Friday, 21 March 2014

Favourites: The Pinery Provincial Park

A post by Scott F

Summer is almost upon us (just trust me on this); what a perfect time to use up the last drops of those summer memories that have been sustaining us for a long, cold winter before the opportunity presents to refill our reserves. Today's musing are on the Pinery Provincial Park near Grand Bend, Ontario.

The park is of striking contrast to most of what you expect when camping in Ontario. The prescribed thick, maple and pine forests are replaced by one of the world’s rarest ecosystems, an oak savannah. The flat, often soggy and algae covered beaches that stretch only about 50 feet from the shore, often associated with Georgian Bay and Lake Simcoe, are replaced with beautiful windblown sand dunes that can tower in excess of 100 feet and stretch up to a kilometer inland. The prairie grasses reaching a meter high that stand in Lake Huron’s strong winds seem backward when compared to the sharp rock outcroppings that dominate the waterways in central and northern Ontario. As rugged and beautiful as much of Ontario is, the Pinery stands as a unique and surprising experience.

The oak savannah ecosystem which covers much of the Pinery’s 6,330 acres is truly astonishing. White and black oak trees dominate much of the park’s sandy soil. This nutrient deficient soil deprives the park of thick underbrush, making the forests sparse and allowing the terrain to be clearly visible. Sadly, the planting of pine trees in the 1960’s along with the suppression of forest fires means that some of the savanna is now overrun by pines. Controlled burns and careful monitoring are now being used to protect the natural balance. The Pinery protects 50 per cent of the remaining oak savanna on the planet!

Hiking the many long and varied trails in the Pinery provides you with an amazing cross section of various environments. The Nippissing trail is nothing short of breathtaking as you carefully climb up steep dunes and well constructed boardwalks eventually leading to a look out with a perfect vista of the entire park. All the trails offer something different. They are usually quite simple and well designed but several offer a better challenge.

The beach area of the Pinery is stunning. 10 km of near perfect sand accepts the often turbulent waves of Lake Huron. There are few better ways to spend a day than splashing around or boogie boarding in the decent sized waves that crash against the beach.

The best campsites in the Pinery are those closest to the water in the Dunes campground. These sunny, sandy sites are certainly not the most private, but being only a dunes-climb (fun in and of itself) away from the surf is amazing. When the waves are strong enough you can hear them turn from your site, perfect white noise for an evening by the fire. Avoid the Riverside campground, as it has even less privacy and none of the charm of Dunes.

The Old Ausable Channel also runs through the campground allowing for calm, picturesque canoe trips. They rent canoes, single and double kayaks, and hydro bikes. The river can be a bit crowded at times so it can be better to bring your own canoe and set off up river.

The store is fully stocked with everything you could possibly have forgotten. There is also a restaurant serving fantastic ice cream.

The Pinery is certainly not for the adventurous back country camper. There is little in the way of “escaping civilization.” But as a destination for visiting with friends and family I can think of few other parks with such a variety of activities; let alone the ability to explore such a unique and beautiful ecosystem. The park is open year-around and offers unique “Yurt” camping in the winter months.

Be sure to visit Grand Bend on your way to the Pinery. A slightly touristy but incredibly fun beach town, Grand Bend has numerous festivals, events and flea markets. It reminds of a cleaner, less busy version of Wasaga Beach (or perhaps Wasaga 10 years ago!).

The Pinery is a perfect place to spend a weekend with friends. The park has a wonderful atmosphere and offers something different than what you would expect from an Ontario campground.

Where are your favourite Ontario outdoor destinations?

This post was modified from an article originally posted on

1 comment:

  1. Lovely place and great photos! If you guys like photography, we would like to We invite you to participate in the next edition of our Travel Photography Competition. Every week we publish 3 winning shots on our website and write a nice bio with a link to the photographers' websites/FB/Flickr pages.
    Find more details here:
    Have a great week!