Even if you don’t crack a book the rest of the year, there’s something about the cottage that demands a comfortable chair, some good light, a drink, a snack, and a good book. Whether you want to read something educational or just indulge in pure literary fluff, these popular cottage bookstores are sure to have what you’re looking for—and probably some surprises as well.
Owner Dana Geyer grew up reading used books at her cottage on Cameron Lake, close to Fenelon Falls. Years later, she quit her corporate job in Calgary to return to Fenelon Falls to open The Book Lady—and the rest is history. Carrying new and used books along with games, puzzles, and stationery, The Book Lady, like many used bookstores, offers a trade-in credit on used books as well, making it easy to pick up new books without getting buried in old ones.
There are many readers out there who love knitting, although not generally at the same time. Both hobbies get floor space at Happenstance, located in the heart of downtown Lakefield and named for the Carol Shields novel of the same name. Along with fiction and non-fiction books (including hard-to-find titles) and yarn, the store also carries Aitken and Hyde pottery. For those knitters who want to read while they knit, there’s a way to buy a wide range of audiobooks as well.
Over 150,000 new and used books line the shelves at Beggar’s Banquet—but they’ve got lots of other ways to pass the time at the cottage as well. Not only are they home to Dragon Records, which sells vintage vinyl for your turntable dance parties, they’ve also got puzzles, puppets, CDs and DVDs, and, importantly, coffee.
5,000 square feet of new and used books, plus a collection of bears, plus a bookstore rescue dog named Sophie all make for an unforgettable book-finding experience in Parry Sound. They’ve often got multiple copies of favourites, so you’re sure to find something, even if it’s popular. And if you have used books lying around you don’t need, they’ll take books as trade-ins, giving you a credit of 20 per cent of your book’s original price to spend in the store.
One of northwestern Ontario’s best sources for used and out-of-print books, Elizabeth Campbell Books is housed within the Darlington Gallery, which features Indigenous beadwork and beading supplies, regionally crafted moccasins and mukluks, artwork and carvings by First Nations artists, and antiques. While there are plenty of contemporary books, if you’re looking for a beautifully bound vintage book (or two, or three), this is the place to go.
Two floors of used books in downtown Bracebridge pretty much guarantees you’re going to find something to read at the Owl Pen, especially if you’re looking for books about Muskoka and local history. Comfy spots to sit and page through a book inside are complemented by benches outside, so you don’t have to wait until you get home to start reading!
If part of your cottage vacation involves checking out works by local authors, make your way to Ashlie’s in Bancroft. An extensive collection of regional authors sits alongside a selection of used books, as well as local crafts, gifts, and cards.
Feeling bookish and musical? Would a ukulele be the perfect addition to your next cottage jam session? Used books snuggle up with new, used, and vintage guitars, ukuleles, and violins at Books & Strings, which is“the best part of visiting Port Elgin,” according to one review. Whether you’ve got a question about books or instruments, owner Steve Auld is your go-to guy.
The Williamsford Mill is a historic 1850 grist mill in Grey County, but the bookstore within had its roots in Toronto, Kleinburg, Bolton, and Newmarket before coming to stay in Williamsford. Along with the “best butter tarts on Highway 6,” the Mill’s cafe serves all-day breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Friday and Saturday nights. Once you’re full, browse 80,000 used and rare books on the second floor—or, even better, buy a few books, then read as you eat.
Out-of-Ontario honourable mentions
We couldn’t resist including these other highly recommended stores:
Originally built in 1930 and housed in the first general store in the area, Poor Michael’s has been a bookstore since 1992. Quality used books share space with current and collectible magazines and rub elbows with vintage vinyl, pottery, handmade global crafts and creations by Manitoba artists. The cafe offers fair trade, organic coffee along with light meals—perfect for a day of book browsing.
Packrat Annie’s is the perfect place to dig around and find that book or record you’ve been searching for forever. Offering used books and new and used music, Packrat Annie’s also incorporates the Vienna Cafe, whose menu includes their well-known (and often requested) eggs Benedict.