The Learning Curve – Favourite Campgrounds

we’re in the middle of preparing for summer, which means putting the hockey equipment and sleds in the crawl space and giving our camping equipment a good airing before the season of mosquitoes and construction really start to ramp up.

When camping season starts, we fish, play on the beach, go for hikes, cook our supper over a campfire, stargaze?and enjoy meeting other families. We also bring our dog, who really enjoys the random sniffing that goes on when canines meet in the ?wilderness? (as a two-pound toy poodle, a provincial park is the closest he’s going to get to the great outdoors!)

So if You’re considering a camping trip this summer, here’s the scoop on some of our favourite places in the Manitoba/Northwest Ontario region (most with sites ranging from basic tenting to full-service sites for full-sized trailers).

Whiteshell Provincial Park

Whiteshell Provincial Park is huge. Located in eastern Manitoba, it contains 10 campgrounds with reasonable camping fees. we’re talking really reasonable: at $7-12 per night for a provincially run campground, plus a Manitoba Park Pass ($7 for 3 days or $28 for a season), camping here is a great choice!

West Hawk Lake is an amazing natural attraction in the region. It’s located on the Trans-Canada trail and has wonderful walking trails. Created by a meteorite, the lake is reported to be as deep as a football field and is used for federal scuba diving training. Also on West Hawk Lake is the Whiteshell Fish Hatchery, which gives tours and explains how Manitoba Conservation is repopulating fish species in Manitoba lakes.

Falcon Lake has three campgrounds, but my favourite is Falcon Beach. The campground is beautiful and a walk to the beach or town is only a few minutes. The long beach is white sand, and you can rent a giant tube and spend the day floating in the sun.

There’s also a large playground that kids of all ages seem to love, and hidden beside it is the Falcon Lake Interpretive Workshop, with interesting displays and conservation-centred activities for kids.

You can find more information on the Manitoba Parks website (including a link to online campsite reservations) and the Trans-Canada Trail website.

Lilac Resort

Lilac Resort is located on the Trans-Canada highway approximately half an hour east of Winnipeg. On the other end of the spectrum from most campgrounds, it has everything from waterslides to concerts, mini golf to paddle boats, and much, much more. If you’ve never camped, or the lake scares you, this would be a good place to start.

In fact, it isn’t really camping; more like a resort you can sleep at in a tent. Small hotel rooms are available, or you could use a day pass if you are passing through.

Rates are pricier than provincial parks, but include all activities in the resort?even concerts. There are paddle boats for the duck pond, and amazing staff, but just remember?the pools are chlorinated and after three days this can start to irritate sensitive skin.

Lilac is an awesome family retreat, and I’ve seen a lot of people there having a blast without kids.

Rushing River

Located 20 minutes east of Kenora, Ontario, Rushing River is one of the most beautiful parks I’ve seen in the region.

The campground is really rocky, so some sites are walk-in only, situated on a cliff overlooking the water. As well, some of the campsites are located right on the water. There are at least five beach areas within walking distance of the campground, ranging from larger family beaches to small hideaways.

The larger beach (a large swimming area, but not much beach?most people park themselves on the rocks or grass) has a lot of rock crops a short swim out that are great for diving off, and the water is crystal clear.

Rushing River also has three hiking trails, two easy and one moderate, that even inexperienced hikers will enjoy (less than an hour and a half) because of the gorgeous scenery and wildlife viewing.

If you want a secluded spot, choose a tent-only, walk-in site on a rock cliff. You’ll feel like you are the only people in the world!

Rates are higher in Ontario Provincial Parks (about three times higher than Manitoba), but include the cost of an Ontario Park pass for the time you are camping?normally $16 per day, or $89.15 for the season.

Go here to find more information on Rushing River or other Ontario Parks campgrounds.

Anicinabe Park

Located about a two-minute drive from downtown Kenora, this privately owned RV/campground/beach park is a local favourite?which should speak volumes to travellers.

The beach is the big draw (along with the boat launch), and has beautiful sand, a small playground, a picnic area, an on-beach playground, and a dock that circles the swimming area so you won’t float away on your air mattress. This park is on Lake of the Woods, but the water is much nicer earlier in the summer due to the shallowness of the swimming area.

This park is a great alternative to a hotel if you are visiting the region over the summer. Harbourfest (August long weekend) is an amazing city-wide party with concerts featuring big-ticket performers. This year’s line-up includes Loverboy and Paul Brandt, with past performers such as Nazareth and Tom Cochrane.

The Sunday evening fireworks are absolutely breathtaking, the days are filled with different activities at the Harbourfront for kids and adults, and down the road at the Recreation Centre there’s the Agricultural Fair with displays and a good-sized midway.

You can find out more at the Anicinabe Park website, or visit Harbourfest ? Annual Kenora Festival.