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.
General Information / Location PInery Provincial Park is located in Southwestern Ontario, on the shores of Lake Huron. It is a fairly large park, and also fairly popular. It’s my GO-TO park, as it’s one of the closest to me. We usually go here for a weekend at the very start of the season, to make sure our camping gear is all IN-CHECK. This review will focus on the Riverside section of Pinery only.
The Pinery Provincial Park
Grand Bend, Ontario
As you enter Pinery, you are brought right to the main gate where you show your pass, or register for a pass. Each campground inside of the pinery has its own “main” office. After the front office, the road winds through the forest of the pinery, and you eventually navigate to the main store, where it branches off to the individual campsites. Here, we are only going to concentrate on riverside. Once you enter riverside, it’s split into 4 different areas. 1, 2, 3, 4.
Each area inside riverside has 1 bathroom, with showers, and flush toilets.
This is the front gate.
The road into the park, after front gate
I think area 4 is the best. There are a number of sites right on the river, and its awesome listening to the birds on the water. Area 4 seems a lot more private as well. There are some sites at the back that are large and private. However, the only reason we go to riverside is because the time of year we go to the piney, riverside is the only campgrounds that’s open. I much prefer burley.
I have to admit, I havn’t gone in area 1,2 or 3. So I can’t really comment. From the road, they look really open, and don’t offer much privacy. Also, there are no spots directly on the river, which IMO, is the only reason to go to riverside.
In area 4, there is a large, bathroom in the center, which has lots of showers, laundry, and bathrooms. There are also a couple vault toilets in the area.
Riverside is the furthest away from the beach, and its def a drive and park if you want to visit the beach. However, if you get a campsite on the river, swim in the river. It’s a real nice drive to the public beach, so not a huge issue. But, if your going to spend alot of time on the beach, you mise well camp at Burley, or Dunes, as you could just walk to the beach.
There is alot of hiking trails in the park. Look at the park paper that is handed out at the front deck, and read about all the hiking trails. Here’s a link to the trails on the Pinery website. We went on the Carolinian Trail, which had some decent elevation, and boardwalks ontop of hills etc. It also takes you to a small pond in the middle of the bush. We also took the Cedar Trail, which takes you to the other side of the river, and gives you a good view from “the other side”. The is also a bike trail that goes from the main gates, to the camp store, then to the public beach, then back around to the main gate. It’s good ride, but half of it is just on the paved road. I would suggest following the path from the main store to parking lot 8, then turning around and come back. That path is off the side of the road, on a bike trail through the forest.
Here’s a video of the bike trail. Will give you an idea of what the trail is like
There are alot of activities to do at this park it seems. I havn’t actually done any, but I see they have canoe and bike rentals at the main store. There is also a visitor center that you can visit, and learn about the park, and the ecosystem.
I like to go to Pinery outside of regular camping months. Example: April, May, September, October. I find that when you go during the peak months, they seem really strict. A lot of officers driving around, etc, etc. I guess it’s a good thing, keeping the hoodlums in check, but it just seems to be over-policed.
One other thing to note. When this park is full, you know it. It’s just a BUSY place. I’ve been to other parks that are FULL, and you’d never know it. Maybe it’s just the layout of the pinery, with alot of open sites? Also, when it’s busy, I’ve seen some pretty crazy line-ups at the gates.
Bicycle & Canoe rental at the main store
One of the docks at the camp store
Area 4 bathroom
Road at area 4
Area 4 road
Area 4 road
Area 4 road
Area 4 road
Area 4 road
Area 4 campsite
Handicapped boardwalk at beach
The river view from campsite
The river view from campsite
Middle campsites in area 4
Pond in Carolinian trail
I don’t have a list of good campsites, and bad campsites. However, the sites that back onto the river are really nice. Depending on which one you get, the views of the river are great. The campsites in the middle, I would stay away from, as they are really open. It’s pretty simple, if you can’t get a river view site, book somewhere else. However, if you must book at Riverside, and can’t get a riverview site, get a site at the very back, on the outside roads, as they are more private.
– Riverview sites are nice!
– The park is really beautiful in April and October
– Main bathroom is large, and clean
– When it’s busy, it’s busy. It feels cramped
– Alot of sites at Riverside seem really open
Surround Area Activities
I really like this park during the off-season. This is usually my GO-TO park for testing my trailer before the camping season. It’s fairly close to home for me, so it’s fairly quick to get up here and camp for a weekend. I really like the laid back atmosphere during the off-season, but generally don’t camp here during season, as it’s REALLY busy. We love staying on the Riverview sites, as during the April and May months, there are alot of Waterfowl laying their eggs, etc.
Every year, on a pre-determined weekend, campers flock to Pinery Provincial Park to celebrate Halloween. This year, the date was October 20th, 2012. It took place in Riverside, in section 4. The busiest parts were in the 733 to 724 row, and closer to the river. I can’t comment on the very back of section 4, as I didn’t walk back there, so maybe other’s wouldn’t have ither?
Campers arrived on the Friday, and started decorating their sites and carving their pumpkins. Some campers teamed together on one site, to create spectacular Halloween displays. It’s just a great time to walk around and chat with other campers, and see their decorations and Halloween ideas. The Pinery is really nice at this time. The leaves are in the midst of falling from the trees, and are spectacular colors.
On the Saturday, starting at dusk, kids (and adults) will walk around to each site to gather their candy. It was fun to decorate our site, and hand out candy to visitors. After the candy was all out, we walked around to check-out all the other sites. Some pictures below: