Story by Bryen Dunn
TORONTO, ONTARIO — Often when we think of a getaway, we dream of places far away and exotic, however, for southern Ontarians, a short “staycation” close to home might be just what is needed to recharge the body. With Toronto traffic known for being the most congested in the country, here are a couple of options that will gift you with that feeling of escape, without even having to leave the city limits.
There are actually two campgrounds located within the Greater Toronto Area that provide both visitors and residents an opportunity to experience an urban-rural setting. For visitors, this is not only an inexpensive alternative to staying in a hotel, but a unique experience that can’t be found in many major metropolitan centres anywhere in the world. For Toronto residents, this is a great urban adventure that can be done on the cheap, and doesn’t require a vehicle.
Glen Rouge Campground / Rouge Park
The 4,700-hectare (47 square kilometres/11,500 acres) Rouge Park is operated by the City of Toronto, and is located in the northeast part of Toronto, within the Rouge River, Petticoat Creek and Duffins Creek watersheds. It has been designated as a protected natural ecosystem since the mid 1990s, and parts of the area are also designated as National Historic Site because of the ancient 1,600 Seneca native archaeological findings.
The existing park area is 13 times larger than Central Park in New York City and more than 30 times larger than Hyde Park in London, England. Interested explorers can discover glacial rock formations, First Nations portage trails, Toronto’s only existing farms still in operation, and the largest Carolinian habitat within the city. There’s also a wide array of bird species, natural flora and fauna. Canoeing on the Rouge River is a wonderful experience that provides scenic nature views, as well as glimpses of the distant city landscape. Visitors must bring their own canoes (or other floatation devices), and take caution as the river is unsupervised. There are also 10 different hiking trails of varying lengths that meander through forests and meadows, as well as a sandy beach where you can soak up the rays. Several programs are also offered throughout the season, providing historical and cultural interpretations of the region.
[box_info]More Info: Guests can choose to visit and explore for the day, or do an overnight camping adventure. Glen Rouge Campground is located within Rouge Park, and can accommodate both tents and RVs. The campground is along the banks of the river, and provides laundry, showers, flush toilets and fire pits available for all campers. There are 125 camping sites, seasonality is until mid-October, and rates start at just under $27 a night for cyclists and backpackers. Leashed dogs are permitted, and firewood and ice are available onsite. Location: 7450 Kingston Road, Toronto. Telephone for camping reservations: 1-855-811-0111 (toll free).[/box_info]
Indian Line Campground / Claireville Conservation Area
The Toronto Regional Conservation Authority operates Indian Line Campground, which is in the northwestern reaches of the city. While technically having its address as suburban Brampton, the location is still easily accessible to downtown Toronto. The site definitely has more of an urban feel to it than Rouge Park, far removed from nature, but still providing a fun experience.
There’s a swimming pool, camp store, laundry facilities, flush toilets, showers, and a fire pit at each site. This is a very basic row-style campground with 247 sites, both serviced and un-serviced.
[box_info]More Info: Rates start at around $28.50 per night, and the season ends in late October. Leashed pets are allowed. Nearby Claireville Conservation Area and Dam offers 848 acres of opportunities to fish and bird watch, hike or bike, or float around in motor-less floatation devices such as canoes, kayaks or rubber rafts. Location: 7625 Finch Avenue, Brampton. Telephone for camping reservations: 1-855-811-0111[/box_info]
Wild Water Kingdom
Many campers stay at the Claireville site to combine a visit to the adjacent Wild Water Kingdom, as it is within easy walking distance of the campground. The bad news is Wild Water Kingdom is closed this summer for renovations (check the website for special events still happening onsite this summer, such as Carnival Kingdom August 1st and Big People Fete on August 2nd). The good news is that it should be business as usual next year.
There are a slew of water activities that includes 16 water slides, a half-acre salt-water Tidal Wave Pool, a half-kilometre River Raft Ride, rock climbing under a waterfall on the Wild Water Wall, and Bumper Boats. Land action includes two 18-hole miniature golf courses, batting cages, volleyball tournaments, and weekly musical entertainment options. For those with any energy left, pop into the adjacent 60,000-square-foot sports dome, offering a variety of indoor soccer and golfing range options. Finally, when it’s time for a break, Caribbean Cove offers up a relaxing lush hideaway surrounding a 6,000-square-foot salt-water pool with a cascading waterfall. The general admission fee of $25.99 includes unlimited access to most activities.
Getting There: The Toronto public transit system can get you to within walking distance of either park, making this an eco-friendly getaway. All buses are equipped with bike racks so you can explore the surrounding areas upon arrival, or if you’re feeling fit then the trek can be done by bike to either site within about an hour from most anywhere in the city. Fee: $3.00 single fare