Tents, sleeping bags, S’mores, and freaky ghost stories by a crackling fire. They’re all synonymous with a cultural phenomenon that has lasted centuries. Well, maybe it’s more like several millennia.
Perhaps it’s because of the connection we feel to our more primal roots when we go camping. A primitive rush, that reconnects us to our collective genetic origins as a hardened species of nomadic hunter-gatherers.
Fortunately, camping has undergone a series of significant technological breakthroughs over the past 10,000 years or so.
From waterproof tents to solar generators, propane grills, up to – and including cottages and Winnebagos, there has always seemed to be a consistent push toward a more luxurious manner of what traditionalists refer to as: “roughing it.”
Today, the term “camping” can encompass a lot more than sleeping on a blow-up mattress in a nylon tent, and waking up to 10 million insect bites and soggy shoes. It goes well and far beyond what you’re typical idea of camping might be.
Perhaps you’re a hardcore naturalist whose idea of camping makes Tom Hanks in Cast Away look like a total snowflake. Or – maybe you fall on my side of the fence and have always longed for “camping” in a queen size bed with a T1 internet connection, chai latte and a roof over your head.
Luckily, here in The Great Waterway, there are several ways to enjoy a camping trip that ranges from the ordinary to the extraordinary and well beyond.
Cornwall & the Counties
This epic tree house located at the Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary offers an incredibly unique experience for both nature lovers, and urban escapists alike. Turn off your phone, leave the laptop at home and spend the night among the treetops as a choir of crickets and other forest night singers lull you to sleep.
In the morning, sip your coffee on the deck while basking in the dawn’s golden light as the chorus of over 150 varieties of birds proclaim the day’s arrival. Not one email, deadline, or calendar alert to be seen. Just you, and your significant other in a treehouse floating amid an emerald sea of beauty.
Alternatively, this mythic cabin can comfortably accommodate up to six guests, and sports a master loft, spare bedroom, and a futon for whoever loses the rock-paper-scissor match. Even better, you will have access to a private beach, outdoor shower and a BBQ – perfect for those tree-top grill sessions.
Besides. What’s cooler than sleeping in a giant tree fort?
I know what you’re thinking. What the heck is an oTENTik?
Well, when a tent and a cabin love each other very much… you get a brilliant fusion of both worlds, the result of which being a fabulous new format for camping like a boss.
These unique shelters are an excellent hybrid between a quaint A-frame cabin and a prospector style tent – offering an easier and more comfortable way to experience the outdoors.
Thousand Islands National Park offers a total of 10 oTENTik campsites – Three on McDonald Island and two on Gordon Island, as well as five sites on the mainland at Mallorytown Landing. For an even closer look at oTENTik camping, check out this great experiential blog post by Peggy Varner.
Rideau Heritage Route
Murphy’s Point is a splendid destination for those seeking an adventure-filled camping excursion with family, friends, or that special someone. Whether you’re exploring the area by canoe, hiking some lush and scenic trails, or spelunking caverns – there is an experience for every interest.
In addition to several traditional campsites, Murphy’s Point offers a small selection of more luxurious wilderness accommodations including a cabin, soft-sided shelter, as well as luxurious tents and yurts.
First built in 1842, this completely restored lockmaster’s residence is a prime choice for glampers seeking a historic themed experience. Part of the famed Rideau Canal, UNESCO World Heritage Site this immaculately rehabilitated stone defensible house is packed to the brim with comforts, and luxuries made for a vintage age, but fit for the modern traveler.
Built on higher ground that overlooks the gorgeous lock system this charming house accommodates up to six guests with two bedrooms, a pull-out sofa and some arresting views of the surrounding area. The beds consist of lavish Queen-size Fairmont Hotel mattresses, and the bathroom has a vintage styled claw-foot tub.
This unique and historically evocative rental is perfect for romantic escapes for two, or a family retreat to the beautiful Rideau Lakes region. Nearby you’ll find ample activities including paddling, cycling or perhaps just lazing around in the luxurious comforts of this memorable house.
Gananoque & 1000 Islands
At the heart of the mighty St. Lawrence River in the jewel of the Thousand Islands is the legendary Ivy Lea Campground. Embraced by a seemingly endless expanse of vibrant green forests and crystalline water – this portion of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve has been a premiere choice for countless travelers for generations.
Within Ivy Lea Campground are 4 “Camper Cabins” that offer the best parts of camping, while providing convenience and comfort. They’re perfect for families or groups of up to four.
Best of all, Ivy Lea is close to a variety of nearby attractions such as Fort Henry, Boldt Castle and scenic cruises that embark daily from Rockport. The newest and most exciting addition to the roster of activities is Skywood Eco Adventure Park, where you can zip-line through the trees and explore a legendary treetop playground.
On the eastern shore of Charleston Lake, south of the Mark Twain sounding Huckleberry Hollow is a private rustic cabin that you can only get to by water. Cabin occupants get full use of all park facilities including comfort stations, visitor services activities, hiking trails, beaches, boat launch, and more.
A dock is provided at the cabin which is roughly 2km from the boat launch. Inside it’s 650 square foot space, you’ll have access to two decks complete with Muskoka chairs, a picnic table and a fire pit. The bedroom has a double/queen bunk bed, and a futon in the living room that sleeps two.
This cabin is a spectacular spot for a family getaway or a much-needed escape mission with your besties. There are also four Deluxe Yurts available that sleep up to six occupants for those looking for an expedition style getaway.
Kingston, 1000 Islands
If you’re the type of person who prefers your own luxurious campsite on wheels, ah la RV or camper trailer, then look no further than Rideau Acres Campground in Kingston, Ontario! This massive campground is a family run operation that has been a favourite camping spot for decades.
In addition to some prime RV and trailer spots, Rideau Acres also sports a series of traditional campsites, and a slew of fun activities and events happening all summer long. The campground is situated along the Rideau Canal and is a very short drive from Kingston’s attractions and activities.
Now, some of you might not be super keen on the whole wilderness thing, and that’s totally fine. Perhaps, it would be fortuitous to inform you that urban cottaging is definitely a thing in historic, Kingston Ontario. Earl Street Cottages offers four distinct rental choices for those of a refined taste seeking above adequate accommodation amid the urban wilderness.
Situated a leisurely seven-minute hike from the Limestone City’s charming downtown core, there is plenty to explore and discover for today’s rugged concrete courtier. My choice would be Grove House, because of it’s evocative Victorian furnishings. I can envision myself relaxing in that gorgeous living room with a good book after spending a day exploring the wilds of #YGK.
Land O’ Lakes
For cottagers of the more traditional variety, who want all the expected conveniences and luxuries of cottage life, I would suggest taking a short drive to the Land O’ Lakes region to escape the urban grind at Hiawatha’s Hideaway! Situated amid the picturesque and pristine beauty of Dog Lake, there are seven cottages to choose from, each with its own distinct look and feel.
Each rental cottage features a rustic design with all the amenities you would need including fully equipped kitchens, full bathrooms, gas bbq’s, large decks, and fire pits.
Another iconic destination in the Land O’ Lakes – Loughborough Lake is a 25 mile long and deep lake that is prime for angling panfish, bass and some big pike! The park is located just North of Kingston on Sydenham Road and a short drive from the 401.
The claim to fame here is the Valemont Cabins. They are fully furnished with kitchen, dining room and a cozy upstairs loft area. These spacious cottages can accommodate up to six occupants, and include everything but the linens and food. Cabins are available in both sunny or shadier areas in a quiet, peaceful atmosphere.
Prince Edward County
FRONTERRA combines three amazing things, (a farm, a camp, and a brewery) into in a truly enchanting, and memorable vacation destination. The result is an opportunity to reestablish our ties to a simpler and more sustainable way of life.
Fronterra’s manifesto couldn’t say it better, and I quote:
“FRONTERRA promotes a reconnection to simplicity, self-sufficiency and sustainability by offering agro-tourism experiences that connect us to our food while transferring related skills that have a positive impact on the environment. Our vision is to foster this shift toward healthy, sustainable lifestyles and promote the understanding of our connection to the diversity of the natural world that sustains us.”
One night in one of their immaculate prospector-style tents and you will feel immersed in a bygone era, similar to the fledgeling days of our nation.
Nestled upon the Southern Shore of the Bay of Quinte, County Shores is a Camper’s, Angler’s and RVer’s Shangri la boasting a serene and gorgeous destination for visitors.
For the traditional camper, there are largely open and shaded grass sites with some fantastic views of the shoreline. For the angler, the majestic Bay of Quinte needs no introduction as a prime spot to catch some record sized Walleye (Pickerel), Pike and Bass.
For the RVer, there are a variety of sites for easy access, along with convenient “pull thru’s” and electricity access. For the cottager, there is a range of options, camper trailer rentals, 3 Bedroom Vacation House, 3 Bedroom Vacation Suite and more!
Bay of Quinte
Camp Barcovan RV & Tent Resort in Quinte West offers campers all the best aspects of the great outdoors, with all the luxury of modern comforts. They have a selection of rental cabins, vacation trailers and bunkhouses that let you enjoy your summer getaway in a cozy and rustic setting.
The rental cabins are located on the water and come complete with full kitchens, and private washrooms. The owners do ask that guests bring their own towels and toiletries, however.
In addition to their great cabin and bunkhouse rentals, Camp Barcovan also has bike rentals so that guests can venture out and explore the surrounding area. It’s not a long ride to Prince Edward County where you’ll find some of the province’s best wineries, breweries, art galleries and more!
This article has touched on an impressive spread of convenient and modernised camping methods, and to close things off, I’ve saved one of the best for last. Cottages on Wheels will bring the campsite to you! How awesome is that? They have a fantastic selection of campers available for rent, and they come preloaded with all kinds of goodies.
If you’re thinking of owning a camper trailer or just want someone to deliver the camping experience to you – Cottages on Wheels has the hookup. For full details on where they deliver to, check out their campgrounds page.
A Wilderness Wonderland
There is no shortage of options when it comes to enjoying the outdoors here in The Great Waterway. In fact, there are more options than I could fit in one blog post. For even more options check out the custom Google map below for an even bigger selection of camping and glamping opportunities in South Eastern Ontario!
Thanks for reading!
Enjoy the Great Outdoors!
Explore South Eastern Ontario