10 Reasons to Escape to Canada’s Cottage Country

Hit the beach, play golf, attend a festival, or go hiking in B.C., Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba or P.E.I.
 

Hiking in Quebec's Eastern Townships, photo courtesy of Tourisme Vallée de la Coaticook

1. To hit the beach

From the calm lakes of British Columbia to the expansive beaches of Ontario, it’s easy to make a splash in cottage country. Sandbanks Provincial Park in Ontario’s Prince Edward County offers three clean, large white-sand beaches and is a popular spot for activities such as swimming and cycling. Over in B.C., the water in Osoyoos Lake heats up to a bath-like 24°C by August, making it perfect for even the most fair-weather swimmers.

2. To catch a movie in the great outdoors

Drive-in movies bring together two of the best parts of summer—the year’s biggest blockbuster releases and nights spent under the stars, enjoying fresh country air. Though drive-ins have become something of a relic, in the Laurentians the tradition is still going strong: with five screens (and an English-language double-feature every Thursday), the retro Saint-Eustache Drive-In is the largest in Canada. There’s also an on-site arcade and a milk bar.

3. To shop till you drop

At Invermere Farmers’ & Artists Market in B.C.’s Kootenays, you’ll find more than just fresh, locally grown produce—although this month, juicy peaches abound. Closing two downtown streets every Saturday morning until September, the market offers a lively block-party vibe (there’s a band most weekends) and everything is either locally grown or handcrafted, from pasta noodles at Angela’s Organic Pasta to one-of-a-kind leather, beaded and stone jewelry from Shooting Starfish.

Osoyoos Lake, B.C., photo by Yvette Cardozo/Alamy

4. To step back in time

Back in the 1940s, well-dressed men and women would line up outside Dunn’s Pavilion dance hall in Bala, Ont., (located on Lake Muskoka) as they waited to dance to big-name acts like Louis Armstrong. While the hall’s name has changed—it’s now The Kee to Bala—this icon remains a popular concert venue. On summer weekends, acts such as Kim Mitchell and the Sam Roberts Band take the stage. For some additional vintage charm, Bala’s quirky antique shops offer a glimpse into the days of yore.

5. To hike till you drop

Situated in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, Quebec’s picturesque Eastern Townships are a hiker’s dream, regardless of your skill level. Home to four national parks, the area has more than 140 trails, many of which offer short- and medium-length hiking options. Around Saint-Venant-de-Paquette in the Coaticook River Valley, try the themed, family-friendly hike on the Poetry Trail, which features sculptures and poems honouring Quebec authors along the way.

6. To dine alfresco

Dial cottage country dining up a notch from hot dogs and s’mores at Araxi’s Longtable Dinner (Aug. 20) by Araxi Restaurant + Oyster Bar in Pemberton, B.C. A beloved annual tradition—with 400 attendees, last year’s event set a record for the largest long-table dinner in B.C. history—the dinner plays up its rural setting to perfection, with a communal outdoor table in the North Arm Farm fields and Mount Currie in the background. Ingredients for the four-course meal include local fruits and vegetables picked on-site just hours before.

7. To reel in a big one

The Icelandic immigrants who founded Gimli, Man., more than a century ago fell hook, line and, well, you know, for the area’s great fishing. And, while Gimli’s picturesque location on the western shore of Lake Winnipeg makes it an attractive destination for cottagers and vacationers looking to cool off from the summer heat, it still remains a favourite place for anglers. You don’t have to go far, either—the Gimli Pier is an ideal spot for those looking to hook a perch or walleye.

Roots & Blues fest, photo by Craig Pulsifer

8. To catch a summer festival

As much about the music as they are about the chilled-out vibe (free of the traffic chaos of city festivals), cottage country music festivals are a Canadian summer tradition. The three-day Roots & Blues fest (Aug. 17 to 20) near B.C.’s Shuswap Lake is heading into its 25th run, and this year’s lineup includes Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder. And Riverfest Elora (Aug. 18 to 20), an arts and music festival at Bissell Park in Elora (about two hours east of Toronto), includes a performance by DJ Jazzy Jeff.

9. To pop a wheelie

It’s often called the mountain biking capital of Canada, and for good reason: Rossland, B.C., (located in the West Kootenays) offers 52 biking trails that traverse more than 170 kilometres, many of which are accessible from Rossland’s quaint downtown. Though its famous Seven Summits Trail draws world-class bikers from all over, other routes, like Wagon Road, offer gentle, rolling paths that are friendly for beginners.

10. To perfect your swing

Cottage regions such as Cavendish, P.E.I., and Muskoka, Ont., put some of the best golf courses in Canada within reach. Known for its red sand dunes, Cavendish has four of P.E.I.’s top courses, including Green Gables Golf Club and Eagles Glenn of Cavendish. Muskoka, meanwhile, offers no less than 25 courses to choose from. For easy access, book a stay-and-play package at one of the area’s resorts, such as Taboo Muskoka or Deerhurst Resort.

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