I’m going to straight up admit that in the past, when it came to Ontario Parks,I was a camping snob. I’m not proud of it, particularly after a recent trip to check out four of them this past fall, but there it is, my camping elitism laid bare for all to see. The good thing though is my views have completely flipped, and I am looking forward to checking out even more of them this coming summer.
Ontario Parks not only sit on some of the most scenic and beautiful real estate in the province, they give private RV parks a run for their money—figuratively and literally. The most popular Ontario Provincial Parks are The Pinery, Sandbanks, Killbear, Bon Echo, and Algonquin, and while they should be on your list to visit, there are OVER ONE HUNDRED other parks that are worthy of your attention.
Check out the following list of camping gems in Ontario Parks to book now! Booking sites work on a rolling window, so you can book your trip up to 5-months in advance of your arrival date. So even though you might be up to your eyeballs in snow right now, remember that summer is just around the corner.
Perhaps our most favourite spot during our weekend exploring with Ontario Parks was Charleston Lake. A true gem, this sprawling park is part of the Canadian Shield with ancient bedrock surrounding the lake, and tall majestic pines, firs, maples and oaks, surrounding the campsites. Be sure to keep your camera handy while exploring here. The natural beauty makes taking professional looking photos a snap.
Absolutely do not miss the opportunity to rent a canoe or kayak from the Canoe Rental office. The lake is calm and easy to navigate, and you’ll feel completely connected to the people you’re with and disconnected from the world at large. Isn’t that what we’re all after?
The water at Charleston Lake is clean and crystal clear, so during the summer months, be sure to take advantage of the large sandy beach and cool off in the water, before heading back to your campsite to enjoy a fire under the stars.
I loved Murphy’s Point because it’s a little piece of “serenity now” for city folk like me. Located under two hours from my home in Ottawa, it’s a perfect and affordable weekend escape. My girls also loved it, because the lake and beach were gorgeous, and hello, IG shots. Remember to take a minute to look up at the night sky and marvel at the stars that aren’t competing with city lights.
If your interests lean a little more natural and lot less technology based than ours, then that’s cool too because there’s a lot to love at Murphy’s Point. This park is home to the Sylvan Trail, a 2.5 km hiking loop that takes you through the southernmost extension of the Canadian Shield. This park is also home to the Eastern Gray Ratsnake, and if you can look at them with love in your eyes instead of shrieking like I do, then a Park Naturalist at Murphy’s Point can tell you a lot more about them. Finally, the Silver Queen Mine is a former mica mine that closed in 1920 that you can explore with a guide here. It’s a sneaky way to get in a little learning for your kids under the guise of fun.
Located on an expansive stretch of beach on Lake Ontario, Presqu’ile is the perfect place to lose and find yourself for a week. The beach is ideal for playing in the water, or for wandering aimlessly searching for skipping stones.
You’ll also find the second oldest operating lighthouse in Ontario here, so be sure to check it out when visiting. I loved how huge the sites were here for RVs. Our site, located in the camping loop The Pines, was easy to get in and out of, and gave of us lots of space to stretch out. I’ve never seen sites this large in private RV parks, so it’s definitely worth checking out.
The next seven parks are high on my list to check out this year between the end of April into late fall. If you’ve never camped in the shoulder seasons, consider it. Autumn, in particular, is a wonderful time to enjoy the fall colours in Ontario with no bugs and fewer people.
Balsam Lake Provincial Park
Located in the Kawartha Lakes area, Balsam Lake Provincial Park had me at this sunset. Aside from taking in the lake and the trails within this park, this part of Ontario is a great area to day trip though by car. Also, if you don’t stop and get Moosetracks Ice Cream, you didn’t really visit.
I’ve had friends rave about the beauty of Bonnechere Provincial Park for years, so this is the year I make it happen. Located in the Ottawa Valley this park is close to home for me, and has a beach perfect for cooling off when Hottawa becomes too much to handle.
Another close to Ottawa campground, Driftwood Provincial Park is high on my list for a fall visit this year. In my humble opinion there is nowhere better than the Laurentians to take in fall colours. Panoramic views along the hiking trails here are perfect for soaking it all in.
Lake St. Peter
Close to Algonquin Provincial Park, Lake St. Peter is a great park to split your vacation up with. If you don’t feel like moving, you can use it as a jumping off point to explore the area. Within the park, there is a lake for activities on and in the water, like fishing, canoeing, and swimming. The Hastings Heritage Trail is only 2 km away and is a great way to explore the area on bike.
Most Ontarians don’t get out of their city much, let alone deep into the Canadian wilderness, and that’s a shame. Northern Ontario is one of the most beautiful places on earth for rugged, natural beauty, and that’s why Marten River is high on my must visit list. Located above North Bay, this provincial park looks like the perfect place to unplug for a week. And yes, I just got hit with a wave of anxiety thinking of unplugging, so all the more reason I need to get here!
I am obsessed with the movie The Last of the Mohicans, so standing high on a bluff at Restoule overlooking Stormy Lake sounds like the perfect place to imagine being swept off my feet by Hawkeye. Sigh. Nature can be so romantic. This provincial park also sounds like a hiker’s dream, so it’s on my must visit list for fall 2019 when the colours are at their peak.
Samuel de Champlain
Imagining what life was like for Canada’s first explorers is easy at Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park, where visitors can try paddling a Voyageur canoe in an immersive experience offered by the park. Located on a fur trade route in the Mattawa Valley, this park is a must for people who find peace on the water. Rent a canoe here or bring your own, and imagine what life was like back in the late 18th century and then share it over the free wi-fi with all your friends at home.
Disclosure: I had the pleasure of working with Ontario Parks in Fall 2018 for a camping trip through five of their provincial parks. This post is sponsored, but all opinions are mine.
Richard B. Hamilton
Ontario Parks are great! If you are hoping to see sunsets from the beach at Balsam Lake Provincial Park, you will be disappointed. However, the sunrises are beautiful. The park is located on the west side of the lake.
Hey Richard, Thanks so much for the clarification! I will have to make sure I wake up early when I visit 🙂
I enjoyed this article so much, having camped in all of these parks except Restoule but including a few more in the Northwest portion of Ontario. The Pines in Presqu’ile and Mew Lake in Algonquin are our own personal favourites. Thanks for the story.