Ontario Parks offer some of the best outdoor experiences in the province, and I can’t get enough of them, especially in the summer. My wife and I have stayed at most of the parks in southern Ontario, and one favourite is Bon Echo Provincial Park.
Located about an hour drive north of Greater Napanee, and about 3 hours from Toronto, the park is beautiful, and includes over 8000 hectares of forests and lakes.
Open at the start of May until the middle of October, Bon Echo has hiking trails, campsites, boat docks, canoe and kayak rentals, as well as 12 camp cabins, a rustic cabin, soft sided shelters, and yurts for rent.
Last year I wrote about staying in Bon Echo, and what you can expect at the park, but considering how much I love the experience, I wanted to give a bit more detail about what it’s like to camp at Bon Echo, especially at the camp cabins.
About Bon Echo
Bon Echo is a big park, and if you plan a stay for at least three or four days, you’ll have lots of time to see a lot of what it offers.
There are eight trails, ranging from difficult to easy, a discovery program that my daughter loves, and three beaches for swimming. The park also runs a lot of extra programs, especially in the summer and on weekends, to get kids interested in nature and animals.
Across from Mazinaw Rock, the park’s biggest feature, there’s a Visitor Centre where you can find out more about the history of the park and get details about the animals in the area.
Beside that building you’ll also find the Greystones Gift and Book Shop, and they sell snacks, helpful things for campers, a few clothes, souvenirs, and some fun things to help keep kids amused. You can also book a spot for the interpretive boat tour that runs on the lake, that gets you up-close for the pictographs on Mazinaw Rock. Or there’s a ferry that will take you to Mazinaw Rock to climb the cliff top trail.
Keep in mind that the Mazinaw Rock ferry only runs certain days, and only a few times per day, so you should plan ahead if you want to hike Mazinaw Rock.
For ice and wood, you can buy those, like most Ontario Parks, from the gatehouse at the entrance.
You can find a schedule of events on the Bon Echo website.
Some highlights you’ll want to check out: the “Old Walt” inscription, nearby attractions like Bonnechere Caves, and TurtleFest is amazing for the kids (last year it was in mid-July and features a range of rescued turtles).
We’ve been camping at the park before, and if that’s your style, it’s a great experience. Bon Echo offers some really exceptional camping spots, but for my wife and I, we prefer the totally charming camp cabins.
The camp cabins are located on Bon Echo Lake, in the middle of a forested area that’s calm, quiet, and beautiful at night. It’s a perfect vacation spot, and I really recommend staying at least three nights to get the most from the experience.
The 12 cabins are around one side of the lake, and near a comfort station that’s just for cabin guests, with bathrooms, showers, and a washing room for dishes. Each cabin is very similar to how Ontario Parks is building all of their new cabins, and they’re wonderfully rustic, with almost everything you could want.
Outside of each cabin you’ll find a parking spot, gas BBQ, and firepit with a picnic table, and the cabins are spaced out well enough that they feel cozy, and fairly private.
The cabins each have a porch with windows, and some plastic chairs you can use outside. Inside, there’s one main room with a queen bed, and a bunk bed. You can comfortably sleep five people, as long as someone sleeps on the top bunk, and there’s also a table and a kitchenette.
Cabins don’t have any running water, but they do have electricity for lights, and an overhead fan. The kitchenette has a microwave, a small fridge, electric kettle, and space to store and prep food. For the cooler nights, there is also small heaters, and our rental last year had a toaster too, but I can’t promise you’ll always have one of those in the cabins.
In terms of what to bring, you need to have food, water, wood for campfires, bedding with pillows, and pots and dishes. We also usually bring a camp stove, so we have more options for cooking.
And of course, you also need bug spray, sunscreen, and perhaps a book or two. You can buy groceries at the Foodland in nearby in the town of Northbrook.
Bon Echo lake is beautiful at sunset, but just a warning that it tends to have a lot of flying bugs, and I don’t recommend it for swimming.
One note too, but generally this area does not have any cellular reception, which I think is actually a great thing. You can get a signal nearby though, particularly near Grand’s General Store, and some areas in the park, depending on your service provider.
Watch my video below to see more of what the experience is like, and scroll down to get a bit more info on how and when to book your stay.
Booking & Accomodations
Camping and especially camp cabins, book up early for Bon Echo, like a lot of parks. You can book your spot five months to the date before you’re planning to visit, starting at 7:00 AM. So if you want to camp on July 5th, you need to book your reservation on February 5th.
Since the cabins and camping in general is so popular, and there are not that many spots, I suggest looking for the spot you want to get, and being ready by 6:55 AM. Since you may not get the spot you want, I’d recommend having a few spots in mind too, different parks, and a few options for dates.
If you need to change your reservation, there are also fees depending on when you want to make the change.
The Ontario Parks online reservation system does take some getting used to, but it’s pretty easy to use.
Have a question? Leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer.