Real Estate

Cottage Q&A: The definition of “cottage country”

A cabin at a lake in cottage country By givaga/Shutterstock

What is considered “cottage country” around Ottawa?—Valerie Quinn, Barrie, Ont.

Well, according to Wikipedia, it’s “the Rideau Lakes area or parts of the Outaouais,” which is correct. At least, it’s been correct for a long time. If you’re asking because you’re, say, moving to Ottawa and you plan to buy a seasonal place, cottage country for you will probably depend on how much you want to spend, how badly you want privacy, and how far you’re willing to drive to get it.

“For most people, ‘cottage country’ is within a two-hour drive of Ottawa,” says Martin Elder, the owner of Martin Elder Real Estate Group. “They want lakes, not rivers. They want nature and lots of trees and no close neighbours.” But—if you’ve been reading this magazine over the last several years—you know that “cottage country” almost everywhere is evolving. “Everything is getting built up,” says Elder. Plus, supply is low and demand is high. A cottage that ticks all the boxes—the coveted two-hour drive time, lots of privacy, and the right price—is getting harder to find. 

“I say to people, ‘I’d love to sell you that, but it doesn’t exist—not at the prices we saw two years ago,’ ” says John Macintyre, a veteran Century 21 realtor based in Chelsea, Que. 

More people are moving full-time to the cottage or retiring to the cottage. “Many lakes that 25 years ago were considered cottage-only are now largely residential,” says Macintyre. (If a lake has no cottages on it, is it still “cottage country”?)

Bottom line: if availability and prices and lack of privacy push buyers to drive outside the traditional two-hour upper travel limit, and more cottagers move full-time to the traditional cottage lakes…who knows what we’ll call Ottawa “cottage country” in the future?

Don’t worry. We’ll update the Wikipedia page when the time comes.

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This article was originally published in the June/July 2022 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

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