Halloween at Pinery Provincial Park – 2014

Overall, we had a great weekend!  We missed it last year, but were present in 2012.  Earlier this year, I walked through the park and found a site that we would eventually book for Halloween 2014.  We booked site 730, because in 2012, this whole row was FULL of trick-or-treaters, and decorated campsites.  This year was a little different, more on that later.

We arrived early on the Friday, and relaxed for the day.  We had some friends come up later on in the evening, had a nice campfire, then went down for the night.  Saturday we were up nice and early decorating our site.  It took the majority of the morning, and early afternoon.  We were going with a typical Halloween theme.  Red lights, scary decorations, scary music, etc, etc.  I think we did a good job using the various decorations we had.

Here’s the one thing that got me slightly upset.  I’ll admit, I did vent about it for a while.  On Friday evening, and Saturday morning, we started to see trucks, with large trailers pull into our row, back their trailer into the site, then proceed to walk away.  I saw this happen 3-4 times with the sites all around us.  I started to wonder where these people were going, and how come they haven’t decorated, or even occupied their site.  Turns out they were grouping up with other families, to decorate one campsite collectively.  This is great and all, because the site was decorated awesomely.  The problem is, our row went from the most popular row in 2012, to a dark, inhabited row this year.  We were the only site on our whole row that was decorated.  We did receive a healthy number of children, but I wonder how many didn’t bother coming down our row, because they thought nothing was going on here.  If you’re going to leave your campsite vacant, to group elsewhere, maybe pick a site that’s not in the center of the park, where it’s generally supposed to be busy.  VENT OVER.

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Port Burwell Provincial Park Review

Review Date: Sept 2014 

**New for this review – A Bike ride through the park!**

I filmed myself riding through each area in the park.  I thought this would give you a great sense of what the park is like, etc.  Find the 3 videos below

General Information / Location / Address

Port Burwell Provincial Park is located on the shore of Lake Erie, directly beside the town of Port Burwell.

9 Wilson Lane
Port Burwell, ON, N0J 1T0

Click here to reserve, or view campsites

Entry / Layout

PB.Overview

Port Burwell has 2 different entrances for the park, and the beach.  The first entrance goes past a few cottages, then you reach the front office.  The second entrance has it’s own “front office”, which leads to the day use beach areas.

The park is split into 3 campgrounds.  Alzora, Leander, and Iroquois.  Each campground has their own full service bathroom in the center.  There is also a large playing field, and another bathroom between Leander and Alzora.

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General Discussion

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First, take a look at the above picture.  This is the satellite image of Port Burwell Provincial Park.  (You can also see the big play field, more on that later).  I wanted to show this picture because it shows the type of landscape / foliage you’ll encounter when coming here.  The forest is thick, which in most cases offers a lot of privacy.  Most of the campgrounds I’ve encountered on Lake Erie are more grass then anything, but not here.  You really get the sense that you are camping up north in a fully mature forest.  However, when you venture to the beach, you’ll know you’re on Lake Erie because of the soft sand and great beach.  Not often do you get to camp in a thick forest with a great beach.  On the West side of the campground, there is a large cavern like creek, with a few campsites right on it’s banks.  More on that later.

Port Burwell PP is split into 3 campsites.   Alzora, Leander, and Iroquois.  We stayed in Iroquois because it seemed to be the furthest away from cottages and roads, etc.  Iroquois is at the back of the campground, and think it’s the quietest, and feels more remote then the other.  The campsites throughout the whole park are all fairly large, and private.  They all seem to have wide road front, instead of that long drive way type of site.  The floor of the sites are mostly grass and forest floor.  I didn’t see any that were gravel, which IMO is good.

One small issue, is the roads throughout the campgrounds are all paved.  This isn’t a huge issue, but sometimes driver drive faster when the roads are paved.  However, it does keep the dust down when they are paved.

I will say that the forest is fairly brushy, almost like a jungle, which is great for Privacy, but I much prefer a forest that’s a little more bare.  Yes it’s less privacy, but it just seems more Northy to me.  The sites that offer this barer type forest are 95 to about 206.

Speaking of the back of Iroquois.  If you look at the above google maps satellite image, you can see at the top a farmers field.  This field is fairly close to the top edge of the campsites, and two times we heard coyotes howling right here.  It sounded incredible, and worth the listen.  One time it was 5am, and the other was 9pm.  Now that I think of it.. maybe watch your children and small dogs if you camping up in that area.

There are full service bathrooms at the center of each area.  There is also a bathroom by the large playing field. One thing you won’t find here are those smelly vault type toilets in the middle of every other campsite.

One great thing about this park is the large playing field in the center.  It offers a great jungle gym for the kids, and 2 volley ball nets.  It also has a large area to play soccer, and even baseball.  This is also where the Amphitheater is located.  There are a couple great sites basically right beside the playing field, which would be great for family’s with children.  I believe I have labelled them in my below videos.

I’m not too familiar with what activities this park offers, but I assume because of the Amphitheater in the park, there are lots of events catered to children.

The park seemed really tidy and clean.  All the sites were properly groomed / drained of water.  All the bathrooms were all clean.  It seems they really know what their doing here.  They strive for a clean, well run park.

The beach is really long.  There’s LOTS of room for all campers to setup, and have it not be so crowded.  There’s also LOTS of parking.  One thing I noticed is that the beach is not groomed, and inside the magazine for Port Burwell PP, they explain why.  I also didn’t notice a lot of loose sand on the beach, but more hard packed sand.  I think this is because the water level has been so high.  Getting into, and out of the water is a cinch.  It remains fairly shallow as you walk out.  There is a bit of a walk from the parking lot to the beach, which is kind of a pain, but such as life.

The dog beach is the best dog beach around.  It’s HUGE!  Lots of room to run the dogs into the water, playing fetch, etc.  However, there are signs everywhere of a $95 fine if dog is off leash.  I saw about 50% of the dogs off leash when I went, and even kept my dogs off leash, and didn’t have a problem.

At the front office is a small park store, where you can buy camping essentials, and some munchies.  There’s not a lot of stuff here, but gets the job done if you’re looking to snacks.  Same type of store at the entrance to the day use areas.  Coffee comes from an instant coffee machine, with those coffee pucks / packs.  $2 per coffee.   Firewood is also for sale at the front gates for about $7 a bag.  It’s all covered in it’s own building, but even so I noticed that some of the wood was a little damp when burning.  I also couldn’t chop a log in half, which means it could still be a little wet. Quality of the wood when I went wasn’t amazing.

The camp warden does drive through, but only saw him/her once an evening.  However for whatever reason, I did see an OPP SUV drive through once as well.

I’m not sure how the bugs are here in general, but this weekend the mosquito’s were terrible!  They were EVERYWHERE, and ANYWHERE.  They did disappear around 8pm tho.  I don’t think Port Burwell is bad for mosquito’s in general, but for whatever reason, this weekend was BAD.

One thing worth mentioning, is they have new Dumping stations for trailers.  It’s can accommodate two trailers at once, which is great on those busy Sunday’s when everyone is leaving.  As well, there’s a new trailer filling station, right on the side of the road, that can also accommodate 2 trailers.


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Hiking / Biking

Here’s a list of all the trails at Port Burwell.  It also contains some of the other activities that are available in the park.  I planned to walk all the trails, but because of the mosquito’s, never got around to it.  I included the parks description of the trails below

Ravine Creek Trail 1 km, 45 minutes, easy
 (This interpretive trail, which features a self-guided brochure, travels through a ravine and woodlot. Eleven stops along the way explain local geology, flora and fauna.)

Beach Trail 2 km return, 1 hour, easy  (
The trail leads from the campground to the beach. A lookout point provides an excellent view of Lake Erie and the beach below. The trail traverses a 20 m bluff.)

A Bike Ride through the Park!

To give you a better aspect on what this park is like, I created 3 videos of me riding through each area.  Here they are below:

Iroquois:

Leander:

Alzora:

Best Campsites

IMO, the best area is Iroquois, campsites 95 to 206.  Sites 31,33,35 are neat because they are right on the backs of a large revine. (Careful of the drop-off).

197,196 – Large sites, decent privacy

198 OK

200 is good.  With a trailer you can make it fairly private

201, 203 is OK

206 is really big, kinda private. Bigest site I’ve seem

210, 211, 212 right across from bathroom. MEH

218 really private.  really bushy.  shrubs. can’t see big tree’s. doesn’t remind me of up north

172 is kinda nice, really big. nice forest

178 OK

Pro’s

– Very clean, well kept up park.  Staff spend a great deal of time and energy on this park.

– Lots of full service bathrooms

– Sites are LARGE, and mostly private

– Beach is great, with great water entry

– Thick forest. Nice sized tree’s. Mature forest

– Great playing field

Con’s

– Buggy?

– Beach is a drive, not a walk

Surrounding Area Activities

Project Ojibwa – A really cool tour of a retired submarine.  This is located in the neighboring town of Port Burwell.  It’s worth going to see, but it’s $18.50 to go in. Kinda steep.

Should you camp here?

Totally YES!.  Port Burwell deserves your business here.  The park shows that the staff strive to keep it clean, and ready for you to camp.  The beach is great, with lots of parking.  The sites are all large, and private.  It’s really a great park!

Oliphant Beach, Ontario, Review

I wanted to write up a small review or guide about going to Oliphant for the beach.  Oliphant is just north of Sauble Beach about 5 minutes.  I intended to take pictures of the beach, to help explain and review it, but I forgot to take detailed pictures, so will have to just use the ones I have.

I wouldn’t really call this a lush, sandy beach.  The water part of the beach is great, because the deepest it gets is about 1.5 feet.  You can’t get any deeper unless you walk out 1/4 mile.  Great for kids, etc.  There are a couple spots on the beach with sand, but for the most part, it’s short grassy areas, with sand.  Sitting on a chair is fine, but some spots might not be the best with a beach blanket.  I think the reason why this place is so great, is because you can drive right on the beach, and it’s less busy then Sauble Beach.

Here is a photo of our setup the first time we went:

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This is about what the beach looks like for the most part.

Here’s a picture from Google Maps, that shows the entrance, the beach, and some water crossings you can take to get to a more private beach.

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The X on the above picture marks the entrance to the beach.  Any car or truck can get to the main part of the beach, no problems.  Some people back their vehicle to the water, some park and on the other side of the path, and walk to beach.

The yellow shaded areas is the beach area.

If you have a truck, or 4×4 (i even saw a honda crv go through), you can continue driving down the beach, but will have to cross a couple water crossings.  The deepest I saw it get is about 1 foot, maybe slightly higher.  If you can get through this, you can access a very private section of the beach, at the end of the above yellow shaded areas.  See below for our setup on this day:

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This area of the beach is mainly grassy, but most people setup their chairs in the shallow water anyway.

It’s just a neat place to come, and get in the water!

 

Sauble Falls Provincial Park Review

Review Date: Aug 2014

General Information / Location / Address

Sauble Falls Provincial Park is located near Lake Huron, just south of the Bruce Peninsula.  The area is known for it’s summer beach destination, which can get really busy in the summer months.  Anywhere near the Bruce is a favorite of mine!

Address:   R.R. 3,Wiarton, ON, N0H 2T0

Click here to reserve, or view campsites

Google Maps

Entry / Layout

SF.Overview

As I said above.., this park is km’s north of Sauble Beach.  It’s located on the Sauble River which dumps into Lake Huron.  The park is divided into 2 areas, which is separated by highway 13.  West Campground, and East Campground.  The main entrance, and front office is located at the West Campground.  The West Campground seems to be the MAIN campground, which contains 2 large bathrooms, and all the play equipment, basketball courts, volleyball courts, etc, etc.  I believe there is a main bathroom in the East Campground as well, but none of the other nice amenities.

One quick thing to note about the front gates.  When you pull up to the below gate, they ask you to pull through, and park in the parking lot, then come to register.  After you’ve registered, you need to pull a u-turn in the parking lot to get to your camping site.  This parking lot is not very wide, so people with bigger trucks and trailers might have a difficult time.  See the parking lot below.  I would suggest parking BEFORE the front gate.

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This is the parking lot where you must pull a u-turn if you pull into it.

This is the parking lot where you must pull a u-turn if you pull into it.

General Discussion

One very important thing before I get into the review.  The park is split up into 2 campgrounds, WEST and EAST.  There is a fairly busy road going between them, highway 13.  The only way to get from one campground to the other, or from EAST to the falls is to cross this busy road.  What concerns me, is there is no CROSSWALK, or no signage to vehicles warning them to slow down, or watch for children.  Vehicles fly through here at 80 km/h.  Be careful crossing here!

Another thing before my review, I want to point you to this tripadvisor.ca link.  The majority of the reviews aren’t so good.  In fact, some of them are pretty negative, talking about the noise, dirty bathrooms, disrespectful people.  On the way up, I actually said to my wife “I’m kinda excited to go here, just so I can confirm those reviews, and write a bad review myself”.  I didn’t have very high expectations of this place, and was expecting a lot of partiers, dirty bathrooms, etc.  I was quite surprised after staying here for 3 days.  For the most part, I liked this park, and didn’t experience any of the negatives in the above reviews.  I’m not saying this park is perfect, and am not saying this park is amazing, but it surpassed my expectations for sure.

The terrain at this park is a mix of cut grass, and forest floor.  I was expecting more of a sand dune type park, but it wasn’t.  The main play areas, and fields are all cut grass, and the campsites are in a nice forest, which a natural forest floor, and some sites with gravel.

The West Campground is the place to be IMO.  It has all the amenities, and the sites are a lot better.  (specially the trailer sites).  The sites at this campground are NOT private.  In fact, after walking around, I didn’t find one site that had privacy cover completely around it.  Some of the sites, on the outsides, have a private back to them, but are almost completely open to the sites beside them.  However, if you have a trailer, the sites are designed to provide the side to side privacy using the trailers.  Most of the sites here are flat, and have a forest type floor.  Avoid the sites on the outside near the road, and the ones on the inside ring which have a site behind them.

The sites in WEST that are lining the river are probably the nicest in the park.  They aren’t private at all side to side, but you have nobody behind you.  The sites here are all long, and skinny. Behind the site is a steel wire fence, which a large, deep drop-off to the river.  I was thinking that since we are on the river, we could walk down to it, and swim.  This isn’t possible.  The drop-off is fairly large, and even if you get to the river, the vegetation is fairly thick, and wading into the river is tough.

There are 2 main, full bathrooms in West, along with a laundry facility.  There are also vault toilets spread throughout the park.  The full bathrooms weren’t spotlessly clean, but they weren’t disgusting.  They were just like any other park I’ve been to.  Adequate.

I did go for a walk in the EAST CAMPGROUND area.  If you’re in a trailer, forget camping here.  The trailer sites are horrid.  Most of them are in the open, in between 2 roads (pull thru).  They  offer less then zero privacy.  If you’re in a tent, the sites along the back loop are OK.  There is also a washroom here with running water.

Another nice thing about this park is the play equipment they have.  There is a jungle gym, basketball court, tetherball court, volleyball court, and pavillion.  Nice amenities for family’s, and kids.  These are all located in WEST campground.

The reviews on trip central say a lot of partiers come here to camp, instead of getting a motel in Sauble.  This could be true, but when we were there, I didn’t witness this.  I didn’t see, or hear any parties at the campsites.  So, don’t think that happens here all the time.

I did also see officers drive by about 3-4 times a day, including twice at night.  I don’t know if they are lenient, or  harsh, but they at least show their presence.

We camped here in August, and didn’t have any bugs other then the rare mosquito.  This included daytime, and night time.  Maybe it was out of season for bugs?

I also noticed that the park was fairly quiet, and empty during the day, which was a nice surprise.  A lot of the campers are ither at the falls, or at Sauble Beach.  Once 5-6pm comes around, it starts picking up a bit.

There is no park store here, but right outside of the campground is a “variety” store.  They sell campfire here for $10 a bag, and the bags don’t look all that large.  One other thing about this store, ice cream is good, but there isn’t much variety when it comes to candy and snacks.  A couple bags of chips, chocolate bars, and no candy.  There are some groceries, but it’s fairly limited.  Also, they accept cash only, and there’s an ATM in the store that charges $2.

We camped along the river, and did have a family of racoon’s come onto the site, so they are around.  We also had a skunk come onto the site, so be careful of that.  We clapped our hands, and it slowly walked away.

There is no beach at the campground, but Sauble Beach is only a short drive away.  There are other beaches in the area, see below for an example.  I guess that brings me to the FALLS.  I think the falls is the attraction point of this park.  Kids seem to LOVE it.  It’s also very pretty.  To me.., I wasn’t very excited about the falls, but I admit it was nice to walk there, and see it, or even walk through it for a few minutes.  There is a section where the kids jump off the falls, which is about 7-8 feet high.  Some people on trip advisor say there are rocks beneath, which is probably true, but the kids seem to jump shallow enough to avoid the rocks.  I don’t think it’s an issue.  The falls are nice, and is worth seeing.  There is a nice board walk that goes along the falls, which makes it easy to get up nice and close.  The falls are really busy during the day.   I think a lot of people come here for day visits, just to play on the falls.  There is a day parking lot directly beside the falls with about 50-60 parking spots.  Just above the falls, is also a rental area for water craft.  Not sure pricing here.

There is 1 hiking trail at the park, which is over in EAST campground.  My wife went for a walk during the day on this trail, and said she was eaten alive by bugs.  I don’t know the quality of the trail, or how good it is.  There are no bike trails here.

I can’t think of much else to report here.  This park is fairly touristy,  because of the falls, which does attract newer campers.  Trip Advisor says there are a lot of disrespectful people at this park, but I didn’t witness that at all.

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Best Campsites

I didn’t go around and collect good sites….., because there aren’t any.  I don’t think people come here for a good, private site.  However, I believe the best sites are in WEST, along the river.  If you’re a tent camper, then the sites on the back row in EAST are decent.

Pro’s

– Water Fall is neat to see… but I wouldn’t spend all day here.

– Close to great beaches, which is the winner IMO

– Lots of play equipment.

– I like the area.  Near the bruce, which has A LOT of places to visit.

Con’s

– Privacy.  There is none.

– Lack of Park Store, and lack of variety in the nearest variety store

Surround Area Activities

  1. Since Sauble Falls Provincial Park doesn’t have a beach inside the park, you’ll need to drive elsewhere to get one.  Most people would just drive to Sauble Falls beach, which is really great.  You can even drive on the beach.  The problem is.., it’s really busy.  Instead, check out the beach at Oliphant, which is just north of Sauble Falls Provincial Park.  You can drive right on the beach, and I think it’s A LOT less busy then Sauble beach.


Should you camp here?

I vote for a yes.  Not a big YES!, but just a yes.  I can’t say I’m in LOVE with this park, but can’t say I hate it.  I liked the park because it’s close to really nice beaches, and near a neat waterfall.  It’s also close to Sauble, which is a nice town to visit.  I think the park is great for Families with kids, as there is lots of equipment for them to play on.  The park is also close to the Bruce, which is always a great area to explore.

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