What to consider when buying an Atlantic Coast cottage

By Katie IngramKatie Ingram

Atlantic Coast

Photo by iStockphoto/Thinkstock


As properties in coveted cottage regions become more expensive, aspiring cottagers are looking to new spots to build or buy their dream vacation home. One such area where cottage real estate and rentals are booming is the East Coast. But before you start picking out dock chairs for your future East Coast cottage, there few things you might want to consider before signing on the dotted line.

1. Location, location, location
Usually, when people build or buy a cottage in Atlantic Canada, they want to be as close to the ocean as possible. But while the ocean views are popular, they aren’t always the safest choice. With rising sea levels, the land is eroding more quickly, forcing many coastal-land owners to build seawalls or other types of reinforcements to save their property and cottages from ending up in the ocean. To avoid this problem, cottage buyers should first look at the history of a property and figure out how much land has eroded in recent years and how quickly it’s happening. And if they’re building a new cottage, they should consider building further inland.

2. Build on a foundation
The ocean can be beautiful, but not when it storms. Along with rising water levels, waves that occur during storms can lead to flooding. Cottage owners should therefore make sure that they don’t build directly on the land, but rather on a foundation, such as a basement, to ensure that if their property does flood, only that area will be damaged.

3. It can be a cold place
The Atlantic provinces, especially Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, are foggy, rainy, and windy, even in the summer months. As a result, the summers aren’t always as warm as they are in other places, like Ontario. Cottage owners should make sure their summer home is slightly insulated, and they might also look into installing a fireplace or pellet stove to keep warm if the temperature does drops.

4. The Atlantic: Not just an ocean
Unlike some other parts of Canada, the Atlantic provinces aren’t completely land locked, so people tend to forget that on-the-water property can mean more than just ocean. There are plenty of lakes and woodland areas, and aspiring cottagers who prefer those types of setting should look into the different types of waterfront properties that their province offers.  

5. Each province is different
Despite being grouped together under the “Atlantic province” category, each of the four provinces has something special that distinguishes it from the others. For example, some people choose to vacation on Prince Edward Island since it’s smaller and offers quicker access to beaches. It would be a good cottage location for those who want a little bit of isolation, but who still want to be close to the beach. Because each of the Atlantic provinces offers unique features, aspiring cottagers should look around and see what each province has before choosing a spot. Be sure to weigh all of your options to see which region is the best fit for your personal preferences.

Want to see more East Coast flavour on cottagelife.com? Click “Share” or “Tweet” to let us know!


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Mar. 8, 2014

5:23 pm

We are from Ontario, and had originally looked out west for our retirement home. One drive to Cape Breton changed all that!! We bought a beautiful cottage on the Bras d'Or Lakes, Nova Scotia's inland sea. We couldn't be happier, the weather is usually perfect, not too hot and not raining all the time as on the west coast. This is certainly not a well researched article at all, as Toronto is on average colder than Halifax. The Bras d'Or is known for only having fog one or two days a year. Here we come Nova Scotia!!!


May. 27, 2013

4:04 pm

We are cottagers inland in Nova Scotia. We have the best of both worlds...beautiful and hot in the summer and close enough...within a half hour to 45 minutes from beautiful salt water beaches of the South Shore. We are in an area near the Kedgi National Park called Lakeland Retreats. It is a huge area with over 500 kilometers of gravel roads and a number of lakes. Waterfront cottages are still fairly reasonable compared to upper Canada, in the 120000. range and up. So lake cottaging in Nova Scotia is a great alternative to ocean front because you don't worry about the fog but are never too far away to enjoy a salt water beach. And YES, we are long time subscibers to Cottage Life magazine and would LOVE to have a little more East coast flavour included!


Mar. 28, 2013

8:43 am

The Coast is beautiful and can be a rewarding cottage experience. We encourage more articles in Cottage Life concerning the Atlantic Provences. However, I must urge caution in considering seawalls on the Great Lakes or the ocean. After 35 years working on coastal protection, including considerable IJC technical responsibilities, shore protection can be extremely expensive and short lived. Site criteria should focus on set back, geology (geomorphology) and lake / sea elevation factors. Building on granite, especially bedrock, may cause septic system challenges but it erodes really really slowly and does not shift due to frost, particular focus should be on the cottage foundation making sure it is properly constructed and pinned to the granite. Otherwise, go Atlantic !

Cottage Life

Cottage Life

Mar. 11, 2013

12:08 pm

And for those of you wondering, Katie is an east coaster, hailing from Halifax. More great East Coast content to come!

Cottage Life

Cottage Life

Mar. 11, 2013

11:19 am

Great advice! We appreciate your feedback.


Mar. 7, 2013

9:52 pm

right-coast....Glad you have changed coasts and appreciate our non-hectic, short commute, and lovely weather at our cottages. :) And to the folks who wrote the article....you are forgiven...but you do need to come stay a while! :) I do want to comment on the land erosion again though....some of our neighbours (2 years ago) had devastating land loss due to storms and storm surges during the winter, so much so that when we went in the spring we noted cottages that had the decks cut off so that they would not be pulled into the ocean. We are a few lots back from the water and it is now that I see the benefits of that, having always wished I was just that bit closer. Some ocean front and lakes may not have the same tendency to erode, but if you are right on the ocean it is prudent to prepare for that. That being said it does take time to erode, storms can certainly speed up the process depending on the high tide, but if you want to have the land/ cottage for generations (which is not uncommon and likely why there are not a lot of waterfront properties for sale), it is best to invest in a good storm wall if you are going to build on a waterfront property, or just purchase land build back a bit and have a leisurely stroll to the beach! (We are about a 3 minutes stroll from the beach and in no danger of losing our land for generations to come!)



Mar. 7, 2013

11:21 am

Rambler...fun-in-the-sun...I am guessing the article was written by someone who has visited, but does not live here..but they are forgiven LOL! ...I am from the "wet" coast (Vancouver Island, and my wife is from southern Ontario, and family and friends (who have never been here) often comment "what? why?" ..it's one of those "until you live here, you will never know" things...IMHO? paradise. Imagine NOT spending 5 hours on a clogged freeway to get to your cottage, or never being more than 30 minutes to a sandy beach from anywhere in the province. Imagine going to a fine, expansive sandy beach on a hot Saturday in July...and not seeing a single other person. That is our reality :~)


Mar. 7, 2013

11:09 am

Most of this article is accurate, particularly with regard to the erosion of the shoreline and so building back a bit from the waterfront, or being prepared to build a storm wall is sound advice. However, living in NS and having a cottage property along the Northumberland, I disagree with the comment that the weather is rainy and foggy. Summer temperatures, particularly from mid-late July to the end of August are regularly mid to high 20's and lots of sun, and often that ocean breeze is a welcome relief from the heat. We have a bunkie style cottage, that is not insulated, and do well from April until October with electric oil radiators, which are generally only on at the beginning and end of the season during the evening and night. A wood stove would be an advantage and extend the season but it really isn't as cool as this article would imply.


Mar. 7, 2013

9:27 am

On a trip 10 years ago, my wife and I fell in love with Newfoundland, all that was said was true. We ended up buying 5 acres of oceanfront property an hour and a half outside of St John's (Conception Bay North), for an almost unheard of price. If you amortize the cost of travel its still considerably less expensive then any Ontario waterfront property, coupled with the fact that there is no property taxes in this area, (only $100.00, annually for garbage pickup). In addition, no building permits are required to build, all they ask for in this area is a certicate from the department of health that states your sanitation system is up to spec.We have an unbelievable scenic ocean view, a beach near by (5 minutes away), at the harbour there is Cod, Crab and Lobster, when in season, and if we need to shop, 20 minutes down the road is a major town with stores theater, hospital. Our plans are drawn up, waiting to start, Oh and on one last note, we figure that if Harper destroys the economy, we can live there full time just on CPP ( if we still have it!) Thanks or the article, the East coast is a treasure that a suprising amount of folks still seem to overlook for cottage or retirement living.



Mar. 7, 2013

8:34 am

Good advice for the most part, however, "The Atlantic provinces, especially Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, are foggy, rainy, and windy, even in the summer months." can be misleading. It should have read "on the coastlines of.." once headed inland...even 4 or 4 km, it can be hot, hot hot. Out cottage is on the headwaters of a large (for NS) lake, and 25-30c is not uncommon during the summer months. The fog and coolness is the place people here go to to escape the summer swelter....and you forgot New Brunswick LOL! Good advice on erosion. Although there are not many cottages for sale that are perched that close to the ocean. They may appear that way from a distance, or on Google earth, but once you are standing there your realize "oh..it will take 600 years at this rate to erode to here." Thanks for the article :~)


Mar. 6, 2013

7:13 pm

This article is completely correct. We weighed all the options and chose to build on Clode Sound, west of Clarenville, Newfoundland. Ten minutes drive from Terra Nova Golf Resort ( host course for the Canadian Men's Seniors in 2011 ) . Oceanfront property, reasonably priced and the darkest night skies imaginable. The best decision we've ever made. Also, the best lobster in the world, direct from the fisherman who pulls his pots off the end of our dock.

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