Cottage Country in Transition: A Social Geography of Change and Contention in the Rural-Recreational Countryside


283 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-1729-4
DDC 307.72'0971




Reviewed by J.H. Galloway

J.H. Galloway is a professor of geography at the University of Toronto.


The academic origins of this book, which began as a Ph.D. dissertation,
are still very evident. Chapter 3 is the requisite review of the
literature in the field. There is a rather forced discussion of
“theory,” and debate over the meaning of such terms as
“community.” Some of the conclusions seem rather obvious. The text,
dense with statistics, does not make for an easy read. Nevertheless,
Halseth has done some useful work.

The cottage—cottaging (Halseth’s word)—is a ritual of our summer
weekends, part of the Canadian experience. Radio announcers report on
the traffic flow to and from cottage country. Cottaging even has its own
TV program. Halseth’s data, however, shows that for the majority of
Canadians all this is a myth. In 1991, for instance, only six percent of
Ontario households and a mere three percent of those in British Columbia
owned vacation homes. Hence this book is about the behavior of, and
issues important to, a very small minority of the population.

Halseth is concerned with the interrelations and social characteristics
of three groups of people in cottage country: the seasonal cottagers,
permanent residents (those who have converted their cottages into
year-round homes), and rural residents (those who have always lived
there). Disputes arise between these groups mainly over zoning
regulations, property taxes, and pollution of waterways. Halseth
examines those conflicts in case studies of the Rideau Lakes in Ontario
and Cultus Lake in B.C. His research is based almost entirely on
questionnaires and interviews.

The book will probably be most useful to regional planners in those
parts of the country with significant numbers of cottages. Regrettably,
Halseth does not explain why the myth of cottaging should have taken
such a hold on the country.


Halseth, Greg., “Cottage Country in Transition: A Social Geography of Change and Contention in the Rural-Recreational Countryside,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 18, 2024,