Summer in Ontario’s cottage country was made for families! From splish-splash fun on our waterways to off the dock adventures as well, a visit to Algonquin Park, Almaguin, Loring-Restoule, Muskoka and Parry Sound this July and August has something for everyone in your “friends and family” crew. It’s not too late to plan your summer getaway – and here are just a few ideas to get you started:
Algonquin Provincial Park is a family favourite for both overnight camping and day trips. Numerous hiking trails and beaches provide adventure that never stops. The Algonquin Park Visitor Centre. has world-class exhibits on the park’s natural and human history, life-size displays of animal inhabitants (from moose to bears and foxes), as well as a diorama that illustrates a beaver house from above and below the water. The centre also has a theatre presentation and an amazing viewing deck overlooking an expansive panorama of Algonquin wilderness. You can also visit the Algonquin Logging Museum, which brings to life the history of logging in the park, and the Algonquin Art Centre for exhibits and artist interaction. Rent bikes for a family adventure from Algonquin Outfitters at their Lake of Two Rivers store, and rent paddling equipment for numerous outfitters who service the park.
For more Algonquin adventures, including summer programs with park staff, click here.
The Annual Kearney Regatta takes place in this charming spot over the August civic holiday weekend on July 30 and 31. A community tradition for more than 65 years, kids will enjoy paddling races and the popular cardboard boat competition, as well as music, a huge BBQ and fireworks.The annual Sundridge Sunflower Festival takes place August 5 and 6 in “sunny Sundridge.” On Saturday Sundridge’s main street will close for a street market featuring vendors, live music, and children’s entertainment. Never seen snowmobiles run on water before? Check out the the demonstration by the Ontario Watercross Association. Top off an incredible day at the Saturday night street dance. Good old fashioned summer fun!
No trip to the Almaguin Highlands of Ontario (north of Muskoka and west of Algonquin Park) is complete without a trip to the Screaming Heads outdoor art exhibit in Burk’s Falls. Artist Peter Camani has created an extremely unique sculpture display on his 300 acre farm property that the public is welcome to explore.
Enter Algonquin Park by the west side – through the Almaguin Highlands – and be sure to check out exceptional trails in the region too. And don’t forget to visit Lake Bernard in Sundridge – the largest freshwater lake in the world without an island!
For more information on the Almaguin Highlands on Ontario, click here.
Restoule Provincial Park offers car camping, walk in only and canoe accessible backcountry camping options. Small hikers and cyclists will enjoy the Angel’s Point Trail. For stronger legs, the Fire Tower hiking trail rewards climbers with a spectacular view atop the 100m tall Stormy Lake Bluffs. The park has three sandy beaches for swimming, with Bells Point Beach being pet -friendly. Throughout the summer, Restoule staff teach a series of educational and entertaining programs focused on outdoor education and conservation. The park offers many kilometres of secluded lakes and rivers to paddle with excellent fishing opportunities for anglers.
Fascinating Board’s Honey Farm has 300 bee colonies located throughout the property, surrounded by specially-planted gardens with a view of Commanda Lake. Take a tour to learn how honey is created and collected and check out the Beehive Bus-a retired school bus that houses displays and activities. There is a nature trail to be walked, a kids’ tent to explore and the Wee Bees Play Yard full of fun stuff to do.
The Pickerel River is a paddler’s paradise, with many charming spots along the way – consider a trip on one of the most stunning waterways in Ontario.
For more information on the Loring-Restoule region, click here.
Santa’s Village in Bracebridge offers kids the opportunity to become elves for the day. The 60-acre theme park is located on the Muskoka River and has a ton of rides, a splash pad and beach, along with ATV peddle carts and the Elves’ Island climbing park. No visit is complete without a ride on Santa’s Summer Sleigh – a jet boat ride and tour along the river. Older kids seeking adventure can also enjoy Sportsland with its go carts, batting cages, climbing wall and more. Also on site is the Muskoka Zip Lines and Aerial Park that boasts the Zip Line Canopy Tour, Aerial Adventure Course and the Jump Tower.
Now in its 3rd season at Muskoka Highlands Golf Club in Bracebridge, FootGolf combines all the fun of golf with the simplicity of soccer. This fun sport is perfect for families – kick soccer balls in to large cups on each fairway…as simple as it sounds!
Enjoy a family cruise exploring local waters aboard the Muskoka Steamships, the SS Bigwin, the Peerless II by Sunset Cruises, or the Lady Muskoka. When visiting the Muskoka Steamships & Discovery Centre in Gravenhurst be sure to check out the innovative Kids’ Zone, featuring new exhibits every summer.
Huntsville’s Muskoka Heritage Place is a must-see attraction in the region, consisting of the Muskoka Museum, the Muskoka Pioneer Village and the Portage Flyer Train. The museum has a sizeable collection of artefacts on display and the village showcases 20 authentic settlement dwellings situated on 90 acres overlooking Cann Lake. There are farm animals and costumed narrators to teach about life in the 1800s. Kids can try their hands at candle making, wood carving, baking and sit in on a school lesson complete with slates and chalk.You can also ride the Portage Flyer – a very cool restored train.
Muskoka in summer means watersports – from wake boarding to waterskiing to fly boarding. Consider What Wake Park, Bush’s Watersports Park, and Summer Water Sports to try your hand at any of the above. Most resorts in the area will offer some type of introduction to these activities – ask when you phone to book. Learn to paddle at LivOutside in Bracebridge or at Algonquin Outfitters in Huntsville. A be sure to take in one of many Summer Water Sports Ski Shows!
Sports fans young and old should head to Parry Sound for a great time at the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame, located within the Charles W. Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts. There are interactive displays, memorabilia and video to take visitors through all the stages of Orr’s career. Test your shot speed and skills on the “Real Hockey” Slap Shot Game, show off your accuracy on one of several game modes on the “Top Shot” electronic hockey net, and check out the play by play booth, where future sportscasters can give announcing a go.
Bear Claw Tours provides half-day guided (and adrenaline-filled) ATV adventures on 1000 private acres just minutes outside of Parry Sound. The company specializes in taking people with little to no prior ATV experience through their large trail system. While you must be 16 years of age or older to drive one of their machines, they also have several side-by-side ATVs for kids under 16 to ride along with an adult driver.
No trip to Parry Sound is complete without experiencing Georgian Bay. With the designation of the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2004, the region has been recognised worldwide as an area of geographical and biological importance. Check out the Amazing Places of the biosphere for trip planning ideas.
Learn to kayak and stand up paddle board with one of two adventure companies in Parry Sound offering lessons. White Squall Paddling Centre has a kids’ kayaking and SUP day camp, family paddling trips and even a paddle board and ice cream treat tour. Ask about guided trips and clinics too. The Ontario Sea Kayak Centre is located minutes from Parry Sound and offers a peaceful retreat for kayaking lessons and coaching. For families with older kids, guided day trips on Georgian Bay are offered that include everything needed for an adventure on the water like no other. Check out their neat onsite accommodations as well.
Truly dazzle your kids with a flight over Lake Huron. Georgian Bay Airways operates float plane tours out of the Parry Sound harbour, each offering a spectacular view of the region and the 30,000 Islands. Out of the harbour you can also take a family cruise aboard the Island Queen or the MV Chippewa III.
And be sure to head to the West Parry Sound District Museum to check out the exhibits (including the summer 2016 installation “Parry Sound’s Fur Trade“), and while you’re their be sure to climb the renowned Tower Hill tower for a spectacular 360-degree view of beautiful the harbour.