sunset photo of three brothers on the beach

Three years ago if you’d told me that our family would become avid campers I would have peered closely into your cup to see what you were drinking.

Camping? No thanks.

Well, the jokes on me. Last year we spent a total of 38 days camping and 18 months ago became the proud owners of an 18 foot camping trailer.

teenager digging in the sand

We started our 2019 camping adventures on the May long weekend. It was cold and wet. Our next trip out was Father’s Day. Also cold and wet. On the July long weekend it was overcast and (insert shock here) it rained. But we had one glorious sunny day! Our latest adventure took us on a six day tour of Lake Huron and Lake Ontario.

boy playing in the water at the beach

Thanks to our camper we don’t worry as much about the weather as we did when we were tent camping. If it’s pouring or zero degrees we can stay relatively warm and dry.

boy playing at the beach

Our first stop was at Wasaga Beach. The boys loved the soft white sand and shallow water. Wasaga beach is the longest freshwater beach in the world (14 km) and is comprised of six different areas. If you want to see the large expanses of sand head to the east beaches. If you don’t mind smaller beaches but are keen to avoid the crowds, head to the west beaches.

teen swimming in the water

We spent the first night at Craigleith Provincial Park. It was a perfect stop-over but not somewhere we would want to stay for more than one night as it’s right between the highway and the water, which means you can hear the traffic and there’s very little nature. Having a campsite that backed onto the water and the spectacular sunset made the noise tolerable!

sunset photo of a preteen at the beach
sunset photo of a young child at the beach
teen at the beach at sunset
boy on a paddleboard
Paddle-boarding with large rocks, as one does

We arrived at Bruce Peninsula Park on the afternoon of the second day and quickly set up camp. We stayed near the edge of the lake in the Cyprus Lake campground and the sites were spacious and relatively private. The campground only has drop toilets and there isn’t showers or other amenities like laundry, although a large comfort station is currently being built. What surprised us most were the extensive list of rules that were not only explained by the Park ranger who registered us but that we also had to sign. The noise and disruptions on our first night there, a Saturday, made it evident why the rules are necessary.

brothers looking out at water

If, like us, you prefer a quiet campground and are keen to avoid rowdy partiers, I would suggest reserving your site during the week (or off-season). On Sunday morning the majority of the campers left and those that came in their place were older couples and families with children. If you’ve camped at Bruce Peninsula before I would love to hear about your experience as this was our first and only time there!

Cyprus lake is shallow and warm and perfect for swimming and boating. If you do bring paddle boards or boats, make sure you get a permit at the National Park office (in Tobermory) as you’re required to have one for all waterways in the National Park.

The main reason we travelled to Bruce Peninsula was to visit the Grotto and Flowerpot Island. Sadly the afternoon we arrived a young man drowned at the Grotto and the area was closed for 24 hours while the recovery operation was underway. It was a sobering reminder how dangerous and powerful the water is no matter how old you are. The reminders about the risks of visiting the Grotto are plentiful and if you decide to visit it’s important that you’re aware of what they are.

On Monday morning we took a boat tour with Bruce Anchor to see the shipwrecks in Big Tub Harbour and then to for a hike on Flowerpot Island. We chose the crusader boat because it meant we could see the ship wrecks but that the ride over to the island would be fast (a few of us are unfortunately prone to motion sickness).

brothers on a rock looking at water

You can choose how long you want to stay on the island (90 minutes, 2 and a half hours, 4 hours). There are several hiking trails and the coastline to explore so how long you stay will depend on what you want to see and the ages (and patience) of your family members. We stayed for 2 and a half hours, which gave us time to visit both flower pots, the cave, and hike the light station trail.

brothers walking among rocks and cliffs
brothers looking over the water

The colour of the water is incredible and the rock formations are mesmerizing. The boys loved climbing along the coastline and exploring the different rocky ledges.

On Monday evening we hiked to the Grotto and were quickly overwhelmed by the people and how unprepared visitors were for the rough terrain. The area is used by campers as well as daytime visitors who have to pre-book a parking time slot (8-12, 12-4, 4-8). This limits the number of visitors to the area, which is quite small and can be hazardous if you aren’t prepared.

photo at bruce pennisula

Much to our boys dismay we woke them up at 6 am the next morning to make the 1/2 hour trek back to the Grotto. Once we arrived, their grouchiness was quickly forgotten as the unspoiled beauty of the shoreline was breathtaking.

teenager at the water

We spent an hour enjoying the sunrise and serene turquoise water, as well as exploring the shoreline. It was well worth the early morning wake-up and I would highly recommend visiting the area during off-peak season or very early in the morning (or just before sunset).

Our last night was spent at Presqu’ile Provincial Park on Lake Ontario. We love the huge sandy beach, which unfortunately is much smaller this year because of the high water levels, as well as the rocky shoreline where you can use body boards and search for fossils. It’s a fantastic park for biking but is quite spread out so be prepared to drive to different locations or bring bikes for the whole family.

boy swimming in wavy water

1400 km later and we are home, clean, and ready for our next adventure!