Canada’s Most Beautiful Cottage Retreats
With the arrival of summer’s heat and humidity comes the great Canadian pastime—escaping to the cottage. Be spoilt for choice with these 10 gorgeous Canadian cottage country destinations.
1. Sunshine Coast, British Columbia
Just north of Vancouver lies the Sunshine Coast, a 180 km stretch of charming waterside communities, ancient forests, inlets and mountains. Despite being part of mainland British Columbia, the Sunshine Coast feels like a remote cluster of islands. In fact, many visitors reach this beloved getaway via a 40-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to the town of Gibsons which served as the setting for the legendary Canadian TV show, The Beachcombers. Whether you stay in Gibsons, Beaver Island (shown here), Pender Harbour, Halfmoon Bay or Powell River, an array of hospitable guest houses, inns, cottages and B&Bs await your arrival. Celebrate summer with swimming, kayaking and mountain biking. And be sure to take advantage of the unique shops, art studios and scrumptious restaurants that add to the coast's welcoming atmosphere.
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2. Muskoka, Ontario
Listed by National Geographic Traveller magazine as one of the world's "must-see places" in 2012, Muskoka is the heart of Ontario's cottage country. Home to over 30 public beaches and more than 1,600 lakes, Muskoka is an irresistible summer playground. Huntsville, Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, Port Carling and Bala have been popular with vacationers for over 140 years—and with good reason. The area's rugged beauty of endless forests, pristine lakes and rocky landscapes make Muskoka the ideal getaway for sport and relaxation. Unleash your inner athlete with cycling, wakeboarding, swimming, waterskiing and tree-top zip lining, or become acquainted with timeless Muskoka pastimes such as fishing, boating and golf. Prefer a less hectic pace? Cruise the lakes on a historic steamship, get pampered at a luxurious spa or relax dockside in a famous Muskoka chair. A host of exquisite resorts, well-appointed hotels, historic inns, and privately rented cottages await your reservation.
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3. Bay of Fundy/Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia
For an east coast cottage country break, try the Bay of Fundy/Annapolis Valley region. This gorgeous area of northern Nova Scotia is home to the world's highest recorded tides. Experience the incredible tides, take a whale watching boat excursion into the Bay, or go fossil hunting on the ocean floor during low tide in Blomidon Provincial Park. And be sure to sample fresh local cuisine—lobster, scallops and mussels - and the award-winning Annapolis Valley wines.
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4. Acadian Coast, New Brunswick
If sandy saltwater beaches sound like heaven, New Brunswick's Acadian coast should be your next summer destination. Dive deep into Acadian culture while sampling the best of the area's hospitality. Chaleur Bay and the Acadian coast offer many picture perfect cottages, inns, resorts, campgrounds and B&Bs. Miles of sand and dunes entice visitors to indulge in a host of summer pursuits including swimming, clam digs, beach volleyball and kite surfing. After a day of sun and surf, unwind with a decadent lobster dinner fresh from the sea while experiencing one of New Brunswick's spectacular sunsets.
5. Banff/Lake Louise, Alberta
Did you know that summer is the peak season in Banff National Park? While the multitude of skiers and snowboarders who visit here during winter might argue this point, the warm sun-filled days of summer actually draw more people to this breathtaking destination. Over four million visitors enjoy the untouched wilderness, soaring Rocky Mountains and glacier-fed lakes each year. Here in the Banff National Park and nearby hamlet of Lake Louise, tourists are spoilt for cottage country accommodation. Chalets, lodges, inns, campgrounds and cottages populate the picturesque landscape. Baker Creek Chalets offer authentic log-style cabins in the heart of the Rockies, while Paradise Lodge and Bungalows provides rustic cabins full of charm and comfort. Canoe along an ancient lake, go rock climbing in the mountains or just relax and enjoy the unparalleled view.
6. Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan
If you thought that Saskatchewan was all wheat fields and endless plains, think again. This prairie province is a prime summer cottage destination with over 100,000 refreshing lakes and rivers. When the temperatures soar and the sunny days grow long, residents and tourists head to Regina Beach, Katepwa Beach or north to the Prince Albert National Park area. Located just a few hours north of Saskatoon, the Waskesiu Wilderness Region is home to several of the province's most alluring lakes: Emma, Anglin, Christopher and Candle - as well as 3,875 square kilometres of protected boreal forests, parkland and trails. Cottages, cabins, houseboats and resorts welcome visitors with plenty of summer activities (boating, horseback riding, kayaking, wildlife viewing) as well as more laid back pursuits such as spa days and fine dining.
7. Whiteshell Provincial Park and Victoria Beach, Manitoba
Boasting 2,800 square kilometres of protected parkland, Whiteshell Provincial Park in eastern Manitoba provides the perfect summer getaway. The plenitude of lakes, rivers, hiking trails, forests and cottages allow visitors to experience nature in all its untapped glory. Go waterskiing, canoeing, swimming, fishing and mountain bike riding. Looking for a more exclusive retreat? Visit Lake Winnipeg's Victoria Beach. This municipality with its superb beaches prides itself on private, quiet relaxation for its guests. You won't find overpopulated campgrounds or picnic areas here. Only privately owned cottages for rent—both large and small—call Victoria Beach home.
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8. Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island is a magical place where a warm, sandy beach is always within easy reach. Virtually all of PEI is cottage country. Each corner offers its own unique vibe. Western PEI is rich in Acadian and Mi'kmaq culture and features the incredible white beaches of Cedar Dunes Provincial Park. The eastern reach of PEI has endless sand dunes at Greenwich National Park and six lighthouses to explore. Head to the north shores of central PEI and be smitten by spectacular white beaches, red-stone cliff formations and close access to some of PEI's most treasured attractions: Confederation Trail, Charlottetown and Green Gables Heritage Place.
9. The Laurentians, Quebec
Eager to explore a region famous for its majestic mountains, 9,000+ lakes, and sweeping forests? The Laurentians—22,000 square kilometres of stunning beauty just 20 kilometres north of Montréal—welcomes visitors year round. Only a few hours outside of Ottawa and Québec City, the Laurentians is the ideal summer retreat for urbanites looking for a quick escape. Once immersed in this vast land of forests and lakes, you'll find the largest concentration of resorts in Eastern Canada. Choose from chalets, inns, cottages, campgrounds and hotels. Summer vacationers craving relaxation can enjoy a lake cruise, or a decadent spa package while thrill seekers test their nerve with parachute jumping, rafting, aerial zip-lines, rock climbing and waterskiing. Dune Buggy tours, golf, swimming, mountain biking and helicopter excursions make playing outside in the Laurentians' sunshine even more irresistible. (Photo © Tourism Laurentians)
10. Salt Spring Island, British Columbia
Located between Vancouver Island and British Columbia's mainland, Salt Spring Island is a popular summer destination on the west coast. Known for its art studios, enthralling seaside villages and abundant recreational activities, Salt Spring Island caters to all tastes and interests. Take a studio tour, shop for unique crafts and jewellery at the Saturday Market, and sample the Island's artisan cheese, baked goods and pale ale. Go for a swim, take to the skies on a seaplane sightseeing adventure, explore the Island's kayaking routes or get up close and personal with starfish, octopus and eels on a diving adventure. When you're in need of a good night's sleep, enjoy sweet dreams in a waterfront cottage, elegant B&B, hotel or rustic campground.