It’s an idyllic moment, familiar to any parent who camps with kids. The site is set up, the sun is high, the girls are splashing in the shallows, and my wife and I are sitting in the shade with cans of cold beer. We arrived at Cyprus Lake Campground in Bruce Peninsula National Park less than half an hour ago, and the woodsy bliss has settled in swiftly. On most camping trips, at this point, I’d be wrestling with tent poles and enduring a sibling squabble. The difference? We treated ourselves to a yurt.
These semi-permanent, tent-like structures, essentially canvas-sided cabins, give you the outdoor immersion of camping, with civilized touches such as soft beds, a large deck, a propane barbecue and zero set-up.
Glamping is on the rise in our national parks as a new generation of urban Canadians reconnects with nature, and those of us who are at home in the backcountry don’t mind a little comfort on occasion. The Bruce sites are within a stone’s throw of warm, sandy-shored Cyprus Lake, allowing us to keep an eye on the girls as we unpack food and gear, hauled down a footpath from the parking lot on the wagon provided with each yurt. The salmon for tonight’s dinner is marinating, a clothesline has been strung for bathing suits and towels and I face a dilemma: crack open a book, or grab a Frisbee and hit the beach?
Despite growing up in Toronto, an approximate four-hour drive southeast of the park, I only discovered this place after we moved back to Ontario after a decade out west. Missing the mountains, we drove up the rocky spine of the Niagara Escarpment—the cold, clear Caribbean-blue of Georgian Bay to the east, the swimming coves and crimson sunsets of Lake Huron to the west, and the perfectly appointed resort town of Tobermory (ice cream, fish and chips, pretty harbour) minutes north.
Enveloped by pine forest, accessible on foot via the 890-kilometre Bruce Trail, our yurt is a roughly two-km hike from the Grotto, a natural cave and cliff formation on Georgian Bay. This proximity matters. The parking lot for day visitors typically fills to capacity in summer, limiting the number of people who can lounge away a hot afternoon picnicking on the rocks and leaping into the frigid water.
There are accommodations in and around Tobermory, but inside the park, it’s tenting and the 10 yurts on Cyprus Lake only. So book early. Idyllic moments await.
Getting there: WestJet flies to Toronto 120 times a day from 21 Canadian, 10 U.S. and 23 international cities, to Hamilton 43 times a week from Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Halifax, to London, Ont. four times a day from Calgary, Winnipeg and Toronto and to Kitchener once a day from Calgary.
Three more national parks that offer glamping:
Feel the wind off the Atlantic in this cozy sea-view perch in the trees. Up a few stairs, with a mattress for four, you may never want to leave the nest.
The charms of a summer day on Waskesiu Lake are a Saskatchewan secret. Bunk at this tent-cabin hybrid just outside the townsite and you’ll relax like a local.
Step into Canada’s fur trading past with a night in the 1896 home of the outpost’s chief factor and traditional dinner and breakfast, served by costumed interpreters.
A Solo Trip to Saskatchewan’s Grasslands National Park
Vast and relatively undisturbed, Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan is the perfect place to find solitude and solace. Pitch a tent at Rock Creek Campground and appreciate the quiet. Plus, three more national parks in Ontario, New Brunswick and Alberta to explore solo.