Can't find an island cottage? Not sure you want to camp?
For the first time, Georgian Bay Islands National Park, a half hour north of Barrie, Ont., is offering rustic cabins for the comfort-seeking wilderness lover.
If you want a roof over your head, a screened-in porch for playing cards in the rain, beds with mattresses, a dining room table and chairs, as well as a barbecue and dishes to serve dinner on, you'll want to reserve early. As of June 17, the newly constructed cabins at Cedar Spring and Christian Beach will be ready for renters.
Just don't expect the eight National Parks cabins to offer the same level of luxe as the privately owned digs on neighbouring islands. "We're not kidding when we say rustic," Graham Lamb, a manager at Georgian Bay Islands National Park, says with a laugh. Point of proof: The cabins offer "close access" to washrooms and keyed showers.
"The fact people have to travel 100 yards to the washroom is not outside the realm of experience of people visiting a national park," Lamb says.
The cabins are all of similar construction, offering bedroom(s) and living space, but are set in very different environs. If you like sunrises, sandy beaches, hardwood forest and a sheltered bay with boats at the dock - think Southern Ontario geography - then you'll want a cabin at Cedar Spring ($140 a night, two-night minimum). Because it's closer to the main visitor area, expect more people, activity and electricity.
"It's a little more creature comfort. There's electricity on the site," Lamb says.
If you like sunsets, exposed granite, windswept pine, Group of Seven scenery - think Canadian Shield - then you'll want a Christian Beach cabin ($160 a night, two-night minimum). It's a 1.8 kilometre hike in, but you won't have to worry about your gear. Park staff not only ferry visitors to the island, they transport their luggage to these smaller, more exclusive cabins set in a cedar grove. (No, parks staff will not accept a tip for delivering your luggage.)
"These are on the western side of Beausoleil Island, the windward side, so you get more of a breeze off Georgian Bay. It's a rocky shoreline so you don't have boats anchored there. It's more private," Lamb says.
Private, and even more rustic: no running water, no electricity. Just a composting outhouse and daily deliveries of fresh water by park staff. There's a barbecue, an outdoor gazebo on the waterfront and a 24-hour quiet rule to guarantee peaceful escape.
Parks Canada (1-888-773-8888, pccamping.ca) starts taking reservations on April 15.
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