Here in Ontario, ‘Cottage Country’ is often synonymous with Muskoka. It’s easy to see why this is the case – Southern Ontario, after all, is powered largely by the economics and demographics of the GTA. For city dwellers in search of an accessible playground for their summer holidays, the resort towns of Gravenhurst and Bracebridge with their historic downtowns, quaint restaurants and boutiques, and – most importantly – access to the sparkling shores of Lake Muskoka have served as an outlet for those who can afford to take time away. Of course, being less than two hours from Downtown Toronto (when the 400 isn’t a parking lot) has helped a lot with this, too.

But for those Ontarians who are seeking accessible holiday homes and who also happen to reside west of the GTA, the barriers to owning a cottage in Muskoka are twofold. Firstly, it’s a much longer drive – closer to three hours from Kitchener-Waterloo. Secondly, and more importantly, prices in Muskoka have been quite high for a long time due to the demand for waterfront properties, but they’ve absolutely shot through the roof over the past year. Largely because of people seeking more space away from population-dense areas in this climate of pandemic, coupled with more and more people being able to telecommute for weeks or months on end, Cottage Country has seen average resale price gains of up to 30 percent in many areas, according to a December report in Investment Executive magazine. As fortunate as many may be to be able to consider a holiday home, prices well north of one million dollars just aren’t realistic for most of us to be spending on a recreational property.

The Chestnut Park brand has, since the early 1990’s, become widely recognized in both the GTA and cottage country and has developed a reputation for specializing in luxury vacation homes. Via my own office’s close affiliation with Chestnut Park offices across the province, Chestnut Park West can certainly help to make the right introductions if you remain determined to make a Muskoka purchase. However, if you’re open to considering alternative markets that are a little closer to home (and much more affordable), I’d encourage you to keep reading!

As I’ve highlighted in these pages before, Kitchener-Waterloo’s unique position in the very heart of Southwestern Ontario puts us no farther than two hours driving time away from the shores of three of the most incredible freshwater lakes on Earth: Lake Ontario to the east, Lake Erie to the south, Lake Huron to the west, as well as Lake Huron’s sprawling Georgian Bay branch to the north. While these bodies of water are on a completely different scale than the smaller lakes and inlets of Muskoka, they’re not without great benefits of their own. Whether you’re attracted to the warmer shores and sandy beaches of Lake Erie, to the sailing and majestic sunsets of Lake Huron, or to the wonderful beach towns, restaurants and inland recreation opportunities of the Georgian Bay area – there’s something for everyone within easy reach of Waterloo Region – and, usually, at a much more manageable cost of entry.

As a more personal aside, I’ve been lucky enough through connections with friends and family to spend a good deal of time on both Lake Erie and Lake Huron in recent years and have experienced first-hand how relaxing and rewarding summer vacation time in these less prominent cottage markets can be. The village of Bayfield on Lake Huron is one of my favourites. With a year-round population of not much more than 1,200, this community is nevertheless packed with great restaurants, shops and galleries, and is home to some of the most charming historic architecture on Lake Huron. Not to mention being home to a quaint public beach, and a busy marina full of some sleek sailing boats if you’re intent on taking to the water for fishing or relaxation.

While it’s true that prices have gone up pretty well everywhere in Ontario in 2020, the 90-minute drive to Lake Huron and cottage prices which are generally much easier on the pocketbook will be sure to appeal to many people who take the time to explore other opportunities. As always, and with a province-wide reach, myself and Chestnut Park West and ready and able to help you find the vacation property of your dreams. So, if you’re trying to escape the winter rut, get in touch with me and let’s start looking!

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