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. Note 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, 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.
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. Cyprus Lake has a newer area with ten yurts for those who want a bit more luxury, but there are no showers at the campground. You have to use paid showers at businesses near the campground. Whether you have your own tent, or you want to rent a Yurt, you won’t regret going camping at Cyprus Lake. When we went there last year for two nights we had a wonderful time. We stayed at Poplars campsite and we walked to the Grotto with my three year old in the morning (shoulder rides were necessary on the way back), and swam and paddled at Cyprus Lake in the afternoon. The only annoyance were the horse or deer flies at Cyprus Lake during the day.
There is plenty of other hiking in the area since it’s located on the popular Bruce Trail. For a day trip, you can go to Tobermory where the Bruce Trail ends. In Tobermory you can enjoy fish and chips, and ice cream, or go for a swim at the Lighthouse and paddle to Little Tub Harbour to see a shipwreck.
oTENTik at Rideau Canal and Otonabee River In 2013 Parks Canada introduced new oTENTik accommodations which are similar to Yurts but look like cabins with V shaped sloping roofs. Like Yurts, they typically sleep six, have bunk beds, a table and a few chairs, and a barbeque with a deck built around it. They are for campers who want a little extra comfort and don’t want to bring all that extra camping gear. These ones are not heated because they are not open during the winter. By 2016 there will be six oTENTiks sites: two on the Rideau Canal downstream from lock 34 near Ottawa, and four on the Otonabee River downstream from lock 24 between Lakefield and Peterborough on the Trent Severn Waterway. Parks Canada operates the locks as a National Historic Site of Canada on these two waterways and there are parks located near some of them where boaters can stay overnight. Even though there are some hiking trails near these parks, and a few beaches, it’s not an ideal place to camp for families. I was excited when I saw that Parks Canada offered accommodation on the Otonabee River, but I think you would be better off camping at Warsaw Caves or Emily Provincial Parks nearby. Same with the Rideau Canal location. Murphy’s Point Provincial Park is nearby and has Yurts if you want a nicer camping experience.
Georgian Bay Islands National Park
Georgian Bay Islands National Park consists of Beausoleil Island and is only accessible by water. There are many campgrounds on the island, but the Cedar Springs Campground is a full service one operated by Parks Canada. The campground has three oTENTiks, over sixty campsites and six cabins. Christian Beach is another popular campground which is located on the other side of the island, and is a 45 minute hike to get to. Beausoleil Island is accessible by water taxi from Honey Harbour. You could try paddling to the island usually using a kayak, but only experienced paddlers should attempt this trip because the waters of Georgian Bay are very rough, and there is a lot of boating traffic. The landscape is spectacular and this is a place not to be missed.
Thousand Islands National Parks
The Thousand Islands National Park consists of more than 24 islands and 90 islets scattered throughout the St Lawrence River between Kingston and Mallorytown. Most of the sites are only accessible by boat or water taxi except for Mallorytown Landing which has road access and has five oTENTik sites. Mallorytown Landing also has a Visitor Centre, a playground, 2km worth of hiking trails and a boat launch. If you are planning on camping at a water-only accessible site, you are safer taking a water taxi rather than paddling as there may be quite a bit of boating traffic. The islands all have docks where you can park your boat.