Is there anything more Canadian than camping with your family in the summer? It’s a great way to appreciate our home and native land, and get the kids immersed in nature as well.
There’s no question that camping comes with its own set of challenges, though, not the least of which is the length of time it takes to drive to some decent “wilderness,” especially if you live in Toronto. Algonquin isn’t for everyone, right?
The great news is that you can find some beautiful places to camp within a two-hour drive from Toronto. If you’re not sure where to start, look no further than this list of 6 provincial parks not too far away from home.
Presqu’ile Provincial Park
This beautiful park is the perfect combination of sandy beaches, wooded parkland, trails, and spacious campsites. Situated about 90 minutes east of Toronto on Lake Ontario, it’s the perfect answer for those of us who weren’t able to get reservations at the more popular (but farther away) Sand Banks. ontarioparks.com/park/presquile
Balsam Lake Provincial Park
Depending on where you live in the city, this campground may be pushing the two hour driving limit, since it’s up in the Kawarthas, but it’s worth it. Beautiful campsites, fishing, hiking, and canoe rentals make it ideal for families. It’s a popular park, though, so book early!
A quick getaway to Lake Simcoe that’s only an hour north of the city, Sibbald Point is a great place for first timers to try camping. They’ve even got designated campsites that are audio device-free, to encourage a more natural (and quiet) camping experience. This is a feature young families who have early bedtimes will appreciate.
Located northeast of Orangeville, the provincial park features its own small lake where swimming and canoeing are both possible, as well as a maintained pool that is an acre in size. The quality of the lake water is tested regularly, and if it’s deemed unsafe to swim in, the pool is a fantastic alternative. In addition, there are numerous hiking trails of varying lengths and difficulties to keep your kids busy.
The name Darlington may not bring to mind large swathes of natural habitat, but this park’s close proximity to McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve will make your camping trip a great chance for kids to try out birding. As well, swimming, canoeing, and fishing are all popular activities, and being just east of Oshawa makes it a quick drive outside the city.
A provincial park that’s just west of Oakville? Yes please. What makes this park ideal for children is the wide array of activities available. Numerous hiking trails, a large pool, the Bronte Creek Ravine, a children’s farm with animals, and numerous historical spots and activities within the park will ensure your visit is filled with both fun and learning.
Who doesn’t want to camp in a park with the name, “Emily?” Located on the Trent Severn Waterway, this provincial park is the perfect place to try fishing, kayaking, or canoeing for the first time, with rentals available onsite. As well, the beaches along the warm Pigeon River are ideal for kids who might find Lake Ontario too chilly to swim in.
With more than a month left before school starts again, you really owe it to yourself and your kids to give camping a shot. The trip is well worth the effort, for the learning, fun memories, and bonding that will take place, and you may well find yourself at the beginning of a new family tradition.