By TIM JOHNSON
It’s a common warm-weather weekend dilemma—you love camping, except for one thing: the camping part.
Lazing in the sun at the beach, swimming in a pristine lake and wrapping up the day with a campfire and s’mores is undeniably great, but sleeping in a tent on the cold, hard ground is not. For the best of both worlds, look into the rustic cabin rentals in Georgian Bay Islands National Park, just steps from a rugged, picturesque coastline.
Georgian Bay Islands National Park is a relatively short drive (about two hours) north of Toronto, but a world apart. Part of the world’s largest freshwater archipelago, some 30,000 stunningly beautiful islands in the cobalt waters of Georgian Bay, it’s a place of bright wildflowers, dense hardwood forests, sandbars, snakes, amphibians and hooting owls.
The Cedar Spring cabins on Beausoleil Island are reached via a scenic 20-minute boat ride aboard the DayTripper, which launches from a dock and small visitor’s centre in Honey Harbour. Once you land, park staff meet you and help carry your gear to the cabins, a five-minute walk away. Some of the basics are provided—dishes, utensils, cookware, a barbecue, plus dish soap and cleaning supplies—but you’ll need to bring your own bedding and food.
Each cabin, built of knotty pine, has two separate bedrooms (one with a queen bed, the other with a bunk bed), plus a kitchen/living room combo with sofa and kitchen table, so you won’t even have to eat outside. But you’ll likely want to eat al fresco thanks to a barbecue, plus a fire pit and picnic table. The cabins are in a convenient location near a playground, close to the shared washrooms (which include private access to the showers) and literally steps from a small, scenic beach with white sand, shallow waters and boats bobbing just offshore.
Smaller, one-room cabins—the Christian Beach cabins—are also available on Beausoleil Island. They’re a longer walk (1.8 km) from the Cedar Spring dock, they sleep two and they are more remote, with quick access only to composting toilets.
If you like to stay active, there’s plenty to do around the cabins. Take a canoe or kayak out on the water, hike the paths that branch out from a walkway that runs behind the cabins, or take in a demonstration—the park has frequent activities and exhibits, including a fun scavenger hunt for kids and regular visits by Pineapple, the park’s friendly resident snake, on loan from a local wildlife sanctuary, who does meet-and-greets, slithering around the arms and up onto the head of brave little volunteers.
At the end of the day, sit back on the Muskoka chairs in your screened in porch and, after a couple burgers on the barbecue and an evening by the fire, bed down for the night—not on the ground, but under a solid roof, up off the ground on a cushy, queen-sized bed.
The Georgian Bay Islands National Park DayTripper boat launch is in Honey Harbour, 160 kilometres—a two-hour drive without traffic—up Highway 400 from Toronto.
Cabin rentals in Georgian Bay Islands National Park are available from mid-May through early October.
Parks Canada Campground Reservation Service