There are many waterfront homes and recreational(cottage) properties that don't fit the stereotype of Goldie Hawn, Pro Athletes, and BaySt/Wall St. power-players. Where do you buy if you don't have a huge budget, but can afford to invest in a cottage property? Lake Muskoka, Lake Joseph, Lake Rosseau, Lake Vernon, Fairy Lake, Lake of Bays are some of the big, expensive lakes (for good reasons) that often keep a lower budget away. Prime Muskoka cottaging is fantastic, but is too expensive for all but the wealthiest new buyers.
There are, however, MANY nice, lakes without the big price tag, still within 2 hours of Toronto, on the Hwy 11 corridor. Some of my favorites include: Skeleton Lake, Doe Lake, Paint Lake, Deer Lake, Wood Lake, Muldrew Lake, Grass Lake, Foote Lake, and there are many more! If you don't require boating through locks, but are looking for good swimming, fishing, boating, canoeing, etc. these lakes may be for you!
(If you're looking for complete quiet, there are a few lakes with no motors allowed. Just you, the loons, and the sound of your paddle.)
As a rule, going north of Huntsville will find you less expensive, but beautiful cottage options (Magnetawan, Kearney, Sprucedale, Sundridge). Also, east of Hwy 11 from Gravenhurst and Bracebridge has some nice spots (Prospect Lake, Doe Lake)
If you're looking for a $100,000 - $200,000 cottage, on a lake, you may need to drive as far north as Temagami. (You may spend as much in fuel over 20 years driving from Southern Ontario, as investing in a closer property at the beginning.)