First Family Canoe Trips : Where to go in Southern Ontario

So you want to take junior on their first canoe trip…good for you!  I often get asked for suggestions on where to take the kiddies for their first outing in Ontario.  For a first canoe trip with younger children, I suggest lakes that have paddle in sites to warm up to the paddling experience, or try one short portage into a second lake.  You can get a sense for how your little one is going to “take” to the boat without the risk of pushing it too far.  You can always take a longer trip next time.

The following lakes don’t see super big water like some larger ones and if needed, can have you back to your car in an hour or less.  May I also suggest sticking to the summer months so the water and air are warm and inviting?  If circumstances require that your first trip happens in the spring or fall, remember that it can be really cold and you MUST dress and gear-up for the elements.  Stay warm out there!

all together in one boat

all together in one boat

Algonquin Provincial Park

From the west side of the park near Kearney, enter at Rain Lake (really pretty) and stay at a paddle in site or do a short portage into Sawyer Lake.

Enter at Magnetawan Lake (also on the west side) and portage into Hambone Lake or push on into Ralph  Bice.

Off of the Hwy 60 corridor, you can check out Cannisbay.  It doesn’t feel very backcountry, but it’ll get the family into a canoe and into a tent.

Use the Achray Campground access on Grand Lake and stay, or pull a very short portage (30m) into Stratton Lake where there are numerous sites and you can visit beautiful High Falls, a swimming area with a naturally formed water slide.

Killarney Provincial Park

This park requires a bit more portaging, but you can still go to Bell Lake.  Use the Bell Lake access point and stay, or paddle through into Three Mile Lake.

Two words…George Lake.

Frontenac Provincial Park

Stay on Big Salmon Lake.  The lake has paddle in sites and no portages.

If you have any suggestions of your own for getting out on a canoe trip for the first time, be sure to let me know!  For all those families who are getting out for the first time this year, good luck and have fun!

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by omer on February 3, 2014 at 2:22 PM

    I highly recommend Frontenac as a great starter park for interior camping with kids. We’ve gone in with the kids since they were 9 months old. We stayed on big salmon only on the first year, and decided that adding protages is worth it to gain more seclusion. Frontenac has small portages that made it possible for me to do 2 trips (one with canoe, the other with gear), while my wife corralled the kids on one run. It’s debatable who had the easier task, but the kids love it and are now seasoned enough that at ages 3 and 6 we’ll be doing a 5-6 day trip into killarney this summer (we won’t cross the pig)


    • Frontenac is a beautiful park and I agree that portages are always worth it for some privacy. We love Killarney (hate the pig!) and will likely be trying our hand at hiking the loop again this spring. Have a WONDERFUL trip! Your family is so lucky to (I assume) live in Ontario with access to such awesome outdoor adventure 🙂


  2. Posted by Mike. on February 26, 2014 at 7:17 AM

    I LOVE Frontenac, especially Big Salmon Lake; it has three camp clusters (groups of campsites), set at varying distances along the lake so you can pick the time you want to spend on the water before getting to your campsite…We go to cluster 5 at the far end of the lake. It’s about 1-1.25 hours very leasurely paddle.

    As for APP, Canoe lake is also OK and there is a very short portage into Joe Lake that leads into a lot of different camp possibilities.


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