Blog

What You Need To Know About Going to The Grotto at Tobermory

The Grotto, in Bruce Peninsula National Park, has become one of Southern Ontario’s most popular tourist destinations in the summer. Located near Tobermory, it’s close to lots of other tourist destinations such as Fathom Five National Marine Park where you find Flower Pot Island. I have been the poor soul who once tried to get into The Grotto and was turned away due to the volume of people already there for the day. I learned the tactics and did make it in the following summer! Seeing quite a few posts on Instagram and Facebook during summer months from others who attempt to go to the Grotto and are turned away, I decided to put together this question and answer article of What You Need To Know About Going to The Grotto at Tobermory for other travellers before they attempt the journey and are disappointed.

What You Need To Know About Going to The Grotto at Tobermory

The Grotto is a shoreline sea cave with beautiful blue waters. It looks like it’s straight out of the Caribbean! The Grotto is a unique natural wonder and memorable place to experience. An underwater tunnel extends from the pool inside the cave through the cliff to Georgian Bay. This often makes it appear as though the pool is glowing on sunny days.

I do not believe there are other grottos located in Canada. If there are some that anyone else knows of – please let me know.

man on Rock Face at the Grotto
Rock Face at the Grotto

Where Is the Grotto?

The Grotto is specifically located close to the Cyprus Lake Campground in Bruce Peninsula National Park. The national park is on the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula, just outside of Tobermory, Ontario. It is about 300 kilometres or a 4-hour drive northwest of Toronto. It’s on the Bruce Trail.

How to get to the Grotto
map courtesy of Parks Canada

 

How Do I Make Sure I Can Get Into The Grotto?

During the peak season of July and August, there are a couple of ways to make sure you are in Bruce Peninsula National Park and can access the Grotto:

1.) Be there already as a camper at one of the backcountry sites along Georgian Bay or in Cyprus Lake Campground, then hike over from your campsite via the Cyprus Lake Trail.

2.) Reserve parking in advance if coming from outside the park. The fee to park is $11.70 per vehicle plus an applicable reservation fee ($6.00 online, $8.50 by phone) and an individual fee. Parking is assigned by time blocks and only a certain amount of cars are permitted per time slot. Parking does book up well in advance on weekends. You might have more luck during the week if you can try to go then.

3.) Head up there in the off or shoulder seasons of April/May/June or September/October when the demand to visit is much less.

What You Need To Know About Going to The Grotto at Tobermory - my selfie in the grotto
“What You Need To Know About Going to The Grotto at Tobermory” Me at the Grotto

 

How Do I Get To The Grotto?

To get to the Grotto, you will have to hike the Georgian Bay Trail from P1 of Cyprus Lake Campground. It takes roughly 45 minutes with younger kids. It can be done in 30 minutes if walking at a good pace. The trailhead to the shoreline at Indian Head Cove is rated as easy. It’s a man-made trail that is wide and scenic. Once you get to the shoreline, it’s a rocky hike. It is not wheelchair or another mobility device accessible. Watch your footing and keep children supervised. The portion of the Bruce Trail leading to the Grotto does require some climbing over slippery rocks and tree roots.

Once you reach Indian Head Cove, the Grotto entrance hole is approximately 100 metres away to the west, so don’t be confused when you arrive. Indian Head Cove is a great place to swim. As you carry on to the west, you will come across the Natural Arch, you can see the water through the hole, you’re still not there yet. Keep going.

Indian Head Cove, east of the Grotto
Indian Head Cove

How Do I Get Into The Grotto?

There is a hole that you have to slide down to get into the actual Grotto and it’s not marked, no signposts. Watch for others going in and out. Once you corkscrew down through the hole, you have to climb down a small escarpment.

I had to remove my backpack and have it passed down to me as I did not fit with it on my back.

Side note – the climb in and out is not something you can do if you are excessively overweight. You won’t fit through the hole. You will have to attempt a climb down and back up the rock face, which is not safe. Alternatively, you can attempt to swim around from Indian Head Cove.

The climb can be done wearing running shoes or barefoot if you are comfortable. I do not recommend attempting this with flip-flops or water shoes that do not have good grips.

If you are not physically fit, you might need to rely on assistance from others to get back up and out. I’m not saying this to be rude, I am stating a fact. I had to push a couple of people up ahead of me through the hole to get out as they did not have the upper body strength to hoist themselves out. You will need to assist your children. Send them up ahead of you.

Hiking To The Grotto In Winter

The Grotto is open all year round and you can also access it in the winter! The big differences in hiking in the winter versus the summer are your footwear, conditions of the terrain and the weather. The colour of the water will be the same unless it’s covered in ice. The rocks are icy now as the water that would have normally washed over the rocks is frozen. This will deter inexperienced hikers and there will be fewer people in the area.

The trail from the Head of Trails at P1 was slightly icy in some areas. We hiked in wearing krampons (ice cleats) but had to remove them as there was no snow on the rocks. We would have ruined our ice cleats had we continued to wear them.

Weather on the Bruce Peninsula does change frequently and can be unpredictable. Please do not plan on hiking out there later in the afternoon unless you want to hike back to the Head Of Trails in the dark. Use caution when approaching the shoreline as it can and will be slippery.

It should go without saying, but it will be stated anyway: please stay off the ice on the bay.

Natural Arch at Bruce Peninsula National Park in December

Is The Grotto Safe For Kids?

The hike from Indian Head Cove to the Grotto can be challenging for children, the elderly and those with mobility issues. Kids have to recognize that there are dangers to running off on their own here and parents need to understand that there is a risk of injury or serious consequences if children are not kept under control. There is no barrier on the hike and there is no lifeguard to supervise in the water. 

As mentioned, you have to slide down a hole and climb down an escarpment to get into the Grotto. My children, aged 9 and 4 at the time, did it with assistance from myself and their father. We are both fairly fit (gym rats) and assisted the children with no problem. This is not something the kids could have done on their own.

We did have to assist other kids with families coming into the Grotto through the hole and climbing back out.

The water will be cold for them and the rocks are slippery. Please keep your children close to you at all times. The water is shallow enough close to the cave that they can walk around and the water won’t be past most older kids’ shoulder height.

Girl at the grotto
My daughter at the grotto

 

How Cold Is The Water At The Grotto?

We visited the second week of August and I found it cold, but tolerable. I’m also a hearty Canadian who can swim in lakes and bays, so take my opinion on this with a grain of salt. My kids froze, their dad froze, they enjoy pools heated to over 80 degrees. If I could have carried more items in my backpack, I would have brought a wetsuit for the kids as well as floatation devices.

feet over ledge at grotto
My feet looking at the grotto

And a final note on washrooms – there are compostable toilets at the parking lot that are open. Toilets along the trail are closed in the winter but normally open in the summer.

Where Else Is There To Stay In The Area?

If you are not camping in Bruce Peninsula National Park, there are many BnB’s, AirBnb’s and motels in the Tobermory area. We’ve stayed at Cedar Vista Motel and also at the Blue Bay Motel. We recommend Blue Bay Motel. Accommodations in Tobermory fill up fast in the summertime. Be sure to plan and book your trip in advance or try going in the shoulder seasons of spring and fall.

BOOK YOUR ACCOMMODATIONS IN TOBERMORY HERE:



Booking.com

 

What other hikes are in the area?

If you are not able to get into the Grotto for whatever reason – I suggest going to The Halfway Log Dump Shoreline. It sounds rather awful, but rest assured, it’s pretty nice.

Also, you can look into Little Dunks Bay as well. It’s a cute, short hike and good for the whole family. Happy Hiking!

I hope this helps you with What You Need To Know About Going to The Grotto at Tobermory. Did I miss anything you need or want to know? Ask below! I’ll get back to you.

 

What You Need To Know About Going To The Grotto outside of Tobermory in Bruce Peninsula National Park #grotto #tobermory #brucepeninsula #discoverontario #parkscanada #grotto #brucepeninsulagrotto #tobermorygrotto #hikingthebruce #brucetrail #dangerousplaces #rockyterrain #bestfamilytraveltravelblogger #ontariofamilyadventures

*** This post contains an affiliate links that supplement my income if you chose to make a no-obligation booking or purchase ***

Winter Camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park

Have you ever camped in a yurt? If you’re looking to try, check out winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park!

I previously enjoyed my winter adventure in a yurt at Mew Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park. Yurt camping in the winter is pretty amazing. For people who like to be outdoors, but don’t want to be cold when they sleep, winter camping in a yurt is the way to go. I don’t mind cooking and spending the majority of my time outside as long as it’s not -30 degrees!

Little Man and I walking up to the camp office in the snow at MacGregor Point Provincial Park to get checked in #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula PHOTO BY BRIAN TAO, LUXOGRAPHY 2019

Winter Camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park

You’ll find MacGregor Point situated on 7 kilometres of the shores of Lake Huron in southwestern Ontario. Get yourself to Port Elgin, then head south for a few minutes. It took 2.5 hours to drive there from downtown Toronto. This Ontario Provincial Park is open year-round and is a popular camping destination. Known for being a hot spot to observe and view migratory birds and ecologically diverse natural places.

Like a lot of provincial parks in Ontario, popular summer activities at MacGregor Point Provincial Park are swimming, hiking, bird watching, canoeing, and biking. In the winter, the hiking trails have turned to cross country ski trails and one of the campgrounds that closes off to campers open up to snowshoers! There is a skating rink by the visitor’s center that is maintained by camp staff and a skating oval is created at the Cedar Lane Campsites.

There are 16 yurts open year-round for campers in Birch Boulevard Campsites loop.

 

What’s In The Yurt?

The yurts at MacGregor Point Provincial campground sleep 6. And they have electricity! There are two bunk beds, the bottom bunks are a double and the top is a single bed. I can see a family up to six people in there, but I can honestly say that a travel party of six adult friends might find the conditions cramped.

Inside yurt #60 winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park in February #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula

 

At the site next to us, there were four adults in a yurt and they seemed alright. We brought our own bedding, sleeping bags and pillows as the bunkbeds only have a mattress on them for campers. There is also a table, four plastic chairs and a gas stove for heat. The gas stove is temperature controlled and kept us very toasty through our stay! My nightly trick was to put the boots and socks in front of the fire to make sure they were dry and warm for the next morning.

Safety note: Never put your belongings directly on the fireplace and keep them a safe distance away.

Inside yurt #60, keeping boats and socks and mitts dry and warm while winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park in February #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula

Outside the yurt, campers get a fire pit, kitchen shelter, picnic tables, and propane barbeque with side burner. The kitchen shelter is slightly elevated. You likely cannot notice in any pictures I post due to the snow, but there is a ramp up the shelter making the kitchen shelters and yurts accessible. Ontario Parks has really made an effort in terms of making their beach and roofed camping accommodations accessible to everyone.

How Do You Prepare Food For Winter Camping in Ontario?

You will need to bring your own pots, pans and cutlery. Just like cooking at home, I like to keep the whole meal preparation process simple! Every morning I would boil water on the side burner of the BBQ for instant oatmeal. I actually forgot my instant coffee at home and was devastated. Have no fear! The park office sells coffee to winter campers if you are in a pinch! If you have to drive to Port Elgin to coffee, it’s not very far. The closest Tim Hortons is a 10-minute drive.

Cooking while winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park in February! We wrapped chicken breasts, cherry tomatoes and provolone cheese in tin foil and put it on the BBQ #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula #campcooking PHOTO BY BRIAN TAO LUXOGRAPHY

For lunch and dinner, we cooked primarily on the barbeque during this stay. We were hit with bouts of freezing rain and that made cooking on the open fire hard. Utilizing the BBQ in the kitchen shelter was easy for us. Brian had marinated and prepared some chicken and dumplings ahead of time. I had also brought some freeze dried and dehydrated goods from MEC that you just added water to.

Cooking while winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park in February! We BBQ's burgers one day! #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula #campcooking PHOTO BY BRIAN TAO LUXOGRAPHY

Winter Camping Cooking Pro Tips

Do not cook inside the yurt. It’s not remotely safe. We stored our food in a cooler that we kept outside during the day. At night, while bears are not a concern during the winter, we still locked up the food in the trunk.

Dishes get washed outside. Pro tip: Boil water while you are eating. Pour that water into a plastic tub with biogradeable dish soap to wash your dishes after you eat. Dispose of the used water in the outhouse.

Cooking while winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park in February! Enjoying rehydrated food inside the yurt from MEC #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula #campcooking

 

Where Do You Do Your, You Know… Business?

I’m sure by now you have noticed that washroom facilities and running water are lacking in this yurt. No worries! There is a comfort station with heated water for showering as well as two sinks, electric hand dryers and flush toilets a 2-minute walk from the yurt. The comfort station is also where you get your potable water from to wash your dishes and cook with in the laundry facilities.

There was an outhouse right next to our site. We (I) used it once in a pinch, but not more than that as the water is turned off at the outhouses and you cannot wash your hands after doing your business. Oh the joy of the subzero temperatures!

 

Birch Boulevard Campground Park map for facilities and camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park. Yurt #60 and comfort station highlighted. #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula

Get Outside!

My son and I spent so much time on our snowshoes and hiking the Old Shore Trail by Lake Huron. The Visitor Centre was not open while we were there, however it does open for select dates such a Family Day. We hiked past it on the trail and on our way to the playground.

20 Photos That Will Inspire You To Snowshoe at MacGregor Point Provincial Park #FindYourSelfHere #OntarioParks #YoursToDiscover #DiscoverOntario #DiscoverON #Snowshoe #MacGregorPoint #ProvincialPark #MacGregorProvincialPark

The hiking trails turn into cross country ski trails and they were being used a lot while we were there. We did not snowshoe on those trails as it would be dangerous to get in the way of the skiers. There are signs telling snowshoers to not go on the trails. It’s best to snowshoe at the Nipissing Campground area as it’s closed to campers for camping in winter.

Little Man at the playground while winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park in February #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula PHOTO BY BRIAN TAO, LUXOGRAPHY 2019

Little Man was really into running ahead on the trails and roll down any snow pile he could find! He was in his element of no walls, barriers or restrictions. We had nowhere we were in a hurry to be and that meant he had freedom to roll and laugh and play. He was so in the moment and carefree.

Is Winter Camping in a Yurt Good For Kids?

When Ontario Parks and I initially discussed a yurt winter camping experience, I intended on bringing both of my children, but this was not something my daughter was going to enjoy like my son was going to.

Parenting your kids and figuring out how to play to their strength is tough. First of all, nothing with kids is ever constant, you get used to one method, and then they change. In that aspect, kids are kind of like flowers that change from season to season. No two flowers require the same amount of water or sunlight to grow. You have to nurture each one individually and figure out what they need to blossom. Then you feed that flower and watch it grow.

I have a 12-year-old daughter (wait, she’s almost ten as she will remind you) and a 7-year-old son with vastly different interests.  One loves and needs to be outdoors running around, the other would rather be indoors reading books, especially in winter. In order for each one to have their buckets filled, they require a different amount of sunlight, food, and love.

Little Man helping unload supplies from our Ford Escape for winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula PHOTO BY BRIAN TAO, LUXOGRAPHY 2019

 

Single Mom Camping

Little Man, myself and “Uncle Brian” enjoyed this trip. Brian is my friend and photographer who often accompanies me on camping trips. He was my wedding photographer way back when! Side note – Brian is the reason why I actually end up with photographs of myself with the children that are not selfies. And mainly plans the menu, that’s really useful because he’s a good cook. I’m the Queen of hotdogs and burgers on the fire. He’ll actually marinate steak in advance.

Little Man and I walking on Old Shore Road Trail at MacGregor Point Provincial Park in February #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula PHOTO BY BRIAN TAO, LUXOGRAPHY 2019

A New Yearly Tradition

Winter camping is something I’d really like to make this a yearly tradition with my son. It’s a great bonding experience for us and it’s so lovely to see my downtown, urban kid thrive out in nature. I think he actually prefers it out there! I know I do.

Little Man and I looking out at Lake Huron while winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park in February #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula #lakehuron PHOTO BY BRIAN TAO, LUXOGRAPHY 2019

 

Not into camping at all, but still want to enjoy the hiking, skating, skiing and snowshoeing in the winter at MacGregor Point Provincial Park? Check out other accommodations in the area.
Booking.com

Want to reserve your Ontario Parks getaway? Check out upcoming events across the province in 2019 and go #FindYourselfHere, click here!

Happy camping!

 

Disclaimer: We were guests of Ontario Parks during our visit to MacGregor Point Provincial Park, but in no way swayed us into having a good time.  Our views remain our own.  

Yurt #60, I went winter camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park in February with my son. It was an amazing experience for him and I recommend it highly for anyone seeking some extra adventure in life #findyourselfhere #macgregorpointprovincialpark #macgregorpoint #macgregorpp #ontarioparks #yurtcamping #wintercamping #outdoors #adventureparenting #portelgin #brucepeninsula

I’m no stranger to experiences in Ontario Parks. You can read up on my other camping and glamping trips here:

Epic Hikes With Kids – Barron Canyon Trail, Algonquin Provincial Park

Yurt Winter Camping in Algonquin? Yes Please!

Glamping in Bonnechere Provincial Park

20 Photos That Will Inspire You To Snowshoe at MacGregor Point Provincial Park With Your Kids

Serpentine Loop in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park – 20 Photos to Inspire You To Canoe That Route

Canoe Portage With Friends: How To Have A Successful Back Country Camping Trip

 

What To Do And See In Sudbury In Fall

My kids and I were hosted by Sudbury Tourism to take part in the splendour of what to do in Sudbury in fall. Our opinions of how much we love Northern Ontario’s largest city are always our own.

Sudbury has not historically ranked up there in terms of gorgeous autumn places to go in Ontario. However, after years of meticulous care, reseeding and revitalization, The City of Greater Sudbury has become a playground in the outdoors for everyone in all seasons. I have been lucky enough to play in the winter wonderland of Sudbury before. And in the fall, there are so many gorgeous sights and things to see around Sudbury.

What To Do In Sudbury In Fall

Here’s a great list of what to do in Sudbury this autumn. From tourist attractions in Sudbury to off-the-beaten-path breweries and distilleries, we tried to discover it all. We even found the largest mural in the city!

And you might want to hurry outside before the leaves all fall off the trees. My kids and I were lucky enough to experience these attractions in Sudbury, Ontario ourselves when the red and orange leaves started popping!

Sudbury Largest mural in the city

PUMPKINFERNO at Dynamic Earth

Where else can you enjoy an animated Halloween show projected onto the iconic Big Nickel? Nowhere else! Pumpkinferno at Dynamic Earth is one of Sudbury’s most exciting Halloween events for families. The Pumpkinferno experience features 19 carved pumpkin vignettes and roughly five thousand glowing jack o’lanterns displayed along a 250m outdoor pathway. For now, the indoor attractions at Dynamic Earth are closed during this event.

It was definitely raining the night we attended Pumpkinferno. We likely missed out on taking in the outdoor science show or telling spooky stories around a campfire, but that didn’t stop the rest of the outdoor fun for us. The kids participated in a scavenger hunt, made seed bombs and most importantly made fun of my pumpkin carving skills. I really have to level up my game now after being inspired here. You have to see some of that artistry!

The Pumpkinferno experience is every Friday to Sunday in October evening. Please note that there is limited capacity for this event and other specific details are on the website pertaining to safety measures to keep your family safe. Admission tickets for timed entrances to allow for social distancing must be purchased online.

Sudbury Big Nickel Pumpkinferno lights and scary face

Science North

For those familiar with southern Ontario family tourist attractions, the Science Centre in Toronto is our gold standard. Science North is Northern Ontario’s gold standard and dare I argue, a family favourite for us.

Of all the amazing exhibits at Science North, you must discover the new Indigenous Ingenuitiy exhibit . It’s new since our last visit to Sudbury in February of 2020 and you can definitely check out our winter travels here Sudbury Rocks For Families In Winter.  Indigenous Ingenuity is designed around an interactive quest. You access the audio explanations via a bracelet you obtain when you enter the exhibit and take with you from station to station as your guide. The exhibition allows you to experience the innovative Indigenous knowledge and processes by listening to the elders with their knowledge and experimenting with basic scientific principles. This means for the kids, it’s actual hands-on experimentations. From leaving “how to hunt” humanely, to building structures like teepees and seeing things the origins of things that we use in our everyday life.

Sudbury Science North Indigenous Ingenuity, learning to hunt humanely

 

Get Outside – Hiking trails in Sudbury

One of the bests things to do in the autumn is to go hiking. How else will you see the amazing autumn hues that Mother Nature has painted for you? Seriously, my favourite colour is October 🍃🍂🍁♥️

Here are a couple of trails that I highly recommend around Sudbury:

Onaping Falls Trail

Have you seen Onaping Falls yet? Onaping Falls is only a half-hour northwest of Sudbury and it will take your breath away! When you park your vehicle in the parking lot, you’re not too far from the A. Y. Jackson Lookout. The A.Y. Jackson Lookout is famous for the Group of Seven artist, A.Y. Jackson, who memorialized this view on his canvas entitled Spring On The Onaping River.

Kids at Sudbury Onaping Falls AY Jackson look out

The hiking trail from the A.Y. Jackson lookout point to the bridge over High Falls is approximately 1 kilometre. It’s a bit rocky and requires some steady feet and appropriate footwear. You do need to go down the rock scramble and then through the woods with lots of protruding rocks and roots. There are multiple viewpoints along the way as you get closer to the falls and bridge. Definitely a great adventure with the kids! Then we hiked to the bridge for some seriously stellar views.

Sudbury Onaping Falls from bridge

Kivi Park Trails

In the south end of Sudbury is Kivi Park. If you’re in that area, you should check out the hiking trails at Kivi Park. Their hiking trails are available year-round, are well maintained, the trail system is marked and they offer a range of loops and trails for hikers of all levels. The Kivi Park trails will take you through forests, meadows and past beautiful lookouts over the lake. The length of the hikes ranges from 1 kilometre to 7 kilometres. They’re good for kids and for adventurous souls as well. You can also bring your bikes here and if you are not afraid of cold water, paddle boarding and kayaking is also an option.

Speaking of kids, the playground just off the parking lot here is excellent!

During the winter months, be sure to check out the cross country ski & snowshoe trails as the kids and I have before in this very same spot.

Sudbury Kivi Park Hiking Trail in autumn

Great Lakes Waterfront Trail

When you think of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail, you may, as I did, think naively only about southern Ontario. Imagine my surprise to be walking along Ramsay Lake on the Bell Park side with my kids and then we found ourselves on the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail. It turns out, Sudbury is the east anchor of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail. And there are over 60 kilometres of this cycling trail around Sudbury interconnected together. Now you know!

Sudbury Great Lakes Waterfront Trail

Fun Places To Visit in Sudbury

While travelling with my kids we do hit a lot of family-friendly type destinations and activities. However, there’s going to be a stop or two along the way that’s for my enjoyment and not necessarily for the kids. Here are some of the fun things to do in Sudbury that involve maple syrup and distilleries:

Maple Hill Farm

Have you ever had bourbon-aged maple syrup? I had not before I picked some up from Maple Hill Farm. Now, we all know I’m a whisky lover, but an oak barrel whisky flavouring on my pancakes for breakfast is a game-changer!

Celine and her husband are the new owners of Maple Hill Farm, a maple syrup farm on 35 acres of beautiful forest. This location has been in the maple syrup business for many decades, closed for a while and is now reborn. The farm’s historical values and traditions have been maintained and if you’re in the Sudbury area and need to get your hands on some excellent maple syrup, this is the place to go. The syrup is made on-site and while they’ve upgraded to a mechanical process, there’s still a lot of manual labour and love that goes into running such a wonderful place.

Sudbury Maple Hill shop

Production happens in the spring, so don’t expect to see the sap flowing from the trees in autumn. However, you’re still welcome to visit and book the outdoor space for events if you wish. While this was an educational experience for me, the kids were amazed by seeing the sap lines from the trees and how they run downhill to the newly built sugar shack. Really put the idea of how we use nature

This location is so gorgeous, particularly in the fall, it’s worth the drive outside of the city.

Sudbury Maple Hill Brewery Sugar Shack

Crosscut Distillery Sudbury

How do you feel about drinking the best Ceasar you will ever have in your life? Truth be told, I have never really been a Ceasar fan. I’ve had them at brunches before and they were always okay, but not high up on my enjoyment scale.
Then I had a Ceasar made from Bacon Vodka. Yes, Bacon Vodka. It’s a Triple Grain Vodka, distilled with caraway, black pepper and bacon to create a balanced flavour.  This Ceasar has a nose of caraway, pepper, salty brine, sweet smoke and cardamom. I bought each and every one of the ingredients to take home to make it myself.

Sudbury Crosscut Distillery Bacon vodka Ceasar

This is Sudbury’s one and only distillery. Crosscut Distillery opened in April 2018 and produces vodka, gin, whisky, liqueurs & more. Crosscut Distillery is a craft distillery making small batches utilizing local ingredients and quality grains. You can taste the edge of Northern Ontario with every sip. Especially with their gin.

I do want to give a nod to the creativity here as well – I had a pumpkin spice cocktail here that was like a really great boozy desert.

Sudbury Crosscut Distillery pumpkin spice cocktail

There are breweries in Sudbury. Sudbury has a bit of an emerging craft beer scene. I tried Stackt Brewing when I was there last and when I look back on my beer tasting and rating app that I use Impact, an altbier is actually rated as one of my highest and best.

Where To Eat in Sudbury

I’m a huge fan of locally grown and harvested ingredients and farm-to-table meals. While Sudbury does have its share of chain restaurants, there most certainly are a few local gems worth mentioning.

Nickel City Cheese + NCC Poutinerie

This isn’t really a restaurant. This is a cheese factory with a chip truck outside in the parking lot and that’s charming. Nickel City Cheese makes fresh cheese and curd and has quickly become a local favourite!

Laughing Buddha

Laughing Buddha is a lovely restaurant in downtown Sudbury. The food served up is vegan and vegetarian dishes, but have no fear meat lovers, there are options for you too!  My kids got pizzas and I got the Buddha Bowl and it was really good. I don’t eat vegetarian only for the most part as I am a meat lover, but I would call the meal very enjoyable.

They serve draft beer with local options on their taps, so always a bonus in my eyes.

 

Hotels In Sudbury Ontario

Where do you stay in Sudbury? This time, my kids and I stayed at the Holiday Inn Sudbury Ontario. This is a big, spacious hotel that has a great pool for relaxation. The beds are very comfortable. The rooms are a great size for families. There is a restaurant and bar on-site, ample parking and the rates per night are fairly decent.

Sudbury Holiday Inn double room interior

The one beef I have and I have this with pretty much every hotel – there’s never enough coffee provided. And why is there always the same amount of decaf coffee as regular coffee? This is a mystery to me.

If you’re travelling to Sudbury, be sure to check out the Holiday Inn or Travelway Inn in Sudbury where we stayed last time here:



Booking.com

(This is an affiliate link and I make a small commission if you make a booking. This is at no extra cost to you.)

Hope this provides you all the inspiration to get out and enjoy what Sudbury offers in the autumn! And if you are looking for winter activities, because that season is right around the corner, but sure to check out Sudbury Rocks For Families In Winter.  There are more restaurant recommendations and activities to check out with friends, as a couple or with the family.

 

What To See and Do in Sudbury this fall, how to enjoy autumn in Sudbury, Ontario, Hiking Onaping Falls Trail, eat at local restaurants, visit Crosscut Distillery

Beer and Biking Cornwall Ontario – Will Bike For Beer

I’d like to thank Cornwall Tourism for hosting me as media with one of their Cycle & Stay Packages so I could explore beer and biking in Cornwall Ontario. As always my opinions are always mine.

What if I could tell you that you could bike from brewery to brewery in Cornwall, Ontario? You can depart on bike from Humble Beginnings Brewing in Ingleside and arrive at Rurban Brewing in Cornwall.  Sounds simple right? Almost a straight 21km drive via Vincent Massey Blvd.

Here’s the hitch: Use only the bike trails on the Long Sault Parkway and the Waterfront Parkway and then up through Cornwall. It is a bit of a physical challenge if you’re not an experienced rider. It’s not overly stressful in terms of any elevations, but it’s not a short bike ride to do this route. However, the views are worth it.

This beer flight to beer flight route takes you on the Long Sault Parkway, a chain of 11 islands connected by causeways that is most definitely one of the most beautiful bike trails in all of Ontario. You will also cruise through the Waterfront Trail and the town of Cornwall. Just over 28 kilometres (just over two hours timewise) of a leisurely ride, minus all the picture-taking stops brought me from one beer-tasting flight to another.

Causeway at Long Sault Parkway, Macdonnell Island to Mille Roches Island

Beer and biking Cornwall Ontario

Ontario craft beer is enjoying a high right now. It’s trendy and it’s good and I predict it will remain popular for the majority of my adult life. Long gone are the days of our Dad’s simple Blue and Blue Light. Our tastes are more refined now. Some like it hoppy and bitter, some like it malty with notes of caramel and chocolate or some straight up like the pineapple and sours. Whatever your taste preferences may be with respect to craft beer, in the Cornwall area, you’re bound to find it.

Beer and biking go hand in hand in Cornwall.

In 2020, bikes were sold out everywhere. With COVID and shutdowns, cycling has become a very popular outdoor form of activity. Cornwall is fortunate to have a long stretch of paved bicycle path that’s right by the water for the most part. There are over 40 kilometres of traffic-free, waterfront, paved recreation trails that people can travel. You don’t have to bike the entire 28 kilometres that I did. The access to it from many different points is amazing, so it’s great for families, seniors on a leisurely ride, serious cyclists, or newcomers to cycling.

Cornwall is has been recognized as a Bicycle Friendly Community by the Share the Road Cycling Coalition. Almost every single road in Cornwall has a bike lane, it’s pretty impressive.

Cornwall City Sign at Guidon Park with a purple bike parked in front of it on the Waterfront Trail

Where Is Cornwall and Long Sault Parkway?

Cornwall, Ontario is located just west of the Quebec and Ontario border. The Long Sault Parkway, in the St. Lawrence River, is just west of Cornwall. This is the furthest eastern point of what is considered the 1000 Islands region. If you have been reading my posts for a while, you might remember that my kids and I spent a few days in Gananoque and 1000 Islands in the summer of 2020. Cornwall is just over the hour east of Gananoque.

The region around Cornwall is one of the oldest in Ontario and loaded with history. On my dad’s side of the family, we can even trace back to being farmers a couple of hundred years ago, just north of Cornwall in Glen Robertson.

The driving distance from Toronto is just over four hours.

How To Bike Around Cornwall?

Unless you have a vehicle driver like I did to drop me off, you’ll have to park and ride. The Civic Complex in downtown Cornwall offers free parking to cyclists. You can park your car, unload your bike and go off and enjoy the trail. You can also check out some of the history and culture that Cornwall has to offer.
There are places to rent bikes in Cornwall in case you need to rent a bicycle or want to and enjoy the trails here.

Waterfront Bike Trail, Cornwall Ontario

 

Stop 1: Humble Beginnings Brewing Co. – Pre Bike Ride Beer in Ingleside

My ride on this day starts at Humble Beginnings Brewing Co in Ingleside, Ontario. Humble Beginnings Brewery Co is a small batch, handcrafted brewery in an unassuming strip mall nestled between a major bank branch and a busy local restaurant.
With a view of the St. Lawrence River from its door, you can sit in the beer garden and watch the neighbourhood antics and get the small-town feel of the area.

Beer flight at Humble Beginnings Brewery. The beers are Mad Canadian, Devil at Your Heels, 65 Roses Red IPA and Kiwi Campervan

The beers on tap this day are Mad Canadian Kolsch,  Kiwi Campervan Pacific IPA, 65 Roses Red IPA and The Devil At Your Heels Copper Ale. Mad Canadian Kolsch is a clean, crisp lagered ale. Kiwi Campervan Pacific IPA is a bright, hazy and bitter beer featuring Pacific North West and New Zealand hops. The Devil At Your Heels Copper Ale is said to bring out your inner daredevil!
Based on the colour of the beer alone, my bet was placed on Kiwi Campervan Pacific IPA being my favourite, but it was the Mad Canadian Kolsch that edged them all out. Devil at Your Heels was the second-best in the flight to me.
Beer and biking Cornwall Ontario on this day was off to a good start indeed!
Fuel for the road! Enjoying a flight of beer at Humble Beginnings Brewery Beer.

Long Sault Parkway

With my taste buds tickled and fuelled for the ride, I take off from Humble Beginnings Brewery in Ingleside, Ontario for the one-kilometre ride to the head of the Long Sault Parkway at the West Gate. The Long Sault Parkway is a series of 11 islands that were created from high points of land left after the flooding of the St. Lawrence River during the construction of the Seaway in the 1950s. In fact, the river has covered up some villages that once stood where the river now lies. There’s a bit of interesting Canadian trivia for you. Many of those residents from the now flooded villages were relocated to Ingleside or Long Sault. Some of the structures that could be moved were taken to Upper Canada Village.
Bike at the Ingleside entrance of Long Sault Parkway
Once the causeway is crossed, you find yourself on McLaren Island. You will ride past the McLaren Campground, then cross a small swamp and you’re on Woodlands Island. Woodlands Island is home to both a beach and a campground. Causeways carry the parkway east to Fraser Island, Hoople Island, Dickinson Island, Heriot Island, Vankoughnet Island, Phillpotts Island, Macdonnell Island and Mille Roches Island.
Selfie Stop on bike on Long Sault Parkway, Hoople Island. Biking and beer Cornwall Ontario
On Macdonnell Island, the parkway starts to turn northward as you pass an information booth for The Lost Villages. On this island, you also find porta-potties that are clearly visible in case you need to relieve yourself. Of interest, I learned that there are shipwrecks in this area! Took a bit of time to explore this. On Macdonnell Island is the diving club location for Save Ontario Shipwrecks.
In terms of scenic bike rides, this is one of the most beautiful in Ontario.
Diving Club on Long Sault Parkway, Macdonnell Island, Save Ontario Shipwrecks

Waterfront Trail into Cornwall

After 10.1 kilometres of gorgeous scenery and easy riding, you find yourself at the intersection of the Long Sault Parkway and The Waterfront Trail. Head east on The Waterfront Trail here. What’s important to note here is that you will be sharing this trail with hikers and cyclists of all abilities. Cornwall’s Waterfront Trail is a multi-use trail that spans the city’s entire waterfront.
As I flew through this area, I had to pause at The Lost Villages Museum where over 70 vendors were set up. Dozens of artisans set up on the museum grounds selling all sorts of handcrafted goods. Instantly regretted only having my small backpack that was already jammed with bottles of water, sunscreen and spare underwear.
Waterfront Trail Map at Guidon Park
Once you get to Guindon Park, you can take a pause to refill your water bottle here, play at the park, rent a kayak or take a break and enjoy the scenery. At Guidon Park, the milage check is 17.39 kilometres and 73 minutes in time from Humble Beginnings Brewery by bike on Long Sault Parkway and The Waterfront Parkway.
17.39 kilometres and 73 minutes in time from Humble Beginnings Brewery to Guidon Park by bike on Long Sault Parkway and The Waterfront Parkway. Apple Watch check on Waterfront Trail Map at Guidon Park

Cornwall is a very bicycle-friendly city

Cornwall is proudly recognized as a Bicycle Friendly Community by the Share the Road Cycling Coalition.

The city is very accommodating to cyclists, with a network of over 75 kilometres of dedicated bike lanes and recreational trails reaching to every corner of the community.

A combination of the Waterfront Trail and dedicated bike lanes form to create an urban loop around the entire perimetre of the city.

Stop 2: Rurban Brewery – Post Bike Ride Beer in Cornwall

As far as Cornwall Ontario beers go, Rurban is the best. Rurban (the words rural plus urban) Brewing, is run by a husband and wife who have a long history in brewing.
Rurban Brewery Exterior in Cornwall Ontario

The beers on tap in my flight this day are Cornwall Lager, Cherry Wit Wit, Kumk-What? and The Song Sings Itself. Cornwall Lager is a golden lager (however classified as an amber beer on an app), Cherry Wit Wit is a cream beer, Kumk-What? is a Creamsicle Ale and The Song Sings Itself is a UK Style Pale Ale. The Cornwall Lager was my favourite on the flight. I think. I liked them all but for different reasons. I’m a pale ale and pilsner girl primarily, but I’ll never snub an amber.

Beer and biking Cornwall Ontario finished on a high note! These beers felt very well deserved. Maybe it was the taste of satisfaction, but since I can’t purchase these in the LCBO at home, I made sure to take some cans with me. Beer from this brewery isn’t found outside the region, so be sure to visit in person to taste and purchase.

Where to Stay In Cornwall

If you are looking to visit a Cornwall Brewery while visiting the area to enjoy the bike trails, Cornwall boasts an amazing Cycle and Stay Package. Visit the Cornwall Tourism website to learn more about what is included and when it is offered. We stayed at the Ramada Inn and it was lovely. The bed was very comfortable and the room was spacious. There is a pool and a relaxing courtyard to visit. There is also a continental breakfast.
Everything in Cornwall seems relatively close so nothing was very far away from the hotel. You’re relatively close to all the good restaurants and downtown.
Ramada Inn Cornwall King Bed Room part of the Cycle and Stay Package

Why Beer and biking Cornwall Ontario?

Craft beer in Ontario is alive and well. And now that you know how easy it is to do, why not do it? I mean, think of all the calories you will burn and how much more space that will make for beer!

Interested in other great beer destinations in Ontario?

You must check out the Best Breweries in Durham Region and All The Best Beer and Wine in Norfolk County!

Will Bike For Beer! Beer and biking from brewery to brewery in Cornwall Ontario through Ingleside, Long Sault Parkway and Waterfront Trail.

Things To Do In Niagara Falls In A Day (Non-Clifton Hill Edition)

I was hosted as media to attend the Exclusive Media Preview of Currents: Niagara’s Power Transformed in Niagara Falls. Things to do in Niagara Falls revolve around visiting the Niagara Parks Power Station twice. This is not because they treated me well. I will always tell my readers as it is and you will see that in my below summation.

Niagara Falls, Ontario is truly one of these places that has something for everyone.

Fine dining? Yes.

Great locally made wine and beer? You bet!

Stunning scenery? You got it and you won’t see this anywhere else.

Kitchy and ridiculous shops and haunted houses? Find them on Clifton Hill.

Attractions that make you scream as you sail through the air? Holy hell yes!

I’ve been going to Niagara Falls since I was a child. In fact, my family and I even lived in the area for a couple of years when I was growing up. Every year it evolves a little bit more and continues to entice all of us from near and far to keep returning. Returning not just to gaze and marvel at the spectacular Horsehoe Falls, but to the city and its personality that we love and adore.

 

Things To Do In Niagara Falls In A Day

I am one of those Toronto people who without fail, return to Niagara Falls year after year for a myriad of reasons. Sometimes it’s to hear and observe the roar of the falls. Often, I can be found taking my kids to a waterpark that is connected to a couple of different hotels. On that same trip, you can find me also at the speedway, in the arcades and in one of the wax museums telling my kids who that famous movie star is in wax from before their time. If I have a free afternoon, I might make a special trip to pick up wine from Niagara On The Lake and then take a drive on the parkway. I feel like I know this area fairly well and I have planned a day trip itinerary here that gives you the view and feel of the power of Niagara Falls, Ontario and sprinkles in some recreation and enjoyment of food and drink.

Journey Behind The Falls amazing landscape

How Do I Get To Niagara Falls

Whether you are driving from Toronto or London or Windsor, Ontario, once you get to the QEW, take Queen Elizabeth Way all the way south, past St. Catharines and then take the ON-420 exit toward The Falls/Niagara Falls/U.S.A. This will take you to Stanley Ave/Regional Rd 102. Take Niagara Pkwy to the parking lot by the Table Rock Welcome Centre. 

Here’s a valuable piece of advice for when you drive into the city – Do not cross the Rainbow Bridge! The Rainbow Bridge is the bridge to the USA.

For this one day itinerary in Niagara Falls, I am making a bit of a different recommendation. I am recommending that you drive to Niagara On The Lake first to see some of the wineries and the parkway. But honestly, my first recommendation would be to park your vehicle and bike to some of the wineries in the area. In the map below, start at the northern markers in Niagara On The Lake.

If you do not have access to a vehicle, you can take a Go Train from Toronto to Niagara Falls. Check out Go Transit’s website for more information.

 

Bike The Niagara Parkway To Two Sisters Vineyards

The first stop on our one-day itinerary in Niagara Falls, Ontario is a cycling stop. If you have a bike rack for your vehicle and can bring your bicycles, do it! Park at the McFarland House Parking Lot, it’s a spacious lot with a park and lots of green space. In the summer, there is a fruit stand with excellent local options – be warned they accept cash only for payments there.

The ride to Two Sisters Vineyards from the McFarland House parking lot is just over two kilometres each way if you go straight there and back on the bike path. However, if you have the time, it’s definitely worth exploring more by bike. There are a couple of other wineries on the way or from that same parking lot starting point, you could also ride south and in two kilometres, you’ll find a couple more amazing wineries.

My advice? Park at MacFarland House, ride to Two Sisters Vineyards with your backpack. Buy a couple of bottles of wine (Eleventh Post is one of my favourites!), cycle back to your vehicle. Drop off wine. Get back on the bike, head south on the bike trail to Reif Estate Winery. Buy wine. Return to vehicle.

You’re welcome for the workout you put in to deserve that wine!

(It’s worth noting that Kitchen 76 at Two Sisters Vineyards is one of the best restaurants in the area as well)

Across the street from Two Sisters Winery on bikes

WILD PLAY NIAGARA – ZIPLINE OVER NIAGARA FALLS

Once you have driven into the city of Niagra Falls and parked by the Table Rock Welcome Centre. Walk north on the sidewalk along the Niagara Parkway, past the exceptional view of Horseshoe Falls (pause and take it in, but you’re going to want to stop and take some pictures!), past the Nicola Tesla statue to the Wildplay Zipline check-in centre. It is highly recommended that you book this in advance through the Wildplay website. They do assign time slots and it’s like a reservation, and it’s popular but organized and not overwhelming in terms of the number of people you will find here.

This is an exceptional attraction that I have actually been able to do twice now!

Zipline with 4 people on it. Wildplay Zipline To The Falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario

Check out Fun Things To Do In Toronto With Friends to see the video from the first time I did this!

Taste A Beer Flight at Queen Victoria Place Restaurant

Chances are good, you would have already walked past The Queen Victoria Place Restaurant when you packed at Table Rock Welcome Centre. This is the place to get a $10 beer flight and have a great view while you enjoy it! The beer flight offered is a Niagara Craft Beer Flight that featured Table Rock 1885 Ale, Blackburn Brew House Old Scow Lager, Niagara Brewing Company Beer Devil IPA and Oasthouse Barn Raiser Ale. My favourite beer on the flight was Blackburn Brew.

Niagara Craft Beer Flight at Queen Victoria Restaurant, Niagara Falls. Beers from Oast, Table Rock and Niagara Brewery

Niagara Parks Power Station During the Day

So the first question here should be – where is the Niagara Parks Power Station?

The Niagara Parks Power Station is south of the Table Rock Welcome Centre and as you can see in the photo below, it’s just beyond the Horsehoe Falls.

Horseshoe Falls and Niagara Parks Power Station aerial view
Photo courtesy of Niagara Parks (Niagara Parks)

And then the second question is what is the Niagara Parks Power Station?

The Niagara Parks Power Station is a decommissioned hydro plant from the early 1900s. It operated from 1905 to 2006 and it once provided power from the Niagara River to parts of Ontario and New York state. Now, it’s an “entertaining and educational experience” that highlights the history of electricity and is a unique architectural structure that shows guests how this hydropower station generated electricity.

During the daytime, you can explore exhibits, restored artifacts and see the history of the area. This isn’t all you can do here. Hang tight, because I recommend you come back in the evening.

Self-guided tour inside the Niagara Parks Power Station
Photo courtesy of Niagara Parks (Niagara Parks)

Journey Behind The Falls

I love, love, LOVE visiting Niagara Parks Journey Behind The Falls. This is an absolute must-do for any visit to Niagara Falls. First, you will need to descend 125 feet and walk through 130-year-old tunnels in bedrock. Then, you will feel the vibration of the Horseshoe Falls long before you see them. You’ll find incredible cave-like portals that open behind the falling water before you make your way to an observation deck with the most stunning views of the falls ever!

Did you know that up to 2,800 cubic metres of water thunders over the brink of the Horseshoe Falls every second, travelling 65 kilometres per hour? That’s a lot of water!

Niagara Falls, Ontario and New York and the Rainbow Bridge as seen from Journey Behind The Falls.

 

Dine: Dinner at Table Rock Restaurant

After a fun day of cycling along the Niagara Parkway between wineries, zipping down the zipline, taking in the roar of the water at Journey Behind The Falls and touring the brand new Niagara Parks Power Station, head to the Table Rock Restaurant in the Table Rock Welcome Centre for the best dining view of table rock and the closest restaurant to the falls. The floor-to-ceiling windows are exceptional for viewing!

All of the food is as locally sourced as you can get and incredibly delicious. If you are there at dusk, be sure to check out the colour-changing water masterpiece outside the window.

Table Rock Restaurant salad Niagara Falls

Niagara Parks Power Station At Night

It is rare that I advise anyone to return to the same location twice in one day. However, you’ll want to check out Currents: Niagara’s Power Transformed. Currents is an amazing light and sound show that immerses you into the iconic power plant machinery and history of the region. You get to witness the Niagara River flow down from the walls and onto the floor in lights and then electricity begins to pulse from the generator, flowing up the walls and onto the ceiling. It’s an experience to take in to truly describe!

Where to Stay In Niagara Falls

If you opt to stay overnight in Niagara Falls, there is no shortage of accommodations that are available. There are hotels to satisfy all budgets and levels of comfort. Some of my tried and true preferences include The Sheraton Fallsview Hotel, The Skyline Hotel and Waterpark and Hilton Niagara Falls Fallsview.

On my most recent media trip, we were treated to a stay at the Old Stone Inn. It has chargers for electric vehicles, which is a big bonus. The unfortunate drawback is that there was construction happening outside early in the morning. I did not find the bed to be the most comfortable I had ever slept in. People who like really firm beds will love it though!

Think you can fit any more activities into your day there? I’d love to know what else you see or do in Niagara Falls. Comment below if you have some hidden gems that you recommend.

Be sure to check out Niagara Park’s website here to buy attraction tickets.

Thank you to Niagara Parks for hosting me as Media for the preview of Currents, Niagara’s Power Transformed and showing us a wonderful day.

What To See And Do In Niagara Falls In A Day (non-clifton hill edition). Niagara Parks Power Station, Journey Behind The Falls and Table Rock Restaurant

Learn To Camp – Family Camping Tips

The kids and I were guests of Ontario Parks and participated in their Learn To Camp program at Six Mile Lake Provincial Park.

As always, our opinions are experiences are our own.

Miss M and Little Man might be seasoned explorers but I just took them their first-time tent camping ever. Yes, they have slept in yurts at MacGregor Point Provincial Park, cabins at Bonnechere Provincial Park, Minka tents at Presqui’le Provincial Park, but never a tent on the ground. I felt like a failure. Especially since I am an experienced back-country camper – you can see my portage on the Serpertine Loop in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park here.

Have you ever taken your children camping before? Or thought about doing it but figured it would be too much work? Let me tell you, setting up a tent is super easy. As a single mom, I actually thought that this would be hard even though I can set up a tent all by myself. With the help of the Park Ambassador, Olivia and the Learn To Camp program at Six Mile Lake Provincial Park, the kids learned how to set up their tent at the campsite and be good campers.

Why Should You Learn To Camp?

For me, camping has always been a way to commune with nature and appreciate the minimalist part of life. And certainly be disconnected from the outside world and spend quality time with friends and my family. Hello 3G or no cell phone range! Camping was a summer tradition with my parents and siblings growing up and I have some of the best memories of campfires in the evenings, riding my bike through campgrounds, fishing, splashing in a new beach every week and making all sorts of new friends from all over North America.

Camping is awesome for families, for friends and for anyone who wants to camp and enjoy nature. Read on for family camping tips and camping hacks with kids.

Roasting marshmallows at campsite while learning to camp at Six Mile Provincial Park

Who Can Learn To Camp?

Everyone can learn to camp. As a parent, I can definitely see how camping with kids is not easy. As a single mom, it’s difficult. When I go with friends, we all are experienced and know how to set up camp and prepare food and bear-proof our site without teaching moments required. But, my job as a parent is to teach my kids about, and how to thrive in life. For them to learn to camp is teaching them extremely important life skills. Camping teaches kids how to identify and set up a site, set up a structure for shelter, how to build and maintain a campfire, cooking meals over a fire, animal and campsite cleanliness and safety along with camping without leaving a trace. They will also learn how to respect and treat nature well.

Camping also involves a lot of physical work. It’s not tough work to put up tents and set up camp, but some coordination is involved. If you have never camped before, don’t worry! I’ll list everything you need for your first camping trip below and I’m going to tell you how easy it was for my kids to set up our tent.

Six Mile Lake Learn To Camp - identifying the right spot to set up the tent and unrolling the tent.

How To Set Up A Tent Camp

With the help of Six Mile Provincial Park‘s ambassador, Olivia, my kids got to work figuring out which part of the campsite was the best to set up on and why. First, we got to choose our tent spot and that was done by making sure the area was flat and free of rocks and debris. This was we can sleep soundly without blood rushing to our heads or a stone poking in our backs.
Hot tip for new campers – you can book time with a Park Ambassador at one of Ontario Parks participating parks for a free 30 minute socially distanced one-on-one workshop right at your campsite for car campers only. You can learn all about what they can teach you and more here: Learn to Camp. My kids wanted to learn how to set up camp and then also took part in the Discovery Program in the park as well. More on that later.
Now that found our tent spot, we unrolled the tent and found the tent door. We moved it to where we wanted it. Not too close to the fire pit and also not facing away from the dining table. Third, we assembled all of the tent poles and slid them into the sleeves and clips.
Six Mile Lake Provincial Park Learn To Camp. Putting poles through the tent to stand it upright.
Then we raised the tent by making sure the two longest poles crossed at the top and secured them to the tent. They bent into a flexible arc and nothing required too much strength, but I don’t think myself or one of the kids could have done it on our own with a tent this size. Once we had the tent framed up, we pegging the tent into the ground so it won’t move in the wind. Securing the tent with pegs keeps our sleeping area secure.
Lastly, we put a fly over the tent to protect us from any rain or harsh sun. So if my kids can put up a tent, anyone can do it. Once you arrive at your campsite, I cannot stress how important it is to make the best use of the daylight and get your tent and site set up BEFORE you make yourself comfortable.
Six Mile Lake Provincial Park Learn To Camp, setting up a tent

Is Camping With Children Safe?

⁣⁣⁣Camping will always be safe as long as you take proper precautions to protect yourself from animals, keep your campsite clean and have the right equipment. You can be any age and have a safe camping experience. Unless you have a motorhome with full electricity, the iPads and tablets are going to run out of batteries and the children will learn camping skills. If you deem children playing in dirt as unsafe then camping might not be for you.

Children of any age can camp, from infant, onwards. Similar to if you were to take your child anywhere else for a vacation or getaway, you pack and plan. Here are some family camping tips and tricks:

Before the camping trip

  • Meal plan – Pack and prepare foods ahead of time that the kids eat at home.
  • Bring snacks they like, remove them from packaging at home and pack them in Tupperware or reusable containers.
  • Pack favourite items such as a toy or stuffie that brings them comfort.
  • Plan activities and games. Bring buckets and shovels like you would to the beach. Bring nets to catch butterflies or fireflies.
  • Pack clothing for all sorts of weather. Evening and nights can bring cool temperatures.
  • Pack bug repellent. Do not apply bug spray containing DEET to children younger than six months. Try to keep them covered instead.
  • Bring sunscreen, but for infants, younger than 6 months, use a hat and keep them in the shade.

At the campsite

  • Take the children on a walk of the campsite and identify the boundary of where the children can go and still be in sight of adults.
  • Make sure each child has their own flashlight. Headlamps are best for kids because they can’t put them down and lose them.
  • Make sure the children are aware to not leave food out anywhere so they aren’t feeding chipmunks or attracting bears.

Kids Learn to Camp at Six Mile Provincial Park

Tips for Camping With Infants

Infants are of course welcome to camp with the family as well. One of the things to keep in mind is that a tent is literally cloth or canvas and sound travels. We all have different methods of parenting and dealing with our babies when they cry. The one piece of advice I would love to see followed is to take the crying baby out of the tent and bring the baby into your car to calm them down. Be courteous to others and create a sound barrier between your baby and the rest of the campground, please.

Portable cribs or playpens from home with a receiving blanket or a stuffie can help infants have something familiar to keep them calm. Portable playpens can be moved in and out of the tent so that you can keep the baby outside and in the shade while cooking and they’re contained.

What Are The Benefits of Children Learning To Camp?

Children will learn a lot about being active while camping unless they just sit at the picnic table all day. Sulky teens will definitely be bumps on the logs for a couple of hours, but not the entire day. There is so much to do outdoors while camping. Every campground I have ever been in is full of children of all ages riding bikes or exploring.

Allowing the children to have a bit of independence in the outdoors instills a sense of adventure. City kids actually able to go beyond the confines of their yard? Inconceivable!

Personally, I want my kids to love the outdoors, be filled with adventure, and travel like I did growing up.  By having them learn to camp and teaching my kids about camping and exposing them to as many experiences as I can, I hope my legacy will live on in them and I hope they can respect the outdoors and leave it a little better than they found it.

Six Mile Lake Provincial Park beach with kids playing

What Do I Need To Pack To Go Camping?

You definitely need to pack the necessities when going camping. Beyond a tent and food, there are quite a few things I call essential camping items. If you are going to go camping more than once, I highly recommend creating a camping kit with waterproof Rubbermaid bins that can easily be re-packed and loaded into a trunk.

I have divided gear into a few different categories

Tent Camp Gear required for the campsite:

  • a tent for sleeping
  • a tent for dining (optional)
  • tent poles and pegs
  • a mallet
  • air mattress or air pad
  • sleeping bag (one for each camper)
  • firewood and kindling (if you think you need 1 bag, get two)
  • fire starters (matches / lighter)
  • axe
  • water jug
  • flashlights
  • batteries
  • rope
  • tarps
  • insect repellent
  • sunscreen
  • first aid kit (also a good idea to keep on in your vehicle)
  • duct tape
  • deck of cards
  • garbage bags

Camping Gear required for cooking and food preparation:

  • table cloth
  • camp stove and propane
  • washbasins (this is where the reference to dollar store hits)
  • biodegradable dish soap
  • paper towels
  • hand sanitizer
  • aluminum foil
  • pot
  • frying pan
  • cutting board
  • can opener
  • scissors
  • kitchen utensils such as tongs, flippers
  • marshmallow/kabob roasting sticks
  • plates, bowls, mugs, cutlery

Personal Items To Pack For a Camping Trip

  • clothes for all weather
  • rain jacket
  • rain boots
  • toiletries
  • bathing suits
  • quick dry towels
  • cooler with food (prepare meats at home first if possible in marinade)
  • non-perishable food
  • snacks

Be A Good Camper! Tips To Be A Kind and Courteous Camper

With an increased influx of new campers and people in Ontario Parks in the past couple of years, comes a whole new set of challenges. Camping is a learned behaviour, not something we know automatically how to do or how to behave while we are doing it.

Here are tips for new campers to be kind and courteous to everyone:

  • Leave your site cleaner than you found it. If there was any garbage on your site when you arrived, pick it up and dispose of it. Always pick up after yourself and ensure you haven’t left anything behind when you depart.
  • Do not wash dishes under water taps or in comfort stations. Please invest in basins from the dollar store, boil water and do it at your site.
  • Plan ahead and come prepared, this means arriving while there is still daylight to set up camp and knowing in advance that you need to buy firewood from the camp store.
  • Grocery shop at the nearest town before you arrive so you’re not driving your vehicle in and out constantly.
  • Check the Ontario Parks website before you leave so you know what facilities and activities are available before you visit the park.
  • Respect radio-free zones and noise limitations beyond certain times. Your camp neighbours may or may not enjoy your music after dinner.
  • Don’t feed the wildlife and please don’t try to attract animals.
  • Don’t chop down branches from trees for firewood.
  • Respect nature and the environment you are in.
  • Please keep your dogs and furry friends on a leash.
  • Stay on the trails in the parks.
  • Leave no trace.
  • Take only photos.

Six Mile Lake Provincial Park Living Edge Trail Boardwalk hiking etiquette

How To Keep A Clean Camp And Avoid Attracting Animals

One of the most important pieces of camping knowledge you could ever have is how to avoid attracting animals to your campsite. Here’s some common sense: animals smell food and they will come. You can mitigate the chances of them getting into your coolers and bags if you put them away.

At night and when you are not at your campsite, be sure that you have stored all food, drinks, coolers, dirty dishes and especially toiletries in your locked vehicle. Anything with a scent can attract wildlife. Garbage bags left out will attract animals. It’s good practice to try to camp as waste-free as possible. whatever waste that is created should be hidden in the trunk of your vehicle.

Try not to leave garbage in your fire pit or burn your garbage to dispose of it. There could still be small bits of food scraps that will attract animals. Pro tip – cans do not burn, but they are recyclable! In Ontario Parks, there is a place to bring all of your garbage and all of your recyclables. Please utilize it.

Here’s a term to learn – greywater. This is the term for your soapy, dirty dishwater after you have washed your dishes. Do not dispose of greywater by pouring it into the bushes at your campsite. First, all food should have been scraped off into the garbage first. Use a few drops of biodegradable soap in a basin with water to wash dishes. Rinse and when you are done, dispose of the greywater either at the vault toilets or at a sanitization station for trailers. If you want all the tips and tricks for washing dishes while camping, please see the Ontario Parks blog post on it here.

Six Mile Lake Provincial Park Site 86

What Else Is There to Do At Ontario Parks Campgrounds?

There are many activities and facilities at the over 340 Ontario Parks locations across the province. Hiking, fishing, birding, swimming, canoeing and biking are amongst the many activities you can partake in. Different parks have different amenities. I would highly recommend that you go to the website of the park you intend on visiting first before heading there. Some camps are only for day usage.

Six Mile Lake stand up paddleboards and kayaks available to rent

Did you know that you can rent canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards from numerous Ontario Parks locations? There is no need to bring your own canoe, kayak or SUP, especially if you don’t own one! For an idea of rental costs, I paid $45 for a four-hour canoe rental from 1:00 pm to 5;00 pm. The kids and I were lucky enough to take advantage and spend an afternoon paddling around Six Mile Lake while we were camping there. I was trying to teach them the J and Y stroke as my own father once taught me, but the lessons weren’t sticking, haha, next time 🛶

Some parks do not offer rentals at all. If you are hoping to rent any equipment, please check the website of the specific park to ensure that the facilities are operating and/or available.

Six Mile Lake Canoe Rentals. Mom and kids in canoe.

Discovery Program For Kids at Ontario Parks

One of the coolest things to do on this camping trip for Miss M and Little Man was to partake in the Discovery Drop-in program. Olivia was happy to greet the kids at the drop-in area and take them down to the marsh for wildlife catching and identification. Some really cool things the kids learned were how to figure out if a frog is a male or a female frog and how to spot signs of distress in frogs when kids are out catching them.

Six Mile Lake Discovery Program wildlife identification session

Other workshops are provided by park staff at the Discovery Drop-in during the months of July & August. Kids can have the opportunity to explore the park, observe plants and animals, and discover the wonders of nature. For up-to-date information, you’ll have to keep an eye out for the weekly calendar of events posted throughout the park you are visiting. Check the park information and activity section on the Ontario Parks website to see if the Discovery Program is available where you will be camping.

Six Mile Lake Discovery Program frog catching

⁣Turning Kids Into Campers For Life

For a first-time tent camping, my kids enjoyed it a lot. They had a lot of fun at Six Mile Lake Provincial Park. We were there for two nights and it felt like a short trip to us. We would definitely camp for longer next time!
While you’re in the outdoors, you might also want to check out my guide to Hiking Etiquette here!
Learn to Camp at Ontario Provincial Parks - family camping tips and tricks for first time campers and kids starting out. Packing list and how to be a good camper.