Killbear Provincial Park in Ontario has some great camping. Here's what you need to know if you go.
Killbear Provincial Park is located on Georgian Bay near the town of Parry Sound, Ontario. For those already wondering how to reach this famed and beautiful provincial park of Canada, it's fairly easy, and the address is simple to track down and direct yourself to.
Opening in early May and closing in late October, the park is known for many things. As far as camping goes, it's ideal for the tent crowd, and also has spots for campers and pop-ups. You need to be aware of all alert postings, such as the complete fire ban when I was there in August, 2018. Ontario was very dry and wildfires were quite prevalent in the province at that time.
With a sandy beach, beautiful views, and windswept pines, there is as much to see as there is to do. There are several miles of hiking and biking trails, some of which are marked as hiking only to ensure the survival of certain indigenous species like the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake.
You read that right: rattlesnake!
Here are some of the things that make Killbear a treat to camp, and some of the things that you need to look out for:
1. Sailing, windsurfing, paddling boarding, and kayaking
Some of these are not always the first thing on your list when you think of camping, but the fact is that many folks traveled to the park by boat and parked them right on the beach to get to their campsites. The beaches are very nice, clean, and easily accessible for campers as many of the sites are right on the water.
2. The swimming is great, but there are no lifeguards
Almost everywhere where there is beach, there are ropes and buoys to address how far one can swim. Even with that, the simple fact is you can swim wherever you want. Caution should be maintained, especially with small children at all times, but the bottom is soft and sandy for the most part and there are no drop-offs within reach of little feet.
We launched kayaks right from the shore, used tubes and floats, and many folks just pulled their motor boats and jet skis right up onto the sand and left them there.
3. Float plane rides are available in Parry Sound
While you would need to leave the park and travel to nearby Parry Sound, the sights that you will take in from above are well worth it. I watched one landing just off the beach at Killbear. The pilot flew right over the woods where we were and touched down in the water just beyond shore on Kilcoursie Bay. What a sight!
4. Sunset Rock
Every single night some 50 or 60 people came out to the rocks just off the Beaver Dams campground where we stayed. You can wear out your camera trying to get so many pictures of the setting sun! We took camp chairs and sleeping bags to be comfortable. Maybe the best thing was the fact that we were there right during the peak of the Perseids meteor shower in August.
One night in particular was a little dicey as one woman was sure that she heard one of these out on the warm rocks:
5. Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake
This amazing and endangered reptile is indigenous to this region, and the folks at Ontario Parks are very keen on protecting them. Since they live in low-lying wetlands along rivers and lakes, Killbear is perfect for them, and it is also one of the reasons that some of the trails are posted as hiking only.
A few years back a man cycling on one of these trails ran over Robin, a rattlesnake who now resides inside of the visitor center recovering from his injuries.
6. The Visitor Center
Or as the Canadians spell it, Visitor Centre. Just the building alone perched atop the cliff overlooking the bay is enough to garner a response, but once you're inside you'll enjoy it even more. For kids there's plenty to do and see between the history and all of the mounted creatures on display, and there's even a scavenger hunt for them to try.
At the end of the tour you get herded by the Nature Shoppe with all its trappings, but it's worth looking around.
7. Bear country
Bears. Black bears. They are the real deal at Killbear, and the park staff will let you know the second you check in. You will need to take all of the same and necessary steps that you would anywhere when camping in bear country, and Killbear Provincial park is no different. Keep your garbage and food out of reach, under lock and key at all times.
In the park office they keep a cooler that some campers left out for one night, and when you see the damage that one bear did to it, you will understand immediately why they are so cautious.
The sites are a little close together and some of them are on a tilt, but they each have a picnic table and plenty of room for at least three tents or more. Water is close by, including community bathrooms and showers. If requested when making your reservation, some sites have electricity available as well.
It's not the epitome of primitive camping, but for those who enjoy getting out and sleeping in a tent for four or five days you'll be glad about the accoutrements that are there. Maybe the best thing about the entire stay was waking up to the bay breeze coming off of the water, and right within sight.
Just a short bike ride away past the Harold Point campground is Lighthouse Point. As stated, camping fires were not allowed at that time, but the fire ban has since been lifted. It's just about a five minute walk to the park office from anywhere, and there is a camp store, but at that time they did not sell ice. There are garbage and recycling bins available, and even bear-proof waste cans near the beaches for safety.
The bathrooms are water driven, but there was a boil water advisory at that time. It is great for bicycle enthusiasts, but be aware that bikes are not allowed on the roadways, only the bike specific trails.
Killbear is roughly two hours north of Toronto and easy to access for folks from the United States, and honestly it's not all that far from the stunning and venerable Algonquin.
One thing that you should know: Ontario Parks doesn't take reservations until six months ahead of the time that you want to try for. Get online to start trying, and keep trying.