Cottage country is a common name in Eastern Canada for areas that are popular locations for recreational properties such as cottages and summer homes. Cottage country is often socially, culturally, economically, and politically distinct from other rural areas in that it is populated by a notably higher concentration of urban vacationers and residents who have an affinity for the outdoors in contrast to more traditional rural populations that are largely absent of "city folk" (although, this distinction tends to be more noticeable in the East than the West). Any major population centre may have its own popular "cottage country" area. The name is sometimes applied locally in vernacular use. For example, Toronto, Ontario residents might say "I am heading up to cottage country this weekend," which is locally understood to be referring to Muskoka, the Kawarthas, or the Haliburton area. On the other hand, a speaker from Ottawa would use the same phrase to denote the Rideau Lakes area.
In Toronto, "cottage country traffic" refers to automobiles that travel to cottage country on Friday afternoons and back on Sunday afternoons. Cottage country traffic is usually extremely heavy on long weekends, such as Victoria Day in May, Canada Day on the July 1st weekend, the Civic Holiday in August, and Labour Day in September, particularly on Highway 400 and Highway 11. The Ontario media has often referred to these times of the year as a "highway blitz", which also refers to the related Ontario Provincial Police efforts to step highway enforcement on these congested roads, that often yield record numbers of motor vehicle violations and fines.
In Canadian English there is a regional distinction for the name of a summer recreation house. In Eastern Canada "cottage" is used, while in Western Canada "cabin" is preferred. In urban centres in Northern Ontario the term "camp" is used. So in Western Canada few people would say that they are going to "cottage country", although the same phenomenon exists. People instead say that they are going to "the lake" or "the cabin" for the weekend. Since lakes are smaller and scarcer on the drier southern prairies, those few lakes that are large enough to support development can be intensely used. However, in the boreal forest region thousands of large lakes exist and many are undeveloped. In the mountain regions of Alberta and British Columbia, lakes are not the only attraction, and mountain views are often the most prized. In the Maritime provinces, the coastal beach serves as the metaphor for rest and recreation.
Areas commonly referred to as "cottage country"
- Prince Edward Island
- Nova Scotia
- New Brunswick
- Central Ontario, including:
- Eastern Ontario
- Northwestern Ontario
- British Columbia
Other popular summer vacation areas
- summer village, a type special municipality in Alberta used in resort areas, of which there are 51
- resort, resort town
- names for summer properties: cottage / cabin / summer house / beach house / dacha
- List of lakes of Canada - which includes sub-lists for each province