The best independent book stores in Ontario cottage country


Independent bookstores may be suffering in the big cities, struggling to compete with big box chains and online retailers, but out in the small towns of Ontario cottage country, it’s easy to find these mom-and-pop shops. Cottagers, locals, and traveling book lovers are flocking to these locally owned business for a personal shopping experience they can’t find anywhere else. They come for the eclectic selection and are repeatedly lured back by the intimate atmosphere and the friendly service.

So if you’re driving up to the cottage, in desperate need of a new novel to devour in your dockside Muskoka chair, these destinations are sure to give you the literary fix you need.

Reader’s Haven Bookstore

Located in downtown Tobermory, right across from the harbour, Reader’s Haven is owned by Susan Griffith who keeps the place stocked with new and used books of all genres. There’s a special focus on local Ontario authors, as well a popular spiritual section full of self-enlightenment books. Don’t forget to add a bag of their wildly popular specialty popcorn to your book purchase—it’s the perfect snack to devour alongside your book. More Info: www.readershaven.ca 

Books & Company

This spacious Picton bookstore offers a wide variety of literature, but specializes in local heritage, Canadiana, poetry, art, travel, and children’s books. They also have a large selection of games, toys, and puzzles if you’re looking for alternative ways to spend your leisure time. After you’ve browsed around on the main floor, you can check out their fantastic second floor event space where they regularly host art shows, concerts, and poetry readings. The store is also connected to a charming cafe called Miss Lily’s, which is named after the resident cat. More Info: www.pictonbookstore.com 

Master’s Book Store

Master’s, located on Highland Street in Halliburton, started off as a Christian bookstore before new owners broadened the selection to include general reading material. It still has strong selection of Christian material, but it’s also known for cookbooks, nature literature, and books about the local area. Since 1985 the store has been housed in a fabulous converted barn, which once functioned as the livery stables for the town’s main hotel. More Info: www.mastersbookstore.ca 

Ashlie’s Books

This Bancroft bookstore has had several different owners over the years, though none of them have been named Ashlie (the current owner, August, believes it was originally named after someone’s granddaughter). Still, it’s remained a town staple since it opened its doors. The store sells new and used books and also offers a really interesting selection of crafts—gifts, cards, and prints produced by local artists. More Info: www.ashlies.ca 

The Own Pen

Located on Manitoba Street in Bracebridge, The Owl Pen is a haven for lovers of used books. They have a great selection of rare finds, particularly about local heritage. It’s a family business, currently on it’s second generation of owners. Cam Cumberland and his wife took over the business from his parents who were passionate book collectors. Fun fact: the bookstore is located in the former house of a famous local nurse, Rene Caisse who developed a widely used herbal cancer treatment called Essiac. More Info: www.facebook.com

Phoenix Books

Customers rave about the service at Owen Sound’s Phoenix Books, run by quirky owners Bea and Dave Miller. They buy, sell, and trade second-hand books, packing the store shelves to the brim. New inventory is constantly coming in so keep checking back if you’re on the hunt for something specific. Located on 2nd Avenue, Phoenix is also well known for its interesting store displays. Taxidermied animals line the tops of the bookshelves and the place is filled with plants and other visual knick-knacks that Bea and Dave are attracted to. More Info: www.facebook.com

Parry Sound Books

The owners of Parry Sound Book are cottagers who thought the town would be a great place to live, work and raise a family. They opened up the first version of their bookstore in 1988 as an addition onto their house and have since expanded into the restored William Beatty building downtown. The store provides a warm, comfortable atmosphere that easily converts browsers into loyal customers. It also has a well-established reading series with popular Canadian authors. More Info: www.parrysoundbooks.com 

Kent Bookstore

This Lindsay bookstore, located on William Street, specializes in new and used books, with an extensive selection of children’s literature. They have a popular book recycling program where customers can trade in their gently read books to get 1/2 price discounts off new titles. The owner Sherri worked in her mother’s bookstore for years before taking over the reigns. The store has been around for 22 years, but recently moved into a beautiful historic building with huge windows and high tin ceilings. More Info: www.bookmanager.com 

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