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A stargazing experience like no other

Take in the night sky wth astronomy nights, moonlight hikes, and meteor shower parties all summer long.

Astronomers and stargazers from across the planet are visiting Gordon’s Park Dark Sky Preserve this year, to view some of the darkest skies in Ontario and participate in world-class astronomy programs. With acclaimed stargazing weekends, meteor shower parties, Northern Lights, and astronomy education programs, Gordon’s Park has anchored a growing movement to promote stargazing and astronomy adventures in Northeastern Ontario.

This year, Gordon’s Park is launching a number of new astronomy experiences, as well as bringing back some much-loved Dark Sky celebration weekends. This year’s Dark Sky activities will be chock-full of out-of-this-world scenery, stunning photography opportunities, social celebrations and awe-inspiring outdoor experiences.

Located in Tehkummah on Manitoulin Island, Gordon’s Park was Canada's first Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) designated commercial Dark Sky Preserve. Visitors to the eco-park, located 13 minutes’ drive from the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry Dock in South Baymouth and 35 minutes from Little Current, can marvel at shimmering stars in constellations in vivid glow. On the best nights, visitors get to see exceptional dark skies showing 7.5+ magnitude stars.

A Journey Into the Cosmos

Owner-operators Rita and Terry Gordon have been lovingly building up their eco park since they first moved to Manitoulin Island in 1991. Gordon’s Park is now considered an oasis for outdoor and astronomy lovers of all ages, complete with a range of weekly and monthly educational programs and outdoor activities.

Rita and Terry first sought RASC Dark Sky Preserve status years ago, after some astronomers stayed at the park and told them how amazing the dark sky was. Rita explains, “They told us all about the incredible deep sky objects that could be seen with the naked eye. These folks were from Southern Ontario, where the Milky Way is sometimes no longer visible.” 

As part of the Dark Sky Preserve application process, the Gordons completed sky quality meter readings at various times of the year, obtained support letters from surrounding municipalities (Tehkummah, Mindemoya, and Manitowaning) and implemented no white light policies and dark sky protocol.

Obtaining RASC Dark Sky Preserve status proved well worth the effort. In fact, due to popular demand, this year’s lineup of astronomy activities has never been bigger. “People are drawn to view the northern lights, planets and stars,” says Rita. “There is something magical, inspiring, and thought-provoking when people look up at the clear night sky. For many, it is a memory of when they were kids heading out on vacation and seeing all the stars for their first time. Viewing the night sky gives us the chance to truly admire our beautiful universe and let our minds soar with imagination.”

Read on for details of the programs and activities available.

Photo provided by Gordon's Park.

Dark Sky Camping

Gordon’s Park campground is nestled in a hardwood forest, and visitors may choose to stay in large forest camping sites or the stargazing campground located in the Dark Sky Preserve. The Preserve has a communal area in an open field that is great for stargazing and has 360-degree sky viewing.

Visitors to Gordon’s Park Dark Sky Preserve must adhere to Dark Sky rules, which means that in designated areas, there are no campfires, no vehicles driving in and out after dark, and no white light whatsoever. Flashlights are covered with red filtering materials so that visitors can make their way around the preserve without disturbing visibility.

Women's Outdoor Weekend
(June 22 - 24)

Gordon’s Park’s much-loved Women’s Outdoor Weekend is coming back again this year. This weekend is filled with events that give busy women the opportunity to relax and get revitalized among the park’s pristine natural surroundings. Whether it’s sitting by the solar-heated swimming pool, walking on beautiful hiking trails, doing a nature craft, simply stargazing, or enjoying the company of newfound friends, visitors enjoy lots of time for self-care, peace, and relaxation.

Astronomy Stargazing Programs

Every Thursday and Saturday nights in the summer months, Gordon’s Park offers popular Astronomy Nights, as well as themed events such as Moonlight Hikes and Wolf Howls. This year, Gordon’s Park is offering a new weekend dedicated to learning about astronomy. This includes teachings for the general public and amateur astronomers, including how to read a planisphere (star map), how to use a green laser pointer to tour the Milky Way, all about star hopping, and what can be viewed with the naked eye and wide-angle binoculars. Visitors will also learn how to operate a telescope.

Photo provided by Gordon's Park.

Aurora Borealis Weekends
(September 7 - 10, October 5 - 8)

More addition to this year’s Dark Sky Preserve activity lineup includes new Aurora Borealis Weekends. Held during the spring equinox and longer nights in the fall, these camping weekends start with a wine and cheese campfire and guided stargazing session on the first night, followed by a potluck dinner and Aurora watching on the second. On the third night, visitors enjoy special night photography workshops. During the day, activities like hiking, mini-putt, badminton, and bocce ball will be on the go.

Perseids Meteor Shower Party
(August 10 - 13)

See over 60 soaring meteors per hour between August 10 and 13 as the Perseids Meteor Shower hails through the night skies. With welcome wine and cheese campfire and reception, guided public astronomy, and laser-guided sky tour sessions, this weekend offers an out-of-this-world opportunity to view a cosmic pageant of epic proportions.

Photo provided by Gordon's Park.

Tipi Tents, Swimming Pool, Nature Centre, Hiking, & More

Though the mysteries of the cosmos are a draw on their own, Gordon’s Park offers many land-based adventures for the whole family. The park features

  • a solar-heated swimming pool
  • archery
  • 18-hole miniature golf
  • nature interpretive centre
  • educational hiking trails
  • birding checklist
  • scavenger hunts
  • children's playground
  • horseshoe pits 
  • overnight tipi tents
  • Wi-Fi
  • summer kitchen with BBQ and party tent with picnic tables
  • birding tours
  • self-guided hiking
  • cycling routes

To view an updated schedule of Gordon’s Park astronomy and nature activities, please visit the Gordon’s Park website.

About Emily Baillie

Emily is a travel writer hailing from rural Ontario. After travelling to over 25 countries worldwide she is on a mission to inspire people to get off the beaten path and explore destinations both near and far. She works with travel brands and new media publications to inspire meaningful travel. 

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