Best Places to Buy a Cottage in Ontario 2021

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With cottage prices across the province rising over the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be wondering: “Is now a good time to buy a cottage?” Although the answer to this question depends on your circumstance, no matter when and where you do decide to purchase, it's important to love the location and attractions that the area has to offer. This page details 11 of the best places in Ontario to buy a cottage, along with a 4-step guide to help you buy a cottage in Ontario.

Where to Buy a Cottage in Ontario?

Popular LocationsDrive From Major CitiesAverage Prices (non-waterfront)Main Attraction
Muskoka LakesNorth of Toronto: 2.5 hours$625,000+Lake Muskoka & Georgian Bay
HaliburtonNorth of Toronto: 2.5 hours Ottawa: 3 hours 15 minutes$511,000+Haliburton Forest, Wildlife Reserve & Algonquin Park
Parry SoundNorth of Toronto: 2.5 hours$500,000+The 30,000 Islands & Georgian Bay
Southern Georgian Bay RegionNorth of Toronto: 2 hours$825,000Georgian Bay
Niagara FallsToronto: 1.5 hours London Ontario: 2 hours Hamilton Ontario: 1 hour$515,000+Horseshoe Falls & Niagara River
Thunder BayNorth of Toronto: 2 hours (by plane)$289,000+The Sleeping Giant Rock Formation
Prince Edward CountyEast of Toronto: 2 hours 10 minutes Ottawa: 2 hours 45 minutes$740,000Over 35 unique Wineries & Lake Ontario Sandy Beaches
Gananoque Region East of Toronto: 3 hours Ottawa: 1.5 hours$500,000+The Thousand Islands
TobermoryNorthwest of Toronto: 3.5 hours$625,000Bruce Peninsula & Fathom Five National Marine Park
Kawartha LakesNorth of Toronto: 1 hour 45 minutes$630,000Balsam Lake & Provincial Parks
Grand BendWest of Toronto: 2.5 hours London Ontario: 1 hour$600,000+Lake Huron Sandy Beaches

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How to Buy a Cottage in Ontario

The 4 main steps to buying a cottage in Ontario are:

  1. Determine if purchasing is the best option in your situation and lay out what your goals for purchasing a cottage are,
  2. Prepare your finances to purchase and get pre-approved,
  3. Find a local real estate agent and start looking for a cottage, and
  4. Submit an offer and close on a cottage

Step 1. What are your goals, and should you purchase?

Cottages are a large investment to make no matter where you purchase. This investment includes your time and money and should be considered carefully. Some of the most common goals for wanting to purchase a cottage are:

  • To visit on weekends and for vacations,
  • For an investment as a rental property,
  • A place where you can work from home, and
  • Somewhere to retire in

Your answer to what your goals are can help you decide if now is the right time to purchase a cottage or not. For example, someone who is looking for a cottage to use as a place to go for a week or two per year may determine renting is a better option. Similarly, someone looking for a cottage to retire in may see purchasing as the best course of action for them.

Step 2. Save for a down payment, prepare for additional costs, and get pre-approved for a mortgage

With the average price for a cottage in Ontario being anywhere between $300,000 and $800,000 depending on where you look, saving for a down payment and getting your finances in order is crucial. Depending on if this is your first home or not, you may need a minimum 20% or more down payment. Aside from savings, another option for a down payment if you own another home may include using a home equity line of credit (HELOC) from the other property.

During this step, it's also important to be aware of the additional costs of not only purchasing but also owning a cottage. When you purchase, you can expect to incur home closing costs, which include:

CostsDescription
Ontario Land Transfer TaxThe marginal tax rate paid at close based on the purchase price of your home.
Lawyer & Legal FeeFor a lawyer to act on your behalf for the purchasing and mortgaging of the property.
Title InsuranceTo protect you and your lender against any potential disputes about property ownership.
Government Registration FeeFees that are owed when your lawyer files on your behalf for official government documents.
Home InspectionHelp to catch potential problems that the home may have before closing.

Aside from the other costs involved in purchasing, ongoing costs of owning a cottage or second home including:

In addition to these ongoing costs, if this isn't your primary residence you can expect to owe capital gains tax if you sell the cottage at a profit anytime in the future.

Finally, getting pre-approved for a mortgage is crucial with so little inventory of cottages for sale and so much competition. Also, getting pre-approved can help you to determine how much your lender will be willing to lend to you, and at what interest rate.

Step 3. Find a local real estate agent and start looking for a cottage

Considering you may not be familiar with the ins and outs of the local real estate market and the process, having a good real estate agent is crucial. Especially considering you do not directly pay the commission to have an agent, having one can be very worthwhile. Finding an agent may be harder if you have never purchased in the area or are new to the area, which is why WOWA’s real estate agent matcher can help by connecting you with some of the top agents in the area.

Before you start looking with your agent, it's important to define what you want in a cottage. This can include how large of a cottage you may need, whereabouts in the region you prefer, and select features that you want the property to have.

Once you decide on a criteria of what you need to have and want to have in a potential cottage, then you should start your search. Looking for a cottage will occur both with your agent finding potential cottages for you to view, and through looking online over MLS listings in the area.

Step 4. Submit an offer and close on the property

Once you come across a property within your budget that meets your needs, the next step is an offer. With the cottage market in Ontario being extra competitive, it's likely you won't succeed with your first offer. This is normal! With your real estate agent there to support you along the way, continue looking at properties until you get an offer accepted, or until you make the decision to stop looking.

If you do get an offer accepted, congratulations! Start preparing for your move-in date and get ready to enjoy your new cottage.

Best Cottage Areas in Ontario

Muskoka Lakes

With Muskoka being a 2 hour and 20 minute drive from Toronto, it has become a favourite for people looking to escape the city. As well, many people who can work from home see the benefit of being able to spend more time at a cottage, without the need to commute to the city as much for work. All of this has led to cottage prices in Muskoka rising higher year-over-year, with the average price of a waterfront property in April 2020 being $954,000, up 33.5%, and a non-waterfront property going for on average $625,000, up 52.9%.

The biggest draw to buying a cottage in Muskoka is the activities and beautiful nature, including Lake Muskoka. Muskoka has activities for everyone and every season, including:

  • Countless provincial and national parks,
  • Golf courses,
  • Water activities and beautiful freshwater lakes,
  • Restaurants and shops, and
  • Skating and cross country skiing in the winter

Whether you go hiking at Hardy Lake Provincial Park, explore the Torrance Barrens Dark-Sky Preserve, or go golfing at one of Muskoka’s many golf courses, you will always have something to do in the area.

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Haliburton (South of Algonquin Provincial Park)

Located 2 hours and 40 minutes north of Toronto and 3 hours and 15 minutes southwest of Ottawa, Haliburton offers both beautiful scenery and countless attractions. Some attractions include visiting Haliburton’s Forest and Wildlife Reserve, walking through the Haliburton Highlands Water Trails, or even touring the Haliburton Highlands Museum.

As people continue to look outward from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) while wanting more space and cheaper prices, Haliburton home prices have soared. The average price as of April 2021 for a non-waterfront property is now $510,000, up over 77% from $287,500 in April 2020. For a waterfront property, the average price in Haliburton is now $803,000, which is up 57% from $511,500 in April 2020. Such strong demand has continued to result in homes selling at record rates, with the average number of days a property sits on the market being less than 10 in the region.

Parry Sound

Parry Sound’s beautiful sights are only a 2 hour and 30 minute drive from Toronto. Just as other popular spots in the region such as Muskoka and Haliburton, Parry Sound has continued to benefit from people wanting more space and their willingness to live farther away from the GTA core.

With countless attractions in Parry Sound, including Killbear Provincial Park, Waubuno Beach, and the Chippewa sightseeing cruise of Georgian Bay and the 30,000 Islands in the region, Parry Sound has outdoor activities for everyone. Other attractions in the region can include museums, such as the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame and the Museum on Tower Hill. Overall, the average cottage price as of April 2021 in Parry Sound was $491,000 for a non-waterfront property and $1,303,500 for a waterfront property. Compared to April 2020 the price of a non-waterfront property is up 69.3% from $290,000, while waterfront properties are up 132.8%, to $1,303,500.

Southern Georgian Bay Region

Located along the beautiful Georgian Bay, a large bay within Lake Huron, the Southern Georgian Bay region offers beautiful scenery just a 2 hour drive northwest of Toronto. Similar to Muskoka, Haliburton, and Parry Sound, the proximity to the GTA has made the region a popular destination for homebuyers to move to. This has resulted in housing inventory levels being at record low levels in April 2021, with 0.9 months of inventory, while the average price in the region rose to over $825,000, up from $525,000 a year prior.

Popular attractions in the region include:

Other non-nature related attractions in the region include:

Although the attractions of Georgian Bay Township do appeal more to adults, the region still has activities for everyone.

Niagara Falls Region

With Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake being very close to Toronto, only being 1 hour and 20 minutes away, it is especially a popular spot for those in the GTA region. For those living in London, Niagara Falls is only a 2 hour drive away.

Niagara Falls is known most for its tourist attractions, which include the world-famous Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side of the border. Other attractions in the region include:

For those looking to buy a cottage in Niagara Falls, the average sale price for a home in the town is $515,000, while houses closer to Lake Ontario in Niagara-on-the-Lake can be much higher.

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Thunder Bay (Northern Ontario)

Considering the driving time to Thunder Bay is ~15 hours from Toronto, flying is a more popular way to get to the town. A flight from Toronto only takes 2 hours. The long distance is one of the reasons Thunder Bay is much more affordable than any other cottage town on this list. The town of Thunder Bay has an average sale price of ~ $289,000, while cottages on the water in the region typically go for over $600,000. This makes Thunder Bay one of the cheapest places to buy a cottage in Ontario.

The beautiful parks and attractions may be well worth the drive as well. Thunder Bay has beautiful trails, hiking, and sightseeing in the area, including:

  • Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park, which is the second tallest waterfall in Ontario,
  • The Sleeping Giant, a massive rock-form in the shape of a giant lying on their back,
  • The Cascade Conservation Area, a great hiking trail for people of all skill levels, and
  • The Mission Island Marsh Conservation Area, where you can immerse yourself in nature on the boardwalk

Aside from nature attractions, Thunder Bay has many historical attractions, which include:

Prince Edward County

Located conveniently between Toronto and Ottawa, Prince Edward County is only a 2 hour and 10 minute hour drive from Toronto and a 2 hour and 45 minute drive from Ottawa. This makes the region a destination that you can visit even just for the weekend. The region is known for having beautiful beaches and over 35 unique wineries, with the beautiful Sandbanks Provincial Park and Dunes Beach being a popular place for visitors. Other local attractions also include the Taste Trail, with wonderful shops, restaurants, breweries, and many local art galleries along it. The combination of beautiful nature to go along with many activities make Prince Edward County a relaxing and enjoyable place for everyone.

With all the activities, attractions and close proximity to Toronto and Ottawa, purchasing in the region doesn't come cheap. The average home price in Prince Edward as of April 2021 was $740,000, with prices up 78.5% from $414,672 in April 2020.

Gananoque Region (North of Kingston)

With the Gananoque Region being only a 3 hour drive from Toronto and a 1 hour and 30 minute drive from Ottawa, this small town and region offer a conveniently located destination to get away in. Because of this close proximity and the region's beautiful lakes and rivers, the region's home prices are over $500,000 and can reach over $1 million for homes on the water. The region's main attraction that it's known for is the beautiful Thousand Islands, which is home to over 1800 islands in a region of the Saint Lawrence River. With day-cruises of the Thousands Islands, along with the Thousand Islands National Park and countless trails, the region offers some of the nicest sights in the province.

Tobermory

The Village of Tobermory is a 3 hour and 30 minute drive from Toronto. Tobermory is known for its beautiful waterfront locations, including the beautiful Bruce Peninsula National Park, Flowerpot Island, and Sunset Point Park. Other activities in the region include walking down the Tobermory Harbour Area where you are surrounded by local shops, and riding the MS Chi-Cheeman for a dinner cruise or to visit nearby Manitoulin Island, which has many parks, trails, and local shops itself. Although the cost of a cottage in Tobermory will vary depending on the location and if it's on the water, the average price in the region is over $625,000.

Kawartha Lakes

Only 1 hour and 45 minutes from Toronto and 4 hours from Ottawa, Kawartha Lakes offer a close-by option for those looking to escape the city. Similar to other nearby cottage towns in Ontario, Kawartha Lakes has seen a frenzy of buyers recently, as the push to have more space and move farther from Toronto has continued to play out across the province. This has resulted in the median prices for the town rising 46.5% year-over-year to $630,000 in April 2021.

With countless parks, campsites, trails, and natural settings, including Queen Elizabeth Wildlands Provincial Park, Emily Provincial Park, Ken Reid Conservation Area, and Balsam Lake Provincial Park, Kawartha Lakes has something for everyone. The region also has other attractions such as visiting the Kawartha Settlers Village and the Kinmount Heritage Model Railroad and Museum.

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Grand Bend

Located a 2 and 30 minute drive southwest of Toronto and a 1 hour drive from London Ontario, Grand Bend is known for its popular beaches along Lake Huron. Along its main beach, there are countless shops, restaurants, activities, and nightlife. Other local attractions in Grand Bend also include the Pinery Provincial Park, Dark Horse Estate Wineries, and the Grand Bend Motorplex. With countless activities for any age group and its close proximity to Toronto, Grand Bend is a fun location to spend a weekend at or relax on the beach for the week. Similar to other areas across the province, Grand Bend prices have benefited from more demand for cottages. Prices in Grand Bend on average are over $600,000, while places located on the water can be higher than $1,000,000.

This calculator is provided for general information purposes only. WOWA does not guarantee the accuracy of the information shown and is not responsible for any consequence that arise from the use of the calculator and its results. Any financing products shown are subject to terms and conditions and may not be available in certain regions.