Remember last year’s trip to Achray Provincial Park? The one where we had perfect weather and an amazing weekend at this newfound (for us) gem?
I think it is fair to say that this year didn’t work out quite so well – although we were excited to snag our favourite site five months in advance (to the day, of course…) we arrived in the park at the end of a very dry, hot spell which had resulted in a couple of forest fires. As a result, a fire ban had just been put in place as we entered the park.
The real kicker was although we had a nice first evening, rain started to pour at about 9pm and really only let up for small stretches through the next two days. Although our tarp village made it bearable, the lack of a fire was noticed even more in the damp, cool weather. With no sign of the rain letting up, we were happy to pack it in a day early and head back to Ottawa.
Admittedly, Achray was a bit of a dud this year but we will certainly try and make it back next year, hopefully with a bit better luck with the weather.
For many years I have heard great things about Achray Provincial Park. My former boss used to head to Achray summer after summer and talk about what a great spot it was. I determined last summer was finally going to be the year we made it up there and so five months to the day before we wanted to arrive, I woke up early and made my reservation on the Ontario Parks website. Later, I found some other local blogs such as Coffee with Julie that talked about what a great spot it was.
Although we had originally made our reservation for four nights, we ended up having having to cancel the first couple of nights due to pouring rain and some other commitments in Ottawa. Always one of the difficulties of booking five months in advance….
We left early Friday morning in perfect sunshine and stopped along the way for lunch at Lakeview Deli and Meatery in Cobden per the advice of another great local blog, A Peek Inside the Fishbowl. Although I had read all sorts of horror stories about driving the gravel road into Achray once you get past the Algonquin gate, I can only think these were written by people who have never driven gravel roads. As a kid who grew up driving on all sorts of narrow gravel tracks, this is the Autobahn of unpaved roads. It shouldn’t dissuade anyone from visiting. Overall, the trip from Ottawa took less than three hours – a smooth ride.
As soon as we arrived, I realized why people enjoy this campground so much. There are a very limited number of sites, about 45, and ours was a huge site that backed right on to the beach and the beautiful lake. The canopy of huge pine trees was idyllic. On the Friday afternoon, there were dozens of people heading out in canoes and kayaks for campsites around the lake and further abound that require a paddle in.
By the end of August when we went, the lake is plenty warm to swim in and we had no problems at all with mosquitoes – I don’t think any of us used repellant all weekend.
One of our neighbours had the most extensive camp setups that I had seen and had been staying at the park for two weeks. They were really friendly with kids about our age and were more than willing to share their awesome zipline setup and slack line. The kids were thrilled to see it and the only question we heard for the next 48 hours was whether we could get a zipline for the backyard.
On the Saturday, we rented a canoe from the camp store – I had worried that they might run out but the girl said they hadn’t sold out all summer so I guess that isn’t an issue. It seemed like most people used a service from outside the park that delivers them to the water’s edge. For the sake of convenience, and if only for a day or two, I would just rent one from the camp store again. We had a great day out on the water, mostly just exploring Grand Lake and enjoying a picnic on the other side.
One thing about that camp store, and Algonquin in general, which may also make it unattractive for some campers is that there are very limited supplies for sale and there is no easy access to another store or even to a restaurant due to the vastness of the park that surrounds you. For a change of pace though, I would say this is a great advantage.
Between the perfect weather and setting, this was one of my favourite weekends of the summer. The whole family had lots of fun, ate well, enjoyed the beach and were happy to finally explore this gem of the Ontario Parks system. We will certainly be back next year!
a work in progress – our adventures here and there