About two and a half hours north of Toronto , you’ll find a very special place— Awenda Provincial Park . Though I had never heard of Awenda, it seems that others certainly had because most of the park’s sites were occupied during our visit. Yet, despite so many visitors, we felt like we “owned the park” when we were out on the network of trails because we had the route all to ourselves (only once did a family cross our paths—they were heading off the trail and we were just starting out!) I think that contributes to the grandness of this park—the fact that it’s a popular destination with great views of Georgian Bay and its island called “Giant’s Tomb” but also that it’s big enough to sustain such a large number of people while still providing for some privacy with nature.
Awenda has six different campgrounds (i.e., Deer, Snake, Wolf, Bear, Turtle and Hawk), each offering a different kind of camping environment. Three of these areas are designated “radio-free” while the fourth permits a reasonable amount of tunes until a respectable hour. If you’re bringing your pet along, you’ll be happy to know that all but one of the areas allows pets. Driving your RV? No problem! Two of the campgrounds have hydro hook-ups. Most of the sites are quite private and well-padded with trees. There’s also a fire-pit, picnic tables and plenty of flat ground for a tent (or two) on each site.
Awenda Provincial Park- Our Campsite
If you’re lucky, you’ll be fast enough to grab a picture of one of the MANY chipmunks that will watch you set up camp (though you’ll have to be really fast with your camera because once they see that you’ve spotted them, they are OUTTA there!) Each of the camping areas has a few toilets (vault) and water taps spread throughout and one big comfort station with flush toilets and showers. Wood and ice are also for sale until 9 p.m. every day at the park. For a cool treat or camping tool (e.g., the portable grill you forgot on your basement floor at home), the Friends of Awenda run a store for the convenience of park campers and local cottagers alike. If you have any questions about the park, they’ll be glad to answer them for you. The park also offers interpretive programs, an activity centre (for nature-related fun) and group camping facilities.
We had a great camping experience…even the seemingly torrential downpour overnight didn’t dampen our spirits. The thunder and lightning seemed right over us but we were dry and snug in our tent. We *highly recommend* that you hoist a tarp over your tent if the forecast is calling for rain. Given the number of trees surrounding the sites, this didn’t prove to be a difficult task at all—we just needed our own tarp and stock of rope! We stayed in the “Snake” campground and found it to be very peaceful and serene. The comfort station was clean and the showers were warm (more like warm, cooler, hot, then warm again—but we certainly aren’t complaining—any variation of warm is great by us!)
Awenda Provincial Park- Chipmunk
As we were falling asleep, a family of raccoons came to double-check that we had safely secured our food stock in the trunk of our car. Be sure to put all food in your car (never left out on the picnic table or in your tent) before turning in for the night. Otherwise, you might find yourself in the middle of raccoon party central! (NOTE BY ROB: Ask Nancy how she knows this! 😉
Awenda Provincial Park- Mushroom Awenda Provincial Park- Another Mushroom
Awenda Provincial Park- Bee
Rob and I spent our day hiking a few of Awenda’s trails. The park has a large network of trails that range from 0.5 to 13 km in length and which offer a variety of hiking experiences. The Nippissing Trail is actually a 155-step staircase that takes you down the side of the bluff and back again.
Awenda Provincial Park- Caterpillars
Trails also run along the beach, through marshland and up the dunes. We explored the Dunes/Robitaille Homestead Trail which was labeled as a 3 km moderate-level hike due to steep inclines at certain points. We really enjoyed this hike and yes, there were some steady but not incredibly steep inclines that provided for some good cardio. Be sure to slop on some sunscreen and load up on the DEET because you’ll need it! As we hiked along the historic trail, we were surrounded by mosquitoes and black flies. Also, due to the nature of the foliage and weather (i.e., lots of flowers in humid weather), there was also a fair share of butterflies, birds, bees and a whole arsenal of other insects including dragon flies, spiders, caterpillars and inchworms. If you like macro photography, you’ll find some interesting “models” in Awenda. For those looking for a longer hike, the 13-km Bluffs Trail winds through the almost the entire park. A more leisurely hike would be the Wendat Trail that follows the shores of Kettle’s Lake and offers a well-groomed path that at one point crosses some marshland. You can also rent a canoe to explore Kettle’s Lake for an hour or so!
Awenda Provincial Park- Kettle Lake
These little guys look like they have a head at either end of their body. (so you can’t sneak up on them)
One last little hiking tip… it’s so worth the $1.99 investment to buy an emergency poncho (yes, the ones that strongly resemble neon-coloured garbage bags). They fit easily inside your pocket or hiking pack, weigh next to nothing and come in REALLY handy when you need them. The skies opened up on us on the last leg of the Kettle’s Lake and the emergency ponchos saved our camera from an untimely demise!
Awenda Provincial Park- Sunset
Awenda has four beach areas to choose from—one pet-friendly. The beach area is soft sand laden with tiny rocks and other watery treasures like shells and driftwood. Once you head into the water, you’ll have to deal with the rocky landscape—a bit uncomfortable at first but once the rocks get a little bigger, they are easier to conquer! We visited the beach at night, just before the sun was about to set, and enjoyed the calm and solitude. The water was a bit cold at first but became quite comfortable in no time! Once again, despite the numerous park guests, we were two of six people enjoying the sunset on the beach.
Awenda Provincial Park- Sunset Panorama
At the end of our trip, we decided to explore the nearby towns of Penetanguishene and Midland . Both towns offer boat tours of the “30.000 Islands ” (take that Kingston !) a various times of the day. Unfortunately, we had just missed the last departure of the day.
Since we arrived just after supper time, we weren’t able to get into the buildings at Discovery Harbour either… though we were allowed to walk along the Harbour.
Midland has invested in a series of historic murals which are sprinkled throughout its downtown area (most of them along King Street ). The murals are simply gorgeous and detailed works of art that tell the story of Midland ’s past.