Camping is always amazing, but island camping brings things to a whole new level. We’re not sure exactly why, but everything is just better on an island. Perhaps it’s the abundance of beaches and coastlines, or maybe it’s the relative isolation from the rest of the world. Whatever it is, we’d recommend trying island camping at least once.
Canada is home to approximately 30,000 islands. Many of them are in the Arctic and aren’t accessible for camping, but thousands more are located in gulfs, oceans, lakes, and rivers that aren’t too hard to get to. If you’re well travelled and familiar with most of mainland Canada, we suggest using Canada’s 150th anniversary as an excuse to check out these lesser-seen parts of of the country.
Here are some islands big and small that camping enthusiasts are sure to love.
Salt Spring Island, B.C.
B.C. is home to the Gulf Islands, a smattering of small islands between the mainland and Vancouver Island, and each one has its own unique character. Salt Spring is the largest of the Southern Gulf Islands, and while it feels small in all the best ways (it’s quaint, charming, and full of character), there’s plenty to do there. First off, there are lots of campgrounds for those who want to pitch a tent. There are also beautiful seaside hikes, markets featuring local famers and artisans, and a lively arts and culture scene. Salt Spring Island isn’t the tropical paradise many of us imagine when we imagine island life, but instead a more down-to-earth paradise with friendly people, good food, and incredible natural sights.
Thousand Islands, Ontario
The Thousands Islands is a cluster of almost 2,000 islands in the St. Lawrence River. Some of the islands are American, while others (including the largest, Wolfe Island), are Canadian. You’ll need a boat to get out to the islands, and you’ll have to check which allow camping (some are privately owned), but the chance to hop from island to island exploring makes this an incredible spot to visit. And if you’ve ever wanted to try out camping on a boat, this is a great place to find an open dock and try it out. If you prefer traditional camping, there are plenty of options for that too. Thousands of islands mean thousands of opportunities.
Pelee Island, Ontario
Pelee Island has been called one of Canada’s best-kept secrets. For starters, the island, located in western Lake Erie, has one of the mildest climates in Canada. The reliable weather is one reason why there are several wineries and vineyards on the island. It’s also a great place for birdwatching, since Pelee is a common stop for migrating birds. There are two campgrounds on the island, which is just 41 square kilometres in size, and you can get there by ferry, so no boat rentals are required.
Manitoulin Island, Ontario
Manitoulin Island is a popular cottage-country destination, and for good reason. The island, located right where Georgian Bay extends into larger Lake Huron, is full of campgrounds and RV parks, and there are tons of places and attractions there to check out. It’s home to lighthouses, museums, marinas, hiking spots, restaurants, waterfalls, and more. Whether you want to check out markets and hang out in the quaint small towns or stick to the wilderness, Manitoulin Island has plenty to offer.
Prince Edward Island
Ok, yes, this island is technically an entire province in itself, but P.E.I. is still a great island for camping. Renowned for its lush beauty, P.E.I. is an amazing and abundant vacation spot, and unlike most islands, you don’t need a boat to get there—you just need to take a 10-minute drive over the Confederation Bridge. There are all kinds of campgrounds on P.E.I., with varying levels of creature comforts and amenities, most of which are a stone’s throw from the sea. If you love beaches, P.E.I. is the place to be.
Are most campgrounds a little crowded for your taste? Flowerpot Island, part of Fathom Five National Marine Park, has just six campsites, so it’s perfect for getting away from the crowd. Flowerpot Island is also an amazing natural site, home to the incredible rock stacks that gave the island its name. It’s also a perfect place to stay if you want to do a day-trip to see the shipwrecks at the marine park. Flowerpot Island offers a completely unique camping experience.
Graves Island, Nova Scotia
Here’s another island you can get to sans boat. A short bridge connects Graves to the rest of Nova Scotia, but once you cross that bridge, you’ll forget all about the mainland. Graves Island is a provincial park with lots of campgrounds, hiking trails, and bike paths, and it’s also home to Lunenberg, a port town full of beautiful painted buildings that’s been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are also farm and fishery museums, and it’s a popular spot for kayaking. If you’ve always wanted to camp on the east coast, Graves Island will let you get right up close and personal with the Atlantic Ocean.