This summer is the first one that my family and I are spending completely in Ottawa, and it’s been amazing! Now I understand when a friend of mine told me that summers in Ottawa are awesome and that I was really missing the best part of the year each time I flew away during the summer to my home country.
Well, this year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we have been obliged to have a “staycation.” We have stayed in Ottawa and have found a new exciting hobby: exploring the beaches that can be found not too far away from the capital city.
So, instead of going to the beaches in the Gatineau park, where almost everybody goes, we have been driving farther afield, to the closest Ontario provincial parks. Did you know that the province of Ontario has 340 provincial parks?
These parks have lucious forests and beautiful beaches that make of them an excellent choice to go camping! We visited six of them that are the closest to Ottawa, no more than 1 hour and 30 minutes drive and in the 100 kilometer range of distance.
Do you want to know which parks I’m talking about?
This park is one of the most popular because of its beautiful beaches. It’s just 40 minutes from downtown Ottawa. The main beach is on the banks of Ottawa River and faces an island, so what you see is exhuberant vegetation. Very awesome surroundings!
The picnic area and beach are spacious. But if you arrive past noon, you probably won’t get a picnic table with a barbecue. It happened to us twice. But no problem, we had our picnic on the grass and then we went for a dip.
There’s a playground for kids, and a volleyball court. Canoe and kayak rentals are not available at the moment. Dogs and liquor are not allowed on the beach.
This park also has two camping areas, with some of the sites next to a creek. There’s a century-old White Pine forest and a stand of 200-year-old Bur Oak, so there is no excuse for not taking a long hike.
Distance: 64 km from Ottawa. 40-50 minutes.
Address: 5201 Canon Smith Drive. Fitzroy Harbour. K0A 1X0.
2. Rideau River
This park is also close to Ottawa, just 40 minutes from downtown. It’s on the banks of the Rideau River on the historic Rideau Waterway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Like all the parks, it has a picnic area, playground, volleyball court and washrooms. As for the beach, the buoyed swimming area is not very deep for adults and the green area for picnics doesn’t look very greenish.
This park has camping sites for tents, and car camping, and also offers two cabins, with one single room and a rustic wood interior. Each one has a capacity for 5 people.
Distance: 55km from Ottawa. 36 minutes.
Address: 2680 Donnelly Drive. Kemptville. K0-G 1J0
Phone: 613 258-2740
This park is also on the banks of Ottawa river and its surroundings are very beautiful. It has two nice beaches for daily use and a large picnic area, and no less important, a big parking space with capacity for 350 cars.
Voyageur offers camping areas: one for car camping and another for group camping. And the novelty is that it has a dog-free camping site as well as a radio-free camping site, for people who doesn’t want to have any kind of disturbance.
Some of the activities you can do at Voyageur are bird watching, biking, boating, canoeing, fishing, and hiking. They also have a Discovery Program run by park staff during the months of July & August to explore the park, observe plants and animals, and “discover the wonders of nature.”
Distance: 115 km from Ottawa. 1 hour 6 minutes.
Address: 1313 Front Road, Box 130. Chute-à-Blondeau. K0B 1B0
4. Murphy’s Point
This park is impressive because it feels like being very deep in the forest. It’s located on Big Rideau Lake, part of the historic Rideau Waterway. It offers a mix of wildlife habitat like forest, wetland, old fields and three lakes.
The beaches are not large, though, but they’re very beautiful. People have to walk through a trail in the middle of the forest to get to the beaches, which is very nice!
The time we went to Murphy’s Point we ran into groups of people who had came camping from Toronto and Oshawa.
This park offers the choice of backcountry camping, which in this case means the campsite is only accesible by water! These campsites are known for their seclusion and lakeside views.
There are also areas for car and RV (recreational vehicules) camping, and group camping, suitable for large groups of up to 50 people. The park has also one camp cabin: one room with a rustic wood interior.
Moreover, nearby there is an early 1900s mica mine and tours to explore it.
Distance: 106 km from Ottawa. 1 hour 17 minutes.
Address: 2243 Elmgrove Road, R.R. 5 Perth K7H 3C7
5. Silver Lake
This park is on a beautiful lake, and the beach and swimming are just amazing! It’s like being in the Caribbean, with a blue sky, lucious green forest and the water is so clear and clean and refreshening. Two thumbs up!
The sandy beach is spacious and close to the parking area. There are park amenities and clean facilities and the same rules as in the other parks apply: no dogs and liquor allowed on the beach.
The park offers car camping but the downside is that there’s a highway close to the park and the noise of traffic is always constant.
Distance: 113.5 km from Ottawa. 1 hour 20 minutes.
Address: Civic # 22726 Hwy 7, R.R.#2 Maberly K0H 2B0
6. Sharbot Lake
This park is very close to Silver Lake and it’s located by two beautiful lakes: Sharbot Lake and Black lake. The two beaches have outstanding scenery, although they’re small as are the picnic areas.
The one thing that makes the difference in this park is (attention dog lovers!) that dogs are allowed on the beach.
There’s a camping area for car camping but the downside, as in Silver Lake, is that there’s a lot of traffic noise coming from the nearby Highway 7.
We camped there for one night and the traffic noise was really loud even at night, but for a full-day visit it worked out very well for us.
Distance: 127 km from Ottawa. 1 hour 28 minutes.
Address: Civic # 25467 Hwy 7, R.R.#2 Sharbot Lake. K0H 2P0
You should know that there is an entrance fee for day use. See: https://www.ontarioparks.com/fees/dayuse/2020 There’s also the choice of buying a seasonal pass for about $120 that allows you multiple entrances to the different parks.
Update: In 2021 there’s no entrance fee from Monday to Thursday.
I hope that this review of the closest provincial parks to Ottawa is helpful. Tell me if you know these parks, or if you feel like going to one of them next weekend, please feel free to leave your own review in the comments. Take care.