay sales tax on a cottage rental payment.
One of the great things about cottaging is that cottage owners rarely charge additional fees and surcharges that are so common in travelling. Usually the only extra fee incurred with renting a cottage is a security deposit, typically around $200-$500, that is returned after checkout if no damage is done to the property. Apart from a security deposit, additional fees are usually only charged if the renter requests additional goods or services such as a fishing boat.
How to get there
Cottages are often in remote locations. 99% of the time, the only way to get a cottage is by car. Cottages are also far from cities; the vast majority of cottages are at least a 90 minute drive from the city; a drive of six hours or more is not unheard of. Also, cottages can be far from gas stations; ask the owner, and if no gas stations are nearby, bring a gas can.
If you are coming from abroad and you don't live near the Canadian border, then the only way to get to a cottage is to get a flight/bus/train to the nearest major city and then rent a car and drive.
Keep in mind that Canada is a huge country. A cottage in one part of Canada may be thousands of kilometres from another Canadian cottage. Always get a cottage in the preferred region (most rental websites have regional breakdowns) and make sure you know where the region is. If you live in upstate New York near the Canadian border, a cottage in Eastern Ontario or Muskoka will probably be only a few hours away by car, but a cottage in BC will be thousands of kilometres away.
Cottage Rental Websites
Cottage rental directories are almost always done online. Few companies publish travel guides that feature cottages.
- CottagesInCanada - has good regional breakdown
- CottageCountry - Find thousands of cottage rentals in Canada
- Canada Rental Cottage [formerly dead link] - Offers affordable vacation rentals in Northern Ontario
- CottageMe[dead link] - Vacation Rentals: cottages, homes and other accommodations in Canada.
- CottageRental.com - website has cottage rentals for the Muskoka, Parry Sound, Kawarthas and Haliburton areas.
- Clrm.ca - website has cottage rentals for the Muskoka, Kawarthas, Bruce Peninsula, Georgian Bay and Haliburton areas of Ontario, as well as the Tremblant and Laurentians areas of Québec.
- OntarioRentals.com - website has cottage rentals for the Muskoka, Parry Sound, Haliburton, Kawarthas, Bruce Peninsula and Georgian Bay areas.