Our unofficial Canadian dream may be to own a cottage or cabin, some kind of recreational property where you can get away from the city and leisurely enjoy nature. But not only have prices in cottage country risen over the years, people’s expectations of rustic living may also be changing — fewer of us can rough it anymore without running water, internet or streaming TV. With prices and the desire for creature comforts rising, how much will you need to fund your Canadian dream?

Below we look at some costs of buying a small piece of paradise — as well as some less-pricey alternative. You might just be inspired to start saving for your own piece of paradise.

Commute time

Distance to water

Closest town

Vancouver 5 hrs

2 – 5 min stroll

Ucluelet

Price

$1.2 – $2.5 million

Annual Property Tax

$2,000 – $9,000

Transfer Tax

$22,000 – $50,000

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Vancouver Island retreat

On the west coast of Vancouver Island, the town of Ucluelet is just down the highway from the more popular — and higher-priced — Tofino. Here you have quick access to Florencia Bay and Wickaninnish Beach and you can surf, play or beachcombe in the Pacific Rim National Park. The shoreline on the west side of Ucluelet is rockier compared to the sandy beach fronts further up the coast. Popular options here lean toward West Coast contemporary, Cape Cod–style gabled roofs and custom hand-crafted log fusion homes, in some cases with additional cabins for family or for rental opportunities. For activities, there's the Wild Pacific Trail along Ucluelet's coast, rain forest hikes, kayaking, sports fishing or you can stay snug in your cabin and watch the sea lions, bald eagles, grey and humpback whales pass by.

Need to know: The high humidity of the rain forest and the salt from the ocean requires additional house maintenance: Expect to spend $5,000 to $10,000 a year on painting and power-spraying.

Commute time

Distance to water

Closest town

Vancouver 1.5 – 2 hrs

5 min walk or less

Chilliwack

Price

$459,000 – $599,000

Annual Property Tax

$1,400 – $2,500

Transfer Tax

$7,200 – $10,000

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Economy in south B.C.

Cultus Lake sits just south of Chilliwack and about 40 minutes north of the U.S. border. There are recreational properties on streets at both the north and south ends of the lake. Cabins in this price range may be small and cozy — many date to the 1960s and may need some TLC — but offer an entry point to the open air of southern B.C. A place here is a base for the great outdoors: fishing, boating and swimming on the lake, plus hiking and camping in the surrounding areas. The lake has range of amusement facilities including a water park but is also near B.C.'s wine and fruit country.

Need to know: If your dream of a summer cabin includes fishing and swimming from your own dock, you'll have to go up a level or two in price range. Waterfront properties in the area begin at $900,000 and upwards.

Commute time

Distance to water

Closest town

Toronto 2.5 – 4 hrs

2 min walk

Huntsville, Gravenhurst

Price

$2 million – $14 million

Annual Property Tax

$9,000 and up

Transfer Tax

$72,000 and up

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Luxury in Muskoka

In a region where $2 million gets you "starter" real estate on the shores of Ontario's most prestigious cottage lakes, you can also bank on large wooded lots, lake access and enough comfort in your cottage to house family and multiple guests. But, for the right amount of money, the comforts and luxuries rise accordingly, as do the chances of a celebrity encounter at the bait store. Consider a log structure with floor-to-ceiling windows and cathedral ceilings, a granite fireplace and a hot tub on the deck where you can smell the pines and watch the sun go down. You might even skip the steep steps and take an inclinator railcar from the cliff heights down to your double-slip boathouse. And new this year are regular flights to the area from Toronto. The mosquitoes still bite — but you may not notice as much in the multi-million-dollar Muskoka District.

Need to know: Increasingly high lake levels and the ice breakup in the spring can damage your dock or boathouse.

Commute time

Distance to water

Closest town

Toronto 4 hrs

10 sec walk – 15 min drive

Tobermory, Wiarton

Price

$580,000 – $750,000

Annual Property Tax

$2,455 – $5,000

Transfer Tax

$8,000 – $11,000

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Budget Bruce Peninsula

The Bruce Peninsula is beginning to draw overflow from traditional cottage country. But for those who want distance from overcrowded roads, lakes and beaches at a reasonable price, this may be a more relaxed alternative. While $750,000 dollars may not seem like a budget price range, you will have a hard time finding other waterfront cottages within a day's drive of the GTA. For what you pay you may be dealing with older buildings that may need renovations over time. If cottage life means outdoor activities, the Bruce Trail is 15 minutes away, and water activities are close even if you have a cottage inland.

Need to know: Depending on the shape of your roof — and if you can't afford a property agent — you may worry about how much snow is piling up in winter and how much weight your cottage can hold. Will you want to drive up on January weekends to clear the drifts?

Sources: Judy Gray, RE/MAX Mid-Island Realty, Ross Halloran Senior Vice President Sales at Sotheby’s International Realty Canada and samplings of listings.

DON SUTTON

MONEYTALK LIFE

ILLUSTRATION

DANESH MOHIUDDIN