This handy gateway to central Ontario lets campers enjoy the outdoors sooner and skip the traffic.
Orillia sits on the shores between Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching. It’s a great jumping-off point for camping adventures along Georgian Bay or either lake, and the city is a playground for all ages. Parks, beaches, and marinas are just the start. Add a floating water park for the kids and a casino nearby where adults can try their luck or catch a concert. Instead of sitting in cottage-bound traffic heading out of Toronto, spend your time playing, beaching, and reaching your campsite sooner.
Mara Provincial Park Just 10 minutes’ drive outside Orillia, Mara Point features a beautiful, spacious beach that’s uncrowded during the week. More than 100 campsites offer both RV and tent camping, and all RV sites are set on one side of the campground away from tent campers. The designated beach swimming area is open from mid-June through Labour Day (the first Monday in September). Highway 11 Campers traveling north from Barrie along Highway 11 will find welcoming family campgrounds right off the highway, some with swimming pools, hot tubs, or playgrounds. Most campgrounds have both RV and tent camping sites, plus outdoor facilities. Black River East of Lake Couchiching on Simcoe County Road 169, Black River Wilderness Park is off the beaten path and away from the bustle of Lake Simcoe. There are lots of choices for campers here, ranging from a no-frills tent site to an RV site, a rustic cabin, a tipi, or a yurt.
Most campgrounds are open from May through October, and bookings outside that range may be hard to come by. Many private campgrounds rent campsites by the season to RV owners—commuter campers who live in Toronto and generally drive up on weekends. It might be hard to book short-term summer camping for this reason. But tent campers should be able to find midweek availability most of the time, while weekends will need to be booked in advance.
- Several parks and playgrounds around Orillia offer a variety of places for kids to play, and there’s a large, sandy beach on the shores of Lake Couchiching. - You can drive across “the Narrows,” which connects Lake Simcoe to Lake Couchiching, which makes the eastern shores of both lakes easily accessible. - Continue north on Highway 11 past Orillia for another 30 minutes and you’ll arrive at Lake Muskoka and Ontario’s premiere cottage region. - Orillia is in Ontario’s snow belt and there are ski resorts nearby, the closest being Mt. St. Louis Moonstone. Unfortunately, most campgrounds are closed in winter.