Friday, July 26, 2013

The Pinery Provincial Park - Grand Bend

Swimming in Lake Huron at the Pinery.
The Pinery is located on Lake Huron about a ten minute drive from Grand Bend and about 2.5 hours from Toronto.  It is one of the bigger Provincial Parks in Southern Ontario with 1000 campsites (including several hundred fully serviced sites), a large visitor's centre and store and several concession stands.  They also have laundry facilities and showers throughout the park.
Behold the sand dolphin.  Also, you can see the crowds of beach goers in the background.
The main attraction of the Pinery is the white sandy beach along the shores of Lake Huron.  There are several beaches within the park but they are pretty much all the same and all beautiful.  Also, all crowded on a hot summer weekend but not so crowded that you can't enjoy yourself.
Lookout Trail has a long, but not terribly arduous set of stairs to get to the actual lookout.
There are several short hiking trails which are perfect for kids.  If you are an avid hiker though this may not be the park for you since none of the hiking trails are longer than about 3 kms but like I said, they are great lengths for little legs.
At the lookout! You lookout over trees so not the most exciting thing in the world but still fun.
They do have a great bike trail, although again, not a super long one.  You can bring your bikes or rent them on site.  They do have some kids' bikes for rent too.  I am not sure about helmets though.
You can also rent canoes, hydro bikes and and canoes at the park too which is a great way to try out canoeing with the kids.
You can get popsicles at the beach.  
The campsites are pretty much standard, regular Ontario Parks size with a picnic table and fire pit on each. They have bathrooms and showers stationed throughout the campgrounds and they also have water every few sites.
I don't know who Archie is, but he is quite adept at separating children from their allowance money. This is on the main street in Grand Bend.
Grand Bend is about a ten minute drive from the main entrance of the Pinery so you can check that out too if you want.  It is a small, touristy, beach town but if you are looking for something to eat or need to hit a store there are worse ways to kill time with the kids than puttering around the main drag.
Checking out the rocks at a stall in the flea market, whilst clutching the sock monkey she bought in Grand Bend.
There is also a flea market across the street on Sunday mornings starting at 8:00 a.m.  My kids are up at the crack of dawn and it is too cold for the beach at that time of day so we checked it out.  It was great.  They have the usual flea market stuff, books, clothes, rocks, fudge (always fudge, what is up with that?) etc. but they also have various old contraptions that the kids can play in and climb on.  Things like old ferris wheels and go cart type things.  This was a big hit with my kids.
The most Canadian bookseller ever?
Things to keep in mind:

  • The Pinery is big.  You will likely not be able to walk to the beach from your site, especially with kids and all of the mountains of stuff you have to take along when you have kids.  I mean, lets be real, you are going to look like this when you are heading to beach with kids.
  • They have a slightly confusing road system in the park.  The road becomes one way part way through the park so if you miss your turn you will have to go all the way around since you can't turn around.  
  • They don't have much in the way of concession stands at the beach but you can buy pop and popsicles and drinks from a little stand near beach 8 and probably at other places too.  
  • There are change rooms and wash rooms at the beach.
  • On a busy weekend you may have trouble finding parking at the beach, especially if you have a trailer or boat or anything on the back of your car.  We hit the dog beach when we had the trailer since we thought it might be less crowded.  It was, but only just.
  • You also can't park your trailer at the flea market so if you are planning on hitting it on the way home from the park, think again!
  • They charge an entrance fee to the flea market which I found highly objectionable.  For some inexplicable reason if they had just called it a parking fee I wouldn't have batted an eye.  Kids under 12 are free though so it cost us $4 to get in and the kids did really like it. 
  • You can also camp in the winter at the Pinery, they even have yurts, which is a fun word to say.  I may have just said it a dozen or so times.  

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