Design & DIY

8 retro cottage activities you should bring back this summer


C’mon—you come to the cottage to get away from all that city stuff, including tech toys and electronic gadgets. There may be a Pokégym on your dock, but the cottage is a place for simpler pleasures. Put down the ‘Pad and check out these great retro activities—which, we might point out, mostly don’t need electricity or recharging.

Cottage crafts

Woodworking, pyrography, building a birdhouse—anything that requires some hands-on work is a worthwhile cottage activity. And beyond the satisfaction of the task itself, many projects, like this DIY bowling alley or this fun party pińata, can lead to hours of enjoyment for your friends and family. If you’re eager to get into whittling, check out this handy guide to whittling for beginners. And while pyrography might need some extra equipment (there are easy-to-use tools available in hobby stores), is there anything that screams “cottage” more than a picture of the cottage burned onto a circle cut from a log?

Canning and preserving

Again, this takes some extra equipment, but the results—especially if you cottage in an area with bountiful harvests—are so worth it. Whether you decide to make basic freezer jam (an easy way to use up those raspberries that grow at the side of the road) or go full-on farmers’ market and make chili sauce, canning is a great way to while away the hours—especially if it’s raining. Not only will the house smell delicious, but you’ll have wonderful memories of summer all ready to haul out in the depths of winter.


Uncultivated areas are full of edible plants—so why make a snack from what you can find in the woods? Cottage country is full of raspberries and blueberries, of course (don’t forget your bear spray, just in case), but there are lots of other edibles out there too. Birch leaves can be used in salads, for instance, and the core of the cattail stem tastes like cucumber and can be eaten raw or cooked. Just make sure you go out with a reliable guide—there’s lots out there that you shouldn’t eat.

Reading aloud

The recent podcast craze is evidence that you never really outgrow your love of listening to stories. Get your kids (or your partner), go to the library, and find a book you’d like to read as a family. You don’t have to read for hours—just some time before bed will get you through a story eventually. (Plus, finding out what happens next is good incentive to get to bed on time!)

Telling ghost stories around the campfire

Telling stories around a fire is something that humans have been doing since we learned to burn things and started grunting words. Ghost stories are classic campfire fare (we’ve even got some great Canadian ones for starters), but any tale will do. Kids might enjoy hearing stories of your own childhood, or way-back family lore. No true stories? Try making up a story as a group—everyone around the fire contributes a sentence.

Water races

Sure, you can race canoes or rowboats—but why not try racing slightly more ridiculous watercraft? Bathtubs, (clean) oil drums—anything you can paddle can be a boat. Throw on a PFD, grab a paddle and see whose bizarre boat makes it to the finish line first. Extra points for craft that are decorated to within an inch of their lives.

Put on a play

Whether you’re a family that has the complete works of Shakespeare on a shelf at the cottage, or you decide to put Granny’s classic tale of immigrating to Canada on stage, putting on a play is a great way to spend an afternoon. Assign parts, pick some background music, choose a venue, and you’ve got a play. (BTW—sheets and towels can be surprisingly versatile for making costumes!)


With some needles, wool, and an easy pattern, pretty much anyone can learn to knit. (Watch some YouTube tutorials before you leave to get the hang of it.) Even little kids can learn to finger knit—and you might end your cottage vacation with a new scarf or a set of fabric coasters.

Simplify your summer with these fun cottage DIY projects! Watch the two videos below and vote for your favourite by clicking “thumbs up” in the player.