The Best Places to Buy a Cottage in Ontario

From Muskoka Lakes to Parry Sound, we’ve put together a list of the 11 best places to buy a cottage in Ontario.

By Emily Southey | 10 minute read

Aug 23

If you’re looking for the perfect place to purchase a cottage, look no further! Begin your search for an affordable vacation property in Ontario by considering the top 11 places to buy cottages below. We hope this list inspires you on your cottage-hunting journey.

The Top 11 Places in Ontario

1. Prince Edward County

Prince Edward County (PEC) has been on the rise for years. It boasts a scenic location on Lake Ontario, not to mention a booming wine scene. Plus, it’s conveniently located between Toronto and Ottawa/Montreal, roughly two hours from Toronto. This makes it a great spot if you plan on going back and forth frequently. PEC, known by residents as “the County,” is known for its lakeside beaches, mix of wineries, cider houses, and breweries, and Sandbanks Provincial Park (a favourite among locals and visitors alike). The County is made up of several small towns, including Wellington (home to The Drake Devonshire Inn), Bloomfield, and Picton. It is also not far from the city of Belleville. Lastly, while Prince Edward County is known for its prime location on Lake Ontario, it is also home to several smaller lakes, including West Lake and East Lake.

2. Haliburton

Just south of Algonquin Provincial Park lies Haliburton, Ont. Quintessential cottage country, Halliburton is roughly 2.5 hours north of Toronto and has some of the most beautiful scenery in the province. The area’s top attractions include the Haliburton Highlands Museum, Haliburton’s Forest and Wildlife Reserve, and the Haliburton Highlands Water Trails. One of the higher points on the Canadian Shield, Haliburton is home to over 500 lakes. The most popular among cottage-goers are Redstone Lake, Kawagama Lake, Gull Lake, Drag Lake, Haliburton Lake, and Kennisis Lake.

3. Niagara Region

The Niagara region is another great spot to buy a cottage in Ontario. Conveniently located roughly 1.5 hours from Toronto, it is a popular destination for Greater Toronto Area (GTA) residents. The region encompasses Niagara Falls (including the Canadian side of the waterfall known as Horseshoe Falls), Fort Eerie and Niagara-on-the-Lake, which like Prince Edward County, is known for its wineries and is on Lake Ontario. As a global tourist destination, the Niagara Falls region is home to a wide range of attractions for all ages, including boat tours of the Horseshoe Falls, tastings at distilleries, breweries, and wineries, restaurants and nightlife at Clifton Hill, Casino Niagara, the Niagara SkyWheel, and plenty of museums and children’s attractions like the Butterfly Conservatory and MarineLand. These attractions make Niagara Falls an exciting place to have a cottage, especially if you have young children or grandchildren.

“Cottage country is a region in central Ontario that encompasses Muskoka Lakes, Haliburton, Parry Sound, Kawartha Lakes, Bancroft, and northern Hastings County. That said, there are many parts of Ontario outside this area that are well suited to cottages, such as Prince Edward County, Niagara Falls, and Tobermory.”

4. Thunder Bay

Another place to find affordable vacation properties in Ontario is the northern part of the province. Thunder Bay, specifically, is one of the least expensive places to purchase a property on this list. This is due to its remote location, being roughly 15 hours by car from Toronto or a two-hour flight. Though much farther than other popular cottage locations in Ontario, it comes with several perks beyond the low price point. For example, Thunder Bay is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park (home to the second tallest waterfall in Ontario), the Cascade Conservation Area, the Mission Island Marsh Conservation Area, and the Sleeping Giant are all natural attractions and parks open to residents. In terms of history and culture, cottage-goers in Thunder Bay can check out Fort William Historical Park, the Thunder Bay Museum, and the Terry Fox monument.

5. Muskoka

Our list of the best places to buy a cottage in Ontario wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Muskoka. The Muskoka Lakes region is likely the first spot that comes to mind when you think of cottages in Ontario. Muskoka is just under 2.5 hours from Toronto and has long been the go-to spot for cottages in the province. There is a reason Muskoka cottage prices have continued to rise year after year. Not only does it offer close proximity to the GTA but it perfectly blends amenities and natural scenery. From countless golf courses and provincial and national parks to restaurants, shops, luxury hotels, and freshwater lakes, there is no shortage of activities in Muskoka. (It’s also worth noting that Muskoka is a great year-round destination, with ice-skating and cross-country skiing in the winter months.) It’s no wonder the likes of Martin Short, Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell have cottages here. Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, and Huntsville are the main towns, with Lake Rosseau, Lake Joseph, and Lake Muskoka being some of the most popular lakes in the area.

6. Parry Sound

Parry Sound, lying a similar distance from the GTA as Muskoka or Haliburton (roughly 2.5 hours), is a popular cottage destination among Toronto residents looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Nestled on the shores of Georgian Bay, Parry Sound boasts scenic beaches and provincial parks. For those who don’t know, Georgian Bay is the largest freshwater archipelago in the world, home to over 30,000 islands, and Parry Sound offers direct access to it. Some of the most popular parts of the area include Waubuno Beach, the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame, the Museum on Tower Hill, and Killbear Provincial Park.

7. Southern Georgian Bay

While Parry Sound is considered the go-to destination on Georgian Bay, Southern Georgian Bay is also a fantastic spot to purchase a cottage. Southern Georgian Bay encompasses many small towns such as Collingwood, Wasaga Beach, Midland, and Penetanguishene. These destinations are just two hours from Toronto, making it another popular place to buy a second property. There are plenty of scenic beaches here, as well as year-round attractions like the nearby Blue Mountain Ski Resort, Six Mile Lake Provincial Park, Georgian Bay Islands National Park, and King’s Wharf Theatre. Of course, it’s also not far from the larger cities of Barrie and Orillia.

8. Gananoque

Gananoque is another region worth considering when looking for an affordable cottage in Ontario. This region is just north of Kingston, roughly three hours from Toronto or 1.5 hours from Ottawa and two hours from Montreal. It is nestled on the Saint Lawrence River, close to where Lake Ontario meets the river. More specifically, it is located next to Thousand Islands National Park. Day cruises of the park leave daily and it offers countless trails for cycling and hiking. A quieter alternative to some of the cottage country locales closer to the GTA, the Gananoque region is more affordable but just as scenic (if not more scenic) than some of the other spots on this list.

9. Tobermory

Natural beauty abounds in Tobermory, roughly 3.5 hours by car from Toronto. It is home to Bruce Peninsula National Park, renowned for its crystal clear aquamarine waters and stunning rock formations like Flowerpot Island. More than natural scenery, Tobermory has all kinds of local spots, restaurants, and attractions like dinner cruises on the water and visits to nearby Manitoulin Island. It is also the freshwater scuba-diving capital of the world. Owing to its more remote location on the northern part of Georgian Bay, cottage prices tend to be lower than in places like Muskoka, Haliburton, or Kawartha Lakes (more on that below).

10. Kawartha Lakes

Kawartha Lakes is another region to consider if you want to buy a cottage in Ontario. Less than two hours from Toronto, Kawartha Lakes is north and west of Peterborough and encompasses the townships of Lindsay, Bobcaygeon, Verulam, Fenelon Falls, Omemee, Sturgeon Point, Woodville, and more. It boasts clean lakes and rivers and relaxed outdoor living. Some of the top parks, trails, and campsites in the area include Queen Elizabeth Wildlands Provincial Park, Emily Provincial Park, Ken Reid Conservation Area, and Balsam Lake Provincial Park. The region is also home to cultural attractions like the Kawartha Settlers Village and the Kinmount Heritage Model Railroad and Museum. Made up of a chain of 14 lakes, cottage-goers have several options to choose from. Some of the top lakes in Kawartha include Balsam Lake, Sturgeon Lake, Four Mile Lake, Cameron Lake, and Pigeon Lake.

11. Grand Bend

The last spot on our list of the best places to buy a cottage in Ontario is none other than Grand Bend. Located roughly 2.5 hours southwest of Toronto, Grand Bend is on Lake Huron. It is beloved by residents of nearby London, Ont. and other cities in the western part of the province such as Kitchener and Waterloo. Beyond its beautiful beaches, the area has a vibrant nightlife scene, as well as shops, restaurants, and family-friendly activities. For example, local attractions include the Grand Bend Motorplex, Pinery Provincial Park, Huron County Playhouse, the Pinery Antique Flea Market, the Grand Bend Farmer’s Market, and Dark Horse Estate Wineries. The community is also home to several festivals, like Beachfest and the Grand Bend Summer Sunset Sounds concert series. Main Beach is the largest beach in Grand Bend and one of only 22 in Ontario that has earned Blue Flag status for its dedication to water quality and safety (it’s no wonder Grand Bend is consistently ranked one of the top beach towns in the province).

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is it worth it buying a cottage in Ontario?

Buying a cottage in Ontario is worthwhile for many residents. Not only does a cottage provide a “home away from home” in a quieter, more scenic part of the province, but cottages are often sound real estate investments. Properties in well-established parts of cottage country, such as Muskoka, are likely to appreciate in value over time. 

What is the average price of a cottage in Ontario?

The price of cottages in Ontario varies considerably, with the average falling somewhere between $300,000 and $800,000. Of course, this largely depends on the size of the cottage, as well as its location within the province and whether it is a waterfront or non-waterfront property. 

Where is cottage country in Ontario?

Cottage country is a region in central Ontario that encompasses Muskoka Lakes, Haliburton, Parry Sound, Kawartha Lakes, Bancroft, and northern Hastings County. That said, there are many parts of Ontario outside this area that are well suited to cottages, such as Prince Edward County, Niagara Falls, and Tobermory.

Which is better: waterfront property or non-waterfront property?

Location is one of the most important factors when it comes to buying a cottage in Ontario. But beyond deciding between Muskoka, Kawartha, and Tobermory, buyers must also consider whether to purchase a waterfront or non-waterfront property. Both come with unique pros and cons. For example, though a waterfront property might sound more appealing, they are usually considerably more expensive. Not only does the purchase price of a waterfront cottage tend to be higher but so too does homeowners insurance. You might also have less privacy, with boats or swimmers being able to easily see into your property, more repairs due to salt and sand damage or rising water levels, and be subject to added regulations that prohibit you from renovating or increasing the size of the cottage. On the other hand, waterfront properties usually appreciate in value more than their non-waterfront counterparts. They also have more potential as an investment property, should you choose to rent it out to tourists through a company like Airbnb. Of course, one last advantage of waterfront properties is the unbeatable views they offer and the unparalleled access to the water.

Where is the best place to buy a cottage in Ontario?

The best place to buy a cottage in Ontario is subjective. It depends on one’s personal preferences. For example, do you want somewhere closer to home (under a one-hour drive) or somewhere farther (2.5+-hour drive)? Do you want to live somewhere quiet and scenic or somewhere with lots of activities and attractions? What is your budget? These are all questions you must consider when shopping for a cottage in Ontario. If you aren’t sure where to buy a cottage in Ontario, speak with a REALTOR® or consider touring the province to gain a better understanding of what each region has to offer.

Emily Southey

Wahi Writer

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