We may not be blessed with an extraordinarily long summer, but we Canadians make the most of what we’ve got. Cradled between sea-to-shining-sea lies an abundance of craggy coastlines, forest-fringed meadows and lonely lakes just begging for skipping rocks. The best part? You don’t need to own a second property to experience cottage country. This summer, make a point to suss out some of Canada’s best resorts.
1. Watermark Beach Resort
Set on the sandy shores of Lake Osoyoos (reputed to be Canada’s warmest lake), this resort prides itself on catering to families, so everything is easy-peasy from the minute you arrive. Spacious suites provide all the home away from home comforts, including full kitchens, a private four piece bath, plus a washer and dryer. If you can tear yourself away from the beach, there’s a waterslide, pool and plenty of indoor and outdoor games to amuse active families. Not only are you situated in Canada’s one true desert, the region also has several award-winning wineries, best explored while taking advantage of Watermark’s babysitting services.
More info: www.watermarkbeachresort.com/resort-hotel/family
2. The Cove Lakeside Resort
Lush orchards and sparkling lakes provide the perfect backdrop for alfresco fun in this sunny region known as Napa of the North. The Cove sports a beautiful private beach, where firepits and barbecues beckon. There are also two pools (including a kiddie pool and waterslide), in addition to a 18-seat movie theater, tennis courts and bikes for rent. No family member is excluded, as pets are welcome and babysitting is available for an additional charge.
More info: www.covelakeside.com
3. The Beach Club Resort, Parksville
Trolling the 22-km stretch of sand in front of The Beach Club Resort, mini-marine biologists search for treasures that include sand dollars, starfish and crabs. The big draw here is an endless stretch of coastline, where water temperatures in summer can reach 21°C, making it the warmest sea water in all of Canada. Take in the sweeping views from your room’s floor-to-ceiling windows, pick up some fresh seafood from nearby Qualicum Bay (famed for its scallops) and if you have a suite or the penthouse (ooh la la!) you can prepare a feast in your fully equipped kitchen.
More info: www.beachclubbc.com
4. Waterton Lakes Lodge Resort
No need to go on lengthy outdoor excursions in the hopes of spotting wildlife each day. Dozens of deer graze on the massive green space surrounding Waterton Lakes Resort. Waterton is one of those resort towns with that 1950s, Dirty Dancing vibe. Set in postcard pretty Waterton Lakes National Park, families can unwind on easy day hikes or just by kicking around the tiny town. The resort sports the village’s only pool (indoor and heated), a games room and a fitness center. Be sure to check out the new playground and waterpark in the townsite, just a few minutes from the property.
More info: www.watertonlakeslodge.com
5. Pocahontas Cabins
Reach your Rocky Mountain high at this secluded spot in Jasper National Park. Opt for a kitchenette cabin to make your stay more affordable or saddle up to the on-site cafe when you don’t feel like making meals. There are miles of pristine wilderness to explore, with deer, elk and mountain goats all calling this area home. Plunging into the heated outdoor pool is the best way to refresh yourself after romping around the mountains or hit up nearby Miette Hot Springs and let its thermal waters wash away your cares.
More info: www.mpljasper.com/hotels/pocahontas_cabins
6. Lake House
Perfectly positioned on Clear Lake in Riding Mountain National Park, the Lake House lures families looking to get away from it all. Nature lovers are spoiled for choice with aspen parkland, prairie and the boreal forest right at their fingertips. The resort is located close to the beach and there are loads of water activities to dive into. Sprinkle your stay with wildlife viewing and a visit to the on-site ice cream shop (that makes scrumptious made-to-order ice cream sandwiches), and you’ll return home thoroughly refreshed.
More info: www.staylakehouse.ca
7. Shamrock Lodge
Welcome to the cult of “The Shammy”! If you go to this intimate, all-inclusive, family-owned lodge on Lake Rosseau for the first time, it may feel like you’re the only family in the room who isn’t returning for what seems like their millionth year in a row judging by the way everyone is greeting and high-five-ing each other. The Shamrock’s small size and friendly staff (many of them members of the Bryant family, the owners) means that it feels less like you’re at a resort and more like you’re at your cool uncle’s extended cottage compound. By the end of the weekend you’ll know many of the other guests’ names and your kid will have made seven new best-friends-for-life. There’s all-day kids’ programming for ages 4 and up (plus morning programming for ages 0-3). Waterskiing, tubing, boat tours and the use of kayaks, canoes and paddle boats are all available to enjoy, but Shamrock’s primo spot in the Explorer’s Edge region (Muskoka, Parry Sound, Algonquin Park and the Almaguin Highlands) means you can also just kick back and stare at the pretty lake while your kid whips everyone’s butt at shuffleboard. Bored of all that relaxing? Head into nearby Bracebridge for a trip to Santa’s Village for a little Christmas in July.
More info: www.shamrocklodge.com
9. Viamede Resort
This laid-back property on Stoney Lake in the Kawarthas welcomes all your babies—including your fur babies for those who wouldn’t dream of leaving Peanut out of the family vacation (they’ll even provide dog beds, treats and leashes from their secret stash if you forget yours!). A stay at this wildflower-speckled resort includes buffet breakfast, indoor and outdoor pools, a fenced-in dog run, a beachfront playground, free fishing excursions and easy access to a small fleet of kayaks and canoes. It’s also surrounded by six kilometres of private hiking trails. New kids’ programs include the 11am-3pm “Little Acorns” for kids aged 6-13 ($30) or an evening program from 5pm-9pm where the kids get to gobble pizza and watch movies so parents can sneak away for a shmancy tasting menu at the adjoining Mount Julian restaurant. (More casual bistro-style food is also available for lunch and dinner at The Boathouse restaurant.) While there are a variety of accommodations available, including standard hotel-style rooms, all of the simple lake-facing cottages come with a beautiful view, and most come with kitchenettes and access to your own barbecue.
More info: www.viamede.com
10. Severn Lodge
This family-owned hideaway has been welcoming overheated city slickers since the 1800s. Just an hour-and-a-half outside of Toronto in Port Severn, families flock to this low-key, old-school lakeside resort. Parents will appreciate the gorgeous pine-treed view and large swath of pristine waterfront, but the kids will be too busy swimming, jumping on the trampoline, canoeing, kayaking, paddle boating, horseback riding, water skiing, tubing and wakeboarding to notice all the silly beautiful nature. During the summer there are daily, supervised kids programs for ages two and up, and babysitters are available in the evening, too, for an extra fee. You can buy an all-inclusive package that includes meals, or, if you want to save a bit, book a cottage with a kitchen to make your own.
More info: www.severnlodge.com
11. JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka Resort & Spa
The grande dame of Muskoka resorts, this sprawling property overlooking Lake Rosseau is a favourite with well-heeled families. Bike rentals, canoes, paddle boats, kayaks and scavenger hunts (natch) are included in your stay, and the menu of activities (some with extra fees) includes everything from a birdhouse decorating class to kite building. Toddlers can splash around in a special wading pool made just for them while their older siblings rock their best front crawl in one of several pools (including an indoor/outdoor one). Mini-chefs will love trying their hand at making s’mores down at the bonfire, and the whole fam can recover from an exhausting day by hunkering down in front of nightly family-friendly movies. Other strenuous pursuits include strolling around the wetland trail and cuddling up by the indoor fireplace. Intrepid explorers will love the Discover the Night Nature Walk, where guides take you on an after-dark wildlife tour of the property, complete with headlamps and a meeting with a bear! (Okay, a bear pelt, but still.) Food is extra, and generally not cheap, but parents will love the “This+That+The Other” $10 kids 3-course lunch and dinner menu, which lets even the pickiest eaters find their perfect combo from a healthy selection of kiddie classics. All the rooms comes with kitchenettes, too. Paignton House rooms are closer to the beach, main lodge rooms are closer to the pools and the restaurant.
More info: www.therosseau.com
12. Fern Resort
If you want the all-inclusive experience without the airfare, then this old-school Orillia spot is for you. This longtime family resort, located just an hour-and-a-half outside of Toronto, is so chockablock with things to do it almost seems intimidating. Fern is especially popular with multi-generational groups because the extensive programming means that Bubbi can play bingo while Mom hits the yoga mat and the kids have the time of their lives being entertained by a cheery army of recreational staff. Families can hang around the pretty pools or make sandcastles on the beach together (a swing set that overlooks the lake is a particularly nice touch), but the real appeal of this joint is that the Kids Club is included (including dinner hour babysitting, hallelujah!). The three-to six-year-olds won’t ever want to leave Playvillage, where they can ride the Honey Bee Express hay wagon, tootle around on battery-powered mini-jeeps, flop in the ball pit, ride ponies and jump on trampolines. Babies and toddlers will be having their own fun in the nursery, while older kids can enjoy rock and rope climbing, fishing, or getting some hands-on experience with a visiting crew of exotic animals.
More info: www.fernresort.com
13. Rocky Crest Golf Resort
This all-suite (hellooo, kitchenettes!) joint on Lake Joseph is about way more than just golf. Come summer, it’s crawling with families who come to take advantage of the roomy accommodations, heated pools, basketball and tennis courts, supervised half or full-day kids’ programs from newborn to age 12 (for an extra fee) and pet-friendly policy (cats, too!). The kids’ club has it’s own pool and a playground nestled in a sand play area for sunny days, and a room full of crafts and activities—which kids can also use for free if accompanied by a parent—for rainy ones. Pick up groceries in nearby Port Carling or Gravenhurst and eat in, or a kids’ menu is also available at all three of the on-site restaurants. Kayaks, canoes, pedal boats and stand-up paddle boards are included with your stay, and little swimmers will love clambering all over the inflatable climbers, slide and trampoline in the lake.
More info: www.rockycrest.ca
14. Fiddler Lake Resort
An enclave of cutesy wooden chalets, Fiddler Lake Resort is the ultimate family retreat. It’s got a recreation center, indoor and outdoor heated pools, plus a brand new playground. Some cabins are even decked out with their own hot tub, sauna and heated pool! Fiddler Lake itself is a 2.8 km stretch of crystal clear water, ideal for canoeing and paddle boating. Anchoring the lake are acres of pristine forest ripe for hiking, biking and rousing games of hide-and-seek.
More info: www.fiddlerlakeresort.com
Not only is this Eastern Township treasure conveniently located next to Mont-Orford National Park, it’s only an hour-and-a-half drive from Montreal. Set snugly in the woods, a variety of cottages run the gamut from one to 18-bedrooms, making this an ideal spot for family reunions. Best is that this resort has an all-inclusive option, with activities and gourmet meals. Half-day supervised activities for the kids and drop-in daycare for children under three years old make parents never want to leave.
More info: www.jouvence.com
16. Village Vacances Petit-Saguenay
Imagine settling into a chalet overlooking a fjord, as beluga whales gracefully swim by. Daydreams are turned into reality at Village Vacances Petit-Saguenay. Bed down in either in a fully equipped chalet or at the full service campsite. Opt to have your meals included or go for the self-catering option. Parents can hike and picnic along the cliffs overlooking the fjord, while kids join their camp leaders for non-stop fun activities. While this is a francophone environment, don’t fret if you don’t parlez le francais. Many of the staff and camp counsellors are bilingual.
More info: www.villagevacances.ca
17. The Algonquin Resort
St. Andrews is your quintessential seaside resort town and The Algonquin Resort is set majestically upon a hill overlooking it all. The kids will be wowed upon first sight of this Tudor-like castle, but all that grandeur will soon fade away once they barrel down the indoor three-storey waterslide. Try to coax them to the outdoor pool (so you can be served drinks) or challenge them to an old-school board game in the cozy lounge where a fire roars every day of the year. Swap off with your partner to take advantage of the spa and the stunning, reasonably priced golf course.
More info: www.algonquinresort.com
18. The Inn at Whale Cove Cottages, Grand Manan
An affordable escape is found just off the southern coast of New Brunswick on Grand Manan Island. The Inn at Whale Cove Cottages offers a wide variety of accommodations for daily and weekly rentals. Take a whale watching tour to get up close and personal with minke whales, seals and porpoises. Or stick closer to shore and hit up the heritage trails and footpaths or go beach combing along secluded pebble shores.
More info: www.whalecovecottages.ca
19. White Point Beach Resort
One of the Maritimes oldest coastal resorts, this classic beach retreat boasts a summer surf camp, plus oodles of activities to keep the troops occupied from dawn till dusk. Seriously! Their daily, complimentary children’s programming has kids hopping (just like those resident bunnies) from 9:30 a.m. till 9 p.m. Beware; you may need to book an appointment to get your kids to hang out with you.
More info: www.whitepoint.com
20. Pictou Lodge Beach Resort
This restful, rural retreat sports a host of activities included at no charge for guests. Begin your stay with beach and wildlife scavenger hunts to explore the area, before branching out to beach parties, boating and stand up paddling. With access to a pool as well as the ocean, you’ll find water activities all abilities can enjoy. Not so outdoorsy? Participate in craft and culinary sessions, or simply watch a movie under the stars.
More info: www.pictoulodge.com
21. Larinda’s Landing Oceanfront Cottages
Located along the famed lighthouse route, these oceanfront cottages make an ideal base from which to explore historic seaside villages and the Annapolis Valley (which includes the Bay of Fundy). Fully equipped two- and three-bedroom cottages overlooking the water are ship-shape for families wanting to hunker down and make their meals. Since you’re in the Maritimes, make a point to use your spacious deck for a traditional lobster boil, since all accoutrements are provided.
More info: www.larindaslanding.com
Prince Edward Island
22. Dalvay by the Sea
You won’t be the only one enchanted by this seaside enclave. Both William and Kate and the island’s red-headed ambassador were charmed by this 19th century summer home (dubbed the White Sands Hotel in the Anne of Green Gables movie). Just as Anne experienced, there are no TVs or telephones here, but afternoon tea is a treat any generation can appreciate. Stroll along endless miles of beach, cycle the extensive trail system or take a paddleboat out for a spin on the resort’s lake. There are also several complimentary, family programs at nearby Brackley Beach offered by Parks Canada, including Sensational Sandcastles, led by a master sculptor.
More info: www.dalvaybythesea.com
23. Kilmory Resort
The Rock never looks as dazzling as it does from the Piper’s Hole River Valley. A true Canadiana experience awaits intrepid families who don’t mind spending their nights in pine log cottages overlooking the mountains and river estuary. Though the cabins are fully-equipped for self-catering, you won’t really be roughing it, not with a heated outdoor pool and Wi-Fi. Still, your brood can get back to nature fishing for salmon, strolling through the forest and kayaking.
More info: www.kilmoryresort.com