Picking the Perfect Campsite and Killbear Provincial Park

flying a kite on the beach at Killbear Provincial Park
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ferns outside our best campsite at Killbear Provincial Park
Ferns outside our campsite at Killbear Provincial Park

Pamela: Hello and good day, eh!  Welcome to episode #2 of the Super Good Camping Podcast. I’m Pamela

Tim: And I’m Tim

How to Pick a Good Campsite

Pamela: And we’re here to talk about camping. Today we thought we would talk a little bit about how to choose the perfect campsite.  Tim spends a fair bit of time on our behalf finding us the very best campsites every single year.  So I’m going to turn it over to him and let him walk through his process of how he chooses the very best campsites.  

Tim: Ok, it’s not an exact science but a lot of the factors that I would look for is at least partial shade on the sites. So if you can find pictures, that’s ideal, although with the Ontario Provincial Parks website they have pretty decent descriptions.  They also label things like what kind of privacy, what kind of condition the site is in, what kind of slope there is, etc.  Slope is very important. If you have a dish in the middle of your campsite and that’s where you plunk your tent you’re going to be floating at some point. So you want good drainage in your site.  I do make a point of looking that it is a decent size but it also has plenty of space from my neighbors. That’s part of the concept of getting out camping is to get away from other people as well.  

Pamela: I’m going to just chime in and mention that a couple of us are redheads and therefore we don’t appreciate the full sun sites because that means no shade and I’m burnt.  

Tim: Also, you want to look around your site for, around the sites that you are considering, for things like how close to the roadway, because we are talking about car camping here and people drive in. If you are near the entrance to the campground you are going to get a lot of traffic going past your site.  So again, you’ve got noise potential dust, that sort of jazz.  You want to look around at what other natural features are around.  For sake of argument, you’ve got a body of water.  Do you want to be close to the lake? A quick little scoot through a path and you’re there for swimming or what-have-you. That’s pretty cool.  Again, sometimes you get traffic, people aren’t always paying attention to privacy and stuff, they troop through your site.  It can get a little bit annoying.  If you were to find some sort of marshy area nearby, some of the redheads are prone to getting eaten alive by mosquitoes.  So don’t camp near marshy areas.  

Pamela: Mosquitoes think we are yummy for sure. 

Tim: Yeah, those are some of the good ones. 

Pamela: Yeah, so one of the things that we have enjoyed about some of the campsites that we have had has certainly been some of the natural landscape around us.  We’re going to talk a little bit later about Killbear which was our second, as a family, it was our second camping expedition. And we had a lovely campsite there that was full of ferns all around the back of the site.  And the boys thoroughly enjoyed running around and playing a kind of hide and seek throughout the ferns.  

Tim: Yeah it was like a waist-high sea of ferns.  

Pamela: And as much as we often spend months finding the perfect campsite my brother who came camping with us one year, actually booked his site a week or two before he arrived and he had an awesome site.  It backed right onto the lake and he just had to go down a little trail and he was right on the lake.  So, much to our chagrin that we spend so much time and energy finding exactly the right site, he had an even better site with just booking it a couple of weeks in advance.  

Tim: It happens. 

Pamela: The booking site too, just to mention the Ontario Provincial Park site, that’s where we book our site through.  There is a policy where you can book 5 months in advance. So we usually attempt to do that just so that we get the site that we prefer the best. And that it’s something that people don’t always realize that you can book it that far in advance.  And some people will take advantage of the booking site as well. 

Tim: So there is a bit of a dodge, unfortunately.  Camping in Ontario is an extremely popular activity and there are only so many campsites, especially in the better parks. You can book any given car camping site for 23 consecutive days.  Your booking is, earliest you can book is 5 months from your first day. So if you were to actually back up, let’s say for sake of argument, you’re going camping for 7 days.  If you backed up by an additional 16 days and booked that as your first day and booked all the way through to the end of the week that you actually intend to camp, and then a month from now you canceled that first 16 days, you can actually book 2 weeks and change ahead of anybody else who is looking for that same time slot. It’s a bit of a sleazy thing to do, but some people do it. That’s why I research the heck out of our sites so far ahead. Like, for sake of argument, if we’re going camping in July, I’m looking, well I’m actually looking now in November, but certainly, before Christmas I generally have it pinned down.  

Pamela: The other thing that I appreciate in a campsite is if it’s relatively close to a washroom, although we don’t want to be right next to one either because then you get people constantly coming and going to the washroom. We like to be not too far from the water taps either because we fill up a huge jug of water and it’s heavy when it’s full so it’s a lot to lug if you’re far from the water tap.  I think those are the main things that we like.  Comfort stations at the provincial parks are quite nice, although this past summer they were closed because of COVID.  They’re nice because you can shower, there’s a laundry facility there if you want to do laundry.  

Tim: And again, we try not to camp too close to them, enough that they’re convenient, you know, jump on a bike and go kind of deal. But the constant doors banging closed or just people coming and going, or listening to someone’s laundry tumbling away.  

Killbear Provincial Park

flying a kite on the beach at Killbear Provincial Park
Flying kites on the beach at Killbear Provincial Park

Pamela: So that’s it as far as choosing a campsite I think unless you have any other input, Tim.  So, Killbear as I mentioned earlier was our second, Tim has done extensive camping before we met, but on our second trip as a family we went to Killbear Provincial Park, which is on Georgian Bay.  Which, if you’ve never been is REALLY beautiful.  We’ve camped at a couple of provincial parks that were on Georgian Bay and it’s really every time, it’s really quite lovely. There’s beautiful granite rock. If you’ve ever heard of the Group of Seven which is a famous Canadian group of artists and you think of the style of their paintings, often they were painting the area around Georgian Bay. The beautiful pines that are being moved by the wind and the granite rock that they painted.  So anyway, that’s a little bit of what we liked about it.  Killbear Provincial Park is actually located on a point or a peninsula which was called Killbear Point for 140 years.  Apparently, it was named by the Ojibway people. There was various history again to this particular park, which we always enjoy learning about history. It was opened as a provincial park in 1960.  So many of the people that camp there still are people that have camped there their entire lives pretty much.  We loved it.  We loved the natural landscape, we loved our particular campsite because of the ferns that were all around us, we had pretty decent privacy when we were there as far as the campsite itself.  So it was a really positive experience for us at Killbear, I believe.  Did you have any other input about it? 

Tim: No, so there’s an AJ Casson painting that is a granite rock with a windswept pine on it. And I actually think that it was painted in Algonquin Park, I wouldn’t bet my life on it, but there are so many snapshots in and around Killbear that look just like that. For me, it’s gorgeous. Grey and sometimes a bit of pink granite.  The pines are very prolific there.  They did have, I want to say maybe 6 or 7 years ago, they ran into, I believe it was Emerald Ash Borer, and they had to cut down a boatload of trees, unfortunately, so it got thinned out. 

Pamela: Yeah, so a lot of our privacy that we enjoyed while were there wasn’t there for subsequent people.  And we actually, there was a couple of parks where that happened, we went there and it was lovely, we enjoyed it, it was lovely and beautiful and then something happened shortly after.

Tim: Something catastrophic

Pamela: There were fires at another one of the provincial parks.  

Tim: I blame it totally on the children.  

Pamela: Our kids aren’t here to defend themselves.  Anyways so that’s it for us, maybe just to recap choosing a campsite we would like one that is well-drained, that it’s not going to be a big boggy mess if you happen to get rain while you are there.  

Tim: Yeah and we don’t want a great big chunk of granite in the middle of your site and where you can’t stake your tent down.  

Pamela: Sometimes when they’re very rocky it’s very difficult to get the tent pegs to go in. Tim: Yep.  

Pamela: You would like some privacy but you want to be relatively close to amenities if possible too.  So you’d like to be not too far from swimming if you enjoy swimming, you want to be able to get to a washroom or comfort station, you would like to be able to access the front desk of the park if you need to. 

Tim: Yeah, and one of the things that we look for is in a park period, is a dog beach. And we try to, if possible, there are so many criteria, we try to be as close as we can get to that so that we can get Farley out as often as possible.  

Pamela: So Killbear we went with our previous dog, Cookie, And one of the things, and I actually forgot to mention this, but one of the things that we loved about Killbear is that we went down to the beach and we were able to hike around the corner from the regular beach and we found this little private section of sand.  Nice sandy beach where hardly anyone else was there but the odd other person would come down with their dog and Cookie just loved it.  She loved playing, racing across the sand with the other dogs.  And it was great for us too.  We had this little private beach area that was private and secluded. Tim: Yeah and we got good wind coming off Georgian Bay, we’re going back quite a few years now, but I remember the kids flying kites and stuff while we were down there too.  It was good fun. 

Pamela: So anyway that’s it for us today and I hope you have a wonderful Sunday.  If you have any questions feel free to reach out to us, we’re at hi@supergoodcamping.com, that’s “h” “i”, at supergoodcamping.com.  We’d love to answer any questions that you may have about camping. Take care. 

Tim: Stay safe. 

Pamela: Bye everyone.