The Best Ontario Campgrounds for Families
Ontario is a beautiful province to discover and explore with your kids. Ontario Provincal Parks are the Best Ontario Campgrounds for Families to camp for so many reasons, and even better is this year you can get an Ontario Parks Daypass for Free from Monday to Thursdays.
Now in Ontario we are lucky to have over 340 Provincial parks, each offering different things and geared to different interests. Finding the perfect Ontario Park for a family camping trip takes a little bit of research so we have created a list of parks that have the best accomodations, and activities for families. The following are some of our favourite family friendly campgrounds that we have personally stayed at with young kids and why we like them.
The Best Ontario Campgrounds for Families can be booked up to 5 months in advance using the Provincal Park Registraton System. Camping spaces, especially yurts and cabins book up very quickly so its important to book in advance to avoid missing out on your preferred date. We always set an alarm in our phone for 5 months prior to when we want to camp, and normally start discussing dates in January. This doesnt mean you cant still book a camp site for this summer if you havent booked yet it just may be more difficult. Can’t find a site? Then take a daytrip to one of the Best Beaches in the GTA.
The best Ontario Campgrounds for families are ones that offer lots of activities to keep the kids busy such as biking, canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, playgrounds, a sandy beach, and easy hiking or interpretive trails. A campground should feel relaxing and an escape from the hustle and busy lifestyle at home. I am sharing my recommendations for the best campgrounds for families who want to get away from the city and enjoy the outdoors. Ontario parks has many accomodation options including: camping in a tent, an RV or a Yurt. It’s up to your family and your comfort requirements.
How can I get a FREE Ontario Parks Day Pass in 2021?
Ontario Parks will offer free day-use visits at 17 Ontario Parks and issue free permits on those days. Visitors will still need a permit to visit parks from Fridays to Sundays. You will still need to display a parking permit even on days when it is free so make sure you get your Daily Vehicle Permit in advance. Ontario Parks will be offering a new service for day use visitors: at 17 of our busier day-use parks, you will be able to get your daily vehicle permit in advance of your visit.
The Best Campgrounds in Ontario for Families with Kids
Let’s take a look at the best provincial parks in Ontario that are perfect for families. The following are all provincal park campgrounds that I have personally stayed at and enjoyed with my family. My daughter is three so we have taken a couple trips, and we even collect a patch from each park.
Pinery: Is a beautiful park with 10km of sandy beach on Lake Huron, and is home to lots of wildlife including over 300 species of birds which you can see while hiking one of their many trails. The Pinery Provincal park is located in Grand Bend, Ontario and is ranked by National Geographic as among the “Top 10 Best Sunsets in the World”! Pinery offers lots of activities as you can enjoy 10 walking trails, a 14 km bike trail.
You can rent a canoe, hydro bike, paddleboat, paddleboard or a single or double kayak to explore the Old Ausable Channel – a provincially significant wetland. I really enjoy renting water equipment at Pinery as the Old Aussable Channel is flat and has minimal ripples making it easy to navigate as well as easy for kids to learn things like paddleboarding. The Pinery also has one of my favourite dog beaches as its basically a big doggie pool party so if you have a dog this is an excellent choice. There are also excellent beaches that dogs are not allowed. My only negative to Pinery is that the beach is quite a drive from the camp sites.
The Pinery also has a Indoor Discovery Centre which was a great option for us to keep the kids busy when it started to rain. Pinery Campground also has a great park store if you forget something at home and is definetly the most elaborate park store of all the campgrounds I have stayed at over the year. If you are feeling hungry you can check out the Ice Cream Shop or Snack Bar for many food options if you don’t want to cook yourself. We often grab breakfast on our last morning so we dont have to clean and cook.
Balsam Lake: is a family and pet friendly Ontario Provincial Park that offers a variety of activities for the whole family to enjoy, and the best part is that you are getting the kids OUTSIDE! Balsam Lake is located near beautiful Coboconk in South-Central Ontario along the Trent-Severn Waterway.
Now at Balsam Lake we have stayed in both a cabin and have camped in a tent. Checkout our full review of the amazing Balsam Lake Cabin. We love Balsam Lake as it has a very sandy beach that is easy for kids to enter and to play along the shoreline. Balsam lake offers great fishing for Walleye, Muskellunge, Large and Small Mouth Bass, and also has canoe, kayak, and paddleboat rentals.
While the park doesn’t have any dedicated biking routes there are lots of campground roads and over 10 km of local cottage roads to ride freely. Balsam Lake Provincial Park offers the option of a family jaunt, nature walk or more difficult hike, as there are two different trails to choose from depending on your needs. Both trails allow you to expand your outdoor experience and learn about the history and ecology of the park while enjoying panoramic views. I also like that Balsam Lake has a great Pirate Ship Playground located nearby the beach.
Grundy Lake: is situated in the Township of Mowat in the Territorial District of Parry Sound. Grundy Lake is very quiet and private and a little less busy that many other campgrounds we have been too which was very appealing with little kids as it was always very quiet in the evening making it easier to get the kids to sleep.
Grundy Lake has activities for all ages: great hiking trails, canoe/kayak rentals nearby and many great beaches with smooth rocky shores which provide excellent swimming. Bring your bikes as there are lots of great areas to ride and enjoy the fresh air and wilderness. There are no official bike trails in the park but the campground roads provide some excellent biking opportunities. I found this top from The Explorer’s Edge “For a bit of adventure try the Pakeshkag Lake Road, which offers a back country feel and wildlife viewing potential as it makes its way to its namesake lake and access point”.
My favourite part of Grundy Lake was the countless inland lakes that offer endless canoeing and kayaking adventures, both girls loved canoeing and sitting with grandpa on the shoreline fishing. Grundy Lake beach is very shallow and is roped off making it perfect for little kids to enjoy as you can see in the photo above it doesnt get very deep before the buoys. There are eight natural sand beaches in the park that you can enjoy but if you are looking for something different there are many rocky shorelines that can be reached by canoe.
Long Point: is the fourth oldest provincial park in Ontario and is located on the northwest shore of Lake Erie near Port Rowan, Ontario. Long point camp sites are entirely sand which makes for a very different experience than most campsites which are dirt.
Over 1.5 km sandy beach on the warm waters of Lake Erie, there is excellent fishing and boating opportunities in Long Point Bay. Long Point has a very wide shoreline which is perfect to allow kids lots of space to play in the sand and build sand castles. Make sure you pack a frisbee or ball as there is lots of open area to play sports on the beach.
The shoreline is kid friendly as there is very little amoutn of rocks or seaweed and the water is shallow so it is perfect for the kids to play in. Beautiful Sunsets can be seen on the beach, and I highly recommend you catch one while you’re there. The Beach is located very close to the campsites so you can easily go back and forth with a short walk.
The Best Tips for Camping with a Infant, Baby, Toddler or Preschooler
Now just because you recently had a baby, doesn’t mean you can’t get outdoors and enjoy some camping. Now my husband, our dog and I love to go camping and normally do about 2-3 trips a year, however when our daughter was first born we were a little intimidated but decided we would commit to one trip that summer with family. So I have created a list of the Best Tips for Camping with an Infant, Baby or Toddler as I have now done it all and this year will embark on camping with a Preschooler and a Baby…. let the fun begin!
Our first camping trip she was only 6 months and I have to say it was actually the easiest trip we have done with her so far. Every summer in August we do a family camping trip with my husband’s siblings and parents and while the first year we only did a weekend we have now extended the trip to about 5 days every summer and have a blast!
Now camping with a baby can be fun just like any other trip, but does require some planning to ensure you have a happy camper! So last summer we packed our car full to the brim, plus a cargo bag on the roof and headed to Pinery Provincial Park. Now we had an amazing weekend minus the pouring rain on Saturday all day long. Through our experience, I have come up with a few tips and a few products that will help you in your first camping trip with kids.
If you are interested in taking on the challenge of tent camping with a baby or toddler, here are some “camping with baby” tips to get you started!
1: Start Small and Stay Local
If this is your first camping adventure with a baby or toddler, I recommend you choose a local campsite and start with a short weekend trip of two nights, as that way if it does not work out as planned its not so difficult to come home. If you set your expectations low it will be easy to succeed, and then you can build up to a longer trip or further away from home once you have had one successful camping trip with a baby trip.
It will just make you frustrated and upset if you are hours away from home and were planning on staying a week and your baby is nothing but uncooperative. On the second year we took our daughter camping at 18 months, she would not sleep in the evening and we woke up flat on the ground as our inflatable mattress had a hole and we were trying to keep our daughter quiet so she didnt wake up her cousin and create a day full of two cranky kids, so be prepared it may not go as planned. If you are flexible and have low expectations to start you will have a great trip.
2: Recruit Help or Extra Friends
We planned a camping weekend with my husband’s family including two kids aged 6 months and 2, two aunts, an uncle, and grandparents, this way we figured we had lots of help. By having lots of people it makes it much easier to set up your tent or cook meals as one of the other adults can watch baby for a few minutes, and you don’t have to try and juggle baby and other tasks.
3: Bring Your Own Water
Camp sites in Ontario do have a tap for water but often it is under boil restriction meaning that it needs to be boiled first before it is considered saving drinking water. For babies that are formula fed such as my daughter, we purchased 4L jugs of distilled water to make formula so we knew the water was clean and safe. Now not only is this convenient as you don’t have to take the time to boil the water, but you can just pour it straight into the bottle. Distilled water is also very cheap as we paid only 99 cents a jug. You can also buy nursery water if you prefer over distilled water. I learned however you do not want to use just regular bottled water as it has too many minerals for babies. Nursery water is distilled water specifically designed for babies and toddlers, though I find it the same as distilled water but nursery water has a higher price.
4: Bring lots of Bottles to avoid constant washing
This trip we brought 12 bottles with us so we only had to wash bottles once the whole trip as we had enough to get us through 2 whole days which made life easier. I also brought the bottle brush, and two bins from home so that I could use them as sinks to clean the bottles with water I got from the campsite but boiled first get rid of any impurities.
Now on our trip to Vancouver we used Playtex Drop Ins, which are Pre-sterilized liners which offer a GUARANTEED CLEAN BOTTLE every time (excluding nipple and ring). This way you only have to clean the nipples and the ring which are much smaller and easier to clean. Now while we did find this very convenient and much easier to clean in hotel sinks, our daughter hated the nipples so it made drinking a bottle difficult and time consuming.
Another option is Medela offers Quick Clean wipes which offer Quick and easy cleaning and these hygienic wipes are proven safe for cleaning breast pumps, breast shields, and baby feeding and changing accessories.
5: Have a plan for where baby is going to sleep in your tent
For babies: Now for our daughter who is 6 months we just brought her whole pack and play and set it up in our large tent. I have yet to find a better and more compact options for babies who are big enough to roll but also not yet a year old. You also can buy buy mosquito nets that fit over play pens to that you can use them outside if it is to hot in the tent.
For toddlers: My 2 year old niece used a camping cot specially designed for kids, which she loved and slept well on. Now it folded up fairly small but I have found an option I love even more that I plan to buy for next years trip. The kidco peapod travel bed is a travel bed that is enclosed by a lightweight mesh that promotes air flow and acts as an insect screen if used outside. The peapod only weighs 2.5 pounds and easily folds into a travel size carry on suitcase so its a great size and comes in its own carry bag for easy storage. The other cool thing is that there is a sleep pad attached so nothing else is needed. The Kidco peapod can be used for kids aged 1-3 years old.
6: Keeping Baby Safe from the Sun
We use our California Beach Co tent everywhere… from pool side, to the beach, to camping, we absolutely love these shelter to provide shade for our young son who will be 4-6 months over the summer so therefore unfortunately is not old enough for sunscreen.
The California Beach Co tent is only 7.2 lbs., and is perfect for use inside or outdoors. It is large enough for multiple kids – 59″ inches wide by 40″ tall from the base to the top of the upper netting and 48″ to the very top, I have personally sat inside it with both of my kids and not felt squished. A UV shade cover is included to block out those harmful sun rays and keep some bugs away. A compact fold travel bag with a shoulder strap for easy portability and my favourite part is it can be popped up using just one hand and is put up in less than one minute! Now the price tag is a little higher than some simple tents you can buy however this one is durable and will last for years, it actually fits back into the bag unlike every other tent I have ever owned and it is convienient and quick so for all these reasons it is worth every penny to me!
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As for sunscreen if baby is over 6 months, I personally really love Think Baby sunscreen, as it has an SPF of 50, is free of biologically harmful chemicals as there is no Avobenzone, Oxybenzone, or UV Chemical absorbers. Think baby is zinc oxide based and is highly water resistant.
7: Equipment that makes camping with a baby easier
PORTABLE HIGH CHAIR:
Now my sister in law borrowed the greatest item from her friend, the Phil and Ted lobster chair which is a portable highchair that has a five point harness to ensure baby safety. There are lots of other brands that also offer clip on high chairs that can easily be attached to a picnic table. The chair comes with a compact fitted carry bad and a food tray that slides on making feeding easy. The chair easily clamps to almost any table. This chair was amazing for feeding both my 6 month old and 2 year old niece and worked great to have my baby sit in while we all played cards as it poured rain.
SEATING AROUND THE CAMPFIRE/CAMPSITE
Now it is easy to just hold baby in your arms but sometimes you need to put them down so this is where the Kidco Activity Centre comes in handy. The foldable seat is portable and light weight and folds to be the same size as a camping chair. The attached floor keeps babies feet clean and the seat has four adjustable heights to grow with baby. The activity centre has nylon loops so you can hook toys to it to keep them a happy camper! New to the market since my daughter was little is the Fisher Price on the Go Chair which supports YOUR baby in an upright position with a wide, sturdy base and has a large Repositionable canopy protects against the sun’s rays (UPF 20); mesh back helps keep your baby comfortable. We have the Sit me Up Chair at home without the canopy that we use all the time in our living room. Summer Infant also has a portable chair but it unfortunately does not have a canopy which I think is super important but depends on your needs.
Now that I have given you some tips and some amazing products to checkout! Simply as a mom I like and have personally used the products above on multiple occasions and found them useful! All in all though, get out there and have an adventure outside, the fresh air definitely helps babies sleep! These products are not only helpful for camping but for many other travel trips.
Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links which means we do get a small payment if you purchase using our link, however it does not cost you anything extra.
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