Best Parks in Ontario for Family Camping

The best Ontario Campgrounds for families are ones that have a great beach, some hiking or interpretive trails, a good number of outdoor activities like bicycling, canoeing or fishing, and a great kids program. It’s a nice place to relax, and explore the wilderness around Ontario. I have listed what I believe are the best campgrounds for families who want to get away from the city and enjoy the outdoors. You could go camping in a tent, an RV or a Yurt. It’s up to your family and your comfort requirements.

The 5 busiest Ontario Parks are Algonquin, Killbear, The Pinery, Sandbanks and Bon Echo. To book a campsite at any of these or the other parks, you should book 5 months in advance, especially on a long weekend.  I’m going to explain why these campsites are so busy, and provide you with quieter alternate campgrounds that are nearby and offer something similar.

Awenda Provincial Park

Awenda Provincial Park

Awenda Provincial Park

The Good

Awenda is an awesome provincial park for families looking to camp with children in Ontario. Awenda offers camping in six campgrounds, has 30 km of hiking trails with of them along boardwalks, and picnicking and day use areas. Sites are shaded beneath Sugar Maples and Red Oaks and are spaced further apart than many other provincial parks. Located on the Georgian Bay, the beaches are picturesque year-round. The more calmer waters of Kettle’s Lake offer canoeing with canoes rentals available at the park.  During the summer months Park Naturalists provide a variety of events to help young and old better understand the park with its rich cultural and natural history.
The Bad
The campsites at Awenda are located far from the beach so a car or bicycle is required to get around.
If you’re looking to party this is not the park for you during the summer months. The place is crawling with kids, lots of kids, and quiet time is early. The sites are shady, and can get cold early and late in the season.
Alternatives
If Awenda is full, you may want to check out the lesser known Craigleith Provincial Park located at the base of Blue Mountain.

Killbear Provincial Park

Killbear Provincial Park

Killbear Provincial Park

The Good
Located on the shores of Georgian Bay just outside the Parry Sound Harbor, Killbear offers kilometers of picturesque rocky shorelines with windswept pines, mixed with numerous sandy beaches. There are 6 km of hiking and biking trails and renovated big Visitor Centre. Killbear is so beautiful and fun you probably want to spend your entire vacation there visiting the different beaches. Just be aware that it’s a long drive back to Parry Sound to get more supplies.
The Bad
There are bears at Killbear. You have to put all your food away in your car. Do not leave any food unattended on your campsite, especially at night.
Campsites at Killbear are not very private, and they fill up quickly. You need to book them 5 months in advance to be able to camp there during the weekends.
Alternatives
Killbear is unique in that it offers views of rocky windswept pines and sandy beaches on the Georgian Bay without having to portage and paddle for 2 hrs to get to your campsite like at Massassauga, French River or Philip Edward Island near Killarney.  If Killbear is full and your family wants to camp there, you can try nearby Oaster Lake and Awenda, which are nearby.

Sandbanks Provincial Park

The Good
The sandy beaches at Sandbanks are some of the best in Ontario; Outlet Beach is perfect for families, with shallow waters and a gentle drop off. Sandbanks has 8 km of interpretive trails, and numerous biking trails nearby. It is popular among bird enthusiasts during the bird migration seasons. During the summer the park staff offer a variety of fun, interactive educational programs. Join a Park Naturalist as you explore the hiking trails, stop by the Visitor Centre to learn about the 1920s Lakeshore Lodge, bring your young campers to the children’s programs and take the whole family to the evening campfires and slide shows!
The Bad
Sandbanks is crowded, the sites are not very private, and it’s hard to book so you need to book 5 months in advance.
Alternatives
If Sandbanks is full, you can try camping at the wonderful Presqu’ile Provincial Park.

Pinery Provincial Park

The Good
Pinery is a breathtakingly beautiful park with 10 km of sand beach on the shores of mighty Lake Huron. Their sunsets are spectacular and they have over 300 bird species visiting throughout the year. There are 10 km of walking trails, 14 km of bike trails, and 38 km of groom cross country ski trails. Children’s programs are held from late June to Labour Day weekend. These energy packed programs will give you an hour and a half of nature discovery with games, stories and animals. Rent canoes, hydro bikes, paddleboats, single or double kayaks to explore the Old Ausable Channel.
Pinery offers winter camping in Yurts to experience the park during the winter in a heated structure.
The Bad
Pinery is a very busy park, and the sites fill up quickly. You’ll need to book 5 months in advance to get your choice of sites.
Alternatives
There are numerous other campgrounds on Lake Huron including MacGregor Point and Sauble Falls that are worth checking out.

Bon Echo

The Good
Bon Echo has it all: beaches, beautiful wilderness, numerous activities, camping, walk in sites, and canoe-in sites. Bon Echo had a large hotel at the narrows, the Bon Echo Inn, that burnt down by a fire from a lightning strike in 1936 and was never rebuilt. It became a provincial park in 1965. It is situated near a 100 metre high Mazinaw Rock that features over 260 Aboriginal pictographs. There is an Interpretive Boat Tours and a Cliff Top Trail and a 20 km canoe route. During the summer park staff offer a variety of fun, interactive educational programs.
The Bad
Campsites book up quickly so book early, but you can always take a walk-in site or a canoe-in site because those aren’t as busy.
Alternatives
Silent Lake has a similar landscape and offers walk-in sites, although these sites are not very private some are close to the beach. Petroglyphs Provincial Park has Aboriginal Pictographs and numerous hiking trails, but there is no overnight camping. Sharbot lake is another park nearby that offers great family camping.

Charleson Lake Provincial Park

The Good
Charleson Lake is a great campground that offers excellent swimming, boating, fishing and wildlife viewing. It’s closer than the other parks for people located in Ottawa and Kingston. It’s rocky lake and pine forest situated on the Canadian Shield is picturesque. The water is crystal clear and the park offers canoe rentals to visit the many islands around the park, where you can lounge, have lunch, or jump of a rock into the water. It has several canoe-in sites for more privacy, and has several Yurts for year-round camping.

The Bad
The racoons at the park are pretty aggressive so you need to put all your food away at night.
Alternatives
Murphy’s Point has a great mix of wildlife habitat: forest, wetland, old fields and three lakes. For canoe-in sites, check out the Frontenac Provincial Park.

Arrowhead Provincial Park

The Good
Arrowhead is a mini Algonquin Park located in the heart of Muskoka just outside of Huntsville.  It offers large treed private campsites, three sandy beaches on Lake Arrowhead, 15 km of hiking trails, and 7.5 km of mountain bike trails. Park staff offer weekly educational programs for children and adults from early July to Labour Day.
The Bad
The beaches are small and the roads inside the park are bumpy.
In the winter they offer skating, 33 km of cross-country ski trails, and tubing down a hill, but beware of big crowds at their skating facilities, with long waits for parking and no available skates to rent.
Alternatives
Mew Lake and Canisbay Lake in Algonquin Park offer great camping opportunities with beaches, hiking trails and bike trails. There are canoe-in sites with no portages required located on Canisbay Lake and Rock Lake.

Grundy Lake Provincial Park

The Good
This is a great park for families. It has RV, car camping and backcountry canoe-in sites. It has eight natural sand beaches recommended for swimming and most of the beaches have gradual drop-offs. It has canoe rentals nearby and 3 hiking trails. During the summer, park staff offer a variety of fun, interactive educational programs. Join one of our knowledgeable park naturalists on a guided hike, learn about the Voyageurs and the logging history, discover the Pre-Cambrian Shield, see the park’s wildlife and plant life! Take part in the ‘Art in the Park’ programs.  The park is not as popular so you may be able to get a campsite at the last minute.
Alternatives
Grundy is near the French River and on the way to Killarney.

Sibald’s Point, Balsam Lake,  Emily and Bronte Creek

These smaller parks offer great family camping closer to the city. They have nice beaches. Their campsites are generally not very private but it’s close enough you can go there for only one night. Balsam Lake has walk-in sites and a nice lake to canoe and fish on.

Be sure to also check out Elora Gorge Conservation Area and the Cyprus Lake on the Bruce Peninsula.

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