Ontario is home to many (over 300!) provincial parks. Each one has unique qualities that make it special and worth visiting, but a few come out on top as must-visit destinations. Visiting provincial parks is a budget-friendly activity and a great way to escape for the day or for the whole week! Activities at each park vary, but hiking, camping, swimming and canoeing are some of the fun things that many parks offer.
Pinery Provincial Park
Pinery Provincial Park is located near Grand Bend, on Lake Huron. It’s about 120 km from Kitchener-Waterloo and makes for a great day trip for students! The best part about this park is the stunning, sandy beaches and freshwater coastal dunes. It is the largest protected forest in southwestern Ontario and is home to many different endangered species of plants and animals.
Pinery has many different hiking and cycling trails, picnic areas and offers canoe and kayak rentals. There are three different camping areas and even roofed accommodations for those who prefer a more luxurious experience!
Algonquin Provincial Park
Algonquin Provincial Park is one of Ontario’s oldest, largest and most beautiful parks. It’s located about 350 kilometres or 3 and a half hours from Kitchener-Waterloo. It has many car campsites and backcountry campsites, as well as roofed accommodations. Algonquin is well known for its many forests, lakes and rivers. Most of the park is not accessible by vehicle, so it’s a popular destination for adventure seekers.
Algonquin is home to many different animals, including moose, deer, black bears and beavers. It is also home to the largest wild population of endangered eastern wolves in the world.
Killarney Provincial Park
You may recognize the iconic landscape of Killarney Provincial Park from the works of many famous Canadian artists, including The Group of Seven. Killarney is known for its stunning scenery and unmatched wilderness experience.
The park offers hiking options for everyone from beginners to seasoned hikers looking for a challenge. It includes over 50 turquoise and sapphire blue lakes, with many canoe routes.
Bon Echo Provincial Park
Bon Echo Provincial Park is located north of Bellville, Ontario, about 4 hours from Kitchener-Waterloo. It is home to Mazinaw lake, the second deepest lake in the province, as well as home to the largest collection of Indigenous pictographs in Ontario.
Bon Echo is a popular location for canoeing and kayaking and offers multiple hiking trails. There is a lagoon with a beach and both front-country and backcountry campsites. It also offers cabins and yurts for a more comfortable stay!
Sandbanks Provincial Park
Sandbanks Provincial Park is the ultimate beach day destination. Located in Prince Edward County, it’s home to some of the cleanest water and most beautiful beaches in Ontario.
It offers multiple easy hiking trails, including a trail through a dune habitat (which you can do bare-footed!)
Plan ahead when visiting Sandbanks because it is one of Ontario’s busiest parks and hits capacity early on nice summer days.