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Top 10 spots for a family picnic

It’s the perfect time to pack a picnic and spend a relaxing afternoon at Ontario Parks. Without the summer crowds, it’s a snap to find a quiet picnic shelter, table or spot for your blanket and basket.

Here are ten parks with gorgeous picnic areas that are easy drives from Ontario urban centres.

1. Bronte Creek Provincial Park

BronteCreek

This park is located in the Oakville-Burlington area west of Toronto.  Hike its Ravine Trail which takes in all of this park’s forest habitat including a scenic ravine lookout. Plenty of picnic tables are scattered throughout the park’s day-use area.

2. Darlington Provincial Park 

Darlington

When you sit in this park near Oshawa, just south of Highway 401, big city life seems miles away. Massive trees shade the picnic area which is beside a wonderful beach with a magnificent view of Lake Ontario. This is the perfect park for a pair of urbanites wanting to chill for the day.  On a breezy day watch for kite surfers or bring your own!

 3. Ferris Provincial Park 

This Campbellford-area park is easy to get to from the eastbound 401. A 300 foot long suspension bridge crosses the Trent River from the park at the Ranney Gorge. The bridge, which is part of the TransCanada Trail overlooks Ranney Falls. The park picnic area is close by. If you’re looking for a good local bakery for picnic treats, try Dooher’s in Campbellford and don’t forget Empire Cheese and the World’s Finest Chocolate outlet.

5. North Beach Provincial Park

NorthBeach_CountyLake

This kilometre-long ribbon of sand is a smaller version of Prince Edward County’s famous Sandbanks Provincial Park. Kayakers and canoeists like to launch their craft from the beach and explore North Bay which is sheltered from high winds by park dunes. Picnic items are easy to come by in “The County”. Check TasteTrail.ca for ideas.

6. Murphys Point Provincial Park

MurphysPoint_

If you love fall colours, especially reds, head to this park located in Lanark County, south of Ottawa. The county and the park are noted for sugar maples.  Canoe rentals come with paddles and lifejackets. Hiking trails include the 1 km Silver Queen Mine Trail which takes you down to an early 1900s mica mine. If you want to make it an overnight getaway, try booking Murphys Point’s new camp cabin or deluxe tent.

7. French River Provincial Park

French River Gorge pedestrian bridge

This photogenic picnic spot can accessed north of Parry Sound just off of Highway 69, where it crosses the French River. A 4 km hiking trail leads from the park’s award-winning, architecturally-stunning visitor centre to a suspension bridge. If you plan to picnic, take a blanket. There are no picnic tables, just stunning scenery.

8. Port Burwell Provincial Park

Port Burwell autumn

Wait ’til you see the beach in this park — it’s one of Lake Erie’s best! Port Burwell Provincial Park is also part of a major North American migratory route. Monarch butterflies stop here en route to Mexico in early September. Birds of Prey pass through in fall, including hawks, eagles and turkey vultures. Fresh fruit and vegetables are sold at farmers’ stands nearby and if you’re planning to camp with friends, try to book campsite # 402. Staff call it the million dollar site because of its lake view.

9. Chutes Provincial Park 

Chutes

The only provincial park on Highway 17 between Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie and it’s a beauty. The landscape is iconic Canadian Shield with towering conifers, rocky outcrops and a swift-moving little river called the Aux Sables. A river trail leads to a waterfall and the Seven Sisters Rapids. The picnic and day-use area sit next to a nice beach close to the falls.

10. Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park

kakabeka falls

Also known as “Niagara of the North,” this thundering cascade of water drops 39 metres over sheer cliffs into a deep gorge a half hour west of Thunder Bay, off of Highway 17 (Trans Canada Highway). 1.6 billion year old fossils have been unearthed near the base of the falls. The park’s picnic area and its waterfall view are popular with road trippers. Six hiking trails range from easy to strenuous and if you plan to camp, you’ll find well-treed sites.

Not sure what to pack in your picnic basket? Check our post Park picnic recipes and tips!