Keep up to date with the weekly Sightseer newsletter. Sign up today.
Jacob Beck, co-owner of Pit Stop 518 in Kearney, Ont., likens the March opening of his restaurant’s three outdoor yurts to Wile E. Coyote of Looney Tunes fame.
“You know how the rock keeps falling on him again and again? That’s how we feel,” Beck says, referring to pandemic-induced delays caused by tardy yurt deliveries from Mongolia and the closing of local snowmobile trails, not to mention the April stay-at-home order that forced Beck and partner Joanne Moyes to cancel more than a month’s worth of rentals.
Still, with the Ontario government aiming to administer millions of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of June, the pair remains cautiously optimistic about the summer, fall and winter of 2021. Strong advance bookings of the luxurious canvas-covered lodgings, combined with the pandemic-fuelled surge in bookings of campsites, cabins, tents and other outdoorsy digs in provincial and national parks – including nearby Algonquin and Arrowhead – “give us every reason to believe we will be 100-per-cent booked this summer,” Moyes says.
Like Pit Stop 518, the hundreds of privately owned camping, glamping and RV operations across Canada offer under-the-radar alternatives for prospective campers who are finding it difficult to book a government-run site. With many of these businesses geared toward guests who stay for the entire May-through-October season, the Canadian Camping and RV Council (CCRVC) is seizing on the recent uptick in interest to lobby many of its seasonal members to devote more sites to shorter-term stays.
“Because a lot of campground owners are very old-school, we’re really trying to promote our online trip planner,” CCRVC executive director Shane Devenish says. “It lets you plot all the campgrounds along your route, and with the high demand this year, campers may have to look farther afield than they normally would.”
Should domestic travel prospects improve for the summer of 2021, these new and refurbished privately owned campgrounds await.
Surf Grove Campground, Tofino
Steps from sandy and scenic Cox Bay Beach, this year-old RV resort is adding dozens of semi-serviced tent sites this spring – all of which can also accommodate vans, truck campers and smaller RVs. The new sites offer electrical service and full access to resort amenities such as free WiFi, a beachside rinse-off station, and surf lessons, rentals and storage from the Pacific Surf Company.
Chute Lake Lodge, Naramata
This rustic-chic overnight option along the Okanagan’s Kettle Valley Rail Trail has offered backcountry and semi-serviced tent sites alongside its cabins and lodge rooms since a top-to-bottom renovation and relaunch in 2018. Since then, the lakeside property has added double, queen and family-sized yurts, as well as canvas-sided glamping tents with freestanding wood fireplaces.
Garden Bay RV Resort, Garden Bay
Thirty-seven full-service RV and 10 tenting sites opened in late 2020 at the south end of this park’s namesake Sunshine Coast lake.
Firvale Wilderness Camp, Firvale
Heated and with their own private washroom, new geodesic domes are lined with bay windows framing the glacier and mountain views of the Bella Coola Valley.
Salmo River Ranch Campground, Salmo
The cancellation of the 2021 Shambhala Music Festival hasn’t stopped organizers from building a new 30-acre campground that will be available for non-fest reservations this summer.
Camp Moose Trail, Golden
Opening May 13, this collection of private tents in the Purcell Mountains features queen-sized beds, luxe linens and wood stoves. The surrounding campground, meanwhile, is home to amenities such as a hot tub, stone pizza oven and communal kitchen.
Elk Island Retreat, Fort Saskatchewan
Building on the popularity of its yurts, teepees and cabins, this resort added comfortably equipped two-person geodesic domes last summer.
CAMPagne au Clos Sainte-Thècle, Sainte-Thècle
Set on the edge of a forest overlooking its namesake vineyard, this resort’s new ensuite geodesic domes feature wood stoves and coffee service, with a Finnish sauna and outdoor hot tub steaming nearby.
Georgian Bay Park, Tiny
Sitting on 200 bucolic acres just inland of South Georgian Bay’s myriad beaches, this newly expanded camping, trailer and RV resort is ticking all the physical-distancing boxes by installing a children’s zip line and a drive-in cinema in its heritage barn for the 2021 season.
Northridge Inn Glamping Tents & Vintage Airstream, Sundridge
The cabins, lodge rooms and porch-equipped glamping tents may not be new, but a 1971 Airstream camper on the shores of Muskoka’s Bernard Lake was recently refurbished in stylish fashion for overnight guests.