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Making The Case Against Cottages 9


All Photos by James D. Schwartz / The Urban Country

In the same way wealthy New Yorkers head to the prestigious Hamptons on summer weekends, many wealthy Torontonians have their “home away from home” known as a cottage where they spend their summer weekends. A typical drive for a cottage dweller is anywhere from 1 to 4 hours each way to relax on a quiet lake for a weekend.

In reality, the lakes in Muskoka are far from quiet, with high-power speed boats constantly zipping past – the smell of fumes in the air and discoloured, oil stained water below. Cottage dwellers themselves likely spend more time maintaining their cottages than actually enjoying them – but they will argue that is half the fun.

In my younger years I dreamt of having my own cottage. There was a time when I could envision myself hopping into a truck, motor boat in tow and heading to a cottage every weekend.

Needless to say, my perspective changed over the years and now I almost find it comical that people are willing to sit in traffic for several hours only so they can get to the cottage and clean their boat, cut the grass, pour gas into the boat, spew pollution in the air and then go back to sitting in traffic again for another 3 hours Sunday night.

But there is a reason they do it en masse – and it’s not just to secure a place in the upper class of society. No, they will tell you they want to get out of the concrete jungle for the weekend – they want to enjoy nature.

For the last few years I have been making the case for enjoying nature without stepping foot in an automobile. Last May I posted the article “Finding Mecca in the Toronto Islands”. This year I will reiterate how we have much to be thankful for in our own back yard.

The following photos were taken last Saturday afternoon while I toured the Toronto islands on my kayak. Instead of sitting in a car for several hours, it takes 10 minutes to reach my kayak by bike, and I can paddle to the island in about 20 minutes. You couldn’t even pack your car that fast, and anybody can certainly afford it.

Enjoy the photos, and experience the nature and the wildlife in the heart of Canada’s biggest city!



















James D. Schwartz is the editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at

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9 thoughts on “Making The Case Against Cottages

  1. Ben Jul 16,2010 2:56 am

    Do you bike your kayak down, or does it live by the lake?

    I’ve often dreamt of a small enough boat that I could keep it in my apartment and bike it down to the lake. I don’t know if it’s possible.

    Anyways, you should do a post with the deets about how you manage this stuff.

  2. James D. Schwartz Jul 16,2010 3:06 am

    It lives by the lake – it’s a 17′ sea kayak, so it wouldn’t fit so well in the loft (although I did have it inside here for a couple weeks when I first bought it).

    I think the only practical option would be to have a raft that you can bring down to the lake, but even that would be a pain because you would have to blow it up each time.

    It costs about $350 a year to store and lock up the kayak at the harbourfront near the Skydome. You could easily pick up a used kayak for about $700 too.

    When you consider how much people pay to leave the city every weekend and fuel their motor boats, this cost is nominal. Plus there is basically zero maintenance on a kayak, so you won’t have any hidden surprise costs.

    I could do a post with all of the logistics too.

  3. jamesmallon Jul 16,2010 3:52 am

    You can buy a folding kayak, but a folding one costs a fortune. I tried an expensive inflatable from Innova: SLOW!

    You can still get 200′ of frontage on a lake with only four other cottages for $30K… N. of Sudbury. Impractical for anyone but a pair of teachers. Anything S. of N. Bay is not even a good investment, as prices like those can’t rise forever.

    My solution has been a lot of canoeing. My future solution is to join a sailing club on L. Ontario, and rent sometimes on G. Bay. L. Ontario is convenient, but G. Bay is gorgeous. You could own two boats, or truck one back and forth, but that’s just throwing money away.

    The fact is that living in Tokyo I got to ‘nature’ far more often than here. In Japan, as parts of Europe, it’s a matter of a relaxing train ride; here it is a matter of a slog by car, and the need to get back to the same spot to get the car.

  4. Angela Gail Jul 16,2010 12:11 pm

    Renting a kayak would also be an option in many areas. I know that here in the Boston area I worry about opportunities for nature for me and my kids. My four-year-old thinks there are maybe 4 or 5 stars in the whole sky.

    But I don’t like the idea of getting in a car and driving to nature. But we do have plenty of nature close by if we just look — there’s the harbor islands, woods you can get to by train, and many more vistas open up now that our youngest is in a bike seat.

  5. ✯FiTCETERA✯ Jul 16,2010 11:13 pm

    I live down the road in Windsor and thankfully I am close enough to nature to not need some where *to go to*
    My friends live on Lake Erie, we have a beautiful riverfront (yes, really ☺) we’re getting a decent amount of multi use trails installed, though not as many as I’d like there to be of course … lol.
    There’s lots of sailing to be done, kayaking, cycling etc.

    It’s pretty flat down here and I’ll admit, the scenery isn’t comparable to other parts of Ontario, but what we have is close by and accessible.

    I second the vote for a post on the logistics.

    I found your blog through Mike Rubbo’s blog.
    I do love the interwebs!

  6. Nariman Haghighi Jul 17,2010 3:20 pm

    Jim, even you wouldn’t believe this, I almost spat out my coffee this morning listening to ‘This is That’ on CBC radio.

    They covered this guy who is making the drive *daily* from Calgary to Vancouver! He works in retail, for a sporting goods store.

    This nonsense was earning him praise, as someone who is exemplifying Canadian values of hard-work and great winter driving!

    The reporter was holding him in the highest regard possible, as a shining example of why he’s proud to be Canadian.

    Granted, the guy has good intentions and loves his family; but help is what he needs, not encouragement.

  7. James D. Schwartz Jul 20,2010 2:34 am

    Nariman, that sounds ludicrous – and impossible. According to Google Maps, that’s a 11-12 hour drive each way. So it just doesn’t add up and even if it were true, it is even more sad that they are encouraging him.

  8. James D. Schwartz Jul 20,2010 2:37 am

    Thanks for the comments James, Angela and Fitcetera.

    It’s interesting to hear about what people in other cities do in order to get out in nature. I’m impressed that it’s easy enough in Tokyo to hop on a train and get out in nature. It would be great if we had a train here to the great outdoors.

  9. Anonymous Jul 28,2010 4:11 am

    The appearance of the personal water craft really kicked up the ‘tard factor on many of Ontario’s lakes.

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