There is no better way to get in touch with the things around you than by heading out into the wilderness on a Kawartha camping Canadian canoe trip. Get off the grid for a couple of days and enjoy an adventure; try a canoe trip. A canoe trip is an experience that offers the opportunity to paddle calmly through the waters of Ontario’s cottage country, to spend nights under the stars, and to watch sunsets and sunrises in the silence of Canadian nature.

This all sounds appealing, right? However, there is always the question of how do you get started creating these adventures? Where are the best places to camp in Ontario? A typical campground which provide services such as showers and stores are generally full of families. This does not quite bring forth the tranquility of what I am describing. To provide that tranquility, there needs to be a place where you can genuinely connect with and appreciate nature, without all of the hustle and bustle of society around you. 

Peterborough & the Kawarthas are just a quick hop, skip and jump from Toronto and have one of the newest provincial parks in Ontario. The picturesque Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park provides a variety of canoe and Kawartha camping routes through stunning Canadian topographies and should be on the top of your list of adventure destinations. Interested? Great! Check out these 11 reasons why you should choose to go camping in the Kawarthas.

Why you should go Kawartha Camping on your next Canadian canoe trip

1. The campsites in Peterborough & the Kawarthas are well maintained and well equipped

camping in the kawarthas

There are few things more pleasant than paddling up to a clean campsite after a hard day’s work of canoeing and portaging in the Canadian wilderness. The 121 backcountry sites in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park are incredibly well maintained and equipped making it one of the best places to camp in Ontario. Each site we visited was clean and well respected; not a trace of garbage was left behind by previous campers. This tells a very different story than previous camping experiences that I have had. A clean campsite encourages future campers to do the same.

All campsites contained a few flat areas to pitch a tent, as well as a fire pit, cooking grill, benches, a picnic table, and toilet boxes. The toilet boxes were located just off the site with proper signage leading to them. With communal open spaces and sheltered areas for tents, the campsites at Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park are set up so that all visitors can confidently create a temporary home right beside the lake.

2. The Kawartha Highlands Park is much less crowded than parks like Algonquin

kawartha highlands provincial park view

Canoe tripping in Peterborough & the Kawarthas provides a sense of serenity in comparison to camping destinations such as Algonquin, which due to its popularity, just can’t quite provide. That is just a nice way of saying…there are less people here. Instead of hearing the camping activities of many sites at once, running into groups of other canoes, or lining up for portages, canoeing through Peterborough & the Kawarthas yields that sense of tranquility which only backcountry camping in Ontario can provide. 

While paddling and portaging from lake to lake, and camp site to camp site, visitors have the opportunity to totally immerse themselves in nature. The quiet calm of a paddle sweeping through the water, the sounds of wildlife in the distance, sleeping under the calm of the stars, and waking up to a misty sunrise, void of groups of people, are noteworthy motives to encourage camping in Peterborough & the Kawarthas

Lack of crowds was one of the main reasons I loved hiking to Ciudad Perdida in Colombia 

3. The Kawarthas are just a few hours from Toronto and are totally easy to access for an authentic Canadian Canoe Trip

Anstruther lake on a Kawartha camping trip

Peterborough & the Kawarthas, and Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park are easily accessible for groups in and around Ontario. Just 2.5 hours from Toronto, the Kawarthas can provide the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. As this Canadian cottage country destination is nearby, there are a number of ways in which one can take a city break including staying at inns, renting cottages and cabins, enjoying Kawartha resorts and of course Kawartha camping.

A variety of access points to the park means that campers can head out on the lake for one night, or for as many nights as desired. The park provides varied portage opportunities, paddle distances and difficulty levels so one can choose their own adventure. If a short break is all you need, there are a few camp sites that don’t require portages at all. Each of the access points to the park include well maintained parking lots as well as signage and maps to keep you on track. As Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park is Ontario’s second largest, access points to the park are spread throughout the area giving campers the opportunity to explore different Kawartha lakes camping sites while on their adventure.

4. Peterborough & Kawartha camping is a family friendly experience as calm waters and short portages make for a lower intensity level. Bring the whole crew!

kawartha camping with the land canadian adventures

Depending on which loop you choose, many of the canoe routes and portages at Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park are short and fairly easy. As a result, heading out to backcountry camp in the Kawarthas can be a family friendly activity. The Serpentine Loop, one of the routes available in the park, consists of 20 minute canoe paddles intermixed with 9 very short (except for one) portages.

The constantly changing atmosphere of canoe to portage and the activity level of routes like this will hold the young ones attention while leaving everyone else relaxed. With the campsites being well kept, flat, and accessible, and the canoeing and portaging not so challenging, backcountry camping in Ontario and canoeing in Peterborough & the Kawarthas can make for the perfect location for family camping in Ontario. 

For higher intensity experiences, check out this Volcano I summited in Ecuador

5. The camp sites are really easy to book as is the entire trip!

kawartha camping site with label

The Ontario Parks website makes the task of booking camps such as the Kawartha Lakes camping sites both simple and convenient. From the website, visitors can view a map of all of the campsites on the routes, as well as which of them are available for your requested dates. From here, the entire journey of a canoe trip can be planned, day by day, site by site with fees payable online.

When choosing campsites, each location, which are labeled by number, has information available about the site including things like how many tent pads there are, how shady it is, what the ground cover is like, if there are toilet boxes and cooking grills available, what the swimming area is like and which direction the camp faces. On top of all of this information, there are photos available for each of the sites. The information provided by Ontario Parks concerning the campsites and access points of Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park makes the task of booking a canoe trip just that much less intimidating. While in the park, all camp sites and portages are labeled as they are on the online map, making this a trip as easy to complete as it is to book. Canoe and camp with confidence.

Find more information on how to reserve a camp site from Ontario Parks here!

6. If you don’t want to go canoe tripping on your own, don’t worry, you can set up a guided tour!

guided canadian canoe trip kawarthas

If you do not wish to take on backcountry camping alone, do not worry, guided tours of the park are available and can be some of the best guided canoe trips in Ontario. The Land: Canadian Adventures is a tour company located in Apsely, Ontario which provide delightful all inclusive tours of the park. An alternative method to exploring a provincial park like the Kawartha Highlands, this experience will leave the planning to the pros as your only task will be to show up and enjoy the sites and sounds of Ontario’s wilderness.

The Land: Canadian Adventures provides the equipment needed for the excursion as well as guides who will lead you on the route, through the portages, and who will make absolutely divine campfire meals at the end of the day. Everything is included on these tours from food and snacks, to tents, sleeping bags, instruction and information. This is a great way to explore the park and minimize your worries. Plus, I have been on one of their tours and it absolutely rocked.

7. There are a number of different canoe tripping routes to take, you can always come back for more Kawartha Camping.

pulling canoes camping in the kawarthas

With 9 backcountry camping access points all around this massive provincial park, there are a number of different canoe tripping routes you can take depending upon a mixture of variables. You can choose your route based on how long you wish to go for, how many portages you want to do, the sights you want to see, or how difficult of a journey you wish to experience.

These canoe routes lead to different lakes and creeks all around Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park, each one offering something special. With its proximity to Toronto and easy accessibility, this is the type of park you will want to come back to. You can continually experience new routes and parts of the Kawarthas keeping the adventure alive and fresh.

There are some places like Guatemala where I would definitely return to go hiking again, check it out! 

8. You will be exploring one of Ontario’s newest parks.

canoeing the kawarthas in ontario

The Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park is one of the newest in parks in Ontario. It happens to be the largest nature preserve south of Algonquin and is possibly the best place to go camping in Southern Ontario! Why not head out and explore what’s new. The park consists of  375 square kilometres of preserved wilderness and recreational space…that is bigger than Paris, France! Canada and the province of Ontario do a great job of designating space for mother nature to thrive in. Exploring it respectfully is a very Canadian activity.  The opportunity to paddle a canoe on a Canadian canoe trip is at your fingertips.

9. There is no cell service in the park so you can truly disconnect and reconnect with those around you while camping in the Kawarthas.

coffee by a waterfall with friends

This might scare some of you, but I promise it can make a trip just that much better. There is little to no cell service in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park. Not having the ability to access things like e-mails, phone calls, facebook and texting can allow visitors to truly disconnect and appreciate the world around them. Just imagine paddling a canoe through the peaceful Canadian wilderness with Uncle Jim in the stern chatting to his business partner on the phone. No thank you!

Heading into the park offers the opportunity to put phones and computers away and to embrace everything and everyone around you. A trip through the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park hiking and canoeing can bring you that much closer to the people around you. A direct effect of time spent disconnected from technology in an adventurous atmosphere? Most assuredly. Canoe tripping in Ontario and portaging is the adventure trip that also provides tranquility. 

Looking for another adventure trip that provides tranquility? Tayrona National Park combined the best of both worlds.

10. Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park is pet friendly

Kayaking with a miniature dachshund

Canoe tripping in Ontario can be a family affair. In fact, I deem it more fun to go with a group. However, there is always one thing missing from camping trips and that is, the most important part of family camping in Ontario…our pets! Luckily for our furry friends, Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park is pet friendly. A positive for those who like to take their dogs canoeing and hiking around the world. Our furry friends are as welcome in the park as we are; there to provide warm snuggles at night and entertainment throughout the day.

Just make sure that if you choose to bring your dog on a Kawartha camping trip that they are comfortable in canoes and have life vests. It is also important to note that you are responsible for picking up and disposing of any animal waste left at the campsites. One of the reasons the backcountry camp sites are of such good quality is the respect and cleanliness of fellow campers and our pets should not impede this. Simply dispose of your pets waste in the bush toilet where you dispose of your own.

11. After spending a few days camping, you can top off your trip with a visit to a luxury resort

coffee on the dock at viamede resort

After spending a few days paddling around mother nature and enjoying some Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park hiking, all while sleeping in a tent, using a toilet in the bush, battling the occasional mosquito, not showering, and cooking primarily over a campfire, it is worth noting that Peterborough & the Kawarthas are most definitely a Canadian cottage country destination. When you emerge from the forest, relaxed, tranquil, pleasantly exhausted, and are ready to reconnect with the outside world, why not reconnect after your Canadian canoe trip in one of the luxurious Kawartha resorts nearby.

Viamede Resort is located on Stoney Lake in Peterborough & the Kawarthas and provides everything you could want after a few days canoe tripping through the Provincial Park. Luxurious fluffy cloud-like beds, partnered with warm showers, and fireplaces makes a stay at the Viamede the perfect way to finish off a trip to Peterborough & the Kawarthas. With a hot breakfast, saunas, swimming pools, and a few restaurants including the Gourmet Inn at Mount Julian, a visit to the Viamede will leave you feeling refreshed after a few days of adventure.

sunset in kawartha highlands provincial park

Canoe tripping through the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park with the Land Canadian Adventures, culminating with a stay at the luxurious Viamede Resort provides the perfect combination of destinations which will leave you pleasantly satisfied with your adventure. Relaxed, restored, and ready for whatever is next, a visit to Peterborough & the Kawarthas should be on your list when considering Kawartha camping and a Canadian canoe trip. 

If this is something you are interested in, head to the Peterborough & the Kawarthas site here for more information and inquiries about your Canadian canoe trip adventure! 

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the team at Peterborough & the Kawarthas, The Land: Canadian Adventures, and the Viamede Resort for hosting me as media for the week. All of the opinions are my own.

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why go camping in the kawarthas