Ontario is a great representation of Canada’s wonderful inland waters. It borders all five Great Lakes and it’s dotted with thousands of smaller lakes and rivers, making it a great place to spend the summer in Canada. Camping in Ontario is a great way to be among nature and enjoy the destination that holds much of the world’s freshwater.
Although Ontario is one of the largest provinces in Canada and home to some of its biggest cities, it’s also home to a treasure-trove of nature, including more than 100 provincial parks. Most parks are open from late spring (May or June) until fall (Labour Day or Thanksgiving Day) and some are open year-round such as Algonquin, MacGregor Point, Pinery, and Killarney, to name a few.
Camping is one of our favourite ways to enjoy the summer, so in this camping in Ontario travel guide, we’re going to share with you the different types of camping, how to book camping spots and the most popular places to go camping in Ontario.
Campsite Reservations for Camping in Ontario
Reservations are not always necessary but certainly helpful if you want to secure a campsite during the busy months. You can reserve a campsite at most provincial parks five months in advance of your date of arrival. Reservations can be done online or by contacting the call centre at 1-888-ONT-PARK. The most popular parks are Killbear, Sandbanks, and Pinery. For those who would prefer not to book so far in advance, you’ll want to look for first-come-first-serve (although this can be tough especially on weekends) or other camping options, which we’ll get into below.
Campsites and Accommodation Options
Besides setting a tent, there are many more options to experience the beauty of camping in Ontario, some more glamorous than others. First, you’ll want to decide on where you’re going and then you can choose the right campground and the services and amenities you’re looking for.
Front Country Camping (Drive-in)
This is the most common type of camping. These campsites are usually equipped with a picnic table and a fire pit with a grate. The size of the campsite, the proximity to neighbors, and the amount of sun and shade vary from campground to campground. Water taps, washroom facilities, and garbage disposal stations are found throughout each campground and you can drive right into your campsite. All water is suitable for drinking unless a sign is posted otherwise. Just in case, we like to bring our own drinking water or a filter, but washing dishes with the campsite water is fine.
Some campsites have a 15/30 amp electrical pedestal, often located and shared between two campsites, so consider bringing a long extension cord.
Most parks offer firewood and ice for sale and if not, there’s usually a place nearby where you can buy it. On the other hand, a few parks have all kinds of stores and many others offer equipment rentals such as canoes, bicycles, and paddleboards. Check individual park listings to see what amenities are available at the park you’re planning to visit.
RV Camping in Ontario
RV Camping in Ontario is fun and easy! Over 3000 campsites offer electrical service and more electrical sites are being added each year, not to mention trailer dumping and water filling stations are available in most camping parks.
Camping sites can be reserved by trailer size, ranging from 18, 25, 32, and over 32 feet. Make sure to check the full listing of the campsites to make sure that they can accommodate the size of your trailer, especially if it’s over 32 feet, as there are only a few parks that can accommodate this size.
RV Camping Ontario is a popular way to explore Ontario with some of the most popular routes being Lake Superior, Georgian Bay Coastal, and Rideau Waterway.
Lodges and Cabins
Renting a lodge or a cabin can b another way to enjoy nature. It’s not exactly camping, but it still often offers a rustic vibe in a beautiful setting. There are only a few options in Ontario Parks, but if you can find one, they often offer the comfort of a hotel but with the benefit of being surrounded by nature.
Depending on where you stay, some accommodations may provide a restaurant or an all-inclusive service.
Glamping in Ontario
Glamping refers to glamourous camping, which often consists of soft-sides shelters. This is the closest you’ll get to the experience of camping in a tent with much more comfort as they’re usually equipped with cots, a bed or sleeping pads as well as electricity, a heating system (usually a wood stove), and a sitting area. Some of them can be as fancy as a hotel room, including an actual bed as well as an indoor bathroom.
These kinds of shelters include oTENTIKs by Parks Canada, Tipis, and Yurts. We haven’t done any Yurt Camping in Ontario yet, which is basically a big round tent, but there are several Ontario Campsites that offer yurts such as Achray, Mew Lake, Killarney, MacGregor Point, Pinery, and others.
To find more information about the different Ontario Parks campsites that offer Glamping in Ontario, click here.
Common Questions about Camping in Ontario
Below are some of the most common questions asked about camping in Ontario. If you have others, please leave them in the comments below.
When To Go Camping In Ontario?
Ontario camping is available all year but it all depends on the availability and opening and closing dates of each park and campground. Of course, summer is the most popular time of the year as the weather is warm but it’s also the time of bigger crowds and mosquitos.
Spring and fall are also great times to explore. There are fewer people, fewer mosquitos, you can see the spring and fall bird migrations, hike with the fall colours, and enjoy some wildlife viewing. However, the mornings and the evenings can get quite chilly and the weather can be more unpredictable.
Winter is the least popular time to go but can be a great time as it brings a totally new landscape to each place. However, for winter camping, you need to be well prepared and understand the potential issues for staying warm and maintaining water systems if staying in an RV. Only a few parks cater to winter campers and feature heated stations with hot showers such as MacGregor Point and Algonquin.
Where can I camp for free in Ontario?
Canadians residents may camp for free on Crown Land, which means public land that is provincially or federally owned. Crown land camping does not offer any services. This means you will not find garbages, washrooms, or running water of any kind. There might be exceptions but for the most part, you need to know what you’re doing and be prepared.
Is overnight camping allowed in Ontario?
In Canada, campgrounds are the only places where you can legally camp at night. Spending the night at rest stops and shopping malls is strictly prohibited. However, some places may offer such a service. Some examples include Flying J and Wal-Mart. You may decide to risk it, but there is a good chance that a police officer will ask you to leave the premises in the middle of the night. If you decide to spend the night in a Walmart parking lot, make sure to ask the store manager for permission in advance.
Where can I go camping in Ontario?
There are over 19,000 car camping sites in Ontario, some of them can be close to home, others have a great beach but no matter where you decide to go,Ontario is home to outstanding scenery and Ontario Parks makes camping become an easy and accessible experincience for everyone.
Ontario Camping Options
Whether you’re camping in Ontario, camping in Alberta, or camping anywhere else in Canada, there are four primary types of camping you can do.
Backcountry camping is the type of camping you need to go hiking to enjoy. This means packing a backpack with everything you need, including a small lightweight tent and all your food, and then venturing out into the wilderness to find a campground (or a piece of land) that’s away from highways and cars. This type of camping takes a little more preparation and depending on how deep you’re going, you should learn some backcountry skills as well, or go with a guide.
Probably the most common type of camping, this is the type of camping where you pull up in your vehicle and pitch your tent in the same place. Another option for front-country camping is bringing an RV or a campervan. These sites usually have a picnic table, a fire pit, and possibly power as well. There’s usually an outhouse nearby or a full bathroom, as well as options for buying firewood. Some even have running water. These are usually managed by private companies, Ontario Parks, or Parks Canada.
Camping in Private Campgrounds
This is the same thing as front-country camping except that they’re owned privately rather than by the provincial or national park service. Some of these campgrounds, especially those near towns and cities, typically offer an incredible array of amenities such as showers, laundry facilities, playgrounds, and pools. They are not typically for those looking for a true adventure but more for those looking to go camping with much of the comforts found at home. However, this is not always the case, as some private campgrounds are just as “wild” as provincial and national parks.
Free Camping on Crown Land
Canada in general is home to a lot of crown land, which is essentially land belonging to the British crown. It sounds silly these days but that’s still how it works in Canada. However, crown land essentially means the same as public land. This land is “owned” by all Canadians, BUT the responsibility of managing and administering these landscapes is tasked to the provincial, and in some circumstances, the federal government.
Much of this land is sort of open to the public without the restrictions seen in provincial and national parks. This includes free camping without any services. PLEASE learn how to take care of yourself and take care of your waste. Due to the ignorance of many people, some free camping has switched to charging some fees in order to clean trash and human waste behind.
Best Camping in Ontario
Ontario campgrounds offer some of the best camping in Canada with sunsets that have been ranked among the best on the planet according to National Geographic. With thousands of campsites to choose from, here is a list of the best parks to set up camp in Ontario.
Camping Near Ottawa
Canada’s capital city is a beautiful city to explore. From the gothic-style parliament buildings to the lively streets, it’s one of the most beautiful and popular cities in Canada. However, not far from the capital city is some beautiful places to camp.
Fitzroy Provincial Park
Located just one hour (60km) away from Ottawa, Fitzroy Provincial Park is a great place for a weekend break. It is a great family camping spot with large campsites as well as opportunities to go for a swim, hike or relax by the beach.
Canoes and kayaks are available to rent and it’s also conveniently close to plenty of tourist attractions including the Diefenbunker and Canada’s Cold War Museum.
Bon Echo Provincial Park
Best known for the Mazinaw Rock, a 100-metre high rock adorned with over 260 indigenous pictographs, Bon Echo Provincial Park is a little bit over two hours (176km) away from Ottawa and is home to beautiful white cedar trees and resident moose.
With interior canoe-in and hike-in sites available as well as RV camping, car camping, backcountry and roofed accommodations, there is a camping experience for everyone. Interpretive Boat Tours on Mazinaw Lake to see Mazinaw Rock is a popular activity among visitors and there are many great hiking trails ranging from 1 km to 17 km in length, making it easy for everyone to explore.
Algonquin Provincial Park
Algonquin Park Camping is probably the most popular camping in Ontario spot due to its size and vastness of maple hills, rocky ridges, and thousands of lakes and rivers within an area of 7,635 square kilometers.
It is approximately a 3-hour drive from Ottawa (276km) and the only way to explore the interior of the park is by paddle or on foot but the campgrounds are mostly found along Highway 60. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a more secluded and quiet place you can camp at one of the three remote camping areas of the park: Brent, Coon Lake, or Achray.
Achray Campground is usually picked as one of the best campgrounds within the park thanks to a huge sand beach and the historical Tom Thompson cabin dating from 1916. It’s also a great place for canoeing as there are several canoe routes that leave from this area, including one that leads to spectacular Barron Canyon.
The park offers just as much for visitors in the winter as it does in the summer. During the summer, you can enjoy a wide variety of biking and hiking trails, watch amazing wildlife, enjoy world-class trout fishing and in the winter you can have fun with a variety of activities including camping in comfortable yurts, skiing, snowshoeing and skating.
Murphy’s Point Provincial Park
Located on Big Rideau Lake, part of the Rideau Waterway, Murphy’s Point has several areas of historical significance including the Silver Queen Mine, an early 1900s mica mine, with tours and other interpretive programs available from the end of June to Labour day and fall weekends.
Located over one hour away from Ottawa (106 km), the park offers a great mix of wildlife habitat such as forest, wetland, old fields and three lakes with boat-in sites available.
Camping Near Toronto
When it comes to camping in Ontario, you certainly wouldn’t think of the nation’s largest city, but there are actually a number of beautiful camping opportunities not far from the most multicultural city on Earth – Toronto.
Wasaga Beach Provincial Park
Wasaga Beach is the longest freshwater beach in the world with 14km of sandy shore. This 6.8-hectare natural area protects wildlife habitat and nesting shorebirds such as the endangered Piping Plover. Wasaga Beach Camping is not available within the provincial park but you can go camping nearby at Awenda and Craigleith. This area is the starting point for more than 50-km worth of hiking trails during the summer and cross-country skiing during the winter as well as ski-skating and snowshoeing.
Killarney Provincial Park
Killarney Provincial Park is one of the most beautiful places for camping in Ontario with hundreds of square kilometers of wilderness. Located about 4 hours north of Toronto, this area has long captivated talented artists including The Group of Seven’s, A.Y. Jackson, Franklin Carmichael and A.J. Casson. In fact, it was those artists that persuaded the Ontario government to make it a park.
The campground is set on George Lake with access to beaches, trails and canoeing. Although campsites are generally small here, this 645 km area showcases the beautiful georgian Bay Coast of pink granite, the La Cloche Mountains’ white quartzite ridges and over 50 clear sapphire lakes set among Jack Pine Hills.
Killbear Provincial Park
Killbear Provincial Park is set on a peninsula with kilometers of rugged, rocky shoreline mixed with many sandy beaches, making it one of the most popular campgrounds in Ontario, especially among families.
With 880 sites across seven campground loops, each located near one of the seven lakes, Killbear is an ideal place for swimming, canoeing, sailing, and windsurfing and it also has 6km of recreational trails for hiking and biking.
Sandbanks Provincial Park
Sandbanks is another great campground with three big sandy beaches that some consider the best in Canada. Outlet beach is the favourite among families with shallow waters and a gentle drop-off.
Sandbanks Provincial Park is home to the world’s largest baymouth barrier dune formation. Six different walking trails allow visitors to experience the various highlights of the park, including the dunes, wetlands, and wildflowers. During the summer, it offers daily interpretative programs for the whole family; and during the spring and fall, it attracts thousands of migrating birds.
It is also one of the few parks that are open year-round with cottages available for rent and it’s a great starting point to explore Prince Edward County, which is known for its bicycle touring, wineries, food and antiques.
Pinery Provincial Park
If you’re looking for solitude, this campground is not for you. With 1,275 campsites and 10 km of sandy beach fronting Lake Huron, this is a very popular campsite near Toronto.
Pinery is a year-round outdoor recreation park with some of the best cross-country skiing in Southwestern Ontario where you can enjoy 38 km of groomed ski trails.
The park is home to some extremely rare Oak Savanna and Coastal Dune Natural Habitats of more than 800 vascular plants and over 300 bird species that you can find along the 14km bike trail or 10 walking trails that wind around the park. And if you wish to explore the Old Ausable Channel, a provincially significant wetland, canoes, paddleboats, and kayaks are available for rent.
MacGregor Point Provincial Park
Just under 3 hours drive (229 km) from Toronto, you can find one of the most ecologically diverse natural places along the Lake Huron shoreline and a popular bird-watching destination.
Interpretive Programs are available all summer including guided walks by the shore or through swamps, marshes, ponds, fens, and bogs, which are home to many carnivorous plants. It’s also home to some popular events such as the spring Huron Fringe Birding Festival, the fall Wild for the Arts Festival and Witches of the Woods.
Ontario National Parks
When it comes to incredible landscapes and wilderness, it’s hard to beat Parks Canada. After all, there’s a reason these places become federally managed.
Georgian Bay Islands National Park
For someone looking for a place away from the bustle and hustle of the city, Georgian Bay Islands National Park can be a great option as it’s only 2-hours north of Toronto and it’s the world’s largest freshwater archipelago composed of 63 islands.
Beausoleil Island is the only camping place for tents (no trailers or RV’s) available at the park, offering 9 different campgrounds scattered along the eastern and northern shores. These campgrounds are only accessible by boat so If you don’t have a boat, click here for more information.
Campers have the options to stay at the primitive campgrounds (accessible only by water), the 4 rustic hike-in cabins (30 min walk) located at Christian Beach, or at the Cedar Spring Campground, which provides flush toilets, showers, and drinking water.
Beausoleil Island has a total of 103 campsites and 10 rustic cabins. Cedar Spring Campground has 45 sites, 6 rustic cabins, and 5 oTENTiks available by reservation. The remaining campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so get there early.
Bruce Peninsula National Park
Camping in Bruce Peninsula National Park is a magical experience. It’s a spectacularly beautiful area with dramatic cliffs rising from the turquoise waters of Georgian Bay, with rocky areas, diverse wetlands, and ancient cedar trees, as well as a multitude of orchids and ferns.
Cyprus Lake Campground, better known as Tobermory Camping, is a popular camping spot facing Cyprus Lake. With 232 car camping campsites in three campgrounds (Birches, Poplars and Tamarack), the campground is often sold out during July and August and on holiday weekends. Reservations are strongly recommended.
Private Campgrounds in Ontario
Although Ontario Parks and Parks Canada have most of the camping options, there are also a number of private campgrounds as well.
Sauble Beach Camping
Sauble Beach is the second longest freshwater beach in the world and it’s rated Canada’s #1 freshwater beach. The private campgrounds near Sauble Beach are some of the most renowned summer beach campsites settled beside the beautiful Lake Huron, offering all kinds of amenities such as restaurants, shopping, golfing, fishing, and other activities.
Muskoka is a famous region just two hours north of Toronto, known as Canada’s cottage country and has been ranked as one of Canada’s top vacation spots by different publications such as National Geographic, Reader’s Digest, and Westjet Magazine.
Provincial and National Parks book up quickly but if you’re looking for a full-service campsite or accommodation surrounded by outdoor adventure, Muskoka camping offers all kinds of amenities such as sandy beaches, playgrounds, mini-golf, showers, swimming pools, boat rentals, and much more.
Manitoulin Island is the world’s largest freshwater island that has some incredible spots to camp. It is located just under a two-hour drive from Sudbury but still one of Ontario’s off-the-beaten-path hot spots, making it a great place for some relaxation and exploration. With plenty of campsites offered by different private campgrounds, you can set up camp to explore some of the beaches, farmer’s markets, hiking trails, art galleries, and waterfalls in the area.
Where will you go camping in Ontario?
With so many options for camping in Ontario, the hardest part is choosing where to go. The second-hardest part, especially in the summer months, will be finding availability. If it’s first-come-first-served, you’ll have an easier time if you go weekday or super early on the weekends whereas for booking-in-advance, you’ll want to book as many months out as possible. Either way, we hope this guide to camping in Ontario helped you plan your trip and we hope you have the most unforgettable camping trip possible.
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