The best places to buy a lakefront cottage in Ontario right now

From long summer days idling lakeside to admiring the reflection of colourful fall foliage on glassy water, most can agree that life on the lake is a blessing. For those hoping to get a cottage of your very own, the allure of having access to a beautiful lakefront is likely high on your list of must-haves. But before you venture off and snap up your dream cottage, you’ll want to research your options first.

You’ll want to ensure you know exactly what you’re getting when it comes to shoreline ownership and local rules. Sometimes it’s not as clear cut as you might think. Did you know that some places don’t allow rentals?

“When you’re looking at waterfront property, it’s always important to ask about the shoreline. Is there a shoreline allowance? If so, who owns it? If you’re thinking about renting your piece of northern paradise to help cover some of the costs, you’re going to want to become familiar with local municipal by-laws. Some townships do not permit short-term rentals and can restrict your ability to cash flow the property,” Matt Smith of Engel & Volkers Parry Sound Brokerage advises. 

Looking to buy? Here are some of the top locations to buy lakefront in Ontario depending on your budget and what kind of cottage lifestyle you’re looking for.

If money is no object — Gravenhurst, Bracebridge and Huntsville

Offering plenty of infrastructure, picturesque scenery and easy access from the GTA, Muskoka remains the grand dame of cottage country. Places like Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, and Huntsville make popular destinations due to their closeness to several famous lakes — but be prepared to pay a premium for these lakefront cottages.

“Bracebridge, Gravenhurst and Huntsville have been popular for quite some time and remain that way. They are areas that support year-round living, and that’s what most of our buyers are looking for now,” Smith says. “Even if they don’t want to live in the area for 12 months of the year, they want to know they can access all of the modern-day amenities like grocery stores, pharmacies, healthcare, restaurants and more.” 

From golf and spa amenities to outstanding dining and day-tripping the lakes, there’s no shortage of stuff to do in this region.  

“Crossroads restaurant in Rosseau has some of the best food in Canada. One can boat into the cute town of Rosseau and walk to Crossroads from the public dock. Desirable for day trips anywhere on The Big 3 — Lake Rosseau, Lake Joseph and Lake Muskoka.” says Jim Marshall of RE/MAX Parry Sound-Muskoka Realty Ltd. Brokerage.

On the market right now: this $1.7999 Huntsville cottage with a boathouse style that’s ideal for year-round usage, or this almost $3.8 million newly-built, fully-landscaped Gravenhurst cottage on a half acre lot

Affordability and privacy — North Frontenac and the Rideau Lakes

For those looking for lower prices, consider heading east to places like North Frontenac or the Rideau Lakes, where dreamy shorelines amid pretty scenery abound. You’ll also find plenty of options north of Parry Sound. 

“The farther you’re willing to travel, the less expensive it will be. You pay a premium for proximity to Toronto.” Smith says.

On the market right now: This $1.4999 million sunny North Frontenac cottage that features two properties for the price of one

For an up-and-coming locale — Parry Sound

If you’re seeking an up-and-coming area with plenty of buying potential, look no further than fabulous Parry Sound.

“It’s an area that has seen price appreciation in recent years but not like other Northern hotspots like Bracebridge, Gravenhurst and Huntsville. The entry-level price point is much more attainable for buyers, and you tend to get more value for your money,” Smith says. “It’s attracting new capital, new buyers and significant new development given its proximity to Toronto, access to Georgian Bay and access to a regional hospital located right in town.

Smith says there’s a new Marriott development in the works located right in the harbour, so the next five years will be transformative for the area.

“Buyers really identifying Parry Sound as one of the few undervalued markets in Northern Ontario with relatively easy access from the city centre,” he says. 

On the market right now: This three-bedroom, three-bathroom year-round home for under $1.3 million in Parry Sound

For the best value — Port Loring and the French River

A mere hour’s drive further than Muskoka, you can find some excellent lakefront cottages with competitive prices in the regions between Parry Sound and Sudbury.

“Anything north of Parry Sound will typically be cheaper than the Muskoka area. Inland lake prices begin to get cheaper as you go north incrementally. The Magnetawan chain of lakes has good value for the extra drive. Port Loring and the French River are even cheaper.” Marshall says.

On the market right now: This $2.9 million year-round property in Port Loring with four bedrooms and five bathrooms,  or this $1.295 million completely renovated home on Lake Cecebe in the Magnetawan region

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO