11 Must-Do Paddling Day Trips in Ontario Parks

Peaceful scenery and world-class adventure are just a day’s paddle away.

It goes without saying that paddling is a big attraction at Ontario provincial parks. Whether it’s canoeing, kayaking or standup paddleboarding, there are great opportunities for paddling at provincial parks all across Ontario. This article provides an overview of the best provincial parks for paddling day trips, with an emphasis on Northern Ontario and places where you can discover peace, quiet and world-class adventure on the water…all in a single day.

From the big-name destinations like Algonquin and Killarney, to lesser-known parks in central and northwestern Ontario, we’ve got you covered whether you’re looking for a relaxing family float, sea kayaking on the Great Lakes, or tackling a day trip with challenging portages.

Finlayson Point Provincial Park

Northern Ontario’s Temagami area is a renowned paddling destination. You’ll get a taste of the area at Finlayson Point Provincial Park, which offers access to the Northeast Arm of sprawling Lake Temagami. You can launch a canoe right from the park beach and experience the old-growth pine that makes the region famous. Lake Temagami’s big water makes it well-suited to kayaking, and nearby islands are equally attractive to explore on a standup paddleboard. Simply put, there’s something for everyone at Finlayson Point.

Mississagi Provincial Park

This underutilized provincial park north of Elliot Lake has many great options for paddling day trips. The easy, one-portage out-and-back route from Mississagi Provincial Park’s quiet campground on Semiwite Lake to undeveloped Helenbar Lake provides an excellent introduction to backcountry canoeing in stunning Canadian Shield surroundings. Meanwhile, nearby Flack Lake is an aquamarine gem that’s perfect for kayaking.

An excellent 10-kilometre day trip departs from the public access on Highway 639 and traverses the lake to the western shore, where a challenging trail ascends the bare rock summit of Mount Baldy.

  • Besides camping at Mississagi Provincial Park’s comfortable, 60-site campground on Semiwite Lake, check out Laurentian Lodge on Flack Lake for an upscale waterfront stay. The lodge features great meals in a classic dining hall, as well as on-site trails and a waterfall on the Boland River.
  • For canoe rentals in Elliot Lake check out Adventure North.
  • Mississagi Provincial Park and the Elliot Lake area offer several excellent multi-day canoe routes for intermediate canoe trippers. Check out the Chrismar Adventure Map of the region for inspiration.

Rainbow Falls Provincial Park

Located about two hours east of Thunder Bay, Rainbow Falls Provincial Park offers two drive-in campgrounds on Highway 17, each with unique opportunities for paddling day trips. Whitesand Lake is a good destination for a canoe day trip, with plenty of shoreline to explore—including cliffs, waterfalls and hiking trails. The park’s Rossport campground, meanwhile, is located right on Lake Superior, which makes it a mecca for sea kayaking.

Launch from the campground’s sand beaches to access the stunning Rossport Island archipelago. But watch the weather carefully, be honest with your skills and make sure you’re dressed for the chilly water temperatures and paddling a seaworthy craft; the shoreline here is exposed and can be unforgiving to the unprepared.

  • Each of Rainbow Falls’ campgrounds provide a unique experience: campers at the Rossport campground have a front row seat on the Lake Superior shoreline, with great sunsets and refreshing breezes; the Whitesand campground is nestled in the boreal forest, with immediate access to hiking trails and family cycling in the campground.
  • The nearby village of Rossport is known for its cozy bed and breakfast accommodations. Check out The Willows for a great view of the island-studded Rossport Harbour or Nestled in Nature for a stay on Nicol Island. The aptly named Serendipity Gardens provides renowned food and cabin rentals.
  • You can rent a sea kayak or canoe for the day from Such a Nice Day Adventures in Rossport. Guided sea kayak explorations of the archipelago—from two-hour sunset harbour tours to challenging full-day ventures to the outer islands—are also available.

Blue Lake Provincial Park

Blue Lake Provincial Park is renowned as a summer destination in northwestern Ontario’s Sunset Country—largely because of its great potential for paddling day trips. Located between Dryden and Kenora, north of the Trans-Canada Highway amidst a labyrinth of freshwater lakes, Blue Lake is a paddler’s paradise. Launch from the park beach to explore its namesake lake, which features a towering 25-metre rockfall and portage access to several adjacent lakes. The park offers canoe and kayak rentals.

  • The Blue Lake Provincial Park campground is perfect for families, with quiet sites and easy access to an impressive sand beach. Waterfront group campsites are also available. Book a cabin at Blue Lake Resort, a classic Canadian waterfront lodge within walking distance of the provincial park.
  • For experienced trippers, Blue Lake’s 97-kilometre backcountry canoe route makes a great 5- to 7-day trip in the boreal forest of northwestern Ontario.
Looking out from a lookout over fall foliage
Fall in Restoule is not-to-be-missed. Photo: Rachelle Bedard // @rachelle.the.explorer

Restoule Provincial Park

Restoule Provincial Park is often overshadowed by other destinations in Ontario’s Near North—which makes it the perfect place to visit if you’re looking for an off-the-radar camping vacation. This park, located in the headwaters of the historic French River about 45 minutes southwest of North Bay, is also a gem for paddlers.

Launch from the park campground on Stormy Lake and trace narrow channels north to Clear Lake, or south to Restoule Lake on easy, no-portage routes that are suitable for canoes and kayaks. Restoule Lake is also the jumping off point for a 4- to 5-day backcountry circuit that traces the link between sprawling Lake Nipissing and the French River.

  • Camping at Restoule Provincial Park is the best way to discover the area on paddling day trips. The park’s campground offers hundreds of sites in three areas, with options for electrical and tent camping.
  • Canoe rentals are available at the park office.
  • Buck’s Lodge and Grill offers nearby dining and accommodations.
Two canoes sitting at edge of water in the fall
Explore the secrets of Ragged Falls. Photo: Nate Smith // @natemuskoka

Oxtongue River-Ragged Falls Provincial Park

Located on the western edge of Ontario’s favourite park for backcountry camping, Oxtongue River-Ragged Falls Provincial Park offers a great canoe day trip that rivals anything in Algonquin. Rent a canoe and launch from the docks at Algonquin Outfitters and paddle upriver on the Oxtongue to stunning Ragged Falls, one of Ontario’s prettiest waterfalls. Or for a downriver trip (with a few sections of swift water and a portage around Ragged Falls), get a shuttle from Algonquin Outfitters and trace the river downstream back to Oxtongue Lake.

Either way, expect classic Canadian river scenery with gravel beaches, wetlands and densely wooded shores, with the potential to see wildlife like moose, beaver and a variety of songbirds and waterfowl.

  • Nearby Algonquin Provincial Park is a renowned camping destination, but you’ll have to book early to reserve a site at a drive-in campground or in the park's backcountry.
  • Check out the Wolf Den Nature Retreat for glamping options on Highway 60 with easy access to the Oxtongue River and Algonquin Park.
  • Besides canoe rentals and shuttles, Algonquin Outfitters offers guided day trips throughout the region.
  • You’ll find plenty of cottage country cuisine in the nearby community of Dwight, including fresh baking at Henrietta’s Pine Bakery.

Rushing River Provincial Park

Kenora’s Rushing River Provincial Park is one of Ontario’s best kept paddling secrets. The park offers abundant opportunities for paddling day trips by canoe, kayak or standup paddleboard on Dogtooth Lake. It’s easy to see why this intricate body of water, which captivates the imagination with its islands and diverse shoreline, is central to the Path of the Paddle, part of the Trans-Canada Trail. Plenty of other surrounding lakes can be reached by portage (or short drives to public launches), and expansive Lake of the Woods offers incredible sea kayaking.

  • Rushing River offers a popular campground with options for all types of camper, from RV sites to tent- and group camping, as well as trailer-equipped sites.
  • Kenora is a bustling mid-sized town with plenty of attractions, including the Lake of the Woods Brewing Company.
  • You can rent canoes from Rushing River Provincial Park for multi-day trips. Alternatively, check out Green Adventures in Kenora for canoe and kayak rentals, outfitting and guided trips.
Two kayakers paddle parallel to shore as seagulls take off.
Just you and the waves in Lake Superior Provincial Park. Photo: Sofie Sharom // @sofiesharom

Lake Superior Provincial Park

You could easily spend a week day-tripping by canoe, kayak and standup paddleboard in Lake Superior Provincial Park, located just south of Wawa. This large protected area offers both the intimacy of canoeing on inland lakes and the vast horizons of Lake Superior. Great fishing and cultural highlights like Indigenous pictographs only add to the park’s appeal.

Launch at Fenton Lake in the north end of the park for an excellent canoe day trip that offers fishing for trout, walleye and pike and a glimpse of Canada’s boreal forest. Adventurous paddlers can portage into nearby lakes for an added challenge and sense of discovery. Canoe rentals are available on-site. Sea kayakers can feel humbled floating beneath the towering cliffs of Old Woman Bay or make the pilgrimage to the Agawa Rock pictographs, just north of the park’s scenic Agawa Bay campground.

  • Lake Superior Provincial Park’s two campgrounds offer distinctive experiences. Lake Superior looms large at Agawa Bay, featuring a massive beach and open water. The Rabbit Blanket campground is more intimate, set on a picture-perfect inland lake surrounded by tall hills.
  • Lake Superior Provincial Park offers canoe rentals, with pick-ups available at several popular lakes.
  • Check out Wawa’s Naturally Superior Adventures for canoe and sea kayak rentals, outfitting, shuttles and guided trips. The company also operates Rock Island Lodge, which offers stunning Lake Superior accommodations just north of Lake Superior Provincial Park.

Killarney Provincial Park

Ontario’s Crown Jewel park is best known for its hard-core backpacking and canoe tripping, but Killarney Provincial Park provides ample opportunity for paddling day trips, too. The park’s stunning George Lake campground is the obvious point of departure. Canoeists will encounter Killarney’s iconic quartzite hills and crystalline water immediately upon departing the George Lake shore.

Trace the shoreline or push further, making the easy portage into Freeland Lake, to watch for moose and other wildlife while admiring the scenic surroundings. There’s plenty of opportunity for kayak day trips, too, with the park’s Chikanishing River access point providing passage to Georgian Bay.

Fushimi Provincial Park

This remote and little-known provincial park is accessed via Highway 11, near the community of Hearst. Fushimi Lake Provincial Park offers paddle-in campsites (including great island campsites) that provide a wonderful introduction to backcountry camping in the boreal forest. The park’s drive-in campground caters to RVs and car campers, too. Fushimi’s strenuous seven-kilometre hike to the Bannerman Fire Lookout Tower provides a unique glimpse into a historic Northern Ontario lifestyle.

White canoe on calm waters
Travel the historic waters of the Mattawa River. Photo: Sofie Sharom // @sofiesharom

Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park

The historic Mattawa River is the main attraction at Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park, located east of North Bay. This historic waterway offers great day-tripping, including downriver trips and family paddling from the campground beach. Canoeing here is a fantastic way to experience the same scenery that dominated the lives of the voyageurs of the Canadian fur trade and Indigenous paddlers long before.

Discover outstanding paddling day trips in Ontario provincial parks

Whether you are looking for a relaxing family outing or seeking a challenging all-day adventure, the paddling possibilities at Ontario provincial parks offer something for everyone. Start planning your visit now, and see just how much there is to discover in a single day!

About Conor Mihell

Conor Mihell is an award-winning environmental and adventure travel writer based in Sault Ste. Marie. Read his work in the Globe and Mail, Explore, Cottage Life, Canoe & Kayak, ON Nature, and other magazines and newspapers. He's been a sea kayak guide on Lake Superior for close to 20 years, and has paddled from Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay. 

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