Summer is upon us and you just realized you totally forgot to look for Muskoka cottage rentals. It’s late into the game now but where can you find cottages that are still available for rent?
All is not lost. While it may seem like all summer cottages north of Toronto are booked solid, the truth is, there are way more openings than you think. The trick is knowing where to look and applying some of the tips that you’ll learn below.
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Muskoka Cottage Rental Platforms
Focusing in on the popular Muskoka area of Ontario, let’s start with the places that carry large inventory of cottages so you can do it all from home and check for availability as opposed to having to e-mail or call.
Some may be surprised by this but when you think about it, it makes sense. Not only are traditional B&Bs listed on the home sharing platform. You’ll also find a ton of Muskoka cottages listed.
One that I love that has availability in September is this one along the river.
With Airbnb, you just need to make sure you understand a few things:
- There is typically a service fee applied to the booking
- Cancellation policy ranges host to host so pay attention. There is however no policy that allows for full refund as
- One of the benefits of booking with Airbnb is that you always have the larger company backing up their properties so if you run into any problems, you can always go above the host.
CanadaStays was acquired by VRBO and their transition is fully complete now which means that you’ll be redirected to VRBO.
Now that you know about CanadaStays, it’s probably worth mentioning VRBO. With history that predates Airbnb, this platform has been around for a long time for vacation rentals.
The platform itself again is very similar to the two mentioned so far but I’d say it’s closer to how Airbnb functions.
What you’ll appreciate with the platform is that they can have more generous cancellation policies but that said, similar to Airbnb, it really depends on the property. Some don’t offer any cancellation at all.
With VRBO, you just need to make sure you understand a few things:
- Owner fees can increase your total significantly – these include an administrative and cleaning fee (not all properties have this)
- Service fees are standard for all bookings and this is what VRBO charges
- Refundable damage deposit is required at booking
- Be aware of minimum stays
- Service fee changes based on number of guests
Cottages in Canada
These guys claim to be Canada’s leading cottage rental site and if you take a look, they sure have quite the inventory of impressive cottages in Muskoka.
Being a Canadian product has its advantages because they are one of the few platforms that actually breaks down the Muskoka and Georgian Bay area into smaller subsections which really allows you to hone in your search.
A few things I’ve noticed about this platform:
- Most properties are looking for full-week rentals and some allow for weekend rentals.
- They carry impressive high-quality cottages
- Many properties allow for payments through the platform which is said to be more secure, similar to how it works on Airbnb.
- You can’t sort by price or reviews
- Muskoka and Georgian Bay casts a wide net but if you want Muskoka specifically, you’re better off looking at specific areas such as Huntsville, Bracebridge, and Muskoka Lakes.
- Properties have varying cancellation policies
- In addition to rate, there’s a security deposit, booking deposit, cleaning fees, and pets fee if that applies (also varies between properties).
I’m sure this one is a surprise but Booking.com continues to push the envelope in bringing in literally everything into their inventory and this includes cottages and vacation rentals.
One example is the Cloverleaf Cottages that features multiple cottages right by Algonquin Provincial Park.
Just like everywhere else, you need to start looking early to make sure you can secure a spot.
If all else fails, you can always look at Booking’s collection of hotels, inns, and motels in the Muskoka area.
If you’re interested in unique properties that you won’t find anywhere else, check out the Joya Travel app.
The app is currently focused on Ontario adventures and authentic experiences which is why when you scroll through, you’ll see wanderlust worthy getaways that range from glamping, cabins, yurts, and traditional cottages.
The booking process is easy and there are no hidden fees you need to worry about. The rates posted for accommodations are per day and also shows the breakdown depending on group size.
As a bonus, you’ll also find some incredible experiences on the app as well.
You might be surprised to hear how many cottage owners list their properties on Facebook. The reason for this is because private owners would rather not have to pay a platform for listing and since Facebook is free, it’s a great open marketplace for cottage listings.
Make sure you do your due diligence when booking these types of Muskoka cottage rentals. There’ll be a certain element of trust because the owners don’t have to be accountable to any platform.
In the same vain, Kijiji is also a great place to look for Muskoka cottage rentals.
With Kijiji, you just need to make sure you search for properties for rent. Otherwise, you’ll be overwhelmed with results that aren’t relevant.
Now we get to some websites that are a bit more barebones and “old school”. By that I mean that it lacks much of the functionality modern websites have and to rent a property you have to fill out a rudimentary form.
This particular one is a large grid of properties that are all numbered with no capability of being sorted or to check for ability en-masse. There are no reviews and they can only show 50 cottages at a time so you really need to sift through everything yourself.
Ontario Cottage Rentals
You get to this point and it feels like many of these platforms are starting to look the same.
Ontario Cottage Rentals at least allows you to sort by price, has some reviews, and displays a paw icon to indicate whether a property is pet friendly or not.
Bookings on this platform also include:
- Accidental Damage Waiver + HST
- Booking Admin Fee + HST
- 13% non-refundable booking fee (sneakily not mentioned in the property listing)
- Credit card payment for booking takes 50% of rental rate
What you’ll find a bit frustrating is that some properties listed literally have no availability no matter how far you look out into the calendar. Trust me, I went as far out as 2023 for some and it was fully red. It’s likely that these properties haven’t set their availability in the future and are sold out for the year.
Don’t let the looks of this website fool you. There is a really good inventory of cottages here especially for those looking for a budget cottage in Muskoka.
When you a do a search on Cottages-Canada, you’ll see many properties here that don’t show up on other platforms.
The reason for that is that this platform is closer to a Craigslist/Kijiji. The website doesn’t manage any transactions. Instead, it helps owners list their properties and if you’re interested, you can “Request to book” by sending them a message with your information.
They are also quite transparent when it comes to properties that have their own websites so in theory you could book them without having to go through Cottages-Canada at all.
Similar to Cottages-Canada, think of this as a listing platform like Kijiji. It’s another one that allows you to see a great collection of unique cottages in Muskoka but it doesn’t manage any of the transaction.
To inquire about the availability of a property, you simply message the owner through Cottage Portal and the rest of the communication is done through e-mail and outside of the platform.
Each property dictates their own term of the rental which may include a security/damage deposit, accepted forms of payment, and initial deposit.
The nice thing about a platform like this is that they don’t charge an additional service fee and they are also transparent about whether the owners have their own website or not.
This is final website that’s worth looking at in your hunt for Muskoka cottage rentals.
This particular platform looks like many of the others. While it’s not my favourite, it gives you a few filters to work with but oddly enough doesn’t allow you to enter your dates to see what’s actually available. This means you need to go into each listing one at a time to figure that out.
Since CottageRental.com manages the transaction, they do add a booking service charge. You’ll notice that they are TICO certified which means that they are an acting travel agent which is good because you’ll be protected by TICO in specific scenarios.
Most properties also charge an accidental damage waiver.
Frequently Asked Questions
Generally the best time to start looking for summer cottages is November of the previous year. There’s typically good availability up until February. From March onwards,
During high season (summer), most cottages have a minimum booking period of one week.
During low season (winter), minimum booking period is 2 nights.
For long weekends, the minimum booking period is 3 nights.
For most properties, this means booking a property from Saturday to Saturday (a full 7 nights)
This varies from property to property but in most cases, there’ll be a lockbox with a specific code that you’ll be provided before arrival.
For cottages managed by a platform (i.e. Airbnb, Booking, Vrbo), credit cards are accepted.
In cases where you’re working with a private renter, it’s unlikely credit cards are accepted. Instead, payment is typically made via cheque, bank transfer, or Paypal.
By booking with a platform that is licensed by TICO (Travel Industry Council of Ontario), you’re protected through TICO’s Compensation Fund and more. You can read more about it here.
Note that international agencies such as Booking, Vrbo, and Airbnb do are not TICO licensed.
Cottages that allow pets will specifically mention that they are pet-friendly. In some cases, this also means that you will have to pay an additional fee so look out for that.
This depends on the property but there are some properties that include bedding and others charge extra for this to be included.
Beach towels are usually not included so bring your own.
Yes, tap water is safe to drink according to The District of Muskoka.
Some properties do provide lifejackets (PFDs) but you should assume that cottages won’t have the correct number of PFDs and the incorrect sizes. It is recommended that you bring your own or rent them at a local outfitter.
In most cases, check-in is 4:00 pm and check-out is 10:00 am. but times vary.
Each property will have their own instructions but usually you’ll be responsible for moving garbage and recycle out during designated pick updates or moving excess garage to a local transfer station.