With the summer whizzing past us, we realized that we hadn’t been camping yet. After the previous summer camping at Mara Provincial Park, we were anxious to visit Bon Echo Provincial Park. We booked one of the few remaining car camping sites and we were anxious to find the top things to do in Bon Echo Provincial Park.
What is Bon Echo Provincial Park
Bon Echo is a provincial park in South Eastern, Ontario. Bon Echo is located about an hour-and-a-half north-east of the city of Kingston and 6 km north of the town of Cloyne. The park contains several lakes, the most famous of which is Mazinaw Lake. Mazinaw Lake is the second deepest lake in Ontario and features the stunning Mazinaw Rock. Also, Bon Echo is also famous for its native pictographs, rock paintings found on the escarpment cliffs.
We arrived in Bon Echo mid-morning and quickly got about setting up our tent and campsite for our visit before heading to the Lagoon to jump into action.
Top things to do in Bon Echo Provincial Park
Our campsite was in the Hardwood Hills section, a short 5-minute drive to the Lagoon. If you’re looking for the top things to do in Bon Echo Provincial Park, the Lagoon is the center of all the action. This calm bay is where the boat rentals take place as well as where the Mugwump Ferry boards. During the weekends, the local volunteer group Friends of Bon Echo host a bbq where you can grab some food and save yourself some cooking. The land surrounding the lagoon wraps in a crescent moon shape and is a great path to wander and get some unique views of the beach and paddlers.
Paddle boats can be rented from Bon Echo Outfitters right at the lagoon. Life jackets, paddles, and safety gear are all included in your rental.
Canoeing, Kayaking or Paddle Boarding
We had reserved a canoe for our visit to Bon Echo prior to our arrival. We wandered from the parking lot to Bon Echo Outfitters, located right at the Lagoon and filled out our paperwork for a 24-hour rental. Canoes or Kayaks are, in my opinion, the best way to experience beautiful Bon Echo Provincial Park. As you visit the lagoon, there is no hiding that it’s one of the most popular activities. Canoes, Kayaks and paddle boards are everywhere, and the calm waters make paddling along the spectacular Mazinaw Rock a treat. These small, nimble boats also offer a great way to experience the incredible native pictographs up close.
The boys absolutely loved the treasure hunt of trying to find the pictographs and even spent some time hanging off the side of the canoe in the cool waters.
Mazinaw Cliff Hike
We docked our canoe at the busy ferry dock at the base of Mazinaw cliff. The cliff hike starts with a climb up some stairs where you’ll find the only toilet on the hike. The hike is a short 2.5 km walk over rocky paths and features gorgeous well-maintained lookouts. The boys absolutely loved scrambling over the rocks and racing along the paths.
Outside of the lookouts, a few visitors took to the edges to do some sunbathing and relaxing. The beautiful weather and amazing skies made for some truly spectacular views.
Tip: There is only one portable toilet on the Mazinaw Cliff Hike. It is located just off the main trail near the dock.
Bon Echo Beach
After returning from our canoe ride, we wandered over to the far side of the Lagoon to experience the boys favorite part of our Bon Echo visit, the beach. Bon Echo has a nice, sandy beach that is divided into two roped off sections. Right off the beach is a toddler depth area perfectly suitable for D to splash around in, and the deeper area that reaches a depth of 1.2 meters. C’s favorite was the deeper area. It is there where he spent his time practicing his swimming and diving. The sandy bottom makes the beach area perfect for splashing.
The area surrounding the beach is busy on weekends and features a number of picnic tables and charcoal bbq pits for cooking, so the beach alone is a whole day destination for many visitors to Bon Echo Provincial Park.
Tip: The beach area and picnic tables can fill up fast. If you plan on spending the day there, arrive early to ensure you get a good spot.
One of the first things that appear when researching the top things to do at Bon Echo Provincial Park is camping. After drying off, we headed back to our campsite for dinner. Unfortunately, the area was suffering from a drought, so a fire ban was on, but with a portable bbq, we were able to cook up some spaghetti and sausages and topped it off with some uncooked smores before calling it a night. Our campsite was large and relatively secluded from the other campsites. We stayed in a radio-free zone, but some areas of Bon Echo Provincial Park have electrical access and allow music.
Bon Echo Provincial Park has car camping, as well as walk-in and canoe-in camping available. They also have cabins and permanent tents for those looking for something a little less down-to-earth.
Tip: When camping, be prepared to bring your own cooking stove. A fire ban means that no fires of any kind are allowed in the park
Other Top things to do in Bon Echo Provincial Park
We only had two days in Bon Echo, so we didn’t get a chance to explore everything. If you’re looking for the top things to do in Bon Echo Provincial Park, here are a few more things you can check off.
Mugwump Ferry Ride
The Mugwump Ferry is a 12 passenger pontoon boat offering a quick trip across the narrow Mazinaw Lake. It docks at Mazinaw Rock, the starting point for the Mazinaw Rock cliff hike.
Mazinaw Lake & Cliffs Tour Boat
Bon Echo offers a guided boat tour of Upper Mazinaw Lake. The Mazinaw Lake & Cliffs Tour takes place in a 26 passenger pontoon boat. The cruise is led by a guide who will point out and explain the sites of Bon Echo. It’s a great opportunity to learn about Mazinaw Rock, the 1000-year-old native pictographs, and the nature surrounding the park.
Our experience earlier in the summer of glamping on Manitoulin Island was incredible and cultural. Bon Echo Provincial Park, which offers a much different experience of Ontario’s beauty, is also a great way to spend a weekend or long weekend when in Ontario. The top things to do in Bon Echo Provincial Park include activities for all ability levels from beach bums to adrenaline junkies and everything in between.
With the birth of their two boys, Kevin and Christina have made it their mission to show others that travelling with children isn't as scary as it sounds and that kids can benefit from experiencing the world outside of their front door and beyond.