Now is a good time to book an overnight getaway at Ontario Parks. Mid-week rentals have been readily available since Thanksgiving. Try a fully equipped cottage, farmhouse or if you’re feeling adventurous, a heated camp cabin or yurt. Here's what is open across Ontario for fall and winter:
Sandbanks Provincial Park in Prince Edward County is closed for the season, but its farmhouse and cottage are open all year. That’s good news for county food-lovers. The Maple Rest Heritage Farmhouse has four bedrooms, each with its own bathroom. Jacques Cottage can sleep up to six and has a 180 degree view of Lake Ontario. Forage the county for local food and wine then cook yourself a fabulous dinner. Both rentals come with fully equipped kitchens, dining areas and fireplaces.
Whether you are an ardent hiker, nature lover, cross-country skier, snowshoer or just out for a stroll, Silent Lake Provincial Park has a trail for you. A favourite is the Lakeshore Hiking Trail which follows Silent Lake's shoreline past lookout points, beaver meadows, hardwood forests and cedar and Black Ash swamps. Starting mid-December, this Bancroft-area park has seven cozy yurts available for rent. All are heated by wood stove or electricity and each comes with its own exterior propane barbecue for cooking.
In Muskoka, choose a camp cabin at Arrowhead Provincial Park or a heated yurt at Algonquin Provincial Park. Best of all, your park permit allows you access to both parks' trail networks. Arrowhead has 10 camp cabins available for rent beginning in mid-December. Each cabin has a kitchenette with a microwave, mini fridge, coffee maker, dining area for inside meals and outside, a gas barbeque and picnic table. Propane/electric fireplaces provide additional comfort and the heated comfort station and water tap are a short walk away.
Fall sunsets are spectacular at Lake Huron's Pinery and MacGregor Point Provincial Parks. Pinery has added a camp cabin to its 12 heated yurts. MacGregor Point has 16 yurts earning it the nickname, "Yurt Capital of Ontario". This fall, take your bikes for a leisurely ride, or in winter, pack your skates. MacGregor Point has a romantic ice trail through the woods that's lit every night. Both parks have trails too.
Few have been lucky enough to experience Killarney Provincial Park in winter. Stargazing is extraordinary and there's a good chance you'll see park wildlife. George Lake Campground has heated cabins and yurts. In winter, overnight visitors leave their cars at the park office 300 metres from the campground and use park toboggans to carry their gear in. Outside the office are two heated washrooms with a tap for potable water. If you love birdwatching, Killarney's annual Christmas Bird Count in mid-December, is one of the oldest citizen science surveys in the world.
Across Northern Ontario, Try These Winter Parks:
Windy Lake Provincial Park, one hour west of Sudbury, is fast gaining a reputation with cross-country skiers who love its professionally groomed trails. Four heated yurts, all with electricity, are tucked away just off of park trails. If you want to try Windy Lake's ice fishing, the park will rent you an ice fishing kit complete with ice-auger and pop-up canopy.
For the ultimate romantic winter getaway, fly to Thunder Bay Airport, pick up a car rental and head to either Quetico Provincial Park, 169 kilometres west of Thunder Bay or Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, 88 kilometres east. Both parks get an abundance of snow and have groomed, track set trails for all levels of skier. What's more, their roofed accommodations are unique. Among the Quetico cabins available for rent, is a refurbished, historic log cabin that sleeps four comfortably. Sleeping Giant's three-bedroom cottages have fully equipped kitchens, indoor washrooms with showers, propane fireplaces and heated sun porches.