With families spread far and wide geographically and ironically isolated by our technology-centred lives, it’s more important than ever to organize regular get-togethers. When these family reunions are in a stunning environment that encourages less screen time and more outdoor adventure, all the better.
Northeastern Ontario offers a wide array of family and group friendly options that strike a balance between relaxation and memorable activities.
Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park
Each of Ontario’s provincial parks has a reputation. Some are a paddler’s paradise, others offer a variety of overnight options such as yurts and cabins, and still others are known for their unspoilt quiet. Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park’s claim to fame is its huge array of unique family centred fun. The bike paths echo with children’s laughter, the sounds of cannonballs executed off rocks into the lake fill the air, and camp stories are heard late into the night around a crackling fire. Guided hikes, children’s programs, spirit nights, musical performances, and campfire sing-alongs are just a few of the organized programs during July and August.
Found along one of the most important fur trade routes of Canada’s early pioneer days, Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park offers voyageur canoe rides – perfect for family groups. The Neiashi group campsite offers tent and trailer camping in a remote setting away from the car campground area.
Polar Bear Habitat
Did you know that Ontario boasts the only captive bear facility dedicated exclusively to polar bears? It’s true – one of the most northern towns in the province, easily accessible by road, Cochrane is home to the Polar Bear Habitat. If you’re looking for an amazing day trip for a large family group – this is it.
This facility is a hit with kids, with fantastic viewing spaces to watch the bears swim, eat (including the fun of seeing them devour their favourite foods – watermelons), and completely decimate their plastic toys. There are several windows into the bear’s habitat, looking over their tree, rock, and vegetation areas. You can even swim with the bears (from May through September) in a pool with just a wall of glass between you and these impressive creatures. Visitors can also speak one-on-one with the animal care staff to find out how they take care of the bears’ varied needs.
Follow the Habitat on Facebook for some hilarious and heartwarming videos of their furry stars.
Also on site is the Heritage Village, a great place to educate kids about life in the “olden days.” Check out the trapper’s cabin, the blacksmith shop, fire station, and school house circa the early 1900s. (During the second week of August the village comes to life with costumed villagers going about their daily activities.) The facility is also adjacent to the New Cochrane Classic Vintage Rider Snowmobile Museum, a sure hit with the riders in your family who will love the vintage snowmobiles.
Where can you play in the pool, try your hand at archery, play a round of 18-hole mini golf, head out onto hiking trails, and hunt for fossils? On Manitoulin Island’s Gordon’s Park Eco Resort, that’s where! This multi-faceted retreat is tailormade for family groups looking for a place to unwind and let the kids loose to enjoy an array of active fun.
Not only are there great options for activities, but accommodations as well. There’s a B&B, wilderness camping, tipi tenting, and a stargazing cabin (found in their Dark Sky Preserve, perfect for a night of stargazing).
The private park offers group packages built around your size and needs. They can create special programs such as astronomy nights, wolf howls, owl prowls, and edible wild hikes, depending on your group’s particular interests.
Getting to Gordon’s Park can be part of the family fun, with a trip aboard the Chi-Cheemaun ferry from Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula to South Baymouth on Manitoulin.
There’s nothing families love more than a day on the water, fishing, and swimming, followed by a home cooked meal and a night in a country cabin. While Northeastern Ontario is packed with fantastic fishing and cottage resorts, Saenchiur Flechey knows that they offer a great family retreat – because they are a family operation themselves.
The property offers classic games including croquet, horseshoes, and bocce for those who aren’t out on Lake Nipissing searching for bass, pickerel, and pike, or on a pontoon boat tour. Their cabins are fully equipped with everything you need, from linens and dinnerware to a microwave and BBQ. And, of course, there’s firewood for your personal campfire.
The fun doesn’t end when the cooler weather sets in, either. There’s snowshoeing, sledding, cross country skiing, and ice fishing in the winter months.
No matter your family gathering’s size or particular outdoor interests, there’s something for you in Northeastern Ontario.