Last weekend, Ella & I had the wonderful experience of staying at a cottage resort just outside of Niagara Falls. It was a relaxing family vacation and a budget-friendly way to see the sights in Niagara while also getting the perks of a cottage vacation.
Now, I’m going to have a whole post on Niagara Falls soon but I wanted to dedicate the first post to Sherkston Shores, a cottage resort within 30 minutes of the Falls.
Hotels in Niagara can be pricey, but driving just a bit outside of the city you can get an affordable week-long cottage rental for about the same cost as a weekend in the city – plus Sherkston Shores comes with it’s own awesome built-in entertainment so you can experience the best of both vacation types in one trip. (The tourist attractions and city life of Niagara Falls, and then the relaxing cottage experience at Sherkston.)
Sherkston Shores is kind of a cool concept – a mix of rental cottages and owner-occupied cottages that resort maintains. Today, I’m reviewing Sherkston Shores as a rental property but also sharing the information I researched regarding their vacation ownership.
But first, here’s a preview of our visit:
I have about 4 more years left on my mortgage so I’m starting to seriously look into vacation ownership. While we love travelling and exploring new places, I also think it would be wonderful to have a nearby cottage to make regular trips to – close enough for weekend trips but also fun enough to fill up a full week or two – possibly even invite friends and family to join us (something we can’t usually do on vacation).
I think of a family cottage as a special place where kids can make lifelong memories and somewhere you intentionally go to unwind and unplug.
I have a few friends and family members with cottages and one thing that I want to avoid is spending all of my cottage time doing maintenance. I can barely keep up with all of the maintenance required for our house so adding on a second property, I’d prefer to go with something that has a management company to handle maintenance so I don’t have to worry about it during our precious weekends away.
Over the next couple of years, I’m hoping to visit more of these vacation ownership resorts. Many of them offer rental options so you can test-drive ownership, which is exactly what we did at Sherkston Shores which is owned by Sun Resorts.
(Note: I am putting all prices for this post in USD but on the Sherkston Shores website they have prices in CAD. At the time of writing this post $1 USD to equal to $1.27 CAD.)
The Basics: What is Sherkston Shores?
Sherkston Shores is located in the Niagara region in Southeastern Ontario, about 2 hours from Toronto, less than 2 hours from Rochester and 4 hours from Detroit.
It’s an 80% owned vacation property, so the majority of the cabins and trailer-style cottages are owner-occupied, and they don’t rent to groups under 25 years old so it’s very family-oriented and not rowdy at all.
The resort is open all-year round but you cannot stay overnight during the winter, presumably because they cannot guarantee road conditions.
A week rental cost varies depending on the type of accommodations you want, but can start at $386/week. (I personally liked the ones that started at $786/week.) You can also rent for the weekend, Friday to Monday – and if you rent two back to back weekends they sometimes have a promotion that they give you the week in between for free.
For ownership, Sun Resorts offers two options – buying new (from $31,400) or having them help facilitate a used purchase. Yearly maintenance fees (which includes your land rental) start at $6000 and there are also hydro, propane, water/sewage and insurance costs to consider.
Beyond being a safe, maintained resort area, Sherkston has several awesome amenities that make it more than just a lakeside cottage resort (as if that wasn’t wonderful enough).
On site you can find a small grocery store (with normal prices – not convenience store prices), an ice cream parlour, daiquiri bar and Boston Pizza.
For entertainment, there is an amazing waterpark featuring two pools, hot tub, water slides, and splash pad. There is also putter golf, an arcade, adventure sports (our favourite was the archery booth), and various boat rentals. There was also very clean skate parks and basketball courts – so when kids outgrow the waterpark, they still have something fun to do.
The vibe is like you are in a small town, walking down the clean streets, just 5 minutes from all attractions. There is on-site entertainment – weekly fireworks, chocolate bar bingo and various musical acts (over 80 performances in the summer).
You don’t need to leave the resort at any point during your time at the cottage – if you want to dine out, hit up Boston Pizza (or order delivery). If you run out of a grocery item, you can grab it from the store.
The arcade, mini golf and adventure sports are an additional cost, but the water parks, beach, skate park and basketball courts are free.
Sherkston Shores Pros vs. Cons
I loved our visit. It was a beautiful resort with comfortable cottages, and it was clean and safe. I am strongly considering looking into vacation ownership through Sun Resorts. However, I wanted to provide a balanced look
There were several add-on costs, all optional – but if your children would be upset not getting to partake in mini-golf or the adventure sports if they saw them (they are both visible from the pool areas), then that’s something to consider. However, Sherkston does a good job about not making the add-ons too “in your face” – the ice cream shop and arcade are both tucked away so you have to go looking for them and while the Adventure Niagara activities are visible from the pool area, they don’t aggressively market it.
I received conflicting information regarding this – but I was told that we could not purchase additional wristbands for friends to join us at the waterpark. Of course, guests can join at the beach, quarry or various paid attractions, but that is a potential negative if you want friends or family to join you at the cottage. (Owners can offer guests 20% off rentals.)
Not a con, but definitely an unnecessary expense is the optional golf cart rental. Sherkston is pretty easy to get around on foot and you can drive your car most places that you can drive the golf cart – the golf cart might get you a tad bit closer and be a bit less cumbersome, but for the cost and trouble (my friend had to return hers twice during her stay due to mechanical issues) I would skip it while planning your visit unless it’s a medical necessity.
Most of the cottages do not have built-in laundry but there are laundry facilities on-site.
It is close to Niagara and Niagara’s various attractions. Whether you want to go vineyard hopping or check out the falls, there is a lot of fun to be had within 30 minutes drive of the resort.
Try before you buy – I love that you have the option to rent a cottage for the weekend without any obligation. (They do have a sales office on site with several model cottages you can tour, but there is no requirement to ever visit that office during your stay.) You can really get a sense of what ownership would be like, if this is the resort for you, etc.
Clean and family-oriented. The resort was very clean and there was no late-night partying from neighbouring cottages. (Although I heard that the Boston Pizza was where all the action was.) The beach is combed until Labour Day and there’s also 24-7 security
Built-in entertainment – everyone from the kids to the adults can find stuff to occupy themselves on-site.
Budget-friendly. A lot of resorts price-gauge because they know guests will pay for convenience on vacation. I was pleasantly surprised at how reasonably priced everything from the ice cream parlour to the grocery store were. Arcades are always a pocket drain, but Ella was able to occupy herself with $7 for about 20-30 minutes which isn’t bad, and the Niagara Adventure Sports were really reasonable at $16 for 3 activities – we ended up spending all of our time at the archery booth but there were several fun activities on offer.
The cottages are really elegant and well-done, from the gourmet-style kitchens to the built-in fireplaces. Bathrooms were small, but that’s to be expected in a trailer.
I loved how many lay-out options there were – while my stepdad loved the cottage with the rooftop entertaining area (with giant built-in BBQ) I really loved the cottage with a add-on sunroom (below) which I could just picture myself curling up with a book in on a rainy day.
All in all, not only did we really enjoy our stay but it was incredibly budget-friendly (especially when compared to staying at a hotel closer to Niagara Falls) and it was a great way to really try out vacation ownership and see the pro’s and con’s for ourselves.
Ideally, I’d love to share the purchase with a family member or close friend – someone who I could trust sharing such an investment with, especially since we wouldn’t be travelling to a cottage every weekend.
Pin this post to your travel pinboard to help when you plan your family Niagara Falls cottage get-away:
Are you considering vacation ownership, or are you more interested in that Sherkston Shores is an affordable alternative to Niagara Falls hotels? I’d love to answer any questions you may have about our vacation!