River, stream, or creek and dog-friendly camping near Barrie

This small city brings together the best of cottage country with an urban vibe.

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River, stream, or creek and dog-friendly camping near Barrie guide

Overview

Set on the shores of Lake Simcoe’s Kempenfelt Bay, downtown Barrie can feel like an escape. Watercraft filled with happy boaters roll in and out of the main marina, while parks and beaches stretch for several kilometres along the shoreline. Live events and festivals light up the night, including the concert stage and glittering midway of Kempenfest in July and August. Spend some time strolling through the butterfly bushes and rose gardens at Sunnidale Park’s arboretum, or head back in time at Historic Fort Willow, a supply depot during the War of 1812. Then head for the hills—some of the province’s best public parks and ski resorts (which welcome mountain bikers in summer) are just a short drive away.

Where to go

Springwater Provincial Park

Just 15 minutes’ drive northwest of downtown Barrie, Springwater is small but mighty. There’s no camping here, but day-use visitors can enjoy 12 kilometres of hiking and biking trails, some skirting a swan-filled pond. Winter is also fun—the park grooms eight kilometres of cross-country ski trails, plus a designated snowshoe path.

Earl Rowe Provincial Park

Set on the Boyne River and Earl Rowe Lake, this is a perfect place to get into the water. With two big beaches, plus a massive, one-acre swimming pool, campers can rent a canoe from a booth on East Beach, or watch the salmon spawning at the fish ladder. Then spend the night at one of 400 campsites.

Georgian Bay Islands National Park

The world’s largest freshwater archipelago, this park once inspired the Group of Seven, Canada’s most legendary painters. Here, the rugged rock of the Canadian Shield meets the clear waters of Georgian Bay. Swim in sheltered coves on Beausoleil Island (some with romantic names, like Honeymoon Bay), fish, hike, bike, canoe, and kayak, then spend the night—they’ve got cabins, glamping, and camping.

Sibbald Point Provincial Park

The beach is the biggest drawing card here. Lining Lake Simcoe, the sand stretches in a big, broad crescent with gentle waves perfect for families. Once you’ve dipped your toes, climb into a boat, canoe, or motorboat, or fish for jumbo perch, pike, trout, and northern pike. (You can also ice fish in winter.)

When to go

This part of Central Ontario experiences four very distinct seasons—the darkest nights in winter can dip below -40°C, while summer days can top 35°C. Time your visit to coincide with your interests: Skiers and snowboarders can expect good snow on the nearby slopes from December to March, while swimmers can get in the lakes from June to early September. Autumn is always glorious with an explosion of colour and some of the best sweater weather you’ll find anywhere.

Know before you go

  • Barrie sits about an hour’s drive north of Toronto. Roughly halfway between Toronto and the heart of Muskoka, traffic on Highway 400—the main thoroughfare connecting the two—can be very heavy in summer, especially on Fridays (northbound) and Sundays (southbound).
  • Load up before you leave town—Barrie has a number of camping and sporting goods stores and big supermarkets.
  • Instead of driving, take the GO Train—the distinctive green, double-decker cars of Toronto’s commuter rail system connect Barrie with downtown’s Union Station in under 90 minutes.

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