Camping on the Grand River

When people think of the Grand River, they probably think of the Elora Gorge. A very popular destination for hiking. The Grand River is a Canadian Heritage River, and runs from Highway 89 south through Guelph, Waterloo, and ends in Lake Erie.

A great way to visit the Grand River is to camp at one of the eight conservation areas, at the Rock Point Provincial Park, or at one of the many private campgrounds located along the river. It’s also possible to paddle portions of the Grand, but that’s beyond what you’d want to do when camping with your family.

The Grand River Conservation Authority has eight Conservation Areas that offer overnight camping. Most offer excellent recreation opportunities during the summer.

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Winter Yurt camping at Pinery

We did it. We went winter camping to Pinery Provincial Park. We stayed in a Yurt, and even though it was the last day of winter it was as close as we’re going to get with a five year old. There were two other families with small kids staying at the park, a few families with older kids, and the rest were teen and college kids. The college kids played music in their car for everyone to hear throughout the day. I think at one point I heard Rage Against the Machine.

Winter camping at Riverside Pinery PP

Pinery Provincial Park is located on the shores of Lake Huron north of Sarnia. It’s one of the most popular Ontario Parks. With 600 campsites, it can be rather busy during the summer. When we arrived at the end of March Break, the snow was melting and all the winter activities were finished. More than half the park was closed, and there wasn’t much to do except for go on hikes and visit the Visitor Center. After being indoors all winter, it was very nice to spend time outdoors, sit around the campfire and relax.

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Camping near Long Point, Ontario

Whether it’s swimming on the shores of Lake Erie or fishing in on the the lakes that feed into the lake, you don’t have to go far with your family to enjoy the outdoors. Many of these parks offer seasonal and daily camping, and have either a swimming pool or a lake to swim in.

Long Point Conservation Authority

The Long Point conservation authority is located north of Lake Erie near Long Point, and manages conservations areas, including five that have overnight camping. You can reserve campsites online through their reservation system for the summer months.

Long Point Reservation System

Long Point – Backus Heritage Conservation Area
Located near Long Point north of Lake Erie, the park has more than 160 campsites spread over five campground areas. Campgrounds C and D are located close to everything including the swimming pool and the playground. The park has about 15 historic buildings and antique farm equipment in Backus Heritage Village. Brackus Heritage ParkBrackus Heritage Park

Long Point – Deer Creek Conservation Area

This conservation are is located on the Deer Creek Reservoir. It has 40 campsites, and a day use swimming area. It’s a great place for fishing. You can rent a canoe

Deer Creek

Long Point – Haldimand Conservation Area

On the shores of Lake Erie, with 230 campsites and access to the lake for swimming.

Long Point – Norfolk Conservation Area

This park is situated on 46 acres along the Lake Erie shoreline with beach access and unsupervised swimming. It has more than 160 campsites, including 98 with electrical service, a tent-only area and areas for youth group camping.

Long Point – Waterford North Conservation Area

The park’s 3 ponds are great for fishing. It has 100 unserviced campsites, along with a food concession booth, shady picnic areas, canoe rentals, a small sandy beach with an unsupervised swimming area.

Waterford North Conservation Area

Ontario Provincial Parks

Long Point Provincial Park

Long Point

Long Point has over 2 km of soft sand and warm water on the shores of Lake Erie. Since there are no lifeguards present on the beach, and Lake Erie has an undertow, stay close to your children while swimming.

More than 300 bird and waterfowl migrate to the area during the year. There is excellent fishing and boating opportunities in the sheltered march of Long Point Bay. There is no Nature Education program for children but they do offer seasonal learning opportunities. Long Point offers an off-leash dog exercise/beach area located at the west end of the day-use beach.

Long Point is not a busy park during the summer compared to Sandbanks or Pinery, but it also doesn’t offer as many activities for kids. There are plenty of places you can do day trips in the vicinity while you are at Long Point. You can visit other Ontario Parks for free during your stay with your vehicle permit.

Port Burwell Provincial Park

Port Burwell Beach

Port Burwell is not far from Long Point, has a nice 2.5 km sandy beach and great kids programs every day during the summer. The park boasts large trees lots for camping and exceptional play areas for kids. There is great fishing and a warm climate for Ontario makes this a great choice to extend the camping season in the spring and fall. There are many opportunities to watch birds migrating, including an annual Hawk watching program in the fall.

Selkirk Provincial Park

Selkirk is a quiet campground with grassed campsites. They offer monthly camping options as well. There is a small beach, and several canoeing opportunities both within and outside the park.

Turkey Point Provincial Park

Turkey Point

Turkey Point offers a variety of campsites in three campground areas including a number of larger pull through sites. 20 of the sites are radio-free. There is a beach, a golf course, and a large marina nearby where you can rent Sea-Doos.  There are nearby mountain biking trails as well. The park offers children’s programs and special events on July and August weekends.

Other Private Parks

Woodland RV Park

Woodland RV Park is located close to Turkey Point. It is privately owned, and offers overnight & seasonal sites, a games room, a heated pool, a children’s playground and a fire pit. Their website is here and their brochure can be downloaded from here.  Their overnight camping rates are $33.90 per night for an unserviced site.

Hidden Valley RV Resort

A member of the Carefree RV resorts, Hidden Valley is located near Turkey point and offers both seasonal and overnight camping. Overnight camping starts at $46 per night. They have two swimming pools, and plenty of on site activities including go-cart rentals and two playgrounds. One drawback is the overnight campsites are far away from the swimming pool, but they offer more privacy than the seasonal sites.

Bronte Creek Maple Syrup Festival

When the European Settlers arrived in Canada they learned about the native people’s way of making sugar from the sap that pours out of a maple tree every spring. They emulated this but brought with them metal so they were able to innovate on their methods to bring down the time required for the process.

Bronte Creek 200 year old tree with sap

On the last day of March Break this year, we stopped at Bronte Creek to check out their Maple Syrup Festival. It was the middle of March and the sap was still running from the trees. The first thing we did was join the Interpretive Walk that shows us the Maple Syrup making innovations.

Bronte Creek - Native people's method The first step in the tour showed us how they tapped into the tree and put a bucket in to catch the maple syrup running out of the tree. Then there was a station that had the native people’s method on display. They had a campfire where they warmed up rocks. There was a log that was hollowed out that had the sap in it. Using two stick carefully they dumped the rock from the campfire to the log to heat the sap. It took 48 hours to turn the sap into maple syrup using this method.

The walk taught us that with each innovation, the time to make maple syrup was halved, with the ultimate time being 6 hrs to get it from sap to syrup. There was no syrup or sap to taste on the tour, unlike at the Kortright Conservation Area, where we went a few years ago.

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Parks Canada Campgrounds in Ontario

Parks Canada has five campgrounds in Ontario. Two of them are only accessible by boat or water taxi. Another two offer new oTENTik accommodations on Canadian owned waterways. Then there is the amazing Cyprus Lake campground on the Bruce Peninsula. I’m going to describe these Parks Canada Parks. Parks Canada in OntarioNote that reservations for all Parks Canada sites in Ontario begin on Friday April 10, 2015 at 8:00 a.m. EDT. Rather than the Ontario Parks reservation system that has a rolling reservation date of five months in advance, you can reserve all Parks Canada campsites in Ontario on April 10. Other areas of Canada have different registration dates with Parks Canada.

Bruce Peninsula National Park – Cyprus Lake

Cyprus Lake

Cyprus Lake, Bruce Peninsula

Cyprus Lake, on the Bruce Peninsula, is a popular family camping destination. There are three campgrounds situation next to Cyprus Lake, and there is a path that goes around the lake. Cyprus Lake is a warm shallow lake with swimming canoeing and hiking.There are two beaches on Cyrpus Lake but they are very narrow, and you can rent canoes and paddle on the lake. There are also two nearby lakes you can also paddle on.

Indian Head Cove

Indian Head Cove

The real attraction near Cyprus Lake is the Grotto and Indian Head Cove on the Bruce Trail located next to the aqua-blue waters of Georgian Bay. The Grotto is a system of caves that you can swim in. Indian Head Cove is a popular rocky beach with cliffs all around it, and the water is usually very cold. Despite the cold water, the beach is a very popular for families during the summer. It’s about a five minute walk along the Bruce Trail between the two, but the trail there is very rugged with lots of boulders and rocks to walk around. Continue reading

50 Camping Activities for Kids

Here are some great ideas that you can do with your kids while you are camping. Please be responsible and watch your kids at all times, especially when they are near the water.

Swimming at Cannisbay Beach

  1. Go swimming at the beach
  2. Sleep in a tent
  3. Bring a friend camping
  4. Build a sand castle
  5. Paddle a canoe or kayak20140801-iphone-5087
  6. Go fishing
  7. Jump off a rock into the water
  8. Explore a cave
  9. Skip rocks into the water
  10. Go on a treasure hunt
  11. Watch a sunrise or sunset
  12. Find a geocache
  13. Build a fort or shelter
  14. Find and follow animal tracksFollow animal tracks
  15. Go star gazing
  16. Go on a night hike or candlelight walk
  17. Climb a rock
  18. Climb a tree
  19. Roll down a hill
  20. Walk around taking pictures
  21. Catch bugs for a bug jar
  22. Fly a kite
  23. Build a campfire
  24. Make s’mores on the campfire
  25. Start a campfire without matches
  26. Touch a snake, frog, or caterpillarFind a frog
  27. Look under a dead log
  28. Start a rock collection
  29. Make a walking stick
  30. Paint a rock
  31. Make a nature collage
  32. Sketch or paint the landscape
  33. Write poetry about nature
  34. Find leaves and identify the trees
  35. Do leaf rubbings
  36. Keep a bird sighting logbookFinding a feather at Killarney
  37. Make wood slice magnets
  38. Make a dandelion mud pie
  39. Eat wild mint, ginger or berries
  40. Make tea out of edible plants
  41. Look through a magnifying glass or binoculars
  42. Use a map and compass
  43. Learn to identify clouds
  44. Play cards or board games
  45. Sing songs
  46. Make pottery out of clay you find on the beach
  47. Attend a Pow-wow
  48. Sleep under the stars or in a hammock
  49. Help clean up a trail or portage
  50. Sit down, close your eyes and listen

Backcountry Camping With Kids In Killarney

When my daughter was three we went on a four day interior canoe trip in Killarney Provincial Park. This was our first backcountry trip, so I booked three nights at George Lake campsite and four nights in the interior. We chose the George and Balsam Lake loop staying two nights on each lake. The trip was very successful, and we had great weather to help us. We went in late August so the bugs weren’t bad either.

Killarney David LakeThe next year, I tried the same thing. We booked two nights at George Lake campground, and then two nights at OSA. After our two nights at George Lake campground we chose to go home instead of paddling into the interior lake called OSA. There were a few factors that led to this decision. The weather forecast was calling for high winds on the day of our departure to OSA. The main reason, however, was that OSA was three lakes away from the George Lake campground and we weren’t feeling up to the challenge. It’s very difficult to book the other two lakes before OSA, and even OSA was only available from Monday to Wednesday instead of the weekend. We had a wonderful time staying at George Lake campground, but in the end we cut our trip short and went home instead of paddling into OSA.

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New: Book Algonquin and Killarney Interior Sites Online

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Killarney Interior Reservations now Online

Killarney Interior Reservations Online

For a long time, if you wanted to camp in the Ontario Parks backcountry, you had to call the Ontario Parks Reservation line and talk to an agent. Well, not anymore! Now you can book Algonquin and Killarney Interior campsites online.

Initially only selected parks had online reservations for backcountry, including the two newer ones, Massasauga and Kawartha Highlands, and the smaller ones like Bon Echo, Charleston Lake and Frontenac. All of these parks offered reservations by numbered site. You had to choose a particular site to be able to stay there. They added pictures to a lot of these sites so you could see what you were booking.

As of March 2015, the backcountry lakes in Killarney and Algonquin are also available through the online reservation system. The earliest you can book your trip through the system is Friday April 24, 2015. In Algonquin and Killarney, the reservation system is booked by lakes not specific sites, and each site is called a tent pad. You can book both canoe sites, and backpacking trail sites (though not the Killarney La Cloche Silhouette Trail). Quetico is also available but it wasn’t working for me when I tried.

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Backcountry Camping with Kids in Algonquin

Algonquin offers an almost unlimited number of canoeing trips in the interior, so I’m only going to mention some which are suitable for the whole family. Most of the time you’ll to want to do a short paddle, and at most one portage before you get to your campsite. It’s common on these trips to do a loop or circuit, to visit a different lake each night. However, this can be very time consuming and your trip would look like this: setup camp, make dinner, put kids to sleep, go to sleep, wake up, have breakfast, take down camp, and paddle to your next destination. Instead, I prefer to choose a centrally located lake and explore the nearby bays and creeks looking for beaver dams, turtles and moose. When I do plan a simple loop visiting two or three lakes during my trip, I still prefer to put a rest day in there to visit the area. We never tire of taking an afternoon to paddle around a lake, visiting the portages on the lake, and finding a good jumping rock to swim from.

Canisbay Canoe-in sites

Canisbay Lake is located next to the Canisbay campground on Highway 60 and has canoe-in sites on a motor-free lake.

You can rent canoes from the park, and canoe to your campsite. The sites are not numbered, so you have to canoe around looking for an empty site.

There is a beach at the Canisbay 20100801-Algonquin-IMG_1236-0301Campground that has shower facilities nearby. Since there are no portages you can bring all those car-camping stuff you usually bring like camping chairs and bug shelters. Don’t bring your cooler though because you can’t put it up in a tree or hide it from bears and raccoons at night.

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Family Camping in Western New York

There are campgrounds located in upstate New York which are close enough to the highly populated GTA region that they are worth considering as a family camping destination. Compared to the Ontario Parks, they are less expensive and don’t fill up as quickly and reservations open nine months in advance. They are more built up and geared towards recreation and won’t have that natural outdoorsy feel. The times listed next to each campground are given are from the GTA.

Allegany State Park (3hrs)

allegany
Situated in the most South Western park of New York state, and on the border with Pennsylvania. The park’s 65,000 acres are known for their breathtaking natural scenery. There are two developed areas, the Red House and Quaker,
Allegany State Park – Quaker Area
Known for its two lakes and wonderful camping experiences. Allegany’s Quaker area offers swimming, fishing, canoeing and kayaking, as well as hiking. The Quaker area has a total of 189 campsites and 230 cabins, 30 of them winterized and one group camp for rental.

Allegany State Park – Red House Area

The Red House Area offers 5 miles of paved bike paths, boat and bike rentals, a sandy beach for swimming, fishing and snowmobiling. It has a total of 130 campsites, 144 cabins, 128 of them winterized and three group camps for rent.

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