Best/worst Ontario Provincial Park experiences


Apr 9, 2008
Barrie, Ontario
Hello everyone. I was wondering if any of you had any experiences that really made you wonder what has happened to (some of) our provincial parks. Our trip started out great. We camped at Pancake Bay P.P., White Lake P.P. visited Pukaskaw Nat'l Park (so beautiful, and has changed immensely over 30 yrs). We headed back east & stayed overnight (had planned on staying a few days) at Ivanhoe Lake P.P. Pulled in Sunday night (Aug 17) at 8:30 pm, just as they were closing the office. Spoke to the young woman on the gate AND the Warden. They suggested a site for us & told us to come back in the morning to register & pay. So we were on our way, driving past beautiful scenery & hearing the sounds of nature. Found our site & were exhausted & looking forward to a campfire & listening to the loons. Only after setting up & starting to get settled did we realize that provincial parks now offer "seasonal" spots. We were smack dab in the middle of them. The seasonal sites look EXACTLY like sites in private parks right down to garden sheds, patio lights strung all over the sites and in some cases even little fences (temporary). So at about 9:30 it all started. On one site in particular there were approx 12 - 15 people around the fire (majority of our "surrounding" seasonal neighbours). They continued to get louder & louder the more drunk they got. We thought park staff would be by soon to calm/quiet things down. We were SO wrong. The noise, music & yelling got progressively worse as the night/morning wore on. They were yelling from one end of the park to the other, kids were running through sites, screaming at each other & laughing. We were in our pop-up with the furnace on & we could still hear their "conversations" (yelling) plain as day. It was well past 1 am & the party seemed like it was wrapping up. But what do you think these yahoos did when some of them needed to use the comfort station at 1 am & you don't want to get out of "yer truck" to get him?? Why you lay on "yer" horn. Finally it all ended. We got about 4 hours of restless sleep. FINALLY the next morning the Ass't Park Superintendant drove past. We stopped her to tell her of our experience. We asked it ANYONE patrolled overnight. We were SHOCKED to learn that "we only patrol on Friday & Saturday nights, and yes, there was absolutely NOBODY of authority in the park to enforce park rules". The she "apolized" for our "unfortunate experience". (If you're wondering, there was no cell service). These "seasonal" campers treated the entire park like it was THEIR backyard. Only better, because here they didn't have to worry about neighbours calling the police on them for noise, etc.
Needless to say we did NOT pay for our 1 night stay & moved on our way.
Now for one of the BEST parks. We ended up moving onto Halfway Lake P.P. just north of Sudbury. BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!!!! The staff were wonderful!!!!! They supplied us with a map, circuled all available sites (no reservations pending) & asked if we wanted to drive around & pick our own site. Wow, when was the last time THAT was allowed?! Picked site 162, it was again, beautiful. Every site is VERY private (can't see your neighbours) and almost all are totally level. The trails are fantastic too. No matter what your level of fitness, they have a trail for you to explore. They too also have "seasonal" campers. We were situated across from a couple of them. No problems what-so-ever. They were very considerate campers. Also, the park WAS patrolled on a regular basis. Next year we plan on staying at least a week there.


Active Member
Apr 21, 2014
Ontario, Canada
We've never made it to any of Parks that far North. We are in the South-Western region of Ontario. We have only ever camped at Provincial Parks and all of our experiences, except one, have been awesome! Our bad experience was very similar to yours. We spent a weekend at Selkirk PP, which until recently had been a private park before it was purchased by Parks Ontario. Most of the sites were occupied by seasonal campers, and the noise was crazy! This sort of thing doesn't really bother me, it just meant I didn't make any effort to be quiet either (we don't have kids). I was more upset about the condition and upkeep of the park, worst bathrooms ever!
Luckily, this has been the exception to the rule for us, and we have found all the PP we have stayed at to be well run, clean, and the staff friendly (except at our Rally at Emily, but I guess we were to blame). The Pinery has over 1200 sites open in the summer months and they manage to keep the bathrooms clean and the campers under control, although they don't seem to patrol much and just respond to complaints.
Considering the PP system is user funded and receives very little money from the province, I think they still manage to maintain a high standard. I am sorry you had such a bad experience.


Super Active Member
Jun 8, 2013
Peterborough area, ON
Very sorry to hear about your bad experience......seems like the majority were good though!

I honestly didn't know that some Prov Parks had seasonal sites. No clue!!

As for Ziggs comment about our rally at Emily....I think the warden may have been a bit on a power trip as well.....we weren't that loud!! [;)]

Hopefully the rest of your camping season goes well!!


Active Member
Apr 14, 2014
Ontario, Canada
Wow, thanks for the heads up about Ivanhoe. That totally blows. I had no idea that they had seasonal sites in the north parks...something I hope they DONT do in the near north parks. What a sham.

We have never had a bad experience in the dozen different P.P's we have visited. We now avoid Pinery and Killbear because it is too busy and noisy late into the night (not rowdy, but annoying enough for those who want much solitude)


Mar 12, 2018
Ontario Canada
Our best/worst was the same park! We went to Sibbald for the first time and while a decent park (we had a good site, beach ok) we did not realize it was very much a "party park". We had two incidents of witnessing fights that we had to call the wardens to break up. The problem was the 2nd one was after midnight and it freaked out my 10 year old (at the time) so badly to be woken up by screaming and swearing that she wanted to go home. But the best was that the warden was absolutely amazing and sat and spoke to her about how sometimes people make poor decisions when they are drinking but that he took care of it and she could call him anytime she was scared. He stopped by the next day to check and see if she felt better and brought her a little stuffy to "protect her at night". She was deeply in love by that point (probably didn't hurt that he was very tall and handsome).


Super Active Member
Apr 21, 2010
Pickering, Ontario
We've had a couple of bad experiences with neighboring campsites over the years that come to mind. One was at Pinery (Funny, when we were checking in at the gate I saw this truck loaded with bikes, wagons and all sorts of stuff. There appeared to be 2 women and 4 kids. I thought to myself "Man, I don't want to be their neighbor". I just had a feeling). Well it turned out they were right beside us. It was constant noise and bedlam. The one mom encouraged her young son (about 3 years old) to chase the squirrels and 'bark' at them. Over and over....for 4 days. He woke us up on the 3rd morning at 7 a.m. standing right beside our pup and barking like a mad dog....while once again being encouraged to do so by Mom. I lost it by then.....and she wasn't happy. They did quiet it down somewhat for the next day though before they left.
The second incident was at Balsam Lake PP on a fathers day weekend. The site across from us were 6 girls (3 couples) who likes to drink hard, cuss loudly, and party long into the night. The things they talked about would make a trucker blush, I swear. (and we had my 6 year old grandson with us to boot. Sigh!)
We were woken at 4 a.m. with smashing, cussing, accusations about 'I know who stole it !' etc. Then they cranked up the stereo. I heard one of them say "We should party all night and not go to bed".
Needless to say, not one of our better trips.
All in all though, we camp on average about 6 trips per year and rarely have anything but a great time. We have heard quite a few people say that they would never camp at Sibbald but we have camped there at least 4 times and had no problems. I guess it's all timing.