Sunday, June 16, 2013

Craigleith Provincial Park - Collingwood area

I love Craigleith Provincial Park.  We have been twice and had a great time both times. It doesn't have most of the features that people look for when camping with kids; there is no sandy beach, no visitor's centre, no guided hikes, no boat rentals, no movie nights or crafts, but it is still a great place to spend a weekend.
Heading down to the beach with a new friend.
The camp ground is right  near the water, basically it is a strip of land between Highway 26 and the Georgian Bay, but there is not a speck of sand to be seen anywhere on the beach.  It is shale as far as the eye can see.
Hunting for tadpoles on the beach.
My kids love this beach more than any other.  They shale rocks are fun to skip in the water and even the youngest kids can easily find a bunch of fossils while wandering along the beach.  The water is clear and beautiful but deep and cold so again, not great for kids.  We go early in the year when the kids wouldn't be able to swim at any beach in Ontario anyway.  
Found a fossil!
If your kids can't live without a sandy beach there is one, Northwinds Beach, just down the road.  You can drive there or even ride your bikes.  It is a public beach with the usual shallow entry and sandy beach.  When we go, it is still too cold to swim in Georgian Bay but there is small area that is basically a giant puddle that happens this time of year and my kids love playing in that.  Since it is so shallow (maybe mid thigh level on a kid), it is warm enough to play in if the weather is nice.  

Playing in their favourite puddle in the world at Northwind Beach.
Right across the road from the camp ground is the Georgian Trail, a 32km bike trail that is perfect (i.e. flat) for riding with kids.  The one drawback of the trail is that it is across a highway which means that you have to cross a highway with little kids and bikes. Now, it is not the 401 or anything but it is busy enough that this is not the most fun thing to do.
A rare sighting of the blogger in the wild.  Me, riding my bike on the Georgian Trail.
The best things about Craigleith are the sunsets.  My kids love to stay up and watch the sunset on the beach. 
Sunset at Craigleith beach.
Craigleith has all the usual Provincial Park amenities, there are showers, bathrooms, water taps and laundry facilities on site.  There is a store that sells the usual assortment of goods, firewood, snacks, bug spray, that type of thing. You can also borrow life jackets from the store, but like I said, the water is too cold and deep for kids to go in anyway.
My husband, making the first of many sandwiches with the pie iron.  
They also sell the pie iron, which is a contraption that allows you to make gooey melty sandwiches over the fire.  They are, without a doubt, the single greatest invention of all time.  We loved it so much we actually went back and got another one since we lacked the patience required to take turns making our sandwiches with only one.   
Skipping stones at sunset.  I don't think it gets any better than that!
Craigleith is about 15 minutes from Collingwood which has everything you need if you forget anything and has the Scenic Caves, a lighthouse, and not one but two chocolate shops.  There is also a Chinese food restaurant that looks delightfully retro, a used book store and when we were there a tween busker.  

It may be the lack of sandy beach that keeps away revellers but Craigleith is an unusually quiet camp ground at night.  People are out and having camp fires but there is not a lot of noise which is nice for those of us who kids who turn in at 9:00!  There are a couple of downsides to Craigleith, both of which are alluded to above.  1.  There is really not much to do if the weather is bad.  Since there is no visitor's centre or any kid of organized activities, if it rains you are kind of out of luck.  2.  It is right by the highway.  It isn't a big highway and I actually found the white noise sort of comforting as I slept but I can see how it would annoy some people.  

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