In October 2019, Ontario Parks updated our reservation system and is offering new and exciting services to our visitors. One of the biggest changes is that all of our car campsites are now fully bookable – no more first-come, first-served sites.
Most of our visitors are excited about this change, and so are we. We have heard overwhelmingly that our clients prefer to have a reservation in advance, so they know for sure they have a campground before they show up.
However, there have also been some questions from our visitors who enjoyed the first-come, first-served option and what this change means for them.
These are the most common questions we have found so far:
How many campsites does this affect?
The vast majority of our car campsites could now be reserved. Historically, between 85% and 100% could be reserved up to five months before the arrival date.
The exact numbers varied from park to park, and some did not offer non-reservable (first-come, first-served) sites at all.
Why did we make this change?
Over the past decade, Ontario Parks has experienced an increase in reservations and a decrease in occupancy at our first-come, first-served sites. Many of our non-reservable campsites were left empty.
Many visitors did not want to bet on first-come, first-served sites. It’s frustrating and stressful to buy supplies, load up your car or RV, and travel a long time to a park, only to find that there are no campsites available.
This kept many people at home.
Non-reservable campsites also caused confusion and frustration for some of our visitors who didn’t understand why they couldn’t call ahead to secure a site on a first-come, first-served basis.
This new system will solve these problems by showing our visitors when and where there are vacancies, and allow them to close their campsite before hitting the road.
Do you prefer a truly last minute trip? Ask your navigator to open your phone and reserve a spot en route and in real time.
Can I still show up without a reservation?
We understand that many of our visitors do not know their vacation schedule five months in advance. Others may prefer to simply travel spontaneously.
While recommended, advance reservations are not necessary. When we have availability, Ontario Parks will continue to accept last minute arrivals without reservations.
Reservations are available online or through the reservations call center at 1-888-ONT-PARK (1-888-668-7275) up to and including the day of arrival.
Doesn’t this mean that my favorite park is going to fill up and I won’t be able to get a spot anytime soon?
It depends on your favorite park.
With the exception of long weekends, many parks have open spaces throughout the summer.
Additionally, cancellations are common and previously booked sites often become available again. That means it’s important to keep an eye on our reservations page, even if the park appears to be fully booked when you first check.
Long Point Provincial Park
If your favorite park is full when you want to visit, we have over 100 camping parks in our system that will be happy to host you. It’s a great opportunity to try a new park tradition!
When Bon Echo is full, you might want to visit Murphys Point Provincial Park or Charleston Lake Provincial Park. If it’s Killbear, then Sturgeon Bay (with its easy access to Georgian Bay) or Six Mile Lake are great options.
Check out this article for more ideas.
Yes, but didn’t the previous system guarantee that my favorite park was never full and that I could always get a spot?
Even with our old system, there was never any guarantee that you would be able to get to a park and have a spot available. If others arrived before you and there was nothing left, then we couldn’t accommodate you.
This same principle applies with our new system. You can still take last-minute or spontaneous trips to our most popular parks; You now have the option to check online or call ahead to see if campgrounds are open.
Does this change also apply to backcountry camping?
No. While all backcountry parks are now online, there are still different types of reservations depending on where you camp.
Each backcountry park will offer full reservation or early registration.
Lake Superior Provincial Park
Visit our backcountry webpage or the specific page for the park you would like to visit for more information.
Ontario Parks strives to meet customer needs and address all concerns. We assure you that we will continue to ensure that the reservation service policies are fair to everyone.
To make a reservation today, visit our reservation service. online or call us at 1-888-ONT-PARK (1-888-668-7275).