(1) 1000 Islands Camping Resort
The 1000 Islands Camping Resort is located near Brockville, Ontario (which is before the major Ottawa highway exit – 416 – off the 401). I’ve been there quite a few times, in fact, as a teenager I went there annually. There’s a ton of family activities – from wagon rides and hiking to children’s crafts and mini-putt. You’re welcome to lounge by the gigantic pool or hike the trails. Your entire family will find something to do – no matter the age. I remember meeting friends on my first night there and playing with them throughout the trip.
The camping ‘resort’ is nestled in an area that offers boating, swimming , hiking, golfing and fishing.
Resort offerings: camp store (snacks, groceries and gifts), washrooms with hot showers, laundry facilities, 50-foot-pool, scheduled kids’ activities’ crafts, Bingo night, wagon rides, mini-putt and for the gamers in your family there’s even an arcade. I’ve got a ton of fond memories at this place so if you’re looking to take your family somewhere to get the camping experience with a few extra super-fun amenities, this is your place. Although if you’re looking for the deep-woods, privacy experience of authentic “camping” this likely isn’t for you. Some sites are out in the open and few offer much in the way of privacy.
(2) Sibbald Point Provincial Park
Ok, I’m a little bias with this one but I am putting it on the list because I worked there as a teenager and know it well. It’s only an hour and 20 minutes north of Toronto so it’s easy to access (although with summer, weekend traffic it can take longer). It’s located on Lake Simcoe with cute, small towns nearby (for restaurants and stores). Sibbald Point is one of Ontario’s Provincial parks and it’s maintained as such. In contrast to the 1000 Islands Camping Resort mentioned above, Sibbald’s is a more historic, natural experience. There’s a huge sandy beach, a large playground for kids, hiking trails and an historic museum. Campsites, while in wooded areas, are easy to spot though and don’t offer that deep-woods seclusion. But, there are great picnic areas and camp sites are large enough to include multiple vehicles (buy additional permits).
Visitors can purchase day passes as well, which is a great way to check it out before booking an official stay. Because it’s a provincial park, Sibbald Point books up very fast. You’ll want to plan a stay here (especially summer weekends/long weekends) well in advance. I recommend this place because you’re close enough to towns to access emergency services (for kids), restaurants and supplies while still getting that outdoor, camping thrill (campfires, canoeing, tents etc). It’s less of a resort style place and lets the kids take a break from city life and explore nature.
Another great Provincial Park, which tends to be more commonly discussed, is Sandbanks. It’s similar to the above but offers sand dunes, bird migration and is located in Prince Edward County instead of up in the Simcoe area.
A second honourable mention goes to Kawartha Highlands. This park is the largest in Ontario and is actually quite new. It’s a more rugged experience and offers tranquility and backcountry camping. Here you’d be looking at more wildlife, darker night skies (forget Saturday night Karaoke and crafts). You can even canoe up to some sites, which gives it more of an authentic, outdoor feel. This is for the hardcore camping family as opposed to the grounds that are geared toward kids activities.
(3) JellyStone Park Camp Resort
This is a great option for tourists visiting the Toronto area who don’t mind paying a pretty penny for some outdoor fun. It’s close to main, Canadian landmark attractions (like Canada’s Wonderland and Vaughan Mills Mall) and is within 40 minutes driving distance to downtown Toronto. A lot of people stay here as part of a larger trip to visit Toronto and surrounding areas. Although it’s expensive compared to other cam grounds, it is what it is (think Disney and Wonderland). Families can “camp” (I use this term loosely here because it’s more of a fun, amusement type experience than a woodsy, bug repellant, beans in a can type camp), sing karaoke, play mini-golf, swim in a large, heated pool and then go out during the day on urban excursions. Yogi Bear and his friends roam the park and as a parent you can appreciate why/how this is one of my top recommendations for those with little kids. Some of the extras (like mini-golf) do cost extra and there’s even charges for kids. But if you no what you’re getting in to and you go to this camp ground with the mindset of paying for the experience, most people say it’s a high five, two-thumbs up kiddie activity.
For more on what this camp offers and the prices check out their facility info.
(4) Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA): Albion Hills, Indian Line & Glen Rouge.
The TRCA offers three distinct camp grounds all within daily-driving proximity to downtown Toronto and for much more of a reasonable price. Again, these are great options for families passing through the area or for those wanting to avoid hotels and still experience the city. These parks offer canoeing, hiking, mountain biking, picnic areas, playgrounds, swimming and more. Depending on the time of year, there’s even cross-country skiing and a maple syrup festival.
Glen Rouge: this is the only actual campground located in Toronto, along the Rouge River on the city’s very east end. Backpackers are welcome and amenities include the basics – showers, fire pits and washrooms. It’s near the Toronto Zoo, beaches and Petticoat creek so there are educational things to do nearby on day trips. It’s a simple way to “camp” with your family and still be within the city limits (it’s even walking distance to public transit).
Albion Hills and Indian Line are both located a bit further from Toronto but are good alternatives to hotels during the summer. They’re also a great, quick, simple activity for downtown families to get out of the city without taking on too much cottage country traffic.
From tent-trailers to RVs, this family-focused camp ground caters to all things “trailer” (tents are not allowed). Cedar Park Resort is located near Bomanville, Ontario (Bomanville Zoo, Jungle Cat World), which is approximately 45 minutes to an hour outside of Toronto (at the city’s east end). This place is your standard summer amusement centre for kids – mini-golf, a giant water park area, picnic spots, tennis and a pool. There’s a lot of day-use visitors here and school/camp excursions so if you’re trying to avoid noise and a lot of kids, this might not be ideal. But the buzz and energy of excited kids does have its place and if you’re looking for that sort of experience I would recommend Cedar Park.
The mini-golf and large water slides cost extra ($5 and $7 respectively) and for $390 a family of four can stay for a week. No pets are allowed here though and it’s honestly more of a destination than a stop-over type place.
(6) Bon Echo Family Camp Ground
Ok, Ok, I said five but I had to slip an extra one in. I wanted to mention Bon Echo because you can rent cabins and tents, which you don’t necessarily see a lot of these days. The cabins even come with their own kitchens. Again, it’s pricy…$975 for a week. But if you bring your whole family and really make a trip out of it, the expense can be worth it. Among other reasons, Bon Echo states that their relationship with nature, the lack of commercialization and clean, safe beach are just a few reasons why they’re superior to other family-focused resorts.
Ok, I hope that helps. Happy Camping and send me your favorite spots in the comment section below or via email. We would love to hear from you!!
Other useful resources for more information on camping in Canada:
Today’s Parent http://www.todaysparent.com/family/all-the-best-family-campgrounds-in-canada/
Bon Echo Family Camp Ground http://www.bonechofamilycampground.com/
Suburban Tourist Top 5 Camping Recommendations