6 Ontario Parks Where You Need to Camp This Year
Find great hiking, biking, beaches and more, all close to home
You’ve watched the sunrise in Algonquin Provincial Park and enjoyed a beachside getaway at Sandbanks Provincial Park. But there are plenty more parks to discover—and no better time than this year, when Ontario Parks celebrates its 125th anniversary.
Here are six amazing provincial parks to visit, whether for a day trip now or a longer stay this summer.
For would-be birdwatchers: Presqu’ile Provincial Park
Humans aren’t the only ones who love this L-shaped conservation area two hours east of Toronto. Every March, thousands of swans, geese, and ducks gather in Presqu’ile Provincial Park to rest and feed before continuing on to nesting grounds farther away. The park even hosts a Waterfowl Weekend, offering viewing stations and telescopes for birdwatching along with fun activities at the Nature Centre.
Don’t miss: Hiking the spectacular one-kilometre boardwalk trail, which follows the largest protected marsh on the north shore of Lake Ontario.
Camping options: There are more than 300 car-camping sites in various settings from shoreline to forest. If you’re not big on tenting, the park also recently opened its Clarke Denson Cottage as a rental.
For big-time family fun: Bronte Creek Provincial Park
Located in Oakville, Bronte Creek Provincial Park offers endless family fun, with five nature trails to explore, a big red “play barn” for kids, a working farm with live animals, and year-round interpretive programs.
Don’t miss: Swimming in the 1.8-acre outdoor pool, one of the largest in Canada.
Camping options: Facilities are open from April to October and range from tents to large RVs to rentable yurts.
For beach lovers: Darlington Provincial Park
Darlington Provincial Park, located outside Oshawa, is one of Ontario’s best-kept secrets; you’d never guess that it houses a sandy beach along the shore of Lake Ontario. It’s a perfect place for a family outing, thanks to the ample picnic facilities, campsites, nature trails and interpretive programs. The sheltered waters of McLaughlin Bay are also ideal for canoeing, paddle boating and fishing.
Don’t miss: The Learn to Fish program offered in the summer months: a two-hour teaching session for kids, teens and adults, plus an hour of supervised hands-on fishing.
Camping options: From May to October, Darlington offers car camping and several sites to accommodate large RVs and trailers.
For a little bit of everything: Balsam Lake Provincial Park
This park on the Trent Severn Waterway has it all: campsites galore; canoe, kayak and paddle boat rentals; a large sandy beach; easy hiking trails; and excellent fishing for walleye, muskellunge, and largemouth and smallmouth bass.
Don’t miss: Hiking the Lookout Trail, a 2.6-kilometre walk through eskers, kames and other features formed over 10,000 years ago by the Wisconsin glacier. Bring your camera; there’s a pretty awesome panoramic view of the surrounding area.
Camping options: There are plenty of campsites for booking from May to October. You can also rent the park’s four-bedroom lakeside cottage, fully equipped with a barbecue, outdoor firepit, game tables and dartboard.
For hiking and biking: Awenda Provincial Park
Set on the sublime shores of Georgian Bay, this scenic park boasts beautiful beaches and an extensive trail network for cycling and hiking, with routes ranging from one to 13 kilometres.
Don’t miss: Stake out Kettle’s Lake where, according to park staff and volunteers, otters have been spotted in this quiet and scenic setting.
Camping options: Book a campsite at one of the six campgrounds, all equipped with drinking-water taps, vault toilets and a central comfort station. There’s also a 1,000-square-foot cottage overlooking the shores of Georgian Bay, offering gorgeous sunsets and unobstructed views of the islands.
For northern explorers: Quetico Provincial Park
If you’re dying to explore Ontario’s far north, Quetico should be your go-to place. Stretching 96 kilometres from east to west and 64 kilometres from north to south, this mammoth park located outside Thunder Bay is renowned for its rugged beauty and remote wilderness.
Don’t miss: Aside from 35 kilometres of hiking trails, the park also has some of the best wilderness canoeing in the world. Throughout the trails and canoe routes are historic sites where First Nations, prospectors, fur traders, settlers and loggers left their marks.
Camping options: This isn’t for amateurs; Quetico is a wilderness park with backcountry camping. That means there are no facilities, services or signs, and you may have to hike or paddle to your campsite. There are also three rustic cabins available for rent.
If you go:
Many park accommodations can be reserved up to five months in advance, so book now for a summer stay.
If you’ve never camped before, but want to give it a try, sign up for a Learn to Camp program, a guided overnight experience at eight participating parks that teaches everything from pitching a tent to making the perfect s’more.
Be sure to check the parks website for special events marking the 125th anniversary of Ontario Parks throughout 2018.
Ready to get outdoors?
Check out our lists of the best Canadian parks to visit this year and 6 of the best waterfalls you can easily access in Ontario. Or find more inspiration in our Road Trips section.
Wherever you travel this spring (and summer), know that you’re protected when you bring CAA Auto Insurance along.