I loved camping as a child, but now that I have kids of my own, the idea of sleeping in a tent scares me. Any thoughts on enjoying the great outdoors the easy way?
It sounds like you aren't one of the lucky ones with an open-invite to a cottage – ideally one maintained by relatives who greet you with burgers, corn on the cob and free child-minding. You could always rent a summer house, but if you want something more reminiscent of the mosquito-coil-scented days of yore, Canadian parks are making it easier.
Meet the yurt. Or the oTENTik (pc.gc.ca). Or Huttopia (www.huttopia.com). Provincial and national parks are seeing increased demand for civilized camping – and less of the is-there-a-small-rock-under-my-sleeping-bag experience.
"The trend ties to demographics," says Anne Craig, a senior marketing specialist at Ontario Parks. "The parks' traditional core family campers are getting older, their children are grown up and this new mature market is looking for more comfortable accommodation." In addition, she says, growth is coming from new Canadians, many of whom "are not keen to sleep on the ground."
So provincial and national parks are responding with increased choices in what they call roofed accommodation. This ranges from teepees and former ranger cabins to yurts, as well as canvas tents in all sizes that are already set up. Generally, you can expect wooden flooring, bunkbeds, lockable doors and a table to eat indoors. It ain't the Ritz, but it's more than a picnic table under a tarp. Here is a sampling of the options.
Parks Canada: The big news here is the rollout of the oTENTik – a canvas-tent and A-frame-cabin combo that can sleep six, says Jennifer Dubois, the lead recreational facilities analyst with Parks Canada (www.pccamping.ca). You can find these in three parks this year: Manitoba's Riding Mountain National Park; La Mauricie National Park in Quebec and Jasper National Park in Alberta.
This is in addition to other options across the country, such as "all-inclusive camping" at Ontario's Georgian Bay Islands National Park, Dubois says, which features a spacious, pre-assembled tent, one dinner and guided hikes and canoeing. Other parks, such as Alberta's Waterton Lakes National Park, offer teepees, and other sites, such as Fort St. James National Historic Site in British Columbia, take it even further indoors with a bed and breakfast in a fur trader's office.
Ontario Parks: Sixteen of Ontario's 100 parks offer roofed accommodation. This includes new yurts – those concentric canvas tent-structures – at Windy Lake, Charleston Lake and Silent Lake. There are also rustic pine-décor cabins available at Bonnechere and former park ranger cabins in Algonquin.
Another unique one? "The Maple Rest Heritage House at Sandbanks was once a family farmhouse," Craig says. "Today it is Ontario Park's most luxurious accommodation with four bedrooms, each with its own bathroom and a gas fireplace, screen porch and many other amenities."
And the big question: Can you even get an indoor space this late in the game? It's possible, especially if you look for midweek dates or at parks farther away from the urban hubs, Craig says.