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A trip to Achray Campground in Algonquin Park, Ontario

I suspect that many camping families get themselves in a bit of a rut now and then. I think we find a magical campsite and then just keep going back and back. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with returning to the tried and true. Let’s a lot of advantages actually: kids often feel happy when they’re in familiar surroundings and mothers often feel happy when they now how to navigate themselves through the forest to the toilets in the middle of the night.

For us, we like Acray Campground in Algonquin Park. So here’s the deal: I will tell you about our magical place, and you tell me about yours! That way we can both branch out one day and try new campsites. You game? Okay, here goes …


I am now freshly showered, red wine glass in hand after a gorgeous couple of days in the woods. Getting away to a forest really does make a person feel like they’ve had a vacation (not just a weekend at home doing errands and getting laundry done!). The natural outdoors-person already knows this; it’s in their blood. But for me, I can’t help but equate outdoors with the nuisance of mosquito bites and terrible toilets (or, sometimes none at all). Sorry, it’s just the way it is.

However, the rest of my clan is all crazy about camping. And they really want me to experience the whole thing with them too. We have made a compromise on this front. One which, without a doubt, lowers our “camping cool” factor by several notches. And that’s the pop-up camper trailer. This little beauty gives us a comfortable sleep and an escape when bad weather hits.

Also, the fall season is cool. This makes the bugs bearable in my world. So bearable, in fact, that I declared we should make sure to get some more camping in this season (Hubby admirably tried to hide the fact that he was choking in shock).

Reading, eating & canoeing: Camping really isn’t so bad, afterall

Okay, so what is there to do at this campsite? Well, quite a lot if you’d like, or as little as you’d like as well.

There is a small store at the campground, housed in a gorgeous old stone building. Here, you can pick up firewood, a few bits of memorabilia, or even an ice cream treat. I can’t say we really ever use this store, but since it’s back-to-school season and since Stella is not fond of the selections in the malls, we picked out two great t-shirts.

The campsites offer quite a bit of room between each other, so it feels much more “rustic” that other places we’ve been. The privacy is much appreciated, especially when another family (or mine!) has a toddler going through a melt-down over some unknown, or bizarre, cause.

Naturally, you can spend endless amounts of time searching out and admiring nature. My favourite creatures are the chipmunks, but we also saw some cool wood bugs, caterpillars, moths and this frog who still had the end of his tail from his tadpole stage:

The most beautiful feature though is definitely the beach. It is beautiful, sandy and the water is crystal clear. Hubby described it as “tea-coloured,” which I think it perfect. The reflection from the sand does make the water seem like a gorgeous ice tea.

At the beach, you can do the usual beach-y things. Like pull up a camp chair and read a book while the kids make sandcastles. Or you can take off for a canoe trip. We have our own, but you can also rent a canoe.

Although we will never give up the traditional camp treat of s’mores, we don’t do hotdogs or baked beans. After a day outside, a yummy meal tastes even yummier. As example, we ate chicken curry with rice on Saturday night. The curry is pre-made in a tin, and the chicken and rice are cooked separately on a Coleman style cook-top.

No, of course we didn’t forget the Naan bread!

Special attractions: The Jack Pine and the Barron Canyon trails

Right from the Achray Campground, you can take an easy trail called “The Jack Pine Trail.” I won’t go into much details, because I’ve already written about it before here. But suffice it to say, it’s a special time in Canadian art history, so it feels special just to be in that spot.

This trip, we did the “Barron Canyon Trail.” I say “we,” but Stella and Hubby have already done this one before. Like the Jack Pine Trail, you do not need to be fit to pull off this trail. It’s an easy route that you can take at your own pace. However, there is an uphill that most toddlers would easily tire on. Here you can see our toddler Max on Hubby’s shoulders:

Once you get up to the canyon, it’s all easy-walking from there. But that doesn’t mean you can let that toddler out of your arms — or at least your very tightly gripped hand!

Just in case this descriptive illustration does nothing for you, here is a picture from an edge:

And here is a picture of the magnificent view:

But even better than this view are the memories that I now have locked away in my heart. With Stella, it was taking the time to just sit still, listen to her stories, and stare at her beautiful freckled-cheeked face. With Max, it was the time we had on an early morning walk together in our PJs so the others could have a sleep-in, as well as the absolute look of delight when a chipmunk scampered all the way up my leg! And with Hubby, it was sitting quietly with the crackling campfire reflecting on his face while we sipped some red wine under the stars.

Follow your bliss: So, those were my moments of bliss from this past weekend and I’ll be looking for you to share your best camping tips in the comments so I can follow yours too! I’m also going to enter this post into the #GGBliss contest that the travel website Go Girlfriend is hosting for a ticket to Blissdom Canada.

Want more camping bliss? Easy! Here is my archive of posts that include the word “camping” in them and here are adventure travel posts from the Go Girlfriend site.



  1. Thegrumpymama says:

    You had me at ‘pop-up tent trailer’ and pulled me even farther in with pictures of the beach, but you lost me at ‘canyon where Norah and Rachel will die.’ I have fond memories of camping across Canada with my parents when much younger and want to start camping our way out East in the summer. My children and my assessment that they will commit suicide outdoors because they don’t listen has held me back.

    • Okay, I hear ya, I hear ya! I would not do the Canyon Walk either with a bunch of kids. The walk itself is not at the campsite so your children would never just find themselves there … you actually have to drive to it from the campsite. As for the beach, it’s very shallow. Which helps the anxiety levels of mothers everywhere.

      You will, however, enjoy this story. During the camp set-up, Hubby tells Stella that she and her brother can play beyond the site but only if she keeps an eye on him. At one point, he goes to check and there is Stella frolicking away in the water, no care in the world about her brother. So he then starts the panicked look around for Max. And low and behold, there he is: fulled geared up with helmet etc and on his bike — but up to his waist in the water!

      • Thegrumpymama says:

        Water-biking. New sport.

      • Jim Stevens says:

        I love camping and canoeing. I used to work in forestry in Achray timber cruising . There was a bunkhouse then a cookhouse on the right before you crossed the railroad tracks. The railroad was in use at that time. The campsite is great. I was there also shortly after the pine that Tom Thompson had painted had fallen and campers had “consumed” it. Further up the road at Lake Traverse is the Algonquin Radio Observatory. When I was there the Interferometer was still in place . There is a very informative Youtube about the ARO.

  2. Jkharrison says:

    I am so glad you had a good time. It was a wonderful weekend for it.

    • Thanks! It really does a person good I think. Especially a person such as me who is so happily tied to technology. There is absolutely no wifi or cellphone service up there! :)

    • Coffee with Julie says:

      Yes, it really was a great time. And it literally forced me to “unplug” since there was no WiFi or cell phone signal! 

    • Coffee with Julie says:

      Yes, it really was a great time. And it literally forced me to “unplug” since there was no WiFi or cell phone signal! 

  3. Before kids, my DH and I canoe-camped the Baron canyon. My husband made me do it, and I did actually love it.
    We have canoe-camped once with the kids, and it was a ton of work, but they all enjoyed it…I was exhausted because it was a LOT of work. So, I propose we send our DHs with all four kids out camping, and you and I hit Le Nordik?

  4. We like Arrowhead Provincial Park a lot. It too is very beautiful. That being said, we don’t go very often. Last year when we went it rained until there was a “river” running through our site. This year, I also suggested the pop-up trailer, but I haven’t quite persuaded my husband yet.

  5. Angiejackson says:

    We just returned from this place, there’s something magical about it.. love it. Lac Simon north of Ottawa in Quebec is great and Georgian bay, the national park camping spots are cool with trails.

  6. Get a kick oot of you city folks “roughing” it. Try living and working there year ’round. Wood stove for cooking and heat with coal in the winter. No electricity and all alone back there in the winter from Friday night until Monday morning.

  7. Hi, do you remember the site number?
    Looks to be by the beach.

    Thank you

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  1. […] and made my reservation on the Ontario Parks website. Later, I found some other local blogs such as Coffee with Julie that talked about what a great spot it […]

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