I grew up in Southwestern Ontario, so a last-minute trip to one of the many area beaches was an easy outing for my family. Now that I’m raising my own family, going back to those beaches always fills me with a wonderful nostalgia. We don’t live close enough to make it a day trip though, so camping at the Pinery Provincial Park has become an annual summer trip for us and something we look forward to when the snow is still on the ground.
The Pinery Provincial Park is a family friendly park located about two hours west of Toronto. It is found along 10 kilometres of shore on gorgeous Lake Huron and offers three large campsite areas. We prefer to book a site that’s close to the beach, but you really can’t go wrong in any of the beautifully wooded campsites. Each one is unique in its layout and you won’t know the best place to pitch your tent and hang your hammock until you pull up and check it out—but that’s part of the adventure.
When you are making a reservation (note: we book our site six months in advance), you can look for ratings and notes about shade. You can also choose sites with or without electricity (we rough it and go without) and have the option of an RV-friendly site or an accessible site. If tents aren’t your thing, Pinery Provincial Park also offers 12 yurts, two soft-sided tents on wooden platforms and one new camp cabin—all of these options include some basic kitchen amenities.
There are comfort stations throughout the park that provide showers and laundry facilities, too. There are also accessible comfort stations located within close proximity to the accessible campsites and yurts.
Hiking, Biking and Paddling
When you aren’t on the beach (which I’ll get to later) or roasting marshmallows over the fire, there is plenty to keep you busy and active. Pinery Provincial Park offers 10km of hiking trails and 14 km of bike trails, all allowing you to enjoy the unique Oak Savanna and Coastal Dune ecosystems found in the park. There are also over 300 bird species to be found and many other creatures, including turtles, that make their home in the area. You can rent bikes in the park or use your own.
When you’re ready to hit the water, you can rent canoes, kayaks and paddle boats and take a leisurely trip down the Old Ausable River. Life jackets are also available to rent. There are bridges and areas from which you can fish for warm-water fish (licences are required for anyone over 18), too.
There are guided hikes offered to families interested in learning more details about the natural setting. And every evening, the outdoor amphitheatre provides a show. For something less structured, a trip to the camp store to buy candy or an ice cream cone is never a bad idea. While there, you can find any necessary amenities for making your camping trip a success, including extra ice.
Last, but most important for our family, is the beach. The shoreline of Lake Huron is what brings us back to Pinery Provincial Park every year. You walk over beautiful dunes to be greeted with a view of the lake as far as your eye can see. The sandy beach is perfect for relaxing, digging, and burying your family members (so pack your sand toys!). Although there’s a rocky entry to the water (water shoes work well), long sandbars let you go out quite far in waist-deep (and warmer) water.
And the fun doesn’t stop when the sun starts to set. We have a family tradition of heading back to the beach after dinner. Lake Huron was named one of the Top 10 Best in the World Sunsets by National Geographic. And we have never been disappointed by what we see when we go.
Even though we make our reservations well in advance, there are often last minute cancellations that come up. If you think Pinery Provincial Park is a place you would enjoy with your family, you can click here to look at reservation availability. If you live on the west side of Toronto, you can also make a day trip and buy a pass that allows you to access all the same amenities for the day.