ONTARIO - Back to my home province
Updated: Jul 16
Here are the following places we camped/stayed at:
-Rushing River Provincial Park (2 nights)
-Sleeping Giant Provincial Park (3 nights)
-Grundy Lake Provincial Park (1 night)
-Georgian Bay National Park (3 nights)
-Bruce Peninsula National Park (3 nights)
-Goderich (6 nights)
Rushing River Provincial Park was a lovely spot, great for paddling on the lake, and playing by the river. It can be a bit misleading when you are booking a site online and you THINK you will get a lakefront site, only to find out you are waaay up on a hill and you didn't take topography into account. (The actual beachfront sites are mostly north of Dogtooth lake) We were supposed to camp for another 2 nights on our way back, but we ditched our plans last minute as forecast called for thundershowers. By this point, we just had about enough of the wet stuff. KENORA nearby was one of our favorite towns.
As we drove into Sleeping Giants Provincial Park, we were all aww-ing and gushing by the sight of an adorable, red fox on the side of the road. She was a beauty!
Here we found an abandoned fishing rod next to our site and ended up participating in a FREE, "Learn to Fish" program, offered by Ontario Parks throughout the province. It included instruction, equipment loan such as rods, hooks and lures, and a 1-day fishing license. No bites, but loads of fun trying something new! They also had an amazing visitor centre there, with many informative displays about local wildlife, and taxidermied animals and birds. It had an incredible section about the old silver mine that was on a small island nearby, complete with a full-scale mine tunnel you can walk through and a scale model of the mine.
Grundy Lake was a quick one-nighter on our way to Georgian Bay. The name suggests otherwise, but we were pleasantly surprised how nice the park was. Major morning rain got us packing up our soaking, wet tent and outta there so fast we barely got to enjoy it.
After a couple of hours of driving, a not-so-cheap private boat ride then took us into Georgian Bay Islands National Park. Unless you are going on a day trip, you have to arrange your own transportation to get to the islands, which is a big bummer. Also, the water levels were extremely high when we got there and there was hardly any beach! We camped at Cedar Spring campground on BEAUSOLEIL ISLAND, and our booked site was flooded. We managed to choose another site more inland. But the biggest nuisance was the POISON IVY....and it was everywhere!! Normally we let the kids roam freely into the woods, but not here. We admit, we were a tad paranoid and took our Poison Ivy policing almost too seriously. With all that said, we had some great moments on this island. And thankfully, no one got poison ivy!
The highlight was getting invited to a reconciliation gathering that began with a smudging ceremony. Home-made bannock and cedar tea was served as we listened and learned. We participated in drum-making, beading and visited a small grave to pay respects to the indigenous people who lived and died on the island long before it became a provincial park. We met a lovely young lady named Anna, from Yellowknife, and the kids felt especially connected to her.
After returning to Honey Harbour on the mainland, we headed south to Bruce Peninsula National Park. We drove through some quaint little towns with heritage building-lined main drags. We really liked Collingwood and Owen Sound, where we spent a night.
Bruce's Caves near Wiarton was a worthy stop en route to our next destination. A short 10 min easy walk from the parking lot takes you to an impressive cluster of caves. The kids had a great time climbing around and exploring.
Next stop was the Cypress Lake campground in Bruce Peninsula National Park, near Tobermory, Ontario. We have to assume that some terrible things have happened in this campground in the past, because the increased security measures were the most of any campground we have visited. They had 2 gates to enter (requiring a bar code scan of your ticket), and there were private security guards driving slowly around the campground several times throughout the day.
Despite this, we had fun swimming in the warm, shallow waters of Cypress Lake and in the icy, deep, rough waters by the Grotto on the Georgian Bay side of Lake Huron. There are cliffs and caves along the shore and the place is packed with people in the summer. Climbing on the rocky cliffs and exploring the Grotto was great fun for the kids. The best part was camping with old friends and doing it all with them.
We spent an afternoon at the pebbly beach at Little Cove, a short drive north of our campground. They had nice trails, beautiful, clear, freezing water. A little further north of Little Cove is a large visitor center with a observation tower, where you can park and walk into the town of Tobermory. This is a hotspot for scuba diving due to the large number or shipwrecks nearby. The town itself has a harbour surrounded by tourist shops, restaurants, and brew pubs.
The following day we drove south, along the shores of Lake Huron. We stopped to check out Sauble beach and picked-up some super-squeaky, fresh cheese curds a the Pine River cheese factory. I used to go here with my family as a kid and it was every bit as good as I remembered. After a few hours we reached my childhood home of Goderich, Ontario, where we stayed at my Dad's house on the edge of town.
Goderich is the "Prettiest Town in Canada," according to the sign on the way into town, population 8,000. It has an historic town square (which is actually an octagon), lots of beautiful beaches, and one of the largest salt-mines in the world. Lake Huron was cold and at its highest levels since 1987, so the beaches were a lot smaller than usual. The beaches are extremely kid-friendly with at least 3 big playgrounds, picnic shelters, washrooms and concession stands.
We spent lots of time with family while here. Of course, a trip to Goderich wouldn't be complete without having some cream puff donuts from family-owned, Culbert's Bakery...since 1877! (warning: must get there early!)
After a good dose of family fun, we drove all the way back to Vancouver, with flights to Busan, South Korea awaiting us for the next leg of our journey. Our road trip across Canada, from B.C. to Ontario, wasn't without, among other things, weather challenges and driving fatigue. However, it really made us appreciate our country's geographical diversity, the wonderful nature and wildlife, as well as the charming small towns along the way.