It’s the perfect time to pack a picnic and spend a relaxing afternoon in Ontario’s parks. Without the crowds of summer, it’s easy to find a quiet picnic shelter, a table, or a place for your blanket and basket.
Here are ten parks with great picnic areas that are easy to reach from Ontario’s urban centers.
1. Brontë Creek Provincial Park
This park is located in the Oakville-Burlington area west of Toronto. Hike the Ravine Trail, which encompasses all of this park’s forest habitat, including a scenic overlook of the ravine. There are many picnic tables spread throughout the day-use area of the park.
2. Darlington Provincial Park
When you sit in this park near Oshawa, just south of Highway 401, big city life seems miles away. Large trees shade the picnic area which is located next to a wonderful beach with a magnificent view of Lake Ontario. This is the perfect park for a couple of urbanites who want to relax during the day. On a windy day, look for kitesurfers or bring your own!
3. Ferris Provincial Park
This Campbellford-area park is easy to get to from the 401 eastbound. A 300-foot-long suspension bridge crosses the River Trent from the park at Ranney Gorge. The bridge, which is part of the TransCanada Trail, overlooks Ranney Falls. The park’s picnic area is nearby. If you’re looking for a good local bakery for a picnic, try Dooher’s in Campbellford and don’t forget Empire Cheese and World’s Finest Chocolate shop.
4. North Beach Provincial Park
This kilometer-long ribbon of sand is a smaller version of Prince Edward County’s famous Sandbanks Provincial Park. Kayakers and canoeists like to launch their boats from the beach and explore North Bay, which is protected from strong winds by the park’s dunes. Picnic items are easy to get in “El Condado”. Visit TasteTrail.ca for ideas.
5. Murphy’s Point Provincial Park
If you love the colors of fall, especially the red ones, head to this park located in Lanark County, south of Ottawa. The county and park are noted for sugar maples. Canoe rentals come with paddles and life jackets. Hiking trails include the 1km Silver Queen Mine Trail, which takes you to an early 20th century mica mine. For an overnight getaway, try booking Murphys Point’s new camping cabin or luxury tent.
6. French River Provincial Park
This photogenic picnic spot is accessible north of Parry Sound, just off Highway 69 where it crosses the French River. A 4km hiking trail leads from the park’s award-winning visitor center, with stunning architecture, to a suspension bridge. If you plan to have a picnic, bring a blanket. There are no picnic tables, just stunning scenery.
7. Port Burwell Provincial Park
Wait until you see this park’s beach – it’s one of the best on Lake Erie! Port Burwell Provincial Park is also part of an important North American migration route. Monarch butterflies stop here on their way to Mexico in early September. Birds of prey pass through in autumn, including falcons, eagles and vultures. Fresh fruits and vegetables are sold at nearby farmers stands, and if you plan to camp with friends, try booking Campground #402. The staff calls it the million-dollar site because of its lake view.
8. Chutes Provincial Park
The only provincial park on Highway 17 between Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie. Marie and she is a beauty. The landscape is the iconic Canadian Shield with towering conifers, rock outcrops and a small fast-moving river called the Aux Sables. A river trail leads to a waterfall and Seven Sisters Rapids. The picnic and day use area is located next to a nice beach near the falls.
9. Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park
Also known as “Niagara of the North”, this thunderous waterfall falls 39 meters over steep cliffs in a deep gorge half an hour west of Thunder Bay, off Highway 17 (Trans Canada Highway). Fossils 1.6 billion years old have been unearthed near the base of the falls. The park’s picnic area and its view of the waterfall are popular with hikers. Six hiking trails range from easy to strenuous, and if you plan to camp, you’ll find well-wooded sites.
10. Fitzroy Provincial Park
Located at the junction of the meandering Carp River and the mighty Ottawa River, Fitzroy is just an hour from Ottawa. The park offers a large day-use area for swimming, picnicking, and canoeing, plus a volleyball court. Fitzroy also features three large separate picnic areas with a group barbecue (reservations required: 613-623-5159).