Four Main Waterfront Styles


"Location, Location, Location"

It is the mantra of cottage buyers everywhere. There are as many waterfront options as there are lakes in cottage country. However, not all waterftront is the same. And there are benefits and drawbacks to each. The four main types of waterfront properties are Private, direct waterfront, Private non-direct waterfront, deeded water access, and public water access.

Before we get to details of each, let's talk about Riparian Rights. It is a term often used when describing waterfront land ownership. 

By definition, Riparian Rights are:
The rights of the owner of lands on the banks of watercourses, to take advantageous use of the water on, under or adjacent to this land, including the right to acquire accretions, wharf slips and fish therefrom.

This means you can access the water from your own land, and take water without interrupting the same rights of riparian neighbours. You can erect a dock, boat house, fire pit, hammock all on the water’s edge—so long as you meet the requirements of the local government bodies (which can include conservation authorities, and federal, provincial, and municipal governments).


Private, Direct Waterfront

The gold standard in waterfront property. This form of ownership is exactly as described. Private and for the owners' private use. Not to be confused with waterfront with privacy (you may have neighbours on either side), but the waterfront directly in front of your dwelling is for your sole and exclusive use.
With the ownership of private waterfront comes Riparian Rights.
Typically privatem direct waterftont is the most expensive in terms of purchase price and taxes.


Private, non-direct waterfront

Similar to private, direct waterfront, but  a municipal road, right of way or provincial highway separates the dwelling from the waterfront. 
You do own the waterfront and enjoy all Riparian Rights.
Typically this form of ownership is less expensive than private waterfront in terms of purchase price and taxes.

Deeded Water Access

Typically this involves property not directly on the water and does not mean you own the waterfront but allows specific use of the waterfront (i.e. docking a boat, launching a canoe)
You may be allowed access to the water through a right-of-way or you may be allowed access through a designated path leading to the water.
There is generally an association which manages how the waterfront is used. 
The access to the water is owned by the association and certain rules apply depending on the association. For example, the association rules my stipulate that you have a slip for docking a boat, and while your access may allow you day use to have a picnic, you may not be allowed to pitch a tent on the waterfront and spend the night.

An advantage with deeded access is that you’re not paying lakefront property taxes but you still have legal access to the waterfront. However, you may have to pay fees to the association, and/or be expected to help maintain the waterfront (i.e.: mow the lawn, install docks, etc)

Purchase price and taxes are typically lower than private and private, non-direct waterfront.


Public Water Access

If you have own a property close to waterfront but without deeded access, you may have the option to get to the water through a public access.
The access may be owned by any number of government jurisdictions—municipal, provincial or federal.
Your rights are certainly limited but this arrangement may allow you to swim, fish, launch a kayak, have a picnic or simply enjoy the view. If you choose this option for property ownership, you will want to establish how far away the access is from your property and if it offers parking or perhaps it is a short walk away.
Purchase price and taxes are typically lower than all of the above.


If you are interested in buying a home or cottage in the Kawrtha Lakes, click here to watch our video on the HGTV effect on buying cottages!