Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Camping with an Infant: Roofed Accommodations at Ontario Parks

My wife and I welcomed our new addition in early January. Our little “child of winter” arrived during one of the most grueling winters on record, which meant a lot of shut-in days in addition to our sleepless nights. As tough as the winter was, those days spent inside allowed us to get to know our little guy very well and adjust comfortably to our new role as parents. That said, when spring did eventually role around our minds quickly turned, as they often do, to travel.

A regular summer for us usually includes three or four camping/canoe trips, either as a couple or with friends, in addition to a variety of cottage excursions and day trips. We enjoy nothing more than spending as much time as possible exploring the outdoors. Naturally, the lingering question for us was: could our outdoor lifestyle continue with a young baby (his name is Wesley, by the way)?

That's him!
That's him again!
Discussions with friends and colleagues painted a grim picture, with even the more outdoorsy types opting to forego travel in their first years as progenitors.

Fellow blogger Mick McNamera from the blog HopGobblin’ expressed his apprehension to a similar trip: “Any kind of outing with an infant is challenging. Being fully aware of the trials and tribulations of even a simple day trip to Toronto Island, we had no intention of camping this summer! However, a good friend of mine was getting married about an hour from North Bay, and he had the bright idea of a camping weekend wedding. Pre-baby me was pumped, post-baby me a little bit wary.”

A couple things were clear; if we were going to attempt an outdoor adventure with our son we would need to consider:

  1. Stuff. Anyone with a baby knows they need things… lots of things.
  2. Temperature. Very cold or very warm babies are unhappy babies.
  3. Distance. One hour away? Sure! Two hours? Okay… Three? Nervous. Four or more? No way.
  4. Noise. Baby goes to bed at 7 p.m. while other campers may still be partying.
  5. Amenities. Trying to bathe a baby in a group bathroom, ugh.

“Try to keep as much to the routine that you're used to (if you have one!) and the baby will adapt,” explained Mick. “Having said that, enjoy yourself and don't be too anal with it. Bring warm clothes for baby and yourselves just in case, and extra blankets.”

With these in mind, we went hunting for solutions. After a discussion with Ontario Parks, they presented their line of roofed accommodations for our consideration. While we couldn’t consider this “camping,” the accommodations would allow us to experience everything we love about our favourite parks while keeping our little one comfortable, so we jumped at the chance to try one out.

Ontario Parks

We made our way to Sturgeon Bay Provincial Park just off Hwy 69, 30 minutes north of Parry Sound; a nice little park with a beautiful private beach nestled off Georgian Bay.

We were set up in one of Ontario Parks’ rustic cabins. The two bedroom unit was small but absolutely ideal for our situation. It allowed us and the baby to have separate rooms; provided a fully functional kitchen including fridge and a stove for warming bottles, baby food etc.; and had a private three piece bathroom with shower. The cabin was complete with hot water, a barbeque, one double bed and one set of bunk beds and, to our surprise, air conditioning!

Ontario Parks

Ontario Parks

The space inside the cabin was greatly appreciated. We were able to set up a play area for Wes where, for the first time, he actually crawled! He clearly enjoyed the space as much as we did.

Wes slept like a champ in his unfamiliar, but comfortable room. Always a huge plus.

Outside the cabin it felt like a regular campsite. Quiet and tranquil and complete with a fire pit and picnic table, none of the charm of camping was lost.

Ontario Parks

We spent our first day strolling around the little park and letting Wes play in the sand at the beach (though his version of play meant continually trying to eat the sand). On our second day we made our way up to Grundy Lake Provincial Park, about 30 minutes north of Sturgeon Bay, to do some hiking. One great tip that of which we were unaware, a camping permit at any Ontario Park allows you to access any other provincial park, assuming there are others within driving distance. The hiking at Grundy Lake is excellent and we took the opportunity for more beach time as well.

Ontario Parks
View from the hiking train at Grundy Lake Provincial Park

After another comfortable night in our cabin we checked out and trekked down Killbear Provincial Park for another hike before heading home. Killbear is one of our absolute favourites; a perfect picture of cottage country and what we describe when telling those from other countries about our province.

Ontario Parks
Killbear Provincial Park
A quick stop for lunch in the beautiful town of Parry Sound, and our trip was a wrap.

Roofed accommodations at Ontario Parks are an ideal way to experience the outdoors while maintaining the comfort and routine of an infant, and, vis-a-vis, the sanity of parents. Cabins, yurts, cottages, soft-sided shelters and lodges come in various shapes and sizes and with various features; you’ll definitely find something that works for you.

Special thanks to Ontario Parks for hooking us up with the cabin! Check out their Pinterest page for the various options of roofed accommodations available.

As for Mick, who ended up using a trailer for the weekend: “It was an amazing weekend, we stayed three nights and could've stayed a week no problem… we barely missed the comforts of home, but it was certainly more work than usual. Big shout out to the good folks at Fisher's Paradise in Field Ontario for a fantastic weekend, they bent over backwards to make it a camping wedding to remember!"

Watch for part two of my short series on camping with a baby in early October, when we partner with GoRVing to see how using an RV for family travel stacks up. 


  1. GREAT post, Dad! ;- ) Had a great fish dinner once in Sturgeon Falls but have yet to visit Sturgeon Bay Provincial Park. Didn't realize it was that close to Grundy.

    1. Thanks! Yes, it's just down the road a piece from Grundy. Had a few fine fish dinners from Grundy myself!

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    1. First time I had a chance to read about your adventure. Sounds like things went well. Can't wait to read about your RVing trip. Love Mom/Grandma Fry

    2. Thanks! RV post is scheduled to go live today!