A tradition rooted in Canada’s identity!

If you’ve been in Canada long enough, you may have heard the phrase “Let’s go on a cottage trip.” Canadians certainly love their poutine, maple syrup and hockey, but if there’s one thing they enjoy even more, it’s taking a couple of days off from work to head up north to their cottages.

Whether you were born here or Canada is now your new home, you have to experience the cottage experience at least once.

Let me break it down for you. Going to the cottage isn’t just an activity; it’s part of this country’s identity. Cottaging is when people decide to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life by driving a few hours up north to enjoy a weekend, or even a week, of relaxing vibes. Cottage trips are all about connecting with nature in a wooden cabin by the lake – usually in the middle of nowhere if I have to be very honest. They’re also a great way to spend time with friends or family, enjoy bonfires and eat some delicious classic s’mores.

In the summer of 2023, I went on a cottage trip with my friends to Quebec. We visited Lac Camayant, a small municipality about an hour and a half drive from Ottawa – seriously, these cottage trips are in the middle of nowhere! That trip was unforgettable, and ever since then, I’ve always wondered how the tradition of “going to the cottage” started in this country.

We’ve done some research, and today, we’ll dive into the history behind and the meaning of this beloved Canadian tradition.

How it all started

Picture of a cottage in Lac Équerre, Quebec.
Photo by Ali Kazal via Unsplash.

“Going to the cottage” isn’t something new, it dates back to the nineteenth century. In 1868, the UK parliament authorized the transfer of Rupert’s Land to the Dominion of Canada. Basically, Rupert’s Land covered northern Quebec, northern Ontario, much of the three prairie provinces and most of southern Nunavut. It represented about one-third of what is now Canada and was owned by the Hudson’s Bay Company. The acquisition cost $1.5 million, and as the exploration of the northern lands began, the first cottages started to appear.

Wealthy Canadians started heading to the countryside to escape the busy city life. This wasn’t just about enjoying summer and the tranquillity of nature; there was a growing belief that city life was harmful to physical health.

These early cottages were simple and located near lakes or rivers, providing a break from crowded city life. At first, only the elite and powerful people could afford these cottages. However, after the Second World War, a boom in the economy allowed middle-class Canadians to enjoy the cottage life as well.

What are cottage trips all about?

Picture of a cottage in Sainte-Pétronille, Quebec.
Photo by Pascal Bernardon via Unsplash.

OK, you got it at this point, cottages are definitely great for relaxation, but, there’s more to them.

Cottages are often passed down from generation to generation, becoming family treasures. For many Canadians, the main reason for a cottage trip isn’t just to take a break from work, but actually to spend quality time with family and friends. These trips provide the perfect opportunity to reconnect, bond and create lasting memories.

Unlike hotels or temporary apartments, cottages offer a true escape from everyday life. It’s the small things that make it special: watching the sunset, sharing stories around a bonfire or enjoying a home-cooked meal. Every moment has meaning at the cottage.

Another important thing to note here – be prepared to see all sorts of animals. Depending on where you go, you might have moose and bears as your neighbours for a few days.

What to expect? Well, be ready to spend a lot of time outdoors. Cottage trips are all about activities like stand-up paddleboarding, volleyball or swimming in a lake. Plus, get your appetite ready because you’ll EAT. Barbecuing burgers and eating s’mores are must-do traditions.

And remember, cottages are usually in remote areas, so you’ll experience a unique community vibe. Cottage communities are also known for being tight-knit, and your neighbours might feel like an extended family.

Picture of a cottage lake in Gorham, Ontario.
Photo by Brett Belcher via Unsplash.

Now that you know more about the history of this Canadian tradition and what it’s all about, why not plan a vacation and enjoy your time up north at a cottage?

Websites like RentCottage.com and Cottage Vacations can help you find your perfect destination and cabin for you to have a blast with your friends. And don’t forget, s’mores are a MUST!

If you’ve been on a cottage trip before or your family owns a cottage, share your experience with us @shareignite. Cottage trips + friends = the perfect summer!

Feature image courtesy of Frédéricke Boies via Unsplash.

Cottaging is not your thing? Check out five camping trips for an unforgettable summer!

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