Road trip: Northern Ontario 

Looking for your ‘bucket list’ vacation this year? Hit the road to Northern Ontario. Spectacular provincial parks are in every part of this massive region, encompassing over 802,000 square kilometres.  Many parks have the same amenities and programming that you’ll find in southern parks. Here are 3 northern Ontario Parks to whet your appetite:

Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park 
This best kept secret is easy to get to from southern Ontario. Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park is found in the Upper Ottawa Valley, one of the province’s most picturesque road-tripping destinations. Located near the town of Mattawa, between Ottawa and North Bay, this park is steeped in fur trade history. The great explorer himself who the park is named after paddled these parts as well as the famous Voyageurs.  Staff keep their history alive by offering one hour and half day paddle tours throughout the summer in a replica 26 foot (7.9 m) fur trade canoe. Park hiking trails take you to great lookouts and places to view wildlife.  Book your 2013 trip for the end of July and join the Mattawa Voyageur Days, an annual festival that in 2013 includes two well-known Canadian rock ‘n roll artists: David Wilcox and Colin James.

Follow the Lake Superior Circle Route for one of the most scenic drives in Eastern Canada and these next two Ontario Parks:

Pancake Bay Provincial Park
Only one hour northwest of Sault Ste. Marie, this AWESOME beach park on Lake Superior even has a pet-friendly beach for the family pooch. If you plan to camp overnight, try to book one of its 328 campsites ahead of your trip. This park is a favourite with northern road trippers. The Edmund Fitzgerald Trail beside the park campground leads to a viewing platform that juts out over Lake Superior and the spot where the SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank in a fierce November gale in 1975. On a hot summer day, this is a park you won’t want to miss.

Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
This rugged peninsula park on Lake Superior is less than an hour from Thunder Bay so book ahead especially if you plan to camp here on a weekend. This is one of Ontario’s most visually stunning provincial parks, which is probably why the Giant Digital Photography Fall Colours Weekend Workshop is so popular. Sleeping Giant teems with wildlife, especially deer which you often see in the Marie Louise Lake Campground. It has 285 sites and a nice sandy beach. There’s a park visitor centre with lots of summer nature programming for all ages. Park hiking trails lead to Lake Superior vistas, including the Kabeyun Trail which is ideal for overnight backpacking trips.