As soon as temperatures start to rise in spring, there is an energy that takes over my household at the thought of what lies ahead – something that leaves my stomach filled with excited butterflies; that causes my husband and I to start digging out summer clothes, beach balls, and floaties; and that sends my dog into a frenzy – cottage season.
The cottage is simply one of the places I’m at my happiest and as a lifelong cottager, I would consider myself a bit of expert when it comes to planning and executing the perfect cottage escape. An annual cottage trip with friends is a must for us each summer, and we usually start looking to coordinate schedules as early as February to make sure this doesn’t fall to the wayside. Not to worry if you didn’t start planning your own escape quite that early; the hardest part is usually just finding a date that works for everyone, so once you have that nailed down, follow my tips below and you will be well on your way to cottaging like a pro.
1. Rent the Right Space
Aside from the people you cottage with, the space you stay is one of the things that can influence your experience the most – in either a positive or negative way. The perfect cottage is cozy, has the amenities important to you, and of course has space for your whole squad to sleep comfortably.
Booking with a company like Cottage Care Rentals, or Homes & Cottages Unlimited will let you search through private cottages in a ton of different locations to find one that fits your needs and wants, while booking in more of a resort setting like Greystone on Golden Lake, Kenslynne Cottages in Bancroft, South Shore Cottages on Lake St. Peter, or West Palmerston Cottages in Ompah will have a narrower geographic area, but still allow you to book a private freestanding spot with the added bonus of some shared amenities and recreation activities. There’s also the option to book more standalone single cottages, and a couple I’d suggest looking into would be Lakehouse off the Rideau just outside of Perth and The Bear Stand in Haliburton – as single cottages, these two book up fairly quickly for the summer, but keep in mind the beauty a fall cottage escape can offer.
2. Skip the Dishes
One tip I can’t stress enough is the importance of prepping your food as much as you can at home. I say this for a couple of reasons: first, does anyone really want to spend their vacation time cooking? Second, and a little more practical of a reason, a lot of cottages don’t have running potable water, which makes washing food and dishes a little more difficult. I always wash and chop my veggies and fruit at home, typically will make and pack any marinades for the barbecue ahead of time, and really love to pre-assemble something big and easy to feed a crowd (think shepherd’s pie, mac and cheese, a crock-pot of pulled pork, or a breakfast casserole).
Luckily, cottage country is dotted with places that make skipping the dishes and prep work even easier by offering house made meals you can pick up, heat, and eat. Shoot a message or give a call to The Beckwith Kitchen in Carleton Place, Alice’s Pantry in Bancroft, Sage in Algonquin Highlands, Molly’s Bistro Bakery in Minden, or Little Things Canning Company in Pembroke to pre-order meals to pick up on your way to your private escape.
3. Settle into the Lifestyle
There’s a certain vibe to cottage life – it’s slower, and somehow brighter than the every day. It’s a life that allows for naps no matter how late you slept in that morning; that encourages you to cool off not with air conditioning, but with a jump in the water; that causes people to give friendly waves and g’mornings when they pass; and that leaves you free to do what you want – lounge on the dock, read all day, go for a walk, eat an extra piece of pie – whatever your heart desires.
To make the most of your trip, make sure you embrace this vibe as much as you can. My advice: grab every chance to lay in a hammock; wave to everyone you see; pack games, a set of cards and more books than you think you’ll need (rainy days happen); load up on sunscreen; jump off the dock; laugh a lot; breathe in the fresh air; embrace the floppy hat look, and don’t even think about setting a morning alarm. You can even carry this vibe home with you by picking up a souvenir at cute cottage country shops like Up River Trading Co. in Minden , The Cottage Cup in Golden Lake, Pick-it Fence in Pembroke, The Old Tin Shed in Bancroft, or The Country Cupboard in Petawawa. Each time you lay against your new throw pillow, cozy up under the new blanket, read your ‘Life is Better at the Lake’ sign, or smell your new candle, you can be transported back to the memories and happiness of your cottage escape.