S’mores, campfires, beer and bug spray. That’s right Toronto, it’s camping season, and with the weekend just hours away, we thought we’d give you a few suggestions as to where to spend your summer weekends. Whether you’re a wilderness expert or just looking to get in touch with nature, these fine spots located not too far from the GTA (under 4 hours) are sure to make your summer a memorable one.
Elora Gorge is just an hour and a half from downtown Toronto near Guelph, and offers a wide range of camping experiences. From roughing it to ‘glamping’, there are many ways to enjoy the gorge and the Grand River that flows through it. Take a dip at the “old swimming hole” and admire soaring 22 metre high cliffs. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can kayak or inner tube down the river. The picturesque town of Elora makes for an enjoyable day trip as well. You might want to plan your adventure for the weekend of August 22/23 as Elora Riverfest will be taking place which features a stunning lineup of Serena Ryder, Arkells, Dan Mangan, Young Galaxy, The Strumbellas, and many more.
When you think of Ontario, great beaches isn’t the first thing that comes to mind; however, Sandbanks Provincial Park is said to be among the largest and most beautiful beaches in Ontario. Located in Prince Edward County, Sandbanks is a 2.5 hour drive east of Toronto. The park is home to 549 campsites with special larger sites for group camping, and “comfort stations” for those who actually wish to shower while camping. You can also practice your windsurfing, sailing, canoeing and boating at Sandbanks.
Anyone who’s been to Bruce Peninsula Provincial Park will tell you how crystal clear and picturesque the water is. ‘Bruce’ almost feels as if you are on the west coast, with massive rugged cliffs and thousand year old cedar trees overhanging Georgian Bay. Because of it’s natural beauty, Bruce can become packed with tourists in the summer months, but a short walk along the shoreline in either direction will allow you to discover the raw beauty of southern/central Ontario. Bruce Peninsula also connects to The Bruce Trail – one of the most famous hiking trails in Ontario.
In between Oakville and Burlington, Bronte Creek Provincial Park is a quick 45 minute cruise from the city. Bronte Creek is a great spot to camp with children as they’ll be busy with the animal farm and a swimming pool, and it’s close enough to urban centres that anything you need is a short drive away.
Awenda Provincial Park is on the shores of beautiful Georgian Bay near Penetanguishene, 2.5 hours north of Toronto. Awenda has private and shaded sites for tents, cars and RVs, and a radio free and pet free areas. There are tons great hikes and bikes to do with over 31km of trails including a popular beach trail. You can also rent canoes in the interior lake within the park.
The 3 hour and 45 minute haul northeast to Bon Echo Provincial Park is well worth the drive. Bon Echo suits all types of campers with drive-in sites, backcountry camping, or canoe in sites, some have electricity and are close to running water. For the hiker enthusiast, there is a trail that goes across a majestic 100 metre high cliff with over 260 Aboriginal pictographs that is a must-do. If that’s not your thing, there are plenty of other things to do from educational activities to boat trips.
And then of course, there’s Algonquin. The best way to experience Algonquin Province Park is to explore the interior by canoe or on foot. The park is 7653 square kilometers, that’s about 1.5 times the size of Prince Edward Island, and is home to over 2400 lakes. If roughing it in the bush doesn’t sound like your thing, there are also drive-in campsites along Highway 60.