If you’ve never camped before, it can certainly seem intimidating. From weird weather to wild animals — everything seems scary! While the great outdoors in all it’s natural, wild splendor is lovely, sometimes I just want a leisurely weekend with my friends in the woods. Enter car-camping. We love car camping.
Car-camping gets a bad rap. What do we mean by car camping? Basically, it means you can drive right up to your campsite, without portaging, hiking or canoeing in. It also means you can effectively live out of your car while there, no bear barrels needed. With so many beautiful parks in Ontario, there’s no better way to escape the city for those new to the outdoors.
Right now, there are over 100 parks offering up car camping sites in this province. Most of them are open June through Thanksgiving, with a handful of parks like Algonquin, MacGregor Point, Pinery, and Killarney also offering up winter camping options. It’s no wonder then, that car camping is one of the great summer traditions in Ontario.
Regardless of what park you chose, there’s a Perfect Weekend waiting for you at an Ontario Park. Here’s what ours looks like:
1. The first step to a successful, stress free, car camping weekend is to plan ahead. Pack smart, stay organized and don’t rush. We make sure to have a cold sixer of locally brewed beer waiting to help make tent pitching and unpacking more pleasant.
Our pick? Enroute to Craigleith Provincial Park, we stop in at Northwinds Brewery for a few bottles of seasonal brew made with hops grown in the Georgian Bay Area!
2. Once you’re set up and your thirst’s been satiated, it’s time to think about lunch. We make sure to stop into a local farmers market or farmstand enroute to the park to pick up the days provisions; then we build ourselves a nice cooking fire to get it done right.
Our pick? When heading to Sandbanks Provincial Park, we only half-pack out picnic coolers on departure because part of the pilgrimage always involves a stop at Fosterholm Farm Market located at the entrance to the park. They’ve got you covered for County made cheeses, fresh vegetables, fruit and plenty of sweet corn come August!
3. Lunch is typically followed by a swim or a hike, maybe a foray into the woods — all amazing excuses to make this delicious Maple Pecan Granola. It’s the perfect trailside snack.
4. Come dinner, we’ll grill something over the fire — whether it be burgers or eggplant or both — and throw back a couple craft ciders while we work. Cider is equally delicious over ice as it is air temperature making it a great camping drink!
Our pick? Spirit Tree Dry Hopped Cider is great with charred anything, but our perfect park+cider pairing has got to be a bottle of Twin Pines Hammer Bent Traditional Apple-Pear fireside at The Pinery. Hammer Bent comes in beautiful pop-top bottles easily rinsed and reused for trekking drinking water down to the beach.
5. Our grand finale is tried and true. You can’t go camping and not make s’mores. We like to kick things up a notch with different cookies, sweets and even fruit in season. Slow roasted, molten and delicious — it’s the quintessential fireside snack.
Our pick? When heading into the wild of Algonquin Park, we step up our s’mores game with a stop in at Henrietta’s Pine Bakery for some fresh ginger snap cookies… and a piece of rhubarb coffee cake for the road, naturally.
Sleep off the sugar coma wrapped up tight in your tent. When the sun comes up, scramble some eggs over the fire and brew up some cowboy coffee. Enjoy the fresh air and start planning lunch!
About Ontario Parks
Ontario Parks is the branch of the Ministry of Natural Resources that administers the provincial parks in Ontario. Ontario Parks cover over 78,000 square kilometres of the province. That’s about 10 percent of the province’s surface area or the area equal to all of Nova Scotia!
Ontario Parks’ mandate is to protect significant natural and cultural resources in a system of parks and protected areas that is sustainable and provides opportunities for inspiration, enjoyment and education: now and for future generations.
Originally published as part of the Perfect Weekends series on OntarioCulinary.com
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