Once, British explorers crossed the Atlantic and ventured up the St Lawrence Seaway to barter whisky and guns for beaver pelts. Today, Brits are turning up on Canada's shores eager to invest in holiday homes.
As well as clear blue skies, wide-open spaces and a peaceful environment, Canada also offers favourable prices. Assignments Canada's Nicola Way, who lived in Vancouver for many years before relocating to the UK, says, "You can get a good four-bedroom house in Toronto for £250,000, while prices are a bit higher in seaside Vancouver at £350,000.
"As well as people wanting to spend a holiday there, we are being contacted by Brits who want to emigrate. The Canadian government used to take 150,000 people a year, but they have doubled the figure this year."
Alex and John Porritt, a father and son team from Kent who run Vivaldi Resorts, recently bought 200 acres of land at Blueberry Lake, 20 minutes from Mont Tremblant in Quebec, and are building 50 three-, four- and five-bedroom log houses, costing between £170,000 and £310,000, on the lake and in the surrounding hills.
"Locally, there are mainly apartments and condominiums for skiers," says Alex, "so we wanted to offer houses instead. We will develop only 40 per cent of the land, leaving over 100 acres of it totally untouched."
The Porritts are banking on the four seasons effect – hence the Vivaldi reference in the company name. Canada's attractions last all year round. With six championship golf courses and the Laurentian Mountains nearby, you can kayak, mountain bike and tee off on the greens in the summer and go dog-sledding, ice skating and skiing at Tremblant in the winter.
John finds the combination of Euro-chic and backwoods adventure appeals to British buyers. "Montreal and Bordeaux are on the same latitude, so the climates are almost identical. When it comes to food and night life, the French Canadians are as terrific as their counterparts in Europe."
David Blythe, a retired accountant from Wimbledon, south London, and his wife Maureen have always longed for a log cabin by a lake, so they've bought two - a £250,000 house from a selection starting at £148,300 at Côte Nord near Lac Superieur, and the second at Blueberry Lake.
"We've bought a four-bedroom log cabin for about £300,000 at Blueberry Lake that we will use for holidays with the family and rent the rest of the time," says Blythe. "I'm looking forward to playing golf on the nearby course, which is used for the Canadian Open, and there will be plenty for the grandchildren to do."
Montreal, the 350-year-old capital of Quebec, is also enjoying a facelift. The local government is pouring £22m over the next five years into the streets in the city centre around St Laurent Boulevard.
Dean Rhodes is certainly confident at the prospect of buying in Canada. The 42-year-old social work student has bought a one-bedroom apartment sight unseen in Sleb in downtown Montreal for £110,000 with his partner Marlena.
Sleb is a converted building that, over the years, has housed a Jewish newspaper, a gambling den and a mosque. Films such as The Aviator have been shot here and an annual international jazz festival is held right next to Sleb on the green, which is next door to the city's arts centre. Now, it's been converted into apartments for sale by the local developer Minco. Ten apartments, costing from £120,000, remain out of 90 in phase one of Sleb, plus one- and two-bedroom apartments from £118,853 in phase two.
"I read about the scheme and liked the sound of the cultural aspects of Montreal and Canada," says Rhodes. "In the long term, it looks like a lovely place to live."
As well as the bohemian café culture around Sleb, Mount Royal Park above the city marks out cross-country ski trails and lets skaters use the lake in the winter.
Rhodes plans to let out the loft-style flat with floor to ceiling industrial windows and a communal roof garden with pool and barbecue areas when it is finished, but his well laid plans might go awry. "We bought the place for investment, but with McGill University a few streets away, we might end up living there to carry on with our studying."
"A lot of people go to Canada on holiday then decide they want to buy there," observes Way. "Generally, the climate is milder out west in British Columbia in the fruit-growing region of the Okanagan, and Alberta is well regarded as a province." The downside is longer flight times to the west – typically eight to nine hours, compared with five or six out east.
Sleb, through Colliers on 020-7935 4499; Blueberry Lake, Savills International 020-7016 3740 and Pure International 020-7331 4500Reuse content