Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Home of the Week: A secluded Muskoka retreat

Home of the Week

A secluded Muskoka retreat

1361 Foreman Rd., Port Carling, Ont.

This cottage near Port Carling is the perfect way for a family to escape the city

THE LISTING 1361 Foreman Rd., #24, Port Carling, Ont.

ASKING PRICE $2.195-million

TAXES $8,762.00 (2017)

Story continues below advertisement

AGENT Paul Crammond, Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd.

The backstory

The property has a small original cottage and a newer boathouse with living quarters.

In the 1970s, Janet McDonald was a student from Kitchener who spent her summers working at the landmark Clevelands House in Muskoka.

John McDonald was one of the hotshot skiers who sped across the waters of Lake Rosseau during the resort's weekly water skiing spectacle. He'd learned his skills as a kid attending summer camp in Muskoka, then went on to teach the sport. The team would travel from one resort to another, putting on shows and giving lessons to the guests.

As the young pair continued their educations, they got to know each other during their summers in the midst of Muskoka's buzzing social scene. They married in 1985 and soon began raising three sons.

Eventually Mr. McDonald's work as a business executive would take the family to the United States. As the family moved between locations such as San Francisco, Dallas and Florida, Ms. McDonald was keen to maintain a connection to Canada.

Muskoka chairs sit on the deck of the boathouse, which features its own living quarters.

In the 1990s, they began renting a cottage on an island in Lake Muskoka.

"Muskoka was our constant," Ms. McDonald says. "I wanted [our children] to really be proud of being Canadian. That was really important to me."

Story continues below advertisement

She recalls living in Texas and, on the first day of summer vacation each year, herding kids and dogs into the car and setting off on the long drive to Ontario.

"They loved coming here," Ms. McDonald says. "They never balked. I'd stop and park the car and they'd run and jump in the lake, no matter what they were wearing."

In 2004, the McDonalds found a property with a rounded granite point and 330 feet of rock shore near Port Carling. The couple made an offer but they were competing with a local builder who planned to tear down the 1960's-era cedar cottage and rebuild.

The one-storey cottage includes a field stone fireplace.

The McDonalds' bid won out, however, because they promised the owner they would preserve the vintage Pan-Abode.

The three-bedroom cottage came with two boat docks on Lake Muskoka and a bunkie hidden in the woods.

"The kids grew up in the bunkie," Mr. McDonald says. "There was nothing they wanted more than to be there."

Story continues below advertisement

The cottage today

The open layout of the original cottage makes it ideal for entertaining.

Surrounded by pine trees, the cottage is made of western red cedar shipped from British Columbia by Pan-Abode International Ltd., which first began manufacturing ready-to-assemble dwellings in 1948. The building kits arrive with the floors, windows, roofing materials, fasteners and every other component needed to make a sturdy log cabin, cottage or ski chalet.

Some families hired a builder but many put the structure together themselves.

The one-storey cottage at the end of Foreman Road has an open kitchen, dining and living area with a field stone fireplace.

The aroma of natural cedar fills the air inside.

"It smells like a cedar chest because it is," says real estate agent Paul Crammond of Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd.

The original cottage opens to a new deck, built around an existing tree so it wouldn’t have to be cut down.

When friends and family visit, the open space is great for entertaining, Ms. McDonald says.

"We move all the furniture back and it's a dance floor. She recently had the bathroom renovated when guests began pressing for a modern upgrade. The kitchen has been updated with a build-in dishwasher and other stainless steel appliances. Old flooring was removed and the pine sub-floor was refurbished.

When the McDonalds added a new deck, they built it around an existing evergreen so they wouldn't have to cut it down.

Otherwise, very little has changed, out of deference to the McDonald's pledge to the previous owner.

"We've stayed true to that," Mr. McDonald says.

A two-storey boathouse was built in place of the existing docks.

When the McDonalds decided to expand, they left the cottage untouched and added a two-storey boathouse in place of the docks.

On the lower level, the boathouse has interior slips for two boats and another covered slip outside. Upstairs, the structure provides an enlarged living space. There's a large living room with doors opening to the outdoors and a deck that wraps around three sides. There's a bedroom, bathroom and a small kitchen.

The only thing not allowed by local regulations is a stove, so the McDonalds use the facilities in the main cottage to cook and barbecue.

By regulation, the boathouse kitchen cannot have a stove, so most cooking is done in the cottage.

The boathouse allows the couple to have private living quarters while their sons and extended family take over the main cottage.

As the summer of 2017 was winding down, the McDonalds were waiting for their adult sons to converge on the cottage from far-flung locations. Ms. McDonald said the entire family would leap into the water from the second-storey deck of the boathouse.

Mr. McDonald was making plans for an outing on the boat.

"We'll go to the golf course by boat. We'll go through the locks at Port Carling and visit Clevelands House," Mr. McDonald says. "The boys will have a beer at each place."

The boathouse quarters provide the owners with privacy when extended family stays in the cottage.

Mr. Crammond set the listing price with the expectation a new buyer would most likely keep the boathouse and replace the existing cottage with a new and larger building.

"Muskoka in every era has always had some big cottages," Mr. Crammond says. But in recent years, he has seen buildings become more elaborate and people increasingly introduce technology and luxuries more typical of houses in the city.

"We are seeing more and more of this redevelopment as the land becomes more valuable and peoples' tastes in cottages change," Mr. Crammond says. "They're replicating their Toronto lifestyle up here. The days of having a 1,000-square-foot cottage and bunk beds are gone."

The Foreman Road cottage sold last weekend for $1.92-million when a heatwave arrived in Ontario after an unusually dreary summer.

The best feature

The secluded point offers the best place to watch the sunset.

The shoreline's secluded point is the best place to watch the sunset or gently enter the water for a swim from the sloping rock.

"It's a very special piece of land," Mr. McDonald says.

The landscape has natural pocket gardens and paths covered in pine needles winding between large boulders.

"It's a gathering place," Ms. McDonald says of the cottage and its land. "It's a beautiful place to spend time with people we care about."

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles as we switch to a new provider. We are behind schedule, but we are still working hard to bring you a new commenting system as soon as possible. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to