Top 5 National Parks in Ontario You Never Want To Miss

Rocky shores of Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario, Canada

Ontario — a Canadian province known as the country’s main economic hub. However, there are other features that make this region stand out. Besides having a culturally diverse population, Ontario is also home to a medley of natural attractions. In fact, the national parks in Ontario alone draw in millions of tourists every year. When you catch a glimpse of these parks firsthand, it’s easy to see why they’re so popular. They offer breathtaking views and exciting activities you just can’t get in a concrete jungle. Once you set foot in one, you may find it hard to leave.

So, how many national parks are there in this region? All in all, there are six national parks in Ontario. These are the five you mustn’t miss:

 

1. Bruce Peninsula National Park

Encompassing 156 square kilometers, Bruce Peninsula National Park is a gem to behold. Towering dolomite cliffs border the Georgian Bay coastline, while a cocktail of flora and fauna dwell within the park. As one of the most popular national parks in Ontario, the Bruce Peninsula attracts explorers from all over the globe. But, what is there to do in this park anyway?

 

What To Do

A time lapse photo of stars in the sky overlooking Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario, Canada

Thrillseekers can satisfy their hunger for adventure at Bruce Peninsula National Park. The rocks of the Georgian Bay shoreline offer the perfect opportunity to go scrambling with a guide. Test your endurance on one of the many hiking trails found inside the park or go for a leisurely stroll with your dog. In the mood for something a little more daring? Try your hand at mountain climbing to see just how far you can go.

Bruce Peninsula National Park also offers no shortage of fun water activities. Take a dip in the Grotto, a secret cave containing a pool of crystal blue water along the Georgian Bay shoreline. Go for a swim at Singing Sands Beach, where families relax and enjoy picnics together. Take in the surroundings from the shore or in a canoe on the water. Fair warning, though. The beach is unsupervised, so keep a watchful eye on your tots. Parking also fills up quite easily during the summer.

If you’re more of an observer, this national park doesn’t disappoint. Aside from great views all around, there’s a museum and theatre within the vicinity. Bruce Peninsula National Parks also offers you a chance to go animal watching during the day and stargazing after dark.

Make sure to stop by the visitor center in the nearby town of Tobermory. The visitor center acts as a hub for Bruce Peninsula National Park as well as Fathom Five National Marine Park. Here, you’ll find exhibits suitable for all ages. It’s also where you must go if you want to book group tours or grab a copy of the park’s map.

 

Where To Stay

Logs of wood burn in a campfire in Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario, Canada

If you plan to spend more than a day exploring everything this park has to offer, look no further. Bruce Peninsula National Park offers a handful of camping experiences. The main campground is located at Cyprus Lake. Here, you can choose to go camping with a group or take advantage of one of the 10 yurts. The yurts along Cyprus Lake are modernized versions of traditional ones that originated in Central Asia. If you’ve never gone yurt camping, it’s definitely worth a try.

Two other campgrounds exist in Bruce Peninsula National Park. Stormhaven and High Dump are for people who want to experience backcountry camping. When you camp in these remote destinations, you are expected to rely on yourself. Only a wood tent platform and a shared composting toilet are provided. You must bring drinking water, food, cookstoves, and tents yourself. Campfires are prohibited.

It must be noted, however, that camping during the fall and winter seasons are self-serve. There is little to no cell reception and limited emergency response. While it’s fun to go fall and winter camping, it can be dangerous, so be it’s important to be careful.

As for prices, group camping costs $6.95 per person per night, with a parking permit for $11.95. Yurts cost $122.65 per night, which is inclusive of parking for one vehicle. There’s also a reservation fee of $11.50 when done online and $13.50 over the phone. If you plan to bring an additional vehicle, there’s an overnight parking fee of $11.95. On top of that, there’s a $250 cleaning fee, which only applies to guests who brought pets, smoked, or cooked. For Stormhaven and High Dump, the camping permit costs $10.02 per person. There’s also a reservation fee — $11.50 online and $13.50 through a call center. If you plan to bring a vehicle, the overnight parking fee costs $11.70.

 

Things To Take Note

  • Children allowed? Yes.
  • Dogs allowed? Yes, but owners must keep them on leashes at all times.
  • Disabled-friendly? Yes.

 

2. Georgian Bay Islands National Park

 

When in Canada national parks are common pastimes. If you’re looking for one with a rich history, Georgian Bay Islands National Park is the way to go. Situated near Port Severn and only 2 hours away from Toronto, this park consists of 63 small islands located in Georgian Bay. While the total area of this park is smaller than that of Bruce Peninsula’s (at 13.5 square kilometers), its beauty and wildlife are enough to rival any other national parks in Ontario.

 

What To Do

Exposed rocks peppered with lush vegetation stand on the coastline of the Georgian Bay in Ontario, Canada

With 63 islands to choose from, it’s nearly impossible to run out of things to do here. Beausoleil Island alone has plenty in store for travelers. Hike the Huron and Christian trails, which are perfect for beginners. The Georgian trail, on the other hand, features rocky sections that would befit more experienced adventurers. Not in the mood to go hiking? Take a bicycle and cover more ground in less than half the time. Beausoleil Island is beautiful year-round, though it’s the most colorful during the autumn season when orange and yellow leaves begin to decorate the trees and ground.

Georgian Bay Islands National Park is also a popular destination for water lovers. Lounge by the beach or go for a quick swim. For something a little more physical, canoeing and kayaking are great options. This park also figures prominently in Ontario’s angling community. A variety of fish reside in Georgian Bay, so the shores make for great vantage points. However, it must be noted that you cannot fish in any of the in-land Ontario lakes in Beausoleil Island. Furthermore, you’ll need a provincial fishing license to fish in the surrounding waters of the island. Given that the only way to reach the park is by water, you’ll come into contact with the sea one way or another.

If you’re looking to up your photography game, Georgian Bay Islands National Park is a great place to start. The exposed rocks juxtaposed against the pines of the deep forests are nothing short of breathtaking. Aside from the scenery, this is also one of the national parks in Ontario that’s home to a plethora of animals. Catch them in their natural habitat, though be mindful of their personal space. Georgian Bay Islands National Park has something for every type of adventurer, so be sure to check out one of the best national parks east coast Canada has to offer. 

 

Where To Stay

When staying overnight or longer in national parks camping is often favored. In the case of Georgian Bay Islands National Park, there are plenty of options. On Beausoleil Island, you can choose to rough it out at one of 8 primitive campgrounds or stay comfortably in one of the 5 oTENTiks. You can also opt to spend the night in one of the Cedar Springs Cabins, with each one sleeping 4 people. If you want to stay somewhere more remote, the Christian Beach Cabins are perfect for couples.

Primitive camping costs $16.05 per person per night. As for oTENTiks, rentals cost $140 per night. Cedar Springs Cabins cost $175 per night, while Christian Beach Cabins cost $150 per night. However, it’s worth noting that oTENTiks, Cedar Springs Cabins, and Christian Beach Cabins have a 2-night minimum rule.

 

Things To Take Note

  • Children allowed? Yes.
  • Dogs allowed? Yes, but owners must keep them on leashes at all times. Dogs are not allowed, however, on the DayTripper.
  • Disabled-friendly? Yes.

 

3. Point Pelee National Park

If you ever find yourself wondering what to do in Canada, the best answer would be to explore its selection of national parks. The national parks in Ontario alone are enough to satisfy any adventurous soul, and Point Pelee is definitely one of the best. Located in Essex County, Point Pelee National Park boasts marsh and woodlands that reach Lake Erie, one of North America’s five Great Lakes. Interestingly, Point Pelee is mainland Canada’s southernmost point and the first national park in the country initiated for conservation. 

 

What To Do

Picnic tables and benches stand along the shore at sunset in Point Pelee National Park, Ontario, Canada

Much like other national parks in Ontario, Point Pelee offers no shortage of activities. Cyclists will have a jolly good time exploring the many bike trails in Point Pelee. If you don’t know how to ride a bike, don’t worry. There are a variety of self-guided walking or hiking trails to experience. Point Pelee allows visitors to bring their dogs along walking trails, though they must be kept on leashes at all times. Furthermore, owners are expected to pick up after them.

Wildlife equally abounds in Point Pelee, including a number of bird species. If you’re a fan of bird watching, this national park is certainly the place to spend your weekends. For more active fun, you can traverse the marsh via kayak or canoe — a perfect way to enjoy the day with kids. If nothing else, go a simple swim or spend a relaxing afternoon at the beach. Point Pelee is where you’ll find Essex County’s longest continuous natural beach, lines with smooth sandy shores. Of course, the waves can be unforgiving on some days, so be careful. Keep an eye on your children at all times and don’t ever swim by yourself. 

When night falls, watch the sky turn into a sea of twinkling lights. Point Pelee National Park is a designated Dark Sky Reserve, which makes it one of the best national parks in Ontario to appreciate the night’s sky. With little to no light pollution, the stars shine brighter and stronger. It’s the perfect way to cap off a day’s worth of fun activities, whether you’re with family, friends, or your partner.

 

Where To Stay

Point Pelee features 24 oTENTiks, which are a comfortable and convenient way to spend the night in the wilderness. Each oTENTik can accommodate up to six people and comes equipped with a front deck, a large living area, electric lights, and cooking equipment. There are also flush toilets and showers nearby. You can rent an oTENTik for $120 per night, inclusive of parking for only one vehicle.

 

Things To Take Note

  • Children allowed? Yes.
  • Dogs allowed? Yes, but owners must keep them on leashes at all times.
  • Disabled-friendly? Yes.

 

4. Pukaskwa National Park

Nestled in the Thunder Bay District, Pukaskwa National Park has made a name for itself among tourists. It’s widely known for the magnificent Lake Superior and all-too-charming boreal forests. With 1,878 square kilometers worth of territory, visitors will find it easy to fill their days with endless fun activities. 

 

What To Do

A man stands on the trail in a forest in Pukaskwa National Park, Ontario, Canada

Perhaps one of the most culturally enriching national parks in Ontario, Pukaskwa National Park is home to the local Anishinaabe. Visitors can spend an afternoon talking to the Anishinaabek people with the help of an interpreter. You can even join them in their traditional activities.

Similar to other national parks in Ontario, Pukaskwa features a wide range of activities to look forward to. These include bird watching, canoeing, kayaking, paddling, swimming, picnicking, and geocaching. There are even walking trails you can take with your dog. For avid hikers, Pukaskwa National Park offers a selection of trails. Some are more remote than others. However, the crown jewel is arguably Pukaskwa’s ultimate vista, where you can walk a high bridge overlooking a gushing waterfall. At night, the sky glistens with stars and blankets the park with a magical gleam. 

 

Where To Stay

Travelers who wish to spend the night can do so at the Hattie Cove Campground. Fees vary depending on the season. During the peak season, a serviced campsite costs $30.05 and an unserviced one costs $26.06. During the shoulder season, a serviced campsite costs $20.03 and an unserviced one costs $16.05. Pukaskwa National Park also offers backcountry camping for $10.02.

 

Things To Take Note

  • Children allowed? Yes.
  • Dogs allowed? Yes, but owners must keep them on leashes at all times.
  • Disabled-friendly? Yes.

 

5. Thousand Islands National Park

Known formerly as St. Lawrence Islands National Park, Thousand Islands National Park is one of the country’s smallest with a total area of only 24.4 square kilometers. Despite its name, there aren’t actually a thousand islands in this national park. In fact, it consists of only 21 islands, which are actually the worn-down tops of what used to be mountains in ancient times. 

 

What To Do

Boldt Castle and Singer Castle in Thousand Islands National Park, Ontario, Canada

Despite being one of the smallest national parks in Ontario, Thousand Islands packs quite a punch. From animal watching to a sundry of water sports, you won’t run out of things to do here. Take a dip in the cool waters or hop on a kayak to explore the rivers in a different way. You can even go windsurfing, sailboating, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Go for a hike with your friends or sweat it out alone cycling. There’s even a playground for kids to enjoy.

Thousand Islands National Park is also home to no less than two castles: Boldt Castle and Singer Castle. Visitors can enjoy these castles from afar or jump into a boat to see them up-close. You can even explore the inside! After a day of adventure, wait for the night sky to overflow with twinkling stars. The view will certainly make for a romantic night, which makes the park a perfect date destination. What Thousand Islands National Park lacks in area, it certainly makes up for in vistas and activities.

 

Where To Stay

Those who wish to stay overnight at Thousand Islands National Park can do so. Like other national parks in Ontario, Thousand Islands offers island camping with campsites ($16.05) and reservable oTENTiks ($102.20). There are also oTENTiks in the mainland (Mallorytown Landing) for $122.64. For a hassle-free camping trip, you can opt for equipped camping, which comes with your basic camping gear. Book equipped camping for $55 per night and $20 for each additional night.

 

Things To Take Note

  • Children allowed? Yes.
  • Dogs allowed? Yes, but owners must keep them on leashes at all times.
  • Disabled-friendly? Yes.

 

Things To Bring While Hiking In Nationals Parks In Ontario

The national parks in Ontario are some of the best places to go hiking. However, you must come prepared. Bring lots of drinking water to keep yourself hydrated all throughout. Sunscreen and bug repellent are also important. Dress according to the season. If you plan to visit Ontario parks — be it a national or provincial park — during the fall and winter seasons, staying warm must be a priority. Wear beanies, jackets, gloves, scarves, and other winter clothes. You must also don comfortable hiking shoes to keep your feet protected and snug.

 

When Is The Best Season To Visit National Parks In Ontario?

When deciding on the best time to visit the national parks in Ontario, you must seasonal changes into account. While all parks are beautiful year-round, some may be harder to access during the fall and winter months. While fall and winter camping can be fun, some sites and features may also be closed or limited during these times. Hiking and walking trails can get slippery, while swimming may be unfavorable due to the cold temperature. If you have never visited any national parks in Ontario, schedule your first trip during the summer months. Make an entire weekend out of it with friends. There’s simply nothing like a good road trip to Ontario national parks.

 

Are There Any Campgrounds Near Niagara Falls?

Niagara Falls isn’t part of any national parks in Ontario. However, a trip to this Canadian province wouldn’t be complete without a visit to this famous cascade of water. If you plan to spend a night near Niagara Falls, there are some campgrounds available. There’s Scott’s Tent and Trailer Park and the Niagara Falls KOA Kampground, both located 3 miles from the falls. Campark Resorts consists of over 400 camping options, and it’s just 3 1/2 miles from the falls. 

 

The Takeaway

As you can see, there are several national parks in Ontario worth visiting. They are some of the most amazing parks you’ll see in your life — even those who dislike nature will find something to appreciate. There’s plenty to do in each one, and you can even stay overnight or longer if you wish. The national parks in Ontario are perfect for families with or without children, friends, couples, and single travelers alike. You can even bring your beloved pets along, provided they stay on leashes. All in all, there’s nothing to complain about. So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags!

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