If you love camping and paddling, there’s nobody better to get recommendations from than the Happy Camper Kevin Callen.He loves all things outdoors and he’s spent quite a lot of time in our region, including paddling the entire length of the Thames River! Of course, you’re here for camping so we want to share some of Kevin’s suggestions.
Last year, Kevin visited and camped at seven Ontario Parks locations and four Conservation Areas with visits to amazing spots near each. His stops included some of the most popular camping locations in Ontario’s Southwest and these can fill up quickly, so we’ve selected some the under the radar gems from his travels and some of our own.
As you venture out, please do so in a safe manner and in accordance with guidelines. To learn more about what you can expect from local businesses in Ontario’s Southwest, click here.
Just outside of St. Thomas, Dalewood Conservation Area offers trails and paddling on their new waterway trail in addition to the peaceful camping. Don’t miss the chance to visit the nearby St. Thomas Elevated Park, Canada’s only elevated park that is home to local art and amazing views. Make a stop at Quai Du Vin Estate Winery and Caps Off Brewing Company for local drink and if you love burgers, check out some of the best burger spots in the area on this list.
Known as Ontario’s “deep south” provincial park because it’s located at the same latitude as Northern California, Wheatley is home to trails that wind through a southern style Carolinian forest, and waters that offer amazing fishing. Enjoy some fresh catch at Taylor’s Fish and Chip Truck and blueberry scones and jam at nearby Parks Blueberries.
For peace and quiet, check out Selkirk Provincial Park with its grassed campsites surrounded by trees. Be sure to bring your kayak and hiking shoes too because this park has both of those in spades! Before you head home, or on the way there, grab a bite at Sunflower Café and visit Concession Road Brewing Co. for tasty local brews.
Featuring a 20-acre reservoir, A.W. Campbell conservation is great for paddling, especially if you don’t have your own equipment because they offer canoe/kayak rentals. Walk the trails along Morrough Creek where a host of wildflowers and interesting tree species can be observed. And take a short drive to Munro Honey and Meadery to pick up local honey and even mead.
On the shores of Lake Erie, Norfolk Conservation Area is a long-time favourite for campers thanks to its proximately to beaches, trails for hiking and cycling, paddling and more. You’re also in the heart of the South Coast Wine & Craft Beer Toast the Coast Trail so you have lots of options to eat and drink local.
Pittock is an outdoor playground for those that love the outdoors. Beyond camping, including a paddle in campsite, you can enjoy hiking, fishing, trails, and disc golf. There’s also a large leash free dog park. And with its location in Woodstock, you’re close to local shops including Upper Thames Brewing Co., Kintore Coffee, and more.
With serviced campsites and even a beautiful rental cottage, Holiday Beach is a fantastic getaway with a sandy beach on the Lake Erie shoreline. It’s also one of the best bird-watching locations around during the spring migration. And not to mention, it’s located near numerous wineries in the EPIC wine region.
As you plan your camping and visit these natural spaces, be sure to respect the environment. Our friends at Ontario Parks and Parks Canada are asking all visitors to show their love of parks by taking action to protect our precious natural spaces.