Landing an island cottage rental on Georgian Bay is a bit like winning the summer holiday sweepstakes.
You could spend hours trolling the usual rental sites, or you can take a tip from insiders and go right to the most-informed source - high-end real-estate agents, though even those in the know aren't necessarily going to give you the selection you're looking for.
"Luxurious high-end cottage rental wanted" is the plea that went out from one real-estate agent recently to everyone in her database. Clients are looking for a modern retreat with wireless Internet access and good cellphone reception on one of the coveted Muskoka lakes in Ontario's cottage country.
Occasionally a handwritten index card about a property available for rent appears on the bulletin board at Pointe-au-Baril's Ojibway Club, where the locals gather to play tennis and meet for breakfast. More often, though, renters learn about a property by word of mouth through friends or families in the area.
"There are families that have established themselves here for generations," says George Webster, an agent with Moffat Dunlap Real Estate Ltd. who specializes in properties on the Georgian Bay islands.
Webster says some of his clients occasionally rent out a cottage or an entire island if they're going to be away. He currently has two properties available for the summer of 2011: The Byng Inlet rental offers a 32-acre island with a 5,000-square-foot lodge and two guest cabins for $6,300 a week. Spindrift Cottage offers nine acres, one cottage and a protected cove on Sans Souci Island for $2,000 a week.
Cottage Country Travel Services ( cottagerental.com) has a few rental properties on the Georgian Bay shore. One three-bedroom cottage with beach access - which means a walk of 100 yards or so along the road - rents for $1,600 a week in peak season. And, you can try these cottage country websites: moffatdunlap.com, desmasdons.com, atthecottage.com, spiritofthenorth.com.
Renters will also need a boat. At Desmasdons Boatworks in Pointe-au-Baril, an aluminum fishing boat with bench seats and an outboard motor runs $100 a day or $600 a week. A more comfortable fibreglass boat with 115-horsepower outboard motor is $300 a day or $1,800 a week. Boaters are required to have a Pleasure Craft Operator Card.