September 1, 2020

Our First Family RV Trip - Road Trip From Toronto to the Bruce Peninsula and Manitoulin Island

With COVID putting a halt to big travel plans this summer, many have turned to staying local. And what is more local than renting an RV and hitting the open road to explore your own backyard? Check out our first family RV trip, where we explored the Northern Bruce Peninsula, Manitoulin Island and Earl Rowe Provincial Park in southern Ontario. 

First Family RV Trip in Southern Ontario

Earlier this summer, we decided to switch things up and rented an RV. While my parents have had a pull trailer for a number of years, and its become the new norm for our family camping adventures, renting an RV (you know, one that you drive) was a first for my husband, two daughters and I. 

We love tent camping. But travelling in an RV opened up a whole new world to us. We were able to go at our own pace, be on our own schedule, while enjoying the comforts of home that you may not experience tent camping.

Read on to learn where our first family RV adventure took us.

Family RV Trip in Southern Ontario - Toronto to Tobermory

We picked up the RV from Canadream, located in Brampton, ON - one of the only major RV rental centres in the Greater Toronto Area. It may be out of the way for most, but luckily it was right by Highway 410, the highway we would take to get us to the northern Bruce Peninsula.

As renting an RV was a new experience to us, we did learn a lot. BUT, I will keep that for another post.

After we were loaded into our RV, we hit the road, or Highway 410, and drove north. Our first destination was my family’s cottage on the Lake Huron side of northern Bruce Peninsula. We didn’t get a chance to visit last summer - I really couldn’t tell you why - so we were long overdue. With social distancing in effect, we had the entire place to ourselves for two nights. 

This place has a special spot in my heart. My mom’s parents built it in the 70s, and I have been visiting since I was 3 weeks old. That’s almost 35 years. So to be able to share it with our girls, who are the 5th generation to visit, is extremely special. Luckily, they love it just as much as I do.

Family RV Trip in Southern Ontario - Toronto to TobermoryFamily RV Trip in Southern Ontario - Toronto to Tobermory

Some rain and grey weather did not stop the girls from swimming in the lake. Either did the record water level - the highest we’ve seen in many, many years. The lake front at the cottage is not sandy, but rocky. So to access it, many many years ago, my Poppa built stairs into the rock. Sadly, the water level has caused a lot of his hard work to wash away. Water shoes and steady feet are now required to navigate the slippery rocks. 

We had the best couple of days, relaxing, swimming and waking up to the sound of the waves on the shore. But, come Tuesday morning, it was time to pack up early and hit Highway 6, driving 20(ish) more minute north to the end of the road at Tobermory.

Usually a trip to the cottage involves an afternoon in Tobermory - lunch at The Fish & Chips Place, ice cream at The Sweet Shop, beers at Tobermory Brewing Company, checking out the boats. If we’re lucky, maybe we even take the glass bottom boat to Flower Pot Island, or dive the wrecks in Fathom Five National Marine Park. But, not this time. This trip, we were boarding the MS Chi-Cheemaun and heading across Georgian Bay to Manitoulin Island. Something I haven’t done in at least two decades, and a first for Steve and the girls. 

Family RV Trip in Southern Ontario - Toronto to Tobermory

The 1.5 hour ferry ride took us from Tobermory to South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island. The weather was perfect, and we enjoyed sitting out on the top deck, taking in the beauty of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay surrounding us on either side.

I should also mention, despite COVID, we felt extremely safe the entire trip to and from on the ferry. Owen Sound Transportation Company (the company that runs the MS Chi-Cheemaun) has numerous protocols in place for the health and safety of their crew and passengers. Prior to lining your vehicle up to board, they screen everyone in the vehicle with the typical COVID screening questions and ask to see masks for every person. Once you board, you are required to where your mask for the entire trip, something that I thought would be a lot more difficult to enforce during the 1.5 hours with a 2 and 4 year old. Social distancing is in effect inside the ship, from limited seating and directional signage to washroom capacity and no access to the gift shop or cafeteria. There are also a lot of staff on hand, continuously sanitizing the cabin. If you’re planning a trip, I recommend you visit their website to see all COVID safety protocols in place.

Family RV Trip in Southern Ontario - Toronto to Tobermory

From South Baymouth we drove to Gore Bay, on the north west part of the island, to grab some beers from Split Rail Brewing Co and have lunch along the beautiful harbour. This place was something out of a postcard, and we easily could have stayed there for longer. But, out next stop called so it was back in the RV. We had every intention to stop for a swim at the very popular Bridal Veil Falls, but when we got there we discovered the stair access was closed for safety reasons AND, even if we chose to walk in, it was a little too busy for our comfort. So, we kept driving to our destination on the island - Batman’s Cottages and Campground, where we would spend the night. 

Family RV Trip in Southern Ontario - Toronto to Tobermory
Family RV Trip in Southern Ontario - Toronto to Tobermory
Family RV Trip in Southern Ontario - Toronto to Tobermory

I’m normally one for lots of trees and privacy when camping, but for one night, this was the perfect spot. We had a site directly across the street from the beach access, which is where we hung out for the rest of the day. The waters of Georgian Bay were cold, as they always are, but that didn’t stop the girls from going in. Before we tucked in for our first night in the RV, we walked around and explored the rest of the campground, checking out the other sites (it’s fun to see other people’s camping setups), the second beach (which is basically non-existent due to high water levels) and fed the ducks. Marshmallows were roasted around the fire, and we called it a night. It had been a long day.

After a successful night in the RV, we had an early start the next morning, heading back to South Baymouth to catch the return ferry to Tobermory.

Family RV Trip in Southern Ontario - Toronto to Tobermory

Knowing we had to return the RV early on Friday morning, we decided to make the most of the last two nights and book a campsite closer to home. Earl Rowe Provincial Park, located in Alliston, ON, fit the bill. From what we could see, it was an hour from the drop off location and had a beach for the girls. 

Well when we we got there, turns out, the beach was closed because of high bacteria levels. (Cue dramatic sigh.) The big fail on our part was that we were really banking on spending the day at the beach, so we didn’t really have any back up plans. Luckily, we were able to fill the time with walks to explore the park (scavenger hunts and ‘I Spy’ have become recent favourites), playing on the slide and swings, ice cream at the park store and inventing our own games that involved pool noodles, buckets and pinecones. 

When it comes to COVID, we felt pretty safe at Earl Rowe. The park was not busy at all, which gave it a peaceful quiet feeling. Something that is definitely welcomed once you’ve been to places like the Pinery and Algonquin at their peak busiest. Showers were closed, but the play structure was open, making sure to go at times when there weren’t any other kids playing. 

*Side note: I have heard from others that Earl Rowe may have been the exception to a quiet Ontario Park, as others such as Pinery, Algonquin, Awenda, Sandbanks and Bon Echo have been just as busy as they normally are during the summer, with very limited social distancing happening. 

Family RV Trip in Southern Ontario - Toronto to Tobermory
Family RV Trip in Southern Ontario - Toronto to TobermoryFamily RV Trip in Southern Ontario - Toronto to Tobermory

After two successful nights camping at Earl Rowe (seriously, RV or not, there’ just something about sleeping in ‘the wilderness’), it was time to head back to Canadream to drop off the RV, pick up our car and head home.

Drop off was very easy, but again, I’ll save those details for another post. 

In all, it was a very successful 5 days exploring southern Ontario in our RV. I could definitely get used to this way of travel. The only question is, where to next?!

Family RV Trip in Southern Ontario - Toronto to Tobermory
Family RV Trip in Southern Ontario - Toronto to Tobermory

There are so many perks to “living the RV life” on vacation. From planning your own schedule, being able to bring the pets, bringing all of the comforts of home and beyond, I can definitely see why people prefer it.

Long story short, it was an amazing trip and we are already planning another one for next summer. This time, it will be a bit longer and a bit further, hopefully exploring a region of Canada we’ve never seen before.

Have you travelled in an RV before? Share your favourite RV destinations. I’d love to hear!


First Family RV Trip - Road Trip From Toronto to Tobermory

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