Tent Camping in Ontario
Are you itching to try tent camping in Ontario? The province is a great place for novice campers, with a network of well-maintained provincial parks and conservation areas, many of which are a short drive from the Toronto area.
My parents began taking me tent camping across Ontario when I was a small child, and I continued the tradition with my children, often bringing my parents with us. Camping is a wonderful multi-generational activity for the whole family and a great way to pry today's children (and parents) away from the constant barrage of technology.
Books on Camping in Ontario
Comfortable Climate and Campsites
Tent camping is an inexpensive way to get out and enjoy the outdoors, but some people are hesitant to try it due to weather and safety factors. Ontario is the perfect place to get started with tent camping due to the pleasant weather and wide variety of comfortable campsites and campgrounds.
Moderate climate. The "comfortable" camping season in Ontario ranges from mid-April through to the end of October, though there are several provincial parks offering winter camping for the more adventurous campers. With the exception of a couple of heatwaves and one record-setting rainfall weekend, in almost forty years of camping I've enjoyed lovely weather. That said, be prepared, and bring along rubber boots, a raincoat and some sort of hat in case of rain, as well as at least one pair of long pants and a sweatshirt, even if you camp in the middle of July. You just never know.
Lots of available campsites all across the province. While the big parks in the more popular regions of southern Ontario can book up fast through the Ontario Parks reservation system, there are great campsites and parks all across Ontario and along Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Superior. The Provincial Parks are regulated by park rangers and may enforce alcohol, radio and pet bans in certain parks or campgrounds within the park, so do your research ahead of time to ensure you don't have any surprises. If you are interested in tent camping at an Ontario campground that is closer to your home, visit the Ontario Conservation Areas to locate a park in your region. While many private campgrounds focus on the camping trailer and RV campers, there are some with tent sites. As we always had good luck with the provincial parks, my family tends to stick with these.
Ontario has a wide variety of tent camping sites.
Tent or trailer camping?
Family Camping in Ontario
People always talk about Algonquin Park when discussing the best campgrounds and parks in Ontario, but we never have any luck getting reservations there. I've tried more than once, and it just doesn't work out. Luckily, there are many other wonderful places to try tent camping in Ontario provincial parks. If you have small children, these parks are a good introduction to family camping.
- The Pinery Provincial Park is a wonderful place to start camping IF you can pick a time to go when it isn't too crowded. Don't choose a holiday weekend - as a matter of fact, try to avoid weekends altogether. If your kids aren't in school yet, try early September. The Pinery is a large park with over 100 campsites, 600 of them for tents. Biking, canoeing, and well-groomed nature trails with lots of organized children's activities, the Pinery also has a large visitor centre where your kids can learn about the area wildlife. We always try to camp in the Burleigh campground where it is quiet, tents only and has easy access to the incredible Lake Huron beach.
- Presquile Provincial Park is on Lake Ontario and an easy drive for campers from Toronto and Ottawa. We visited Presquile on Canada Day weekend when my kids were about 10 and 12, and had a wonderful time. The tent camping sites were large, shady and private, and the showers and washrooms were well-maintained and clean (important for mom.) The boys loved the evening entertainment put on by the campground staff which included skits and demonstrations of pioneer life as well as films about the history of the area. They were also fascinated by the old lighthouse, one of the oldest ones in Ontario.
- Bon Echo Provincial Park is another large provincial park and an excellent spot for family camping in Ontario. With over 528 tent sites, it can get crowded and busy, so book far in advance and choose your site carefully. Bon Echo is in a stunning location on Mazinaw Lake, and features ancient petroglyphs along the rock face of Mazinaw rock. If you have teenagers or older children, consider staying in one of the walk-in campsites and enjoy the lovely clifftop view of the rock across the water. We did this when I was a teenager. It was well worth giving up the Comfort Station for the seclusion and beauty of the walk-in site, but it probably isn't a good option if you have toddlers or preschoolers.
- Turkey Point Provincial Park does not have swimming or a beach in the park, but the public beach is nearby. It is also just a short 15 minute drive to one of the loveliest beaches in Southern Ontario at Longpoint Provincial Park, which also has campsites. I have camped at both parks more than once, but Longpoint's tent sites are very exposed and right on the water, so are really more suited to families with older children, teenagers, or larger groups. Turkey Point has large, private, shady sites and it was the first place I took my sons camping when they were 3 and 5 years old (Avamum rule - all campers must be potty-trained prior to camping.)