One of the most wonderful things about this great country we live in is the natural beauty. The great part is, there are tons of options for discovering these incredible places within each province, especially Ontario.
If there is one way you should explore Canada and learn to appreciate its true wonder, it's by visiting provincial parks. These places offer a chance to get to know the intricacies and unique natural qualities of each of our provinces, and in this case, you'll be blown away by what Ontario has to offer.
Regardless of your preferences, trip itinerary, or outdoors experience, there is guaranteed to be a provincial park in Ontario to fulfill any checklist.
1. Sandbanks Provincial Park
Quick vote: how many of you looked at this photo and thought I mistakenly used a picture of a Caribbean beach!? Probably everyone, right? But I swear, this is not some island in the Bahamas - it's Sandbanks Provincial Park, which is just four hours away from Montreal, in Prince Edward County, Ontario.
I will always have the deepest childhood nostalgia for Sandbanks, because I went camping there every summer as a kid. It's a huge park with tons of sites, stunning beaches, and hidden spots all over, where you can discover sand dunes and relax by beautiful Lake Ontario. Honestly, if you've been looking for the perfect summer vacation that is cost-friendly and not too far away, seek no further. Sandbanks has it all.
2. Algonquin Provincial Park
One of the largest and most diverse landscape-wise, Algonquin Park is a longtime favourite for camping, portaging, and hiking. The views from the hiking peaks are just unbeatable, and the lush forestry is a marvel.
Two key awesome things about Algonquin: first, it's huge, so there are entry points all over the place, some of which may be closer to you than others, depending on where you're coming from. Second, you can have a laid-back easy experience there, or a more intense wilderness trip if that's what you're looking for - a great fit for everyone.
3. Bon Echo Provincial Park
Bon Echo is full of treasures, the main one being the Mazinaw rock, a rock fixture rising out of the water of Mazinaw Lake, which is covered in pictographs drawn by Indigenous settlers of the region. This awesome historical site is definitely worth the trip there alone.
If you love canoeing or kayaking, Bon Echo has some seriously beautiful routes along the water. The high rocks and cliffs give you the feeling that you're truly surrounded by nature.
4. Killarney Provincial Park
I had a friend who took a hiking/camping trip here this past summer, and she absolutely raved about it, talking about how the natural beauty was out of this world. And it really is. Even looking at the above photo just proves how stunning the Canadian wilderness can be.
The waters of Killarney are blue as can be, and so pristine. This park will truly provide you a retreat into nature, where you can disconnect and just let yourself be amazed.
5. Quetico Provincial Park
Located in Northwestern Ontario, Quetico is unique in its terrain and beauty. If you're into fishing, this is the place for you - it's a really popular spot for this activity.
Those who've had experience camping and portaging may be more comfortable at this park than beginners; the campsites are 'wilderness' sites that may be a little tougher to get to than your basic site in Algonquin Park. Also, you have to portage to some of the sites. But if you're willing to unleash your adventurous side, the undeniable pristine nature at Quetico is beyond worth it.
6. Lake Superior Provincial Park
Bon Echo isn't the only park that is home to historical pictographs. Rock formations at the beautiful Lake Superior provincial park also have Indigenous pictograph drawings, offering one more reason to visit this unreal place.
Superior is the largest lake in the world - so getting to spend time on or around it is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience. Best of all, the park also has beaches, waterfalls, and both backcountry campsites and easily accessible ones.
7. Pinery Provincial Park
That beach, though. Pinery is best known and loved for the sandy, beautiful private beaches throughout the park, so if you want that lazy beach vacation vibe, this is your spot.
This park is just outside of the town of Grand Bend, which is a seriously popular party beach town. Tourists flock there for a good time, so if you're camping at Pinery, you can join them if you desire for the day or night. But if you'd rather stay away from the crowds and noise, this park can give you all the serenity you need and more.
8. Silent Lake Provincial Park
The name says it all - this park is your perfect escape, the calm and relaxation you need after a stressful week in the city. Aside from the peaceful environment, another awesome feature of this park is there are tons of mountain biking trails - something that's rare in other provincial parks, so if you're into this activity, Silent Lake is a great choice.
Side note: wondering why it's called 'silent' lake? No motorized boats are allowed on the lake, ensuring that the water is kept clean and quiet. If you're passionate about nature conservation, or prefer to go the non-motorized route when traversing the water, Silent Lake park will hit all the marks for you.
9. Awenda Provincial Park
Georgian Bay is one of the most beautiful regions in Ontario, and this provincial park is situated along its shores, a gorgeous site for anyone wanting to experience this area in the most authentic way possible.
Camping is very accessible at this park, and there are drive-to sites that allow cars and RVs. There are tons of nature trails for you to enjoy, and the rocky shoreline is a great unique feature of the region that you'll no doubt be in awe of.
10. Rondeau Provincial Park
The main draw here? Warm, perfect lake water for swimming. With eight kilometres of beach, you'll spend hours basking in the bath-like temperatures of the water, and this is a serious plus, considering many Canadian lakes tend to be pretty chilly for swimming.
Another unique thing about Rondeau is the conservation aspect of the park. The area rests on an endangered forest, where birds, deer, and some species of plants are at risk. Conservation efforts are at work, and when visiting, you'll be able to see unique wildlife - but be respectful and careful around their environment. Rondeau is an all-around great option for beach lovers, but step away from the warm water and you'll fall in love with the surrounding wildlife just the same.