There’s no denying that Algonquin, Sandbanks, and Killarney are all beautiful summer getaway destinations. But with more than 100 provincial parks in Ontario, there’s ample opportunity to adventure outside the most well-known spots. If you want to beat the crowds and discover a few hidden gem parks, consider one of these six stops that often fly under the radar.
Tip: If you’re booking a trip, use the new Ontario Parks “similar experiences” feature—it shows you a similar trip if the one you usually do at a busier park is unavailable.
Northern Ontario, 30 minutes from Thunder Bay
You might know the beautiful Kakabeka Falls (it’s the second-highest waterfall in the province), but the area actually encompasses a provincial park with campsites, hiking trails, and many other activities. You don’t just have to visit this landmark in a quick roadside stop! The falls are rushing year-round, and camping is available in the spring and fall, spread among the park’s three campgrounds. If there’s still snow on the ground when you visit, check out the network of cross-country ski trails.
Ottawa Valley area, 1 hour from Ottawa
You would never guess this nature-filled park is just outside Ottawa’s city centre. We suggest booking a longer stay if you want to visit the picturesque small towns of Perth and Smith Falls on day trips. Fitzroy is very family-friendly, with well-equipped beaches (there are various flotation devices available for rent on-site) and a good amount of large campsites.
Northern Ontario, 1 hour from Parry Sound, about 2 hours from Sudbury
Three sandy beaches, a disc golf course, and stand-up paddle boards for rent are just a few of the attractive features at this smaller provincial park near the South River community. The two campsites also have flush toilets, showers, and sites with electrical service, making it a good option for families or beginner campers.
Southern Ontario, 40 minutes from Barrie, 1.5 hours from Toronto
If you’re new to camping or want to level up your skills, this park, not far from the GTA, is an excellent choice—namely, for its robust outdoor education program, where park employees will walk you through all things camping. It also boasts beautiful hiking trails and beaches that are great for swimming and makes for a nice day trip if you just want to dip your toes in.
Northern Ontario, 1 hour from North Bay, near the town of Temagami
Lake Temagami is known for its endless boating and fishing opportunities, and Finlayson Point lies right in the heart of it, making—it’s a great base for adventures on the water. Nearby sites of interest include the Temagami Fire Tower, the town of Temiskaming Shores, and many access points for the countless unspoiled lakes in the region.
Northern Ontario, 3 hours from North Bay, near the town of Kirkland Lake
If you’re keen to spot wildlife, a quieter park is a good bet—and Esker Lakes delivers. North of the remote town of Kirkland Lake, you may catch some of the most difficult-to-see wildlife, like moose. Make sure to bring your binoculars because this park is one of the best for birding. Despite the remote nature of this hidden gem park, the waterways within it include beginner-friendly paddling routes, in addition to car and backcountry camping options.
A voice from the wilderness
Get The Great Outdoors, our biweekly brief on all things natureSign up here
Related Story Here’s how to snag a coveted Ontario campsite in 2023
Related Story Try these accessible hiking trails across Canada
Related Story 10 places to visit in Northern Ontario (and what to do and eat while you’re there)