Come Wander
Lakeside Cottage Memories in Ontario's Highlands

Have you ever noticed how quickly summer seems to pass? It’s one of the most beautiful times of the year –filled with lush green grass, blooming flowers, and lakes that sparkle like fine crystal –but it just never seems long enough.

I kick off every summer with great plans to do it all: to bask in warm sunlight surrounded by those I love, to celebrate with family in backyards, and to grab patio drinks with long lost friends. After years of summers being jam-packed and falls that come too quickly, I’ve realized that without a little planning, summer can pass before there’s time to see all those people, let alone before there’s time to relax.

So a few years ago, I decided I needed to combine it all: to start each summer with a plan that would allow me to embrace time with those I love while also enjoying some down time. After all, is there anything more relaxing, or that will help you forget about work and stress faster than spending your days lounging on docks and laughing so hard it hurts? I don’t think so. My advice to see everyone you love and make the most of summer: plan a cottage trip. Here are my five simple steps to starting an annual cottage tradition.

1) Set Your Date

The hardest thing with any group can be finding a date that works for everyone. So get started early before schedules fill up with barbecues, family reunions, and weddings. I like to take some of the stress out of planning by using an online tool like Doodle to send a poll to my group for quick responses. If Doodle is not your thing, maybe try a Facebook group. You’ll find out quickly that, unlike your work emails, an invite to a cottage shin-dig usually gets quick replies.

2) Pick the Perfect Place

Finding the right spot can sometimes feel overwhelming. Different cottages and resorts have a variety of amenities and not every place is right for your group’s needs. But if you’re looking to escape with friends, take it from my own research; you can’t go wrong with these three options:

Calabogie Lodge Resort

Where: On the shore of Calabogie Lake in Calabogie, Ontario.
Ideal For: Young families or large groups looking to be active together and enjoy a bit more luxury.
Highlights: Rooms and cozy villas for any size group, with Valley Food & Drink Company onsite to take away the need to cook. Enjoy plenty of ways to stretch your legs together with hiking trails, a private tennis court, and non-motorized watercraft for use, or use the resort as a jumping-off point for local activities – like challenging Mother Nature on a raft filled with friends.

Greystone on Golden Lake

Where: On the shore of Golden Lake in Golden Lake, Ontario.
Ideal For: Large groups looking to embrace an old-school cottage experience together.
Highlights: Comfortable cottages where you can get ‘back to basics’ and immerse yourselves in the old-school cottage experience with days filled with activities and evenings around the campfire. Try out the non-motorized watercraft, feel the wind in your hair during a bike ride, revel in the anticipation of the bite while fishing, or dig your toes into the shallow sandy beach.

Hush Lodge & Cottages

Where: On the shore of Leve Lake in Barry’s Bay, Ontario
Ideal For: Groups looking for an intimate setting and access to insider tips on experiences nearby.
Highlights: Enjoy the serenity of the private waterfront, try your hand at pool or darts in the games room, or gather as a group to connect over breakfast in the Cookhouse. Get advice from your friendly hosts, Corinne and Gord, with insider knowledge and insight into the surrounding community and hidden gems worth exploring.

3) Pack for all Weather and Occasions

I’m a list maker –I make grocery lists, I make to do lists, I make lists of lists I need to make, so of course, I make packing lists. My advice to you: If you don’t want to forget it, write it down. You want group holiday memories to be the kind you love to revisit, like stories of soul-nourishing spectacular views, adventure-filled days, and tales like “the-one-that-got-away,” not evenings spent getting eaten by bugs or mornings tracking down the nearest grocery store.

Huffington Post made this list of 15 Essentials to Bring on Your Trip, and as a seasoned cottager, I’d add a couple of extras from my own trips – most importantly, sunscreen and bug spray. Oh, and don’t forget the playing cards. No one ever realizes the cards have been forgotten until it’s late at night and all the stores are closed.

4) Enjoy Cottage Moments

You’ve planned, you’ve picked, you’ve packed: the stress is gone. Now it’s time to simply enjoy being together. It’s the chance to breathe in fresh air, to drink in the warmth of fire pit flames, to have cool water lap against hot skin, and to let the silence of waiting for the bite of a fish bring you closer together. I always find that a little extra planning ahead of the trip leads to more relaxing on the trip. If you’re going to cook for yourselves, I suggest making casseroles and prepping meals in advance –that way you can simply pop them in the oven, sit back, and enjoy the easy moments.

5) Repeat

All great things must come to an end, but the best part of annual cottage trips is that there’s always next year to look forward to. With each trip, you learn a little more about how to improve it the following year –how to better pack the car, the exact number of towels you need, and what “extras” you should have on hand just in case (one suggestion: duct tape –you just never know). Remember what I said at the start? Plan early!

Stories

Make a Toast (in Hastings County)

Tour craft drink producers for a chance to meet the makers, and get the inside story on what inspires them to make and sell their product. Oh, and sample delicious brews, too!

Ultimate Après-Ski Experiences

Meet up with friends after a day well spent on the slopes or on the trails. Discover these top places in Ontario’s Highlands to celebrate the Apres Ski!

Cheers to the Holidays

Get into the holiday spirit this month with these mixologists and craft drink producers in Ontario’s Highlands.

The Best Baked Goods

Discover some of the best bakeries in Ontario’s Highlands and their tasty treats.

Embrace the Dog Days of Winter

If you can’t beat winter, join it with an epic dog sledding excursion through some of the most beautiful forests in Ontario.

Shine at Giving this Holiday Season

Today’s craft markets are full of fresh, hip products made by creative and talented makers. This holiday season, go above and beyond by picking up handmade items with a story to tell at one of these Ontario holiday markets.

Discover Historic Accommodations in Ontario

Spend the night in historic accommodations to take yourself to way-back-when, and get into the spirit of the community you’re visiting. These inns have stories to tell of the people who lived and breathed inside their walls.

Expert Tips to Catching Fish

As an angler who is passionate about exploring new waters, I’m grateful to live in a region that has endless options! Whether you’re shore fishing, venturing out by boat, kayak, or canoe, there are bass fishing opportunities for everyone here in the Ontario’s Highlands region. I’ve put together a list of my five favourite bass […]

An Ode to Poutine

Discover these chip trucks and their classic dishes, located throughout Ontario’s Highlands.

The Great Pizza-Off

Chow down on artisan wood-fired pizza at any of these gems across Ontario’s Highlands.

Perfect Picnic Spots Near Ottawa

Discover these perfect picnic spots throughout the Ottawa Valley and Lanark County on your next road trip just outside of Ottawa.

The Perfect Scoop

Discover these top ice cream stops across Ontario’s Highlands to keep cool this summer on your road trip.

Buffalo Thrills

Discover good food and great memories at the Ontario Water Buffalo Company.

Summer Music Festivals

From rock to folk, these Ontario’s Highlands summer music festivals will keep you coming back year after year.

Art in the Summer

Celebrate creativity at art festivals across Ontario’s Highlands this summer.

Unique Festivals & Events

Embrace the incredible spirit and wonderfully ‘different’ themes at events across Ontario’s Highlands this summer.

3 Cheers for Mom

Discover ways to give a mom a Mother’s Day to remember, with gift ideas that go above and beyond.

An Escape into Nature

Find your connection with nature and each other during a cabin getaway at Deacon Escarpment in Renfrew County.

Pause for Pi Day

Celebrate PI Day with the best pie at these bakeries in Ontario’s Highlands.

A Winter’s Break

Sometimes what we need is a little technology detox to spend a little less time with the screens in our lives and a little more time with the people who matter most.

Valentine’s Day Treats

Treat that special someone this Valentine’s Day to a gift of sweets at one of these top places.

New Year, New You!

Winter events across Ontario’s Highlands that will help you keep your New Year’s Resolutions.

Winter? Bring it!

Discover your love for the season with a classic Ottawa Valley winter.

Where Am I?

Visit Winterdance in Ontario’s Highlands and discover a love of winter from some of its biggest fans.

Where Am I?

Discover Calabogie Peaks Resort, a well-known gem, through new eyes.

Concerts with a Community

In September each year, the spirit of community comes alive all across Ontario’s Highlands when the Festival of Small Halls rolls in.

Where Am I?

Stand tall and marvel at the views from the top of historical attraction, the Dorset Lookout Tower.

Where Am I?

Step back into nature at the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve to celebrate sustainability in this unique place.

The Memory Maker

I’m a Memory Maker. I wander to celebrate traditions with loved ones and create lasting memories. I enjoy visiting the same place, annual festival, or seasonal tradition year after year.

Where Am I

Explore the sweet moments and ageless beauty of Perth, Ontario.

Where Am I?

Mazinaw Rock, a hidden gem in Ontario that’s ironically, hard to miss.

Parks Worth the Admission

Visit these 8 Ontario Parks’ campgrounds in Ontario’s Highlands and discover why they are worth the admission.

Where Am I?

Make memories as you discover one of the Province’s most intimate hidden gems, The Haliburton Forest Festival.

Finding Imperfect Moments

Sometimes it is the imperfect moments that matter the most. Become inspired to roam without the burden of worrying about everything going according to plan.

A Different Kind of Detour

Take the road less traveled through Ontario’s Highlands to these unique festivals that are sure to leave a lasting impression.