Cottage Etiquette: How to Ensure You Get Invited Back

Sunset on Halls Lake, Ontario
Sunset on Halls Lake, Haliburton

By Lori Bosworth

It’s the long weekend and that means many of you will be headed up north to the cottage. If you don’t own your own cottage and are lucky enough to be invited up to a friend’s cottage, cottage etiquette is a must since it takes a lot of energy and resources to host guests at a cottage. If you want to be invited back, you might want to keep the following cottage rules in mind.

Sunset on Halls Lake, Ontario
Sunset on Halls Lake, Haliburton

You’re Not in the City

You are enjoying the view of the sun setting over the lake…yay, you’ve escaped the city, but be careful not to bring your city habits with you to the cottage because conditions are different up here.

  • Septic system – Most cottages are on a septic system, which needs to be pumped out every few weeks at the cost of the cottage owner. As a result, you should be mindful about how many showers you take at your friend’s cottage since this will be using up expensive water. This also applies to the use of washers and dryers;
  • Garbage and recycling – Most cottages have to sort their garbage and take it to the local dump. It’s also important to not leave garbage around since there are many critters up in cottage country. Obey the garbage and recycling rules by putting items in the proper bags and offer to help take the garbage to the dump.

Don’t Take Advantage of Cottage Hosts

  • Don’t even think of bringing extra guests with you;
  • Bring ingredients to prepare breakfast and dinner one day (assuming you are there for a weekend) or take your hosts out for a meal or two. Help with meal preparation and washing and putting away the dishes. If you have food restrictions or requirements e.g. caffeine-free coffee, lactose-free milk, don’t expect your host to have these items on hand…bring these items yourself;
  • If you will be drinking, bring beer or wine for you and your hosts;
  • Bring your own sheets and towels. You don’t want to leave your hosts with a lot of laundry once you leave, especially since this will use water from the septic tank;
  • If you see your cottage host doing chores around the cottage, such as hauling the canoe down to the beach, mowing the lawn or weeding the flower beds, offer to help. Just like at home, there are a million maintenance issues to be dealt with at a cottage;
  • Bring a hostess gift with you is a nice touch of cottage etiquette. You could bring a throw for cooler evenings, a coffee table book about the cottage’s local history, or you could make your own cottage essentials kit. Other ideas include a food basket with wine and cheese that the owners can enjoy on the dock.

Remember, You Are a Guest

This is not your cottage, so you can’t just do as you please. You are a guest and should follow the cottage rules of the owners regarding cottage behaviour.

  • Don’t complain about the TV or Internet access at your host’s cottage; it’s probably not going to be as efficient as it is at home, but that’s a part of cottage life, so just accept it;
  • Don’t leave your things all over the cottage; put them neatly in your bedroom;
  • Clean your feet of sand before you enter the cottage; it will save a lot of cleanup on the part of the owners once you leave;
  • If your hosts tend to go to bed early at the cottage, don’t stay up until the wee hours making a lot of noise keeping them (and cottage neighbours) awake;
  • Do not overstay your welcome. If you are invited for a weekend, leave at the end of the weekend.

If you follow the above cottage rules, your chances of getting invited back to your friend’s cottage will be greatly increased. Plus, you’ll help create a positive cottage experience that you and your friends can look back on in years to come. Enjoy the long weekend!

Do you have other cottage rules you would like to add? Please mention them in the comment section.


  1. Such funny timing. We literally got home about 1 hour ago from our week at a cottage. I’m glad to see we follow just about all of these rules! We’ve been invited back for the past 10 years so I guess we are good cottage guests 🙂

  2. This is really great! We are country folk here so when we head to a cottage we pretty much are the way we would be at home anyways in the woods 😉 Love that this will be helpful to people who simply just don’t know the proper cottage etiquette! Glad you shared!

  3. I’ve only been to a cottage once, and that was my father-in-law’s cottage. He ended selling it shortly after which is sad because it was beautiful!

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