dock with boat and blue lake and trees cottage rentals in ontario

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Our Guide To The Perfect Cottage Rentals in Ontario!

Whether you’re travelling with friends, taking the family on an adventure, or looking to get away with your partner, renting a cottage in Ontario is a great choice. Ontario, as you might already know, is a huge Canadian  province with a geographically diverse landscape. There is something for everyone – whether you’re looking for the beach, the pristine wilderness, waterfalls, or small-town settings.

Eric was lucky enough to grow up with a “family cottage” in Ontario – so he’s got a fair bit of knowledge on the subject! However, choosing an area to rent a cottage in can be a difficult task given how much the key areas (Muskokas, Kawarthas, Georgian Bay, Niagara, etc.) differ in price and availability. That said, whether you need a luxury cottage rental, a multi-family rental, or even a winter rental – you will find what you are looking for in Ontario!

To help you with your search for that perfect cottage rental in Ontario and understand the different cottage areas, we’ve developed this guide. We’ll walk you through what to consider before you book and discuss different booking  options such as Airbnb, HomeAway, Kijiji, and even by the owner directly! Each of these options comes with its own set of questions and need-to-knows, which is why we’ve written this master guide to renting a cottage in Ontario!

Things to Consider When Renting a Cottage in Ontario

There are lots of things to consider when renting a cottage property. You should be aware of the needs and wants of your group and be able to look for these details on each cottage listing. You’ll also need to choose the website or source to find and book your rental with.

Our advice is to read through the following questions to ask yourself before booking. Remember: research the areas well and then decide which company to book with, if any.

The Best Season to Rent a Cottage in Ontario

One very big factor that you need to consider is the season that you plan on renting a cottage in. Season is important because renting in the spring, fall, winter, or busy summer season are very different – and will present different prices, discounts, and availabilities.

Renting a Cottage in Ontario in the Summer Season

Renting a cottage in the summer is clearly the best time to do so. The weather is pretty sure to be hottest, the sun will shine, and the experience will be most enjoyable. That said, everyone else thinks this way, too. Therefore, summer rentals are popular and can get booked up fast. Waterfront or lakefront properties go for a premium since they have access to, well, the water!

Renting a Cottage in Ontario in the Spring/Fall Seasons

If you had flexibility, you could always consider renting in the “off-season” of the spring or the fall. Typically, cottage rentals are not as full in April//May or September/October.

However, these months come with their own set of challenges. Spring might be colder and wetter – and May will certainly have the blackflies out in full force. Even early June is buggy – and if you want to be outside, you may not like the bugs in Ontario.

Fall allows you to see the colours but often the lakes are starting to cool down and the nights can be quite chilly. If you are not interested in swimming and plan on hiking/staying on land, then a fall rental might be for you. Just make sure the cottage you rent has a heater/fireplace and is insulated!

Renting a Cottage in Ontario in the Winter Season

man and woman in snow gear sitting in snow cottage rentals ontario
Make sure your rental is made for winter!

A Winter Cottage Rental in Ontario seems like a great idea – but there are certainly a few things you’ll need to consider. First, many rental properties aren’t winterized, which means that the cottages are not able to function properly in the winter. This could be due to having insulation unfit for the colder climates or that the water supply is from the lake which often freezes in the winter.

Another limiting factor to renting a cottage in Ontario in the winter is that many smaller roads that lead into smaller lakes become inaccessible by car when there is significant snowfall. Whatever the reason, the number of rentals available in the winter will be reduced drastically.

Rentals that are available are typically made to withstand the conditions  in the winter time. You can find winterized cottages by filtering specific websites for the correct month. No property that isn’t winterized should be listed for a winter rental.

Read More: Ontario’s Finest Inns to Check Out

Your Budget for Renting a Cottage in Ontario

Since there are just so many properties available for rent in Ontario in so many different areas, there’s a huge difference between the prices for the top-end cottages and the lower, budget-friendly cottage rentals. We help you determine which kind of cottage and which price range, might be best for you and your group.

Finding Cheap Cottage Rentals in Ontario

If you are looking to score a deal on a cottage rental in Ontario, you might have to do some digging. There are generally three pieces of advice for finding a deal when you’re renting a cottage: book early, book with a larger group, or book in an area that is not as popular in the summer months.

If you book early, you’ll avoid the summer markups that can occur when the season is hot, and cottages are being rented to the point where there is limited to no availability remaining for the summer. Renting with a larger group will dilute the costs per person, allowing everyone to pay much less.

That said, booking with a large group can come with limitations for space/availability but there are certainly lots of properties that cater to groups of 10 or more people.

Finally, booking a cottage in an area that’s not one of the hottest and most popular areas can help save you some money. The drive to the cottage might be a little longer or you might not be right on the waterfront – but there are compromises that you can make and still have an amazing week/weekend in your rental.

Luxury Cottage Rentals in Ontario

If you’re in the market for a luxury rental cottage in Ontario, there are specific websites that can help you with that. Generally, some of the most expensive properties are in the Muskoka region on Lake Muskoka, Lake Joseph, Lake Rosseau, Lake of Bays, and Georgian Bay, among other areas.

Having said that, there are lots of great luxury and super elite properties within the different regions around Ontario. If you’re curious, an average rental for a luxury cottage in these areas will cost you around $15,000-25,000 CAD… or easily more.

If you are looking for a luxury cottage rental property in Ontario check with agencies like Jayne’s Cottages: Luxury Rentals and Concierge Services.

Last-Minute Cottage Rentals in Ontario

While it’s possible to secure a last-minute rental in Ontario, it probably won’t be cheap. Booking a last-minute is also only possible when you aim to book for shorter duration. Booking for a weekend is different than booking for a whole week when it comes to booking a cottage last minute in Ontario.

Our tip: Cottages get booked up early. Book early.

Often times, cottages are already booked up early in the year for the upcoming summer! While you might get lucky with a last-minute cottage rental, there is a strong chance that the ones still available aren’t the best (or even the 10th best) properties for that area. Overall, doing thorough homework of the properties and booking early is simply the best to avoid disappointment!

Property Features and Rules for Each Cottage Rental

green trees and blue lake with dock cottage rental
Be sure to know what’s included – dock, boat, and more!

There are lots of details to consider when you’re renting a cottage in Ontario. Some of these details are small, while others, like location, are critical to consider before booking anything. Before you book, you should think about your group and what your unique needs are in a property.

Since each property will be completely different from another, it’s important to know what is and what is not included in the cottage rental fee/rental rules before you book!

Some websites listed below in this post let you filter the search results to find the type of rental property you’re looking for. Common considerations before you rent a cottage in Ontario are:

  • Is the property smoking/non-smoking?
  • Are bed/bath linens included in the price of the rental?
  • Is there Wi-Fi at the property?
  • What about parking spots available at the property?
  • Does the property have air conditioning in the summer months? Do you need air conditioning?
  • Is there cell service at the cottage/a landline at the property?
  • Is there a working fireplace – Is it gas, electric, or wood burning?
  • What about outdoor perks like a barbecue or sauna?
  • Is the property right on the water or a short walk to a public beach?
  • Do I get access to water toys/accessories? e.g. life jackets, boat, canoe, etc.
  • What’s the closest town and how far is the drive from Toronto/your base?
  • Is the property pet-friendly? One of the biggest questions is around whether pets are allowed in properties.

Is the Cottage Rental Property Pet-Friendly?

When it comes to pets, they can be considered members of the family. As such, many people would rather have their furry friend along for the vacation. Among booking sites, there are generally three categories of “pet allowance”:

  • Pet-Friendly – means that pets are allowed on the property and inside the rental. However, just because pets are allowed, owners can still impose restrictions on the number of animals. For example, “only one large animal” can be a rule for some rentals.
  • Pet-Restricted – means that certain kinds of pets are allowed on the property. For example, “only cats” or “dogs only” can be a stipulation for properties. Usually this is because the owners have an allergen against certain pet dander and as such, they keep their rental tenants to the same rules.
  • Pet-Forbidden – means that no pets are allowed on the property or in the cottage. Different websites/listings specify what “pet-forbidden” means but one website explained that these properties have not had an animal in/on the property in the past 12 months minimum. Typically, these restrictions are due to severe allergies or strict personal preference and should be obeyed by renters at all costs.

Most websites make it very clear which “level of pet” the property allows for. Furthermore, the owner has the option to determine if your furry friend can stay at the cottage while you’re renting even if it’s “pet friendly”. It’s best to check with the rental property owner for the exact stipulations of the property before you book anything.

How to Rent/Book a Cottage in Ontario

coffee mug in glass table on cottage deck in ontario
Better do your homework before you grab the coffee and relax!

Now that you have considered all the options, it’s time to look for a cottage and get ready to book or at least inquire into renting the perfect cottage. We’ve outlined the basic steps for when you are ready to book and what you should consider at each step along the way!

Finding a Cottage Rental in Ontario

There are a few ways you can find a cottage rental in Ontario. If you are searching online, there are two main ways – for rent by owner and for rent by agency. We explain what the two are below and some key differences.

Cottages for Rent by Owner

When a cottage is for “rent by owner”, this generally means that the cottage rental is listed by the owner directly. The property may be found on private website or listings. You might find these on Kijiji or other places like print ads or online ads not through a website. The owner might have set up their own website or web page to market their cottage – which is a great idea and allows owners to reach an audience and run their own rental.

That said, going this route mean that payments might not be secured or guaranteed, cancellations might be trickier, properties might not reach the same level of standard/vetting, and communications might not be timely and seamless compared to using a registered Ontario cottage rental agency/agent.

This is not to say that you cannot and should not book privately/directly with the owner – just be careful about hidden stipulations and be sure to ask questions. If the owner can’t answer something simple and if something smells out of line, don’t be afraid to look for another property. Most people are nice enough, but some might be looking to scam tourists out of a good deposit amount.

A good approach to minimize these potential risks is to use a reputable platform like Airbnb. This way, you have the chance to read reviews about the property, the host, the pay through a secured online portal. You will not have the same protections as a registered agency in Ontario (see below) but it’s still a bit more peace of mind when renting a cottage for the first time.

Cottages for Rent Using a Rental Agency

Spending a few thousand dollars for a weekend or a week rental can seem daunting. We understand that. Lots of cottage renters want to know that the websites they are using are secure and reputable from having good properties to processing payments fairly and easily.

We wanted to list just a few different examples of websites to check out for Ontario cottage rentals. However, you should still do your own homework on any properties booked through these links. Check the ratings thoroughly, check to see if the websites/agencies are T.I.C.O. accredited (Travel Industry Council of Ontario), and don’t be afraid to ask your questions to agency  contacts or cottage owners! To start off your search, check out HomeAway and CottageRental.com.

Booking Your Ontario Cottage Rental

Once you have decided on which property you want to book, be sure to have a read of the terms and conditions before you press any “request to book” buttons or “pay” buttons. There are a few things that you should check to see if they are in the fees or not. These details include cancellation policies, security deposits, cleaning fees, and payment schedule.

Cancellation Policies

Before you book anything, be sure to check the cancellation policy. The policy of the property might differ depending on if you have booked through an agency website or through an owner directly. Sometimes there’s a date by which you can cancel by without any financial penalty. Keep this in mind.

Things happen and sometimes renters must cancel their holidays. It’s important to read the specific cancellation polices and for what situations they apply towards. You should inquire as to whether cancellation insurance is offered on the booking. If you go through a TICO registered agency, they MUST offer cancellation insurance – which might cover your butt financially if you must cancel the booking.

Security Deposits

Another thing to think about before you press “book” is the security deposit around the property. Be sure to know what the rules are for your property booked and the website you book through – because they will differ.

Sometimes, the deposit is taken at the time of booking and then returned after the rental is completed and confirmed to be free from damage. Sometimes, a security deposit is only taken after damages are done to the property. In any case, be sure to know under what terms a security deposit may be used.

Security deposits don’t just apply to damages – often “extra charges” can be applied for things like exceeding the download capacity of the Wi-Fi or even for extra cleaning services needed to return the property to its primary condition.

Cleaning Requirements

Speaking of cleaning requirements, what are the rules for the property? Do you have to thoroughly clean up before leaving, or can you purchase additional/optional cleaning service (for a fee)? It may be included in your booking fees already!

Read the fine print about cleaning so you don’t get hit with additional fees at the end of your rental. Also, don’t leave the cleaning for the end – (from experience) the worst thing to have to do it scramble to clean up at the end of your vacation!

Paying and Payment Schedule

Finally, before you click “book”, be sure to understands the fee and payment schedule for the property and/or website you are booking through. Depending on how much in-advance you book, you will pay a percentage of the fees (usually 30% of the total makes up the deposit) rather than the whole cost upfront. Sometimes, if you book on short notice, you will be subject to the whole fees upfront (usually under 6 weeks from date of check-in).

Also, there may be “booking fees” applied through an agency for their services or even fees applied for using a credit card for payment. It really depends on the platform/website you use. If you use a credit card, you may be subject to a 2.5% fee on the online booking – which can up the price if the total is already high. Other agencies or private renters might accept an email money transfer – but these payments outside the “official” agency websites are not subject to their payment guarantees so be careful.

Knowing all of that, you can go ahead and book! If you are going through a rental agency, often they will have a “request to book” button where after you fill in the required information, they will liaise with the rental owner to confirm the booking after a quick check of your profile/information provided. Sometimes, with a vetted profile you can just book instantly (like on Airbnb).

Where to Rent a Cottage in Ontario

sunset over lake in ontario at cottage rental
Finding an Ontario sunset isn’t as hard as you think.

For this post, we’ve divided Ontario into smaller geographical areas. There are “Ontario cottage hot spots” that are searched more than others. We’ve done our best to highlight all areas of the province while providing specific details about the most popular destinations for cottage renters.

Cottage Rentals in the Muskoka Region

Ah yes, the Muskokas. When you think of going to a cottage in Ontario many people immediately believe you’re heading “to the Muskokas”. While this is largely true for many people, it’s a bit of a stretch. So why is the area so famous with cottage goers? The unique combination of lakes and towns makes the area the heart of cottage country.

Muskoka is over 4,000 square kilometres, 14,000 km of shoreline, and 17 towns and villages dotted throughout. Among the most popular towns are Huntsville, Gravenhurst, and Bracebridge.

Stretching from Algonquin Park in the north to Georgian Bay in the west, there is an incredible network of lakes and rivers that cut through the Canadian Shield (the geological rocky landscape that covers a majority of Northern Ontario).

Muskoka is the home to lakes like Lake Muskoka, Rosseau, Joseph, Six Mile Lake, and many more. Since it’s only a short 1.5 – 2 hour drive north of Toronto, Muskoka is easily accessible by car. To begin your adventure in Muskoka, you can check here for a reasonably prices Muskoka cottage rental. You can check here for cottage rentals in popular towns like Huntsville, Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, and Rosseau.

Georgian Bay Area Cottage Rentals

Since Georgian Bay is so large, it can be difficult to generalize what the experience will be like. Each town on the shores has a different geographical area as well as its own unique size and charm. If we had to generalize, renting a cottage on Georgian Bay might be pricey – and it’s for those who have a boat or have rented a boat as well.

The water can be rougher since the Bay connects to Lake Huron so often it’s for more experienced boaters. To start your Georgian Bay cottage adventure, check here to find a rental in Georgian Bay Area, and look in popular areas like Parry Sound, Collingwood, Wasaga Beach, Midland, and the Blue Mountains.

Cottage Rentals in Algonquin & the Haliburton Highlands

Renting a cottage in the Haliburton Highlands that connect to Algonqin Park can be a great idea if you’re looking to include any camping into your vacation in Ontario. The surrounding areas include places like Minden, Dorset, and Bancroft just to the southeast.

These areas have prime wilderness for getting out there and enjoying Ontario’s beauty without the hustle and bustle of the busy lakes in the Muskokas. Located about 3 to 3.5 hours northeast of Toronto, these areas are certainly accessible by car. Check here for cottage rentals in the Haliburton Highlands, Minden, Bancroft, and rentals around Algonquin Park.

Bruce Peninsula Area Cottage Rentals

The Bruce Peninsula is the Peninsula that formed to separate Georgian Bay from Lake Huron at the southern edge. Towns in the nearby area include Owen Sound, Tobermory, Lion’s Head, Wiarton, and Sauble Beach (in the section “Lake Huron” right below).

These towns make up Bruce County which is very popular with hikers, divers, beach goers, and adventure seekers in the summertime. Finding a cottage on or near Bruce Peninsula is a great summer idea. Check here for cottage rentals on/near the Bruce Peninsula including great areas like Tobermory and Owen Sound.

Cottage Rentals on Lake Huron

Lake Huron is the lake connected to Georgian Bay – and the one that most visitors don’t necessarily think of first. It’s beautiful! We could have included places like Bayfield or Grand Bend since they are on the shores of Lake Huron, but they are quite a bit further south. You’ll find them included in the section of Southwestern Ontario.

Towns at the base of the Bruce Peninsula are in this category. Check here for cottage rentals in the Lake Huron region. You can also  find cottage rentals in tip areas like Sauble Beach.

Cottage Rentals in the Toronto Area

To rent a cottage in the Toronto area, you’d be looking north of the city. This is because there just aren’t many “cottages” right in the Toronto area or along Lake Ontario (unless you drive outside the city a bit).

The classic “Ontario Lakes” that everyone pictures in their head don’t begin until you drive about an hour and a half north of Toronto. The first shot at cottage life is pretty much the south shores of Lake Simcoe.

This area is geographically quite large and covers a bunch of smaller towns and cities that surround Lake Simcoe. Check here for cottage rentals on Lake Simcoe including areas like Orillia and close to Barrie.

Kawartha/Kawartha Lakes Cottage Rentals

Aside from the Muskokas, the other recognizable area in Ontario for cottage country is the Kawarthas. With a network of lakes and the famous Trent-Severn Waterway passing through, the Kawartha Lakes region is roughly defined by Peterborough to the south, Lindsay to the west, Algonquin Park in the north, and Ottawa to the east.

You might have heard (or even tried) an ice cream brand called “Kawartha Dairy” while you were visiting Ontario. If you have, you’ll now know where the name comes from! To find a cottage in Kawartha and to eat delicious ice cream while you’re there, check out cottage rentals in the Kawartha Lakes region. Check here for cottage rentals around Stoney Lake, Peterborough, and Buckhorn.

Cottage Rentals in Eastern Ontario

Eastern Ontario seems to have an underrated value when it comes to finding a cottage rental in Ontario. In fact, this region is a huge part of Ontario (and Canada’s) history, given that the St. Lawrence connects to Lake Ontario along the shores here and served as a shipping and exploring route for centuries.

As such, there is lots of water, scenery, and history to enjoy if you’re in the eastern end of the province – from Kingston up to the Ottawa Valley and ending at the Quebec border. You can check here for cottage rentals in the Kingston and the Thousand Islands as well as and cottage rentals near Ottawa and the Ottawa Valley.

Cottage Rentals Across Northern Ontario

Ontario is huge. What many visiting renters might consider as “Northern Ontario” is very south for the residents of places like Thunder Bay, Dryden, Kenora, or even higher… Pickle Lake, Ontario.

Pickle Lake is as far as you can drive north on a provincial highway in Ontario. You can get there – if you drive for 24 hours straight. Go Google it – we dare you. Shout out to Pickle Lake and Mishkeegogamang First Nation – keep well up there! Understanding the scale of Ontario is very important when renting a cottage to not commit to something you’re not able to drive to.

“Northern Ontario” to cottage renters is likely referring to places that might include Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, Espanola, Temagami, Kirkland Lake, Kapuskasing, Elliot Lake, Spanish, Chapleau, and Wawa. These are all between 4 and 7 hours from Toronto.

Up around Lake Superior (and Lake Superior Provincial Park), you’ll find some of the best fishing and camping in Ontario. The more north you go, the better the fishing and the wilderness. The bugs will be worse, though!

To find cottage rentals in the southern part of “Northern Ontario” or what some might say “near North”, you can check here for cottage rentals in North Bay, Sudbury Area, or French River.

Cottage Rentals in Southwestern Ontario

If you’re looking for an area that doesn’t get a ton of tourist attention compared to the corridor directly north of Toronto (Muskokas) then finding a rental cottage in Southwestern Ontario is for you! This area has a surprising amount of lake front availability due to the proximity to both Lake Huron and Lake Erie, depending on where in the area you are.

Within this region, there are cottage hot spots that are a great option for renting a cottage. If you are looking for a cottage rental in parts of Southwestern Ontario, you can check out the whole Bluewater area that includes great cottage rental areas like Grand Bend and Bayfield.

Cottage Rentals in Southeastern Ontario/Niagara Region

For this post, we are defining Southeastern Ontario as the “Niagara Region” and not the southern part of Eastern Ontario, which would include Picton, Prince Edward County, Kingston, Ottawa, and basically until you hit Quebec. For this post, the Niagara region includes Niagara-on-the-Lake, St. Catherines, Twenty Valley, South Coast, and closer to Niagara Falls.

Obviously, visiting Niagara Falls is a must-do, but the region has so much to offer cottage goers like visiting wineries on tours, beaches, biking, and wine. Did we mention you’ll find wineries? Check here for cottage rentals in Niagara Region including Niagara on the Lake.

Read More: Some Great Niagara on the Lake Wineries to Check Out!

Cottage Rentals in Prince Edward County

The other wine country of Ontario. Located only about 2 hours from Toronto and on the way to Kingston/Ottawa, Prince Edward County and the surrounding area like Picton hug the shores of Lake Ontario.

In the area, you’ll find a variety of Provincial Parks like Sandbanks, a personal favourite for campers and beach goers as there are rolling sand dunes as far as the eye can see.

As for wine, the area is rich with vineyards and wineries are popping up everywhere to offer renters a unique mix of culture and lakefront. We’ve written a whole post on great wineries in Prince Edward County for you to check out!

For rentals in the “undiscovered” area of Prince Edward County, you can check here for cottage rentals in Picton!

Preparing for Your Ontario Cottage Rental

blue lake with wooden dock an blue sky cottage rental
This can be you in the summer… very soon!

Before you head up you the property, double check to make sure the listing is still on. If you used a website that doesn’t have confirmation you should make this step a priority. Sometimes, smaller renters get flustered in the summer season and accidentally double book the property.

Most of the time, you will have been sent a confirmation email or even a package via email that helps you with any need-to-knows, the driving directions, house rules, and other important pieces of information. It’s usually good to keep these on your phone, computer, or even printed out if they are long. Properties might also have this printed out in a binder onsite – should you forget.

You will also want to check the weather closer to the date. Is it supposed  to be sunny or is the rain going to come? In this case, you can pack accordingly to include more rain gear and/or indoor games to stay occupied and still have fun indoors.

There you have it – a complete guide for renting a cottage in Ontario. We hope this has been a helpful starting point for finding and booking the perfect Ontario getaway! Do you have experiences renting? Did we cover your favourite area to rent or did we miss it completely? Get in touch and let us know – we’d love to hear your stories, thoughts, and any tips you might have!

As always, Keep Exploring, eh?
– L&E