In August 2021, on my way back from a long weekend in Niagara, I decided to cut the road back in two and spend the night in Presqu'Ile Provincial Park, a small protected strip of land on Lake Ontario, in Canada. I spent an afternoon and one night there camping by myself and decided that I would need to come back for a few days and explore the park properly. Then in May 2022, my friend Amy and I were looking for a place to visit during a long weekend at the end of the month and I jumped at the chance to visit Presqu'Ile again. I think it's the perfect camping destination for beginners and it has plenty of fun activities!
Our weekend in presqu'ile
Amy and I arrived in Presqu'île passed 10 PM on the Friday of our long weekend. We had a reservation so we were able to go in to our campsite without any issue, which was good because the campground office was closed. There are indications that were easy to follow to our campsite.
It was the end of May when we visited so it was pretty cold, but still comfortable with a regular sleeping bag. In the two and a half days that we were there, we had one day of rain, but the other days we had perfect weather. There was also a huge thunderstorm on our second night that lasted about 30 minutes, but our tent was protected by the surrounding trees and we were able to take shelter by the amphitheater. We then had a beautiful evening and the weather cleared up for the night.
All in all, it was a great weekend where we were able to do multiple activities, enjoy the park amenities and even try a new recipe: we baked chocolate cake in an orange peel on the fire!
There is so much to do in Presqu'île, but at the same time there is a relaxed atmosphere. There is no rush!
We personally spent the rainy day exploring the small town near the park and going on a hike in the forest to be somewhat protected from the rain. During the sunny days, we went swimming and paddleboarding in the perfect turquoise waters, we went for a walk on the beach and spent time reading by the water. We also saw plenty of swans and other small birds that we couldn't identify as we are very much not specialists in that area.
Most people had bikes and could ride along the bike path around the peninsula or went bird watching. There is also a lighthouse and museums that you can visit and guided activities with the park rangers are offered for children and adults alike.
Honestly, it's just a great place to relax, unwind, enjoy the beautiful scenery and spend quality time with friends and family.
Why it's perfect for beginners
I would have loved to be in Presqu'île when I first started camping. Back then we were in British Colombia and Alberta in huge National Parks where the closest grocery store was two days away.
You don't have that problem in Presqu'île. Although it feels secluded by being on a smallish peninsula, it is a 15 minute drive to the closest town where you will find a grocery store, liquor store, sports equipment store, as well as cute little books and souvenir shops. So if you are missing anything, there is always the possibility to go and buy it.
Another thing that I love is the rain shelter. By the group sites, there is a large building with tables, big enough to seat about 30 people, where you can go to cook or eat if its raining and you don't feel like eating in your car or in a small tent. For people that don't have a lot of equipment, it is great and allows them to enjoy their food in all weather. We went there for breakfast and lunch during the rainy day that we had and we even saw deers from the window while we were eating.
There is also a camp store with last minute items like butane cans or bug spray and the staff was really helpful everytime that we had questions or needed anything even if it was the beginning of the season and they probably were still being trained.
What you need to bring
Honestly, except for camping essentials, you don't need anything in particular. A tent, a sleeping bag, clothes for all weather, rain gear, a mattress, a camping stove if it's easier for you than cooking on the fire and cutlery, a cooler, and that's pretty much it. Most of these can even be rented at local outdoors equipment stores if you would like to try camping out before buying your own equipment. The water is drinkable and available at multiple places around the campground so there is no need to bring a big tank. Like I said, if you are missing anything, you can always buy it in town.
Presqu'île is one of those lesser known places in Canada where I would like to go back year after year. It's just as pretty as Bruce peninsula, but less crowded and the water is just so clear and nice that I can't help, but love the scenery.
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One of the popular tourist destinations in Canada is Niagara Falls and summer is the perfect time to visit. Although you can also visit the American side, the Canadian one is definitely better with its popular Horseshoe Falls. Niagara Falls (the town) is also home to casinos, resorts, multiple restaurants and so many activities. Here is a list of everything you won't want to miss on your long weekend getaway.
Go behind the falls
If you're going to visit Niagara Falls, you have to see the falls from the top, the bottom, the side and you can even seem them from the back! At Journey Behind the Falls, you can go down an elevator and walk in the 130 year old tunnels carved in the cliff behind the falls. It is the closest you can get to the impressive and powerful Horseshoe Falls. You will also find signs explaining how they are stopping the erosion of the cliffs, the amount of water going down the falls every year and stories of people going over. For more information, you can visit their website here.
One of my favorite activities that we got to do on our weekend in Niagara was to go kayaking on the Niagara river near Fort Erie. It is far enough from to falls to be completely safe and the weather was perfect for a long ride. We rented the kayaks on Airbnb from a local and had a great experience. The water is absolutely gorgeous in that area and it felt good to be away from the crowds for an afternoon.
Take a boat ride to the bottom of the falls
One of the classic activities when visiting Niagara Falls is to ride a boat to the center of Horseshoe Falls. You should know that even with the very sexy red poncho, you will get wet, but it is definitely worth it! There is no view more impressive than to be surrounded by one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world.
go on a hike
Wether you love hiking or not, you will love this one! At Niagara Glen Nature Center, you can walk down the stairs to the bottom of the cliff where you will find about 5 km of trails by the river. The views are beautiful and you can also look at fossils or even climb the boulders.
visit the quaint village of niagara-on-the-lake
You know those villages in Hallmark movies where all the houses are painted different colors and have flowerpots in the windows, where there is an old bookshop next to the patisserie? That's what Niagara-on-the-Lake is like. I loved it! There are plenty of cute restaurants and a park by the water. I could have walked around the few streets of the village over and over again and still been happy because of how pretty everything was.
Go to ripley's believe it or not! museum
On Clifton Hill, in the town of Niagara, you'll find wax museums, go karts, 4D movie theaters, and lots of other activities, but one of my favorites was Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum. We spend half a day walking around the museum and looking at all of the different exhibits. From statuettes made of real human hair and teeth to life size pictures of the tallest man on earth and everything in between you definitely won't get bored at Ripley's.
visit the vineyards of niagara-on-the-lake
There are so many vineyards to visit in Niagara-On-the-Lake that we rented bikes and spent a whole day cycling from one to the other. My favorites were Trius with its beautiful different tasting rooms and many kinds of bubbly wine and Jackson Triggs where we had the best service. Let's just say, by the end of the day, both of us were pretty bubbly!
treat yourself to a fancy dinner
I think you could eat at a different restaurant everyday for six months in Niagara Falls. With all of these options, why not treat yourself to a good one? We had dinner at Table Rock with a beautiful view over the Falls and at Weinkeller which was absolutely delicious and totally worth the price! I would recommend both of them.
go see the waterfalls illuminated at night
Every night, the falls are illuminated in multicolored lights and change colors every few minutes. It's beautiful and a good place to admire the view is from the top of the Skylon Tower. You'll have a 360 degree view over Niagara.
One thing's for sure, you'll have plenty to do!
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When I discovered that I liked traveling... a lot...too much? I decided that I would start by visiting my Canada. Starting elsewhere would have felt like cheating. Kind of like taking my own country for granted. Everywhere we go, people tell us how lucky we are to live in Canada and they are right. Canada is freaking beautiful! So I left to work on Vancouver Island and spent the year visiting British Columbia and Western United States before driving across North America to go back home to Quebec City.
Then, I felt ready to explore a bit further from home. I went to Costa Rica, Morocco, Italy, and then BAM! Covid-19 hit and we weren't allowed to cross the borders for an unknown amount of time. The thing is, when you start traveling, it is kind of like a drug, it's very hard to stop once you're addicted. So I went back to visiting my old friend Canada and decided to discover a little corner that I had never explored: the Bruce Peninsula, a small strip of land separating the Georgian Bay from Lake Huron in the south of Ontario. Internet promised me Caribbean blue water, long and peaceful hikes and a ton of water activities. It's kind of hard to say no to that!
My friend wasn't very hard to convince and a month later, we were on our way to Ontario on a 10-hour drive from Quebec City to this new adventure. I'm pretty sure the pictures will make you want to visit this area of Canada, but just in case you need more convincing, here are 6 reasons you should head to the Bruce Peninsula.
1. the beauty of the landscape
Let's start with the easiest reason, but gosh can this landscape get any better? I have been back from this road trip for a while now and still can't get over it. You see it on pictures and you have a hard time believing the water can be this blue in real life, but it totally is. Not only is it a bright turquoise, it is so clear you can see all the way to the bottom even when it is meters deep. All along the coast, you discover little bays that are all prettier than the last. Hiking trails will lead you past viewpoints where you can admire the view from the top of cliffs, rocks covered in green moss, clumps of colorful mushrooms, fields of wildflowers, etc. And let's come back one more time to the color of the water because it deserves to be mentioned a second time. My friend and I spent the whole time saying it looked like we had just been transported to the Seychelles, or the Caribbean, or an island in Thailand. The fact that this is in Canada just blows my mind!
2. the number of activities on offer
For someone who loves the great outdoors, there is plenty to do in Bruce Peninsula. Kayaking, paddleboarding, snorkeling and diving (yes there are two shipwrecks where you can dive and many underwater grottos), hiking, beach days, sailing, swimming, there is something for everyone. You can also go on a boat ride with a glass floor around the islands, go fishing, camp, etc.
3. the hikes
The peninsula is almost completely part of the Bruce Peninsula National Park which means there are lots of hiking trails that are well maintained and mostly well indicated. For experimented hikers, the Bruce Trail is a more than 800 km trail from Tobermory, at the end of to peninsula, to Niagara. It offers incomparable views on the Georgian Bay and its islands. Beginners can do parts of the Bruce Trail or one of the many others on offer in the park. There are also trails suitable for families with strollers or people with a handicap that lead to easier to reach viewpoints. For most parts of the trail, I recommend good hiking shoes and to bring a map with you. There can be some steep hills, but it is totally worth it.
4. the simplicity of the destination
Traveling in your own country is of course always easier as you don't need to worry about insurance, exchanging money and things like that, but even for people from other countries, the Bruce Peninsula would be an easy destination. It can be reached by bus from Toronto and you don't need reservations years in advance or to make tons of research. I recommend making reservations for your accommodation once you find out the days you will be traveling, but we booked just a few days before our trip which was during a long weekend in the first summer of Covid when Canadians from the cities flocked to national parks and we didn't have trouble finding a place to stay or booking activities on site. It's a pretty stress free vacation since there are always many other options if what you wanted to do ends up being full.
5. the number of visitors
Like I said earlier, the year we visited was particularly crowded because of Covid, but even then, we found once we started hiking, we were totally alone and barely crossed paths with a few other people. The park is so huge and there are so many different areas that, if you feel like it's crowded where you are, you can just go a little bit further down the path and you'll be completely alone. The only place that we found crowded was the grotto, but even that, the parking lot is so restricted, it never really gets busy. I think that even in high season, it would be a good destination if you need some time surrounded by nature without the distraction of other humans.
6. the sunrises and sunsets
Sunrises and sunsets are moments that I talk about often and that I try to plan for while on vacation. I organize my schedule to make sure I will be in a good spot to watch at the exact point in time where the sun meets the horizon. I loved the fact that, being surrounded by water, the peninsula offered both great sunrises and sunsets over the water of Lake Huron. We were lucky enough to get a full on spectacle every morning and every night during our 5 day trip.
So wether you are looking for breathtaking landscapes, activities to do with your friends and family or if you want to spend some time in nature, the Bruce Peninsula is waiting for you. Enjoy your visit!
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