Ontario is Canada’s second largest province. The Ontario Parks system began in 1893 with Algonquin Park. When I was a kid, I went to a summer camp in Algonquin. My best camp memory was a week long canoe trip. On the last leg of our trip, we stopped at Algonquin’s famous Portage Store on Canoe Lake. It was exciting because we didn’t see other trippers for days and then suddenly we were crossing paths with paddlers from around the world. There are three lodges in Algonquin and I’ve been lucky to stay at two: Bartlett Lodge and Killarney Lodge. Both were terrific. I also remember the rib dinner we had at Killarney. Lip-smacking good.
Another favourite Algonquin Park experience for me was the park’s wolf howl. I was 13 years old yet I remember the howl as if it was yesterday. It was an August night. The park staff led hundreds of us in cars down an old logging road in the park. We turned off all our lights and were instructed to sit quietly outside our cars. One of the staff howled into a megaphone. We waited then he howled again. It wasn’t long before he got a response. It was AMAZING. We could even hear the young wolf pups’ yelps. The pack was miles away but they sounded like they were just over the next hill. Algonquin Park still has its August wolf howls. For details, see here.
Canadians might not think of Ontario as a land of beaches, but some of Canada’s best are in Ontario Parks. Sandbanks, Wasaga Beach and Pinery are all within a couple of hours drive of Toronto and there are plenty more across the province.
We’ve picnicked at old encampments in French River Provincial Park where the famous Voyageurs camped hundreds of years before us. We’ve marveled at how rugged Frontenac Provincial Park is even though it’s only 40 kilometres north of Kingston, a city in eastern Ontario. Then there’s Killarney. The colour of its lakes are Windex-blue. Friends rave about other Ontario Parks such as Pancake Bay on Lake Superior. We’ve been told the beach is fantastic and the sunsets unforgettable. A stay in a Sleeping Giant cabin in fall also comes highly recommended. The park is just outside of Thunder Bay. Atikokan, the Canoe Capital of Ontario and Quetico, a paddler paradise in northern Ontario also intrigue.
It was a beautiful mid-September day when we pulled off the T’Can into Driftwood Provincial Park on the Ottawa River. We pretty much had the park to ourselves. It reminded me once again why the shoulder seasons are a good time to travel Canada. The weather is generally good and there are fewer travelers.
Ontario has 329 provincial parks. Over one hundred have visitor facilities and park programming for all ages. Many Ontario Parks have roofed accommodation. Paddling, hiking and mountain biking are popular in spring, summer and fall. In winter, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and dogsledding are big. Getting outfitted from head to toe is possible if you don’t want to travel with gear. Local outfitters and lodges are generally found close to individual parks. For information on how to reserve a campsite at an Ontario park, check here. And for accommodation near many Ontario Parks, check Resorts of Ontario, an umbrella resort association with over one hundred member resort hotels, lodges, cottage resorts and country inns.