May 2, 2019

Best Family-Friendly Camping Destinations in Ontario



Now that spring is upon us, it’s time to start planning our spring and summer outdoor adventures. For our family, that means lots of camping. Today, we’re sharing the best family-friendly camping destinations in Ontario! Whether you are an experienced camper or new to camping, whether you hike in, drive in or even canoe in, there is a family-friendly Ontario camping destination for you.

Car Camping at Canisbay Lake Algonquin Provincial Park

Living in Ontario, we love exploring the camping spots in our own backyard. There is so much more to this great province than tall buildings and concrete.

Today, I’ve teamed up with a group of bloggers from the Toronto Bloggers Collective (TBC) to share the best family-friendly camping destinations in Ontario - a list of both provincial and national parks that you NEED to visit if camping with your family, regardless of your camping experience level.

Ontario Parks

Did you know that Ontario is home to over 330 provincial parks, covering 8% of Ontario’s landmass? Ontario Parks is the largest provider of outdoor recreation experiences in the province. Each year, over 10 million visitors from around the world travel to Ontario’s provincial parks to camp, swim, picnic, hike, bike, paddle, birdwatch and much more.

Here are some of the TBC’s favourite Ontario Parks for family camping:

Algonquin Provincial Park

There’s not much more stunning (and quintessentially Canadian) than Algonquin Provincial Park. It’s also only 3(ish) hours from Toronto, making it the perfect long weekend escape from the big city. 

Established in 1893, Algonquin was created as a wildlife sanctuary to ultimately protect the headwaters of the five major rivers which flow from the Park. As one of the oldest and largest provincial parks in Ontario, Algonquin is diverse, protecting a variety of natural, cultural and recreation features and values. It also offers something for nearly everyone. Whether it be a family camping trip, a back country portage or even just a day hike, there are many reasons why YOU must visit Algonquin Provincial Park. 

Algonquin Provincial Park Canisbay Lake sunset canoe

Awenda Provincial Park

We’ve camped with our two small children at nearly every provincial park in the southern half of Ontario. Awenda is among our favorites! With four enjoyable beaches, large campsites and 33 kms of easy-to-moderate hiking trails, Awenda makes for a really lovely family camping experience. It’s just two hours north of Toronto and perfect for a long weekend, although we prefer to stay five days to a week.

The campsites, surrounded on all sides by the tall straight trunks of hardwood trees, are prettier and more private than most. Rent a canoe for a morning paddle, take a hike on the Bluff Trail to have lunch overlooking Georgian Bay, then bicycle or drive to the beaches (they’re a bit far from the campsites to walk) to spend the afternoon swimming, sunning and exploring.

Kids aren’t ready for bed? Enjoy sunset while dock fishing off the Kettle Lake boardwalk or head over to the Amphitheatre to take in a presentation by a Friends of Awenda Park naturalist. And once all is quiet, the best part of the day: sitting quietly by the campfire, beverage in hand, gazing up at a sky full of stars.

Contributed by Zoe King - Wandering Family

Awenda Provincial park fishing

Bon Echo Provincial Park

Bon Echo is the ideal place for new campers. To me, it’s best of both worlds. If you are looking for something resembling city camping all the amenities at the camp site will make sure camping adventure easy. From easy hikes, to interactive boat tour that gives the history of the park to the every popular annual art and craft show in the summer. 

If you are looking for a bit more of an adventure, you can take the ferry to the start of the clifftop trail. Even more adventurous? Climbing the rock wall will fill the cup of even the biggest adventure seeker. 

We love it so much it’s been the site for our yearly camping trip for our children’s birthday 10 years in a row. 

Now when I say city camping, I mean it. From laundry facilities, to comfort stations for hot showers this park has everything you need and it's only a 3.5 hour drive from Toronto.

Contributed by Claire Zlobin - Drop of Golden Sun

Bon Echo Provincial Park

Chutes Provincial Park

Last fall, we had the chance to take the Ontario Parks RV for a spin to five of Ontario’s Provincial Parks for the 125th anniversary. Each one of the parks we visited had a unique footprint and series of hiking trails. But after several hours driving, our second last stop was the one that blew us away with its quiet charm. 

Chutes Provincial Park is in a tiny little spot way up north near Massey on the Aux Sables River on the way to Manitoulin Island. If you arrive in the fall you can spy salmon swimming upstream to mate near the main waterfall. The Twin Bridges Trail is 6 km long and follows the Aux Sables River. The trail leads to lookouts of the falls and the Seven Sisters Cataracts. Interpretive panels at the Falls Lookout tells the history of the area and at the base of the waterfall is a beach that is tranquil. 

Contributed by Paula Schuck - Thrifty Mommas Tips 

Chutes Provincial Park waterfall

Killarney Provincial Park

If you’re looking for a true wilderness to escape some of the crows in Algonquin, head to Killarney Provincial Park. For the hiking family, try the challenging Crack Trail. With more time and an active bunch, climb to the top of infamous Silver Peak (part of the epic La Cloche Silhouette backpacking trail): both trails afford views that prove that Ontario isn’t so flat after all. Canoeing, kayaking, and swimming at the beach are just some of the summer water activities; snowshoeing and ski trails are maintained through the winter. With yurts, cabins, front country and backcountry camping, there is something for everyone. To me, the best feature of Killarney is its sapphire blue lakes. Due to the bright white crystal rock and pink granite, Killarney’s Lakes are some of the cleanest and brightest you can find in Ontario. It is certainly worth the drive, and I can’t wait to be back this summer for more!

Contributed by Lauren Chu - The Ridgeline Report

Killarney Provincial Park camping

Killbear Provincial Park

Killbear Provincial Park is located on beautiful Georgian Bay, an easy drive from Toronto. The park has a wide range of summer activities for the whole family. Bring your bikes so that you can ride the 6 kilometre Recreational Trail and check out the lighthouse at the end of trail. Each of Killbear's seven campgrounds has a beach within walking distance, perfect for a day of swimming with the family.

For those looking for a more exhilarating water activity and one unique to Killbear, try jumping off the cliffs into the water below.  Even the little ones can experience the thrills and jump safely from the lower rock ledges.  

Contributed by Andy Vanr - Avrex Travel

Killbear Provincial Park swimming

MacGregor Provincial Park

MacGregor Point Provincial Park is open year round, but not all campsites are open. The full service campsites and yurts in the Algonquin campground are open through the winter.  One of the best winter camping activities there while you are camping is snowshoeing!

The sites in the Nipissing campground are closed during the winter season making that area perfect for snowshoeing because it’s not being used at all. The only competition for snowshoers on fresh powder are cross country skiers. The area does see a fair amount of snow so you are pretty much guaranteed a great time during the day and then can hunker down in a toasty yurt at night.  

MacGregor Point Provincial Park is located on the eastern shores of Lake Huron in Western Ontario.

Contributed by Kathryn Dickson - Kathryn Anywhere

MacGregor Provincial Park winter camping

Pinery Provincial Park

Growing up, my family and I spent many summers exploring all that the Pinery has to offer. 

Located on the shores of Lake Huron, just outside of Grand Bend, Pinery Provincial Park is a hidden gem in the Ontario Parks' system. The 21 square kilometres of rare forests and rolling dunes offer excellent year-round outdoor recreations, including 10 walking trails, a 14 km bike trail and 38 kms of groomed ski trails. The Old Ausable River Channel, which runs the length of the park, is perfect for wildlife viewing, fishing or a relaxing paddle in a kayak or canoe. During the winter months, the park offers cross country skiing, snow shoeing and yurt camping. 

Pinery Provincial Park Ausable River kayak

Windy Lake Provincial Park

Sandy beaches, great swimming, and views for days. No, I'm not talking about Cancun, I'm talking about Windy Lake Provincial Park. 

It's a great spot to be in the spring or the summer, but I'm actually a big fan of what you can do up there in the winter. Firstly, there are actually gorgeous well maintained cross country ski trails up there, which I found out firsthand at Windy Lake. Beyond that, they've got a lovely cabin or two, and four all seasons yurts. I even did some ice-fishing while I was up there with my best pal, and we couldn't have been happier. 

That being said, this is a place that you'll be happy as a clam no matter what the season. The truth is, it's picturesque all year around and, in my humble opinion, Windy Lake Provincial Park is one of the best kept secrets in the whole province. 

Give it a try, you won't be disappointed!

Contributed by Christopher Mitchell - Traveling Mitch 

Windy Lake Provincial Park Winter Camping

*****

National Parks

Camping in Ontario goes beyond provincial parks. Across Canada, there are also 450 000 km² of protected areas with countless unique experiences to suit your needs. Whether you’re looking for adventure, fun for the whole family, or a break from the everyday, Parks Canada has something to offer.

Bruce Peninsula National Park

Bruce Peninsula National Park is located on the Niagara Escarpment that runs from Rochester to Tobermory. It is approximately 156 square km and is protected by UNESCO’s Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve. It is perfect for family as it has many outdoor activities. This includes watching birds, camping and hiking. The views of the sunrise and sunset are amazing. The visitor centre has a boardwalk, theatre, reception, information and an exhibition hall. You can swim in the water during the summer. I strongly recommend going there and the drive is amazing.

Contributed by Jerry Godinho - Four Columns of a Balanced Life 

Rouge National Urban Park

If you are a beginner camper, or unable to escape the city, the Glen Rouge Campground within Rouge National Urban Park (RNUP) is a great car camping and the only campground in the City Toronto. Set next to the Rouge River, it’s the perfect place to submerse yourself in nature while staying in the city! It is a fairly open space to camp, BUT the camping around is within walking distance to many of the trails in the park. 

One of the great things about Rouge National Urban Park is theirLearn-to-Camp Program. If you are interesting in going on your first camping trip, but don’t know where to begin, this program program equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to feel confident planning and carrying out your first camping adventure.

No car? No problem. RNUP is easily accessible via Toronto transit and Park Bus.

Park Bus to Rouge National Urban Park

Where are your favourite places to go camping with your family? I'd love to hear!





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