A Guide to the Canadian National Parks in Ontario
*GUEST POST!* I'm so excited to have my very first guest post that is written by a fellow blogger! I recently joined some blogger Facebook groups to kind of expand my reach, learn more about blogging, and to find other awesome blogs! Liliane is a Canadian blogger at "MyTorontoMyWorld" that I met through one of the blogger groups. I was so excited that she was interested in posting about Canadian National Parks!! I have only been to Canada once, but it was only for a few hours so we definitely didn't get to do any fun exploring. After reading her post, I am dying to head North to check out some of these parks!! Be sure to check out her blog, it is full of amazing photos and posts of all kinds of neat adventures! Thank you so much Liliane for being a guest on letters from a Good friend!! -AG
A Guide to the Canadian
National Parks in Ontario
My name’s Liliane Fawzy and I normally write over at MyTorontoMyWorld but I am so excited to have the opportunity to guest blog on Alix’s site. I have a border-line obsessive love for travelling and have been travelling for over 5 years now. I love both local and international travel but I have a passion for making people discover what’s in their own backyards. It so happens that I have the pleasure of living in Toronto with tons of great Canadian nature available to me so I thought I’d share some information on the gorgeous national parks that exist in Ontario.
Bruce Peninsula National Park
Bruce Peninsula National Park is located on the Niagara Escarpment on the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario. The park is one of the more popular national parks in Ontario with wildlife, beaches and hiking trails. The park is well known for its grottos (caves in the rocky cliffs) and beaches and has many viewing points for both sunsets and sunrises. There’s a number of trails in the park ranging from easy to strenuous. Some trails in the park connect to the Bruce Trail which is a trail that runs through Ontario and is over 890 km long. The park is also a Dark Sky Preserve and is absolutely amazing for stargazing. We just grabbed some blankets and laid down in the parking lot, that’s how clear the skies area.
A note on water temperature, I visited in mid-July (which is supposed to be peak of summer) and the water was still extremely cold. If your main purpose is to be in the water I’d probably recommend a wet suit. We swam to a grotto and back which was tolerable in a swimsuit but I wouldn’t have spent longer than that in the water. Once out of the water the sun warmed us up and dried us off right away. My tip for a perfect weekend in this park is to book a cottage somewhere in the Tobermory region and to combine seeing the Bruce Peninsula Park with the Fathom Five Marine National Park (more on that below!). The park gets extremely busy during summer so if you can visit in the early parts of summer or later on in the summer you may have a better time!
Thousand Islands National Park
Thousand Islands National Park is one of the smaller Canadian National Parks. It’s located in the Thousand Island Region by the St. Lawrence River. This region is home to 1864 islands (as of December 2016). Most of the national park is on 21 main islands with some portions on the mainland as well. Due to the nature of the park, most of it is only accessible by boat. The mainland portions have some trails as well as the visitor centre. This park is well known for its wildlife and depending on where in the park you are you can see anything from deer to coyotes to smaller animals like beavers, weasels and turtles. In case it wasn’t obvious this park is fantastic for kayaking. It’s also close to some majorish cities like Kingston and Brockville (and only a few hours away from both Toronto and Ottawa) which makes it easy to have a base while exploring a couple of different islands. There are a few local companies you can use to rent a kayak for a self-guided or a tour guided ride. Another great way to see the area is to take a boat cruise which drives all around the Thousand Islands and gives you a great overview in only a couple of hours.
Point Pelee National Park
Point Pelee National Park is located in South-western part of Ontario. It’s known for being the most southern land bound point of Canada (you can see what this point looks like in the picture with the birds!). Point Pelee is the smallest national park in Canada and is therefore the easiest to explore in one day. Despite being so close to water the main draw in this park is the marshlands. One of the most popular destinations in the park is the boardwalk (which you can see in the main picture of this post). The boardwalk runs through the marshland and includes some benches that you can stopand take the views in on. There is also a viewing tower at the beginning (or end, since it’s a loop) of the marsh. The park has lots of shorter trails that are very flat and this makes it very friendly for families. If you visit in the fall you’re in for a treat as this coincide with the Monarch butterflies migrating south towards Mexico.
As my pictures indicate, we visited on a very wet day. It was great for us because the park was virtually empty and the boardwalk and marshes had a fresh look around it but hopefully your visit is slightly sunnier as this is a beautiful national park worth a visit.
Georgian Bay Islands National Park
Georgian Bay Islands National Park is located near Georgian Bay in Ontario. It consists of 63 small islands. Flowerpot Island (well-known sight of the Fathom Five National Marine Park) used to be part of Georgian Bay Islands National Park. Like the Thousand Islands National Park, this park can only be reached by boat. This is the kind of park that is perfect for relaxation. There’s hiking and cycling paths that take you to secluded lakesides and cottages for relaxation. There’s plenty of green and if you find yourself at a viewing point you’ll be blessed with green trees as far as the eye can see (but hopefully a little bit more sun than I got on my last visit!). Fun fact; the famous Canadian art group called the Group of Seven were inspired to paint many of their paintings based on this park.
Pukaskwa National Park
Pukaskwa National Park is the most northern of the national parks in Ontario and has some of the most spectacular sights you’ll come across. Highlights include a suspension bridge above a waterfall and some fantastic hiking trails. Due to its northern location you have a chance of coming across both bears and wolves as well as friendlier animals like moose. This is another national park well known for its kayaking opportunities and there’s many beaches to take in views from. A tip for this park is to fly in to Thunder Bay which is approximately 4 hours away from the park or Sault Ste. Marie which is 5 hours away. Both airports are serviced regularly from the major Canadian cities and Porter offers cheap flights up north. While that may seem far it’s over 13 hours from Toronto and almost 15 hours from Ottawa making it quite a drive otherwise.
Fathom Five National Marine Park
I thought I’d close this post off with my favourite national park in Ontario. While I thoroughly enjoyed all my visits to the above mentioned parks and will definitely be going back, I have a special fondness for the Fathom Five National Marine Park. It’s located by Tobermory in Ontario and it’s one of those places that make you go ‘wait what, this exists in my home country??’ As you can see from the pictures below the water is actually clear. And it’s a kind of blue that we’ve become accustomed to seeing in tropical places, and not in the cold Canadian nature yet here it is. And that’s not all. Fathom Five is home to ship wrecks which you can view on glass bottomed ship cruises and if you’re certified you can even dive them.
Like many of the other national parks, Fathom Five National Park consists of numerous islands, the most famous one arguably being Flowerpot Island. The island’s got a couple of trails to hike, a well preserved lighthouse and attached museum but the highlight of it is definitely the stone structures called flowerpots. Picture below you can see one of the two. They’re picturesque and with the blue water in the background it’s not hard to understand why it’s a must visit for anybody looking to explore any part of Ontario.
In case you haven’t heard, Canada turns 150 years old in 2017. It’s being celebrated all year long with free park passes that can be ordered here. Take a look at the map below to see where all the parks are located. Some might be closer to you than you think and why not take advantage of a free visit?