There are few ways of getting closer to nature than through a family camping trip. Rain or shine, you have plenty of activities to choose from to fill your days: from biking and canoeing to hiking and bird watching.
But perhaps the best part of the camping experience is what is not included in the itinerary: there’s no laundry, no dishes and no work to distract you. Not to mention, no excuse for the kids to be reaching for the iPad or the TV remote. “The kids are never bored when we’re camping,” Cherie Riggs VanOostrum, a veterinarian and mother of two currently living outside of Newmarket.
Riggs has always enjoyed the camping experience. Even before having kids, she and her husband enjoyed spending long weekends in a tent parked at one of Ontario’s beautiful parks. Now, they bring their 10-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son along, spending 25 to 30 nights of the summer in their family camper. “The kids love it,” says Riggs. “It’s great family time, because you’re away from all the distractions.”
Tips for Beginners
Camping makes for a fairly frugal vacation, too. The biggest expense is camping gear, and you only need to buy the large ticket items once: a tent (or camper), as well as sleeping apparatus (sleeping bags or blankets), and cookware. Recurring costs include groceries and campsite fees.
“For anyone starting out, you can do it bare bones,” says Riggs. If you’re new to the camping scene, Riggs suggests planning your first trip with experienced campers – this way, you can lean on both the expertise and sophisticated equipment of your friends.
Where to Go
To save you the trouble, we’ve rounded up some highly recommended Ontario Parks to camp at this summer:
Sibbald Point Provincial Park – Sutton
Distance from home: 40 minutes
Highlights: Sibbald Point is located on the southern shores of Lake Simcoe. The provincial park is still fairly close to home, just in case you happen to forget your toothbrush. While it’s still somewhat “city camping,” the park features long sand beaches, sunny and shaded campsites, large grassy picnic areas and a forested hiking trail.
Balsam Lake Provincial Park – Kirkfield
Distance from home: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Highlights: Balsam Lake boasts great fishing for Wallaye, Muskellunge, as well as Large and Small Mouth Bass. There’s also a large sandy beach featuring canoe, kayak and paddleboat rentals. Be on the lookout for a wide-range of birds, including Northern orioles, Pileated woodpeckers, hawks, osprey and owls.
Arrowhead Provincial Park – Huntsville
Distance from home: 2 hours
Highlights: Arrowhead offers the full Muskoka experience, with three sand beaches hugging quiet, motorboat-free lakes. Enjoy 15km of hiking trails, including a trail leading to a waterfall. It’s a perfect spot for canoeing, biking and kayaking. And there’s plenty of wildlife; Riggs and her family saw two bears at Arrowhead last summer.
Killbear Provincial Park, Parry Sound
Distance from home: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Highlights: Located on Georgian Bay, Killbear offers the sandy beaches typical of the Great Lakes together with the rock ridges and pines of the Canadian Shield. Discover beautiful windswept views along the 6km recreational trail for hiking and biking. But the best part? The stunning Georgian Bay sunsets.
Wheatley Provincial Park, Chatham-Kent
Distance from home: 3 hours, 40 minutes
Highlights: Here’s your chance to experience Ontario’s “deep south” provincial park – Wheatley sits on the same latitude as North California. The campgrounds are situated among a tangle of creeks and a beautifully wooded forest. Plus, Point Peelee Park is only 20 minutes away, with great spots for swimming and picnicking on Lake Erie.
By Charlotte Ottaway