Category Archives: Travel

Camping in Balsam Lake Provincial Park

We had a unexpected visitor from England in September 2014 when Hubbies brother came over to see us.  In order to show him as much of Canadian life as possible we packed up the tent and headed off to Balsam Lake Provincial Park for the weekend.

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We chose it because of it’s proximity to home, we only had the friday evening and saturday so we didn’t want to travel much further afield than an hour or so.

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We booked site number 143 but when we arrived found it was too boggy so we changed to 177.  Balsam Lake is known as a park for trailers, the sites are just one big field with no barriers and absolutely no privacy which is far from ideal if you are only in a tent.  Luckily there wasn’t anyone anywhere near us so that wasn’t really an issue but I can imagine this park would be noisy and busy mid-season.

The ‘aroma’ from the vault toilet nearby was gag-inducing after being in the full sun throughout the summer months, to say it was unpleasant is a major understatement!

There was a lovely big beach and by the size of the parking lots nearby I imagine it to be jam-packed on a fine summers day.  The water is shallow so it’s ideal for little ones.

Balsam Lake wasn’t an ideal park for us, the lake was too shallow for fishing from the shoreline and the park was too big, too open and too busy to offer the quiet camping experiences we love.  I’m sure if you’re ideal campground is a short drive from Toronto, a big sandy beach, lots of kids around and an open park to get full sun then this is probably the park for you.

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We did get to see some beautiful fall colour though and we found a fishing spot along the Trent Canal a few minutes drive outside the park but on the whole Balsam Lake is just not for us.

For more of my campsite reviews click here

Camping in Grundy Lake Provincial Park

 

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We visited the beautiful Grundy Lake Provincial Park in August 2014 and although we had another wet weekend it turned out to be one of my favourite parks.

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We had site number 143 in the Hemlock campground.  The site itself was pretty big and flat and had a little path through the woods at the back onto the main road which lead right to the nearby comfort station with showers and an electrical outlet for a hairdryer for those on a non-electric sites.

The park itself has several large lakes to choose from and the  ban on motor boats makes it a haven for swimming, fishing and canoeing, which just happen to be three of our favourite things to do 🙂

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There is even a spot for cliff jumping which was a favourite activity for many of the kids in the park, in fact it looked like so much fun I’m tempted to have a go when we return in August 2015!

Despite Grundy being a busy park, it is so big that you are never far from a secluded, quiet spot if you want some peace.  We found two places only accessible from the water where we could paddle over to and stop for a spot of lunch and a swim or where I could read my book in peace while the boys went fishing

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While I always enjoyed our camping trips in the provincial parks we don’t usually plan on returning to any as there are so many new ones to discover.  Grundy Lake, however, was such a great spot for us that  we have already booked a return visit in a few months time.

 

For more of my campsite reviews click here

Camping in Finlayson Point Provincial Park

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We spent 8 days in Finlayson Point Provincial Park, in Temagami in July 2014.

We had site number 108 and in my humble opinion this is the best part of the park.

This site is actually a pull-thru for trailers, not that you can see from the photo above, but we set it up so we were facing this view of the lake

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The site is flat on a very slight slope (not enough to be a bother), gravel base with electric hook up and the big bonus is that it is in a quiet loop right next to a new comfort station with showers which is only really used by the 10 or so sites around it.

The Park itself is surrounded on 3 sides by the beautiful and huge Lake Temagami which really is a boat lovers dream.  Nearby marinas rent boats and there are numerous docks throughout the park.

The town of Temagami is located about a kilometre from the park entrance and even though it is very small it has a grocery store, gas station, LCBO and a couple of chip trucks amongst other things.

Finlayson point is a great fishing spot and there are several places in the park to drop a line in, this one on the dock was our favourite.

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Lake Temagami is huge with literally hundred of miles of shoreline to explore but it is a busy lake with float planes taking off at regular intervals and lots of fishing boats buzzing around. Most days we left it until the evening to get the canoe and kayak out when the lake was much quieter and safer.

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While most leisure activities in Temagami take place in, on or around the lake we ventured outside the park to explore the town and surrounding area and came across a couple of things you shouldn’t miss if you happen to be visiting.

The first is the Fire Tower on top of Caribou Mountain.  Your reward for climbing to the top of the 100ft tower is a spectacular 360 degree view of up to 40km of beautiful forests and lakes.

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Red Squirrel Road is another interesting spot. This former logging road takes you over 20km off the beaten track into unspoilt forest and lakes.  Surrounded by crown land, this has become a popular spot for those who want to camp off the grid.  The road is not maintained so you need to be very careful but there are lots of spots to camp or drop in the canoe for a paddle.

The last Saturday of our visit was the 24th Annual Marten River Lumberjack Day which was a fun day out for our party of suburb dwellers!  With displays of blacksmithing, chainsaw carving  and  pretty much everything wood related it had activities for every member of our group.

 

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All in all Finlayson Point was well worth the 6+ hour drive from Toronto and with so much to see and do I’m sure we will return to explore again.

For more of my campsite reviews click here

 

Camping in Mew Lake, Algonquin Provincial Park

By far the wettest  Canadian camping experience we have had to date was at Mew Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park in September 2013.

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To be honest the forecast said rain but we decided to be optimistic and go anyway. The forecast was spot on and boy, did it rain!

We had campsite number 95.  This site is in the radio and pet free campground and has no electricity but was extremely quiet and has access to the lake . The site was flat and huge, large enough for two families although it did have a little river running right through the middle but that was hardly surprising after 36 hours of rain straight!

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Not a bad spot for the morning cuppa!

The large, clean shower block was quite a way away but the vault toilet was close by.  Mew lake is not a very big campground and with the majority of the sites being without electrical hook up leads to a very tranquil feel to it.

With such atrocious weather it was hard to explore much of the campground itself but what we did see of it was lovely, calm, peaceful and pretty.

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Like most of campgrounds in Algonquin you are never far from a beautiful view or  a lovely place to hike. We were a little early to enjoy the height of the spectacular fall colours that Algonquin is known for but we did get to see a hint of what was to come.

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Not being much of a fan of the large, busy campgrounds, Mew Lake was an ideal park for us, a perfect little oasis of calm in the midst of  this popular provincial park.

For more campsite reviews, click here

Camping in Bon Echo Provincial Park

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I love Bon Echo Provincial Park and we had a fabulous long weekend there in June 2014.

We stayed on electric site 114 which is a huge corner site and although there are 10 mature pines right in the middle of it we still had room for our large tent, screen tent and truck. The toilet nearby is a flush loo which is always such a bonus and the comfort station with showers  was a two minute walk.

The site is so close to the beach we could carry the canoe straight from the site down a short slope and launch it straight into the lake.

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We spent our entire weekend out in the canoe paddling over to see the pictographs, exploring the lake and rivers and taking a swim, the water was lovely.  The only down side was that the pictographs are a big draw for people to visit and some of the people in motor boats were completely inconsiderate around the myriad of kayaks and canoes, they often passed by too close and too fast.

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Pictographs

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Bon Echo is a photographers dream, here are a few of my favourite snaps from the weekend;

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Bon Echo is teeming with wildlife,  as well as the usual chipmunks and squirrels,  we saw Turkey Vultures gliding on the thermals above the forest and we had a deer walk right through our site.

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The forest here is quite dense and I think most sites are full shade, so if you plan on visiting do yourself a favour and bring plenty of bug spray!

For more campsite reviews click here

Camping in Canisbay Lake, Algonquin Provincial Park

I often review the campsites we stay at for a website called My Campsite Review, it’s a site I always use before I book a camping trip to get hints and tips on the best sites to choose so it’s only fair that I reciprocate by sharing my camping experiences with them.  Somehow I have managed to miss a few of our trips from the last couple of years both on mycampsitereview.com and on here so I’m going to have a bit of a recap over the next couple of weeks and post some of my reviews under the new Camping Reviews tab up there ^^^ at the top 🙂

 

We stayed at Canisbay Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park in May 2013, in fact it was our first camping trip in Canada.

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We had Site 188  a large flat electric site, it was quite a trek to the showers but has a vault toilet right nearby. It has good privacy as the site is long and thin so we pitched the tent at the back, away from the road. Most sites in this campground are large and offer good privacy.

Being early in the season meant we didn’t get to enjoy the lake at it’s best but  it sure made for a pretty view,  in fact I had a bit of a revelation while standing on the beach looking out at this;

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The beach was lovely, albeit a bit small for such a large park but as were were there in May it wasn’t an issue for us.

The campground itself is quite big and ideally situated to explore the numerous hiking trails throughout Algonquin Provincial Park.

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Beaver Pond Hike

 

My favourite Silent Sunday photo

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May is an ideal time to spot migrating moose and we saw two, a young female and then this huge bull moose on Highway 60, close to the campground entrance.

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While I would be reluctant to visit Algonquin in the height of the season, due mainly to the popularity of the park, I enjoyed visiting it off season and would do so again.

Camping in Presqu’ile Provincial Park

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Seeing as we didn’t have a long weekend we decided to stay closer to home on our next camping adventure.  Presqu’ile Provincial park is a little over an hour outside the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) so it’s ideal for a brief Friday to Sunday jaunt.  Although like most parks that are near a major metropolitan area, the park tends to be busy and noisy and the sites are not as private as those further afield.

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This site was not going to work for us

I originally booked us into a a site that turned out to be completely unusable but the park staff were great and moved us to a much better site without any fuss at all.

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My favourite part of the weekend was the marsh boardwalk trail, a short 1.2km hike out through the marsh which provides a myriad of photographic opportunities 😀

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An interesting thing about Prequ’ile are all these so called ‘horse trees’.

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They are white cedars thought to have grown in this odd shape due to some near catastrophic weather event around 120 years ago.

There are lots of hikes and bike trails to explore in Presqu’ile but we just weren’t here long enough to see them all, which gives us a perfect reason to return 🙂

 

Camping in Killbear Provincial Park

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On the May long weekend this year we headed north to Killbear Provincial Park on the shores of Georgian bay for our first camping trip of 2014.

We were very excited to get under canvas again after such a long winter but were a little disappointed with the near zero forecast for the weekend.  Spring was arriving late and although we had full on sunshine all weekend it was very chilly at night.

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I did my research and picked a site right across from the beach and I think we probably had one of the best in the campground.  Unfortunately many of the trees in the park have been blighted by disease leaving many of the sites very bare, that combined with the late onset of spring meant the whole park looked a little sad with fallen trees and flooded sites, we definitely didn’t see it at it’s best.  I’m sure in the height of summer when the trees are in full leaf it is very beautiful.

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The rocky shores of Georgian bay makes the whole area very picturesque and the 3.5km  Lookout Point trail is well worth the hour and a half trek to see the gorgeous view over the bay.

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The weather dominated our weekend and we didn’t explore very far afield as we didn’t want to stray too far from the fire so I’d love to go back for another visit when it’s a bit warmer!  Killbear is quite well known for it’s abundance of wildlife including deer and bear and although we saw evidence of them we didn’t spot a single one, they probably wanted to stay sheltered in the warm too! 🙂

 

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A Favourite Place – The Gallery

I’m so glad Tara gave us ‘A Favourite Place’ as our theme for this weeks Gallery post rather than ‘My favourite place’ which would imply I would have to make an impossible decision. How could I possibly choose between my home town, a small east coast town that I loved from the time I was small and always vowed I would move to or the quaint Cornish fishing villages I visited as a child, my grandparents lounge full of happy childhood memories or the beautiful remote campgrounds we have discovered since we moved to Canada?  I couldn’t.

So I chose a spot here in Canada that we have visited many times and I will revisit many more times, it is stunning in every season and I could stand and look upon it for hours.  It’s also a fantastic place to people spot so when you have done marvelling at the view you can turn around and watch the people who visit from all four corners of the world and wonder at their stories and what brought them here.   Ladies and Gentlemen I give you the spectacular, breathtaking, beautiful Niagara Falls

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Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

Discovering Ottawa Part 3 – Skating on the Rideau Canal

 

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Have you ever done one of those quizzes on Facebook about where you have travelled or what you have done, you know the ones designed to make yourself feel superior to your friends because you have travelled further afar than them? I digress.  I was reading one a few months back and looked through all the places to visit in Canada, not to post the results I hasten to add, but to check out all the ‘must do’ things that we may not have done yet and one of them was to ice skate on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa.  I was really excited about our trip to Ottawa in January but a little disappointed that the canal doesn’t usually open for skating until the end of January.   I was delighted to discover that, due to the unseasonably cold winter we have been having this year, the Canal was open a whole month early than normal and we would be able to skate on it.

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The Rideau Canal is famous for being the world’s longest skating rink at 7.8km and is used by tourists and locals alike, locals use it to skate to work and school in the winter, how cool is that!?  I admit I didn’t skate an awful lot, the ice was extremely bumpy and not exactly like the ice rinks that I am used to, but I did it.  We hired skates, instead of lugging our own all that way, which in hindsight was a mistake as the hire skates were expensive and incredibly uncomfortable.  I didn’t last on the ice very long, truth be told, well it was -30C so you can’t blame me!  But we did have time to sneak in a quick Beavertail, a freshly cooked flat doughnut like Canadian delicacy and an absolute must for après skating!

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Hubbie enjoying a hot Beavertail

What is really strange about the whole experience is this;  Growing up in England you are told never to go near frozen ponds or lakes as they are extremely unsafe, yet here we are in Ottawa skating on a frozen canal perfectly safely and the next day I took this shot of downtown Ottawa with the canal in the middle showing, not only skaters but buildings on the canal not to mention the great big truck with the snow plough clearing the snow from the ice.

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It’s hard to believe there will be boats floating on here in a few weeks isn’t it!

 


Travel Tuesday