Some of the best things to do in Canada’s Cottage Country are centred around its pristine and natural landscapes, which range from snow-capped mountains to freshwater islands. The area is mostly in Ontario but also covers parts of Ottawa, New Brunswick, Alberta and Quebec, all of which are well-known for offering pretty cottages and vacation homes year-round.

    These towns are excellent bases for discovering Ontario's great outdoors – you can find miles of trails cutting through pine forests, various terrains, and lush valleys, or enjoy canoeing or kayaking on turquoise lakes and even a UNESCO-listed canal. Get away from it all with our list of Canada’s cottage country’s most famous landmarks.

    What are the best things to do in Cottage Country?

    1

    Muskoka

    Impressive viewpoints and crystal-clear lakes

    Muskoka covers over 4,500 sq km of towering pines, townships, lakes and rocky shores in Southern Ontario. Located in the west, Georgian Bay is known for its national park, which has around 30,000 freshwater islands. The 8-km-long Beausoleil is a must-visit for those looking to enjoy overnight camping, hiking and biking.

    Muskoka is also known for its scenic viewpoints, including Algonquin Park in the east and Lion’s Lookout overlooking Fairy Lake. Some of the most popular places to rent a cottage in Muskoka include the towns of Bracebridge, Gravenhurst and Huntsville. During your stay, you can take a boat cruise to explore Muskoka’s pristine lakes and waterways.

    Location: Muskoka District Municipality, Ontario, Canada

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    2

    Banff and Lake Louise

    One of The Rockies’ major mountain resort towns

    Banff is one of Canada’s highest towns, standing at 1,400 m up in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta. With Mt. Rundle and Mt. Cascade dominating the resort town’s skyline, it makes for an excellent base for wintertime activities such as skiing and snowboarding. Banff is equally impressive in the summer – Banff National Park lets you take in the great outdoors, whether you’re into hiking forest trails, whitewater rafting, or kayaking on placid lakes.

    Lake Louise is part of Banff National Park, located around 57 km northwest of Banff. This quiet town is named after a glacier-fed lake, which is surrounded by quaint cottages, stately chateaus and ski resorts. Summertime in Lake Louise sees crowds enjoying a wide range of activities, including backcountry hikes, canoe rides, and gondola rides with panoramic views of the iconic lake.

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    Location: Banff, Alberta, Canada

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    3

    Laurentians

    Outstanding skiing opportunities await at Mont-Tremblant

    The region of Laurentians lies in southern Quebec, boasting snow-topped peaks, vast forests and turquoise lakes. One of the best places to go for a winter getaway in Canada, you’ll find more than 10 ski resorts offering all-inclusive packages – Saint-Sauveur and Mont Tremblant are popular picks.

    During summer, Parc National du Mont‑Tremblant is popular among hikers looking to traverse its scenic trails, many of which take you up to the highest summit of the Laurentian Mountains. There are over 9,000 lakes and rivers across the Laurentians, giving you plenty of opportunities for canoeing, swimming, canoe camping, and fishing throughout your visit.

    Location: Lac-Pikauba, QC G0V 1H0, Canada

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    4

    Collingwood

    A gateway to Blue Mountain

    Collingwood sits at the southern point of Georgian Bay in Ontario. While the small town is most famous in winter due to its proximity to the Blue Mountain ski resort, you can find plenty of interesting things to see and do year-round.  

    The Downtown area is best explored by foot or bicycle – some of the town’s landmarks include the Collingwood Museum, Theatre Collingwood, and St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church. The Georgian Trail is a must-visit if you’re a fan of hiking and mountain biking. It stretches about 34 km along the shoreline of Georgian Bay, between Collingwood and Meaford. Summertime in Collingwood sees crowds enjoying water sports at Harbourview Park, Sunset Point Beach, and Northwinds Beach.

    Location: Collingwood, Ontario, Canada

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    5

    Sunshine Coast

    Hike Canada’s longest hut-to-hut hiking trail

    Sunshine Coast lies on British Columbia’s southern coast, spanning 177 km in length. It’s very popular among hikers looking to complete its 180-km-long route, which offers amazing views of mountains, shorelines, creeks and lakes. Known as the longest hut-to-hut hiking trail in Canada, you’ll find over a dozen huts and 20-odd campsites between Sarah Point and Saltery Bay.

    There are 16 provincial parks with campsites available almost any time of the year. Wake up to beautiful views of the Sechelt Inlet by pitching a tent at Porpoise Bay Provincial Park or enjoy a swim or canoe ride when camping at Inland Lake Provincial Park. The Sunshine Coast enjoys a relatively mild climate year-round, so it’s possible to pack relatively light for your trip.

    Location: Sunshine Coast Regional District, British Columbia, Canada

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    6

    Fathom Five National Marine Park

    A freshwater reserve with shipwrecks and ancient formations

    The Fathom Five National Marine Park lies between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay in southern Ontario. It has a rich freshwater ecosystem, with 22 shipwrecks that are popular with divers and snorkellers. On the mainland, the Fathom Five Visitor Centre displays exhibits on Tobermory and the parks from May to October. Climb the onsite 20-metre viewing tower for views of the lush park and Georgian Bay.

    You can choose to stay in Tobermory or the nearby Bruce Peninsula National Park, both of which make excellent bases to explore Fathom Five National Marine Park. Take a cruise to Flowerpot Island, where you can find backcountry campsites, marked trails, and dolomite formations in the shape of – you guessed it – flowerpots.

    Location: 121 Chi sin tib dek Rd, Tobermory, ON N0H 2R0, Canada

    Phone: +1 519-596-2233

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    7

    Acadian Coast

    Explore pretty villages that date back to the 18th century

    The Acadian Coast has a series of quaint villages founded by a French-speaking colony during the 18th century. The eastern coast of New Brunswick has many natural landscapes if you want to get away from the crowds. Kouchibouguac National Park covers around 238 sq km of diverse habitats, from sandy beaches and dunes to marshes and estuaries.

    If you want to experience the Acadian Coast’s francophone heritage, cross the wooden footbridge from the mainland to Pays de la Sagouine. This life-sized replica of an Acadian fishing village has actors in period costumes showcasing traditional crafts and performing musical numbers throughout the day. While performances are bilingual (French and English), guided tours are run by English-speaking guides.

    Location: 57 Rue Acadie, Bouctouche, NB E4S 2T7, Canada

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    8

    Prince Albert National Park

    Visit Grey Owl's cabin in Waskesiu Lake

    Prince Albert National Park in northern Saskatchewan is one of Canada’s most diverse protected areas. Covering over 3,800 sq km of boreal forest, grasslands, lakes, rivers, and wetlands, the national park is home to various wild animals including white-tailed deer, elks, and moose.

    Hikers can find about 150 km of marked trails to explore. The Grey Owl Trail travels 19.9 km past several lakes and wetlands to the historic cabin of Archibald Stansfeld Belaney, a prominent conservationist during the 1930s. If you prefer a more leisurely trip, there are 5 officially designated paddling routes and 15 backcountry campgrounds in Prince Albert National Park.

    Location: 969 Lakeview Dr, Waskesiu Lake, SK S0J 2Y0, Canada

    Phone: +1 306-663-4522

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    9

    Big Rideau Lake

    A tranquil getaway with waterfront cottages

    Big Rideau Lake offers a peaceful retreat for those looking to escape the crowds of Northern Ontario. You’ll find hundreds of cottages and vacation houses lining its shoreline, while Murphys Point Provincial Park lies on the northern side of the lake.

    Big Rideau Lake is part of the UNESCO-listed Rideau Canal, where you can rent a kayak or canoe to paddle out to popular spots like Colonel By Island, Portland town, and Beveridge Locks. Located 72 km southwest of Ottawa, Big Rideau Lake is an excellent area to stay if you’re planning a relaxing getaway in Canada.

    Location: Ontario, Canada

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    10

    Orillia

    Plenty of outdoor fun for families

    Orillia is a small lakeside city in Simcoe County, about 149 km north of Toronto in Ontario. Also known as “Sunshine City”, its waterfront is an excellent base for boating trips to the Trent-Severn Waterway, a 386-km-long canal route connecting Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay. It’s also where you can enjoy a swimmable beach, grassy picnic areas, and community festivals at Couchiching Beach Park.

    Downtown Orillia is a picturesque area with over 150 local businesses lining its cobblestone streets. A must-see is the Orillia Opera House, which has been hosting world-class performances since 1895.

    Location: Ontario, Canada

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    Penny Wong | Compulsive Traveller

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