Home to 340 beautiful provincial parks, Ontario will celebrate the 125th anniversary of its provincial parks this year. This anniversary is particularly significant for Ontario as Algonquin Provincial Park, established in 1893, was Canada’s first. With year-round activities, cultural heritage programmes, stewardship activities, concert series and legacy projects planned to commemorate this historic milestone, there’s never been a better time to visit Ontario and embark on an unforgettable adventure. Here’s a round-up of the top five things to do to celebrate this anniversary.
Enjoy an evening of stargazing
Budding astronomers can enjoy a number of events to celebrate this historic milestone including Dark Sky Weekend at Lake Superior Provincial Park (August 3-5). Here visitors can revel in the celestial delights of the dark skies as well as at the Astronomical Weekend in Quetico Provincial Park from August 10-12 to coincide with the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower. There’s also Mysterious Night Skies from July 6-7 at Rock Point with guests from the Royal Astronomical Society of Niagara, and the Half the Night Star Party at Halfway Lake from August 23-26.
Discover your artistic side
All of Ontario’s parks are rich in art history. From indigenous artists who painted petroglyphs to the famous Group of Seven, the landscapes of the provincial parks continue to inspire artists from around the world today. A new programme designed to connect people with nature through hands-on art activities will be offered at parks throughout the province this year and is well worth a visit for those looking to explore their creativity. One of the best places in Ontario to spot native rock carvings dating back 500-1000 years is Petroglyphs Provincial Park, which, with 900 carvings, has more indigenous art than anywhere else in Canada. These petroglyphs depict birds, snakes, turtles and humans and the key sacred site is known as ‘The Teaching Rocks’. Visitors to the park can learn about the traditions and way of life of the Ojibway people and explore a number of stunning locations including the bright blue McGinnis Lake. For fans of the Group of Seven, key parks which inspired their paintings include Algonquin, Killarney, Lake Superior, Bon Echo, Neys, Killbear and Windy Lake.
Indulge your inner culture vulture
Those with a strong interest in culture are spoilt for choice when it comes to the 125th anniversary celebrations. Taking place on the 21st June 2018 is National Indigenous Peoples Day in Killbear, where visitors can learn about Ontario’s indigenous cultural history whilst enjoying the summer solstice. Alternatively, there are a number of Pioneer Days in Darlington where holidaymakers can enjoy pioneer games and crafts. There’s also Wasaga Under Seige at Wasaga Beach where visitors can visit Native and British Naval Encampments on Nancy Island and experience what life was like in 1812.
Get back to nature
For those with New Year resolutions to get outside and be more active, Ontario’s provincial parks offer a wealth of activities sure to get the blood pumping. Keen hikers have the option to embark on the Bruce Trail, Canada’s oldest and longest marked footpath, which takes them through a number of magnificent provincial parks including Mono Cliffs. Alternatively, the National Trail, which covers 6,000 miles across the entirety of Canada passes through many parks including Algonquin. Both options provide the chance to see a heritage of natural landscapes, historic places and plenty of wildlife. Frontenac Provincial Park, located just north of Kingston, offers a number of scenic lookout points well worth the hike including around Arab Lake George, Arkon Lake, Big Salmon Lake, Cedar Lake and Dog Lake.
Visitors who love the water have unparalleled paddling opportunities throughout Ontario’s parks with more than 7,500 interior campsites to choose from – many of which are only accessible by kayak or canoe. The summer months bring another chance to enjoy the great outdoors with vast stretches of sandy beaches waiting to be explored including those found in Sandbanks Provincial Park in Prince Edward County. Located on the shores of Lake Ontario, Sandbanks Provincial Park comprises of three stunning beaches over an area of 1,200 hectares. Outlet Beach is perfect for families with shallow, calm waters, and Sandbanks and Dunes Beaches are perfect for enjoying water sports or simply relaxing. Exploring these parks also provides the chance for a digital detox with many having no mobile reception, another perk for those wanting to escape from busy city life.
Explore Canada’s first provincial park
Three hours north of Toronto, Algonquin is the oldest provincial park in Canada and offers a gateway to Ontario’s beautiful wilderness. It’s one of the region’s most accessible parks, in close proximity to urban centres like Ottawa and Toronto. Algonquin Provincial Park offers visitors the chance to explore beautiful forests and lakes, spot wildlife including black bears, moose and deer, and is the perfect backdrop from which to enjoy activities such as canoeing, hiking, biking and camping. During the autumn months the park is ablaze with golden, red and orange hues, and offers some of the best fall foliage in North America.
For further information on Ontario, please visit www.ontariotravel.net/uk
Mark Bibby Jackson
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