Feel like you need a break from the day to day? Need a place to chill-out, get the kids away from screens and back to nature? Algonquin Park is the place to be in any season.
This untouched wilderness of more than 8000 square kilometres in Ontario’s south-east is stunning and packed with wildlife including moose, loons (a little like a duck) and beavers.
In Autumn, expect to see the remarkable reds and oranges of the maple and oak tree leaves. They peak in beauty from mid-September to mid-October. The best way to admire the trees is to take a long walk. Interactive walking trails such as Barron Canyon, Beaver Pond, Whiskey Rapids and Spruce Bog boardwalk have a trail guide book to help you on your way.
In the Spring the wildflowers begin to bloom and the trout are plentiful. Spring does arrive late to Canada – there is often still ice to be found atop the lakes until early May. Try hiking the Old Railway Trail, and keep an eye out for the birds.
Canada’s long warm summers are ideal for swimming or canoeing the crystal lakes. If you really want to get away from it all, try canoe camping in the backcountry. Lake of Two Rivers Picnic Ground and Beach, East Beach and Canisbay Lake have pristine beaches and well-kept campgrounds and picnic areas.
In winter, of course, you can ski. A huge ski trail system offers some of the best cross-country skiing in Ontario. Venture out on the three packed and groomed routes, or onto the Minnesing Wilderness Ski trail for something a little more untamed.
No trip to Canada in winter would be complete without a dog sled ride. Dozens of commercial operators offer sled experiences on trails through the park. Try ice-skating on a frozen lake, fat biking or wander into the nearest town to watch an ice-hockey match.
Although there are no ranger cabins open in winter, you can camp year-round at the designated Mew Lakes site. A nearby winter comfort station has showers, laundry facilities and toilets. Firewood is also available for purchase. Backcountry camping is still an option if you’re confident, but access is only available by ski or snow shoe.
Fore more information check out Algonquin Provincial Park’s informative website here.
Some food for thought before venturing into Algonquin:
1. Camping –
Camping is the ideal way to immerse yourself in the fresh air of the park. Whether you choose to venture into the backcountry along the three backpacking trails and countless canoe routes, or settle into one of the yurts, ranger cabins, lodges, caravan spots or developed campgrounds (kitted out with full facilities and beaches), you won’t regret opting for a room with a view. On long weekends in July and August, well-loved routes and grounds can get crowded, so consider reserving a place in advance.
2. Wildlife –
Beautiful flora and fauna are part and parcel of journeying in a location like Algonquin. The park is famous for moose, loons and bears. Master safety skills before you go and read up on Algonquin Park’s bear tips, which inform you how to set up your camp properly and how to behave should you encounter one of the furry residents. For starters, keep food out of reach and campsites clean.
3. Visitor Centre –
Open all year, this handy centre has all the information you need about the park, as well as historical exhibits and theatrical displays telling the story of the region. At the nearby Algonquin Logging Museum, a straightforward 1.5 kilometre trail simple enough for little legs eases you past steam-powered machinery telling the story of Algonquin from early timber days to modern forestry.
4. Permits –
Permits are required to access certain parts of the park and partake in certain activities all year-round, especially in winter. Definitely check up on regulations before you go, then purchase a permit from one of the onsite offices. Some developed campgrounds like Rock Lake have offices right nearby.
5. Access –
You can access the park from 29 different entries, many along Highway 60. The West and East Gates are good access points if you are looking for facilities, permits or more information about each end of the park. The website is very comprehensive, so learn more about access there.
Getting there: Air Canada flies from Sydney and Brisbane to Ottawa via Vancouver. Connecting flights can be booked from Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Cairns on Virgin Australia.
Staying there: The Algonquin Park website has a full list of camp grounds, yurts and ranger cabins available for hire.
Playing there: The Sunday Lake Dog Sled Trail offers kilometres of mushing through mixed and hardwood forest habitats in Algonquin Park .