• P. 705-857-2038 

Kids Camping

We welcome kids of all ages

Parents across Canada are looking for ways to tear their children away from the screens and encourage them to engage in real life and there's no better way to do it than taking your kids camping on the French River via Hartley Bay Marina.

kids campingThe Palmers of Hartley Bay Marina have had the privilege of providing access and services to guests of all ages visiting the French River Delta and Georgian Bay in the lovely and scenic Northern Ontario, since 1952.

Taking your kids camping is the perfect getaway when the budget is a bit tight and it offers all the old-fashioned magic that is lost in today's busy lifestyle:

  • unstructured time in the great outdoors
  • fresh air and no screens
  • an opportunity to be a kid and learn great skills 

First Time Taking the Kids Camping?

The Hartley Bay Marina guide to taking kids camping will help you make your getaway a hit, especially if you have small children.

  • Plan in advance. Campsites fill up quickly, so try getting there early (we open May 1st).
  • Choose the right camping spot. If it's your first time, choose a spot that is out of the wind, away from flooding etc.
  • Do a test run.  A few weeks prior to taking your kids camping, camp out in the backyard. Imagine the house is completely out of bound, and take note of anything you will need when you take your kids camping.
  • Rent a tent during your first trip. While many families love camping, it's a good idea to rent gear for your first trip. You don't want to invest a lot of money until you're sure you will take your kids camping again.
  • Travel light. The nice thing about camping is that you can re-wear garments, so don't overpack.  Be sure that you bring an extra layer for nighttime, as well as rain gear.
  • Arrive early. Be sure to get to your campsite before sunset, so that you're able to set up camp while it is still light. Involve the children in chores (like collecting wood).
  • Take it easy on the first night. If you will only arrive at the campsite late in the day, bring along a simple meal, or if you plan to cook over fire, start on that right away.
  • Stick to your routine. With younger children, it is crucial to follow your usual bedtime and nap schedule and rituals.

Kids Camping Packing Tips 

When it comes to packing for kids camping trips, the standard rules apply - don't over pack, bring appropriate clothing and remember to hydrate. However, here are a few fun items to make your trip more successful and memorable:

  • Camelbak Hydration System will help ensure that your kids drink enough water.
  • Glow sticks will provide hours of fun when the sun goes down.
  • Headlamps are great for walking around after dark, and reading at bedtime.

Make Cooking Easy When Taking Kids Camping

Kids are fascinated by cooking over the fire. Add fun to the experience by following these simple tips:

Save time by doing your food prep at home:

  • Chop your veggies and seal it in ziplock bags.
  • Mix up pancake batter and meat marinades in advance.

Involve the kids:

  • Bring long-handled forks and utensils and heavy-duty leather gloves, which will allow the kids to stand back and still be a part of the food preparations.
  • Let them help you prepare hobo packs by wrapping veggies in foil along with meat or fish and place them among the coals. They will eat their veggies and be happy that they don't have to dishes.

Dessert goes without saying - s'mores!

Safety Tips for Kids Camping Trips

Statistically speaking, kids don't sustain any more injuries on camping trips than they do at home, but if this is your first time taking the kids camping, it's only natural to be concerned. By following these tips, you will minimize risks and be prepared for any eventualities.

  1. Charge your smartphones and keep a spare battery along with your phones in the glove compartment.
  2. Bring along a first aid kit with all the medications your family may need.
  3. When you arrive at the campsite, walk around the site together as a family and establish strict safety rules and boundaries. As long as your children know the areas that are out of bounds (point out easily identifiable landmarks), they should not get into serious trouble.
  4. Teach children to watch their step and point out dangers such as touching poison ivy or feeding wildlife.
  5. During tick season, be sure to wear long pants tucked into socks.
  6. Give each child a whistle in case they are separated from the family. Teach them to sit down under the nearest tree, and blow the whistle three times. Since it's easier to blow a whistle for longer and due to the fact that the distinctive sound carries further than a shout, this is a great safety tool. When a parent hears the three whistles, he or she should reply with one long whistle to let the child know help is on its way.
  7. Review fire safety, which includes keeping a safe distance, and not putting anything in the fire unsupervised. Experts advise that involving children in the process of building a fire, will help them understand that they need to respect it.

Kids Camping Trips: How to Keep Them Occupied

Separating children from technology for extended periods will inevitably lead to cries of boredom on the first day of your camping trip. For that reason, it may be an idea to ban technology only during the daytime, and at night, use technology to your advantage: 

  • Allow them to read or listen to audio books.
  • Install Backyard Scat & Tracks to track animals
  • Use Sky View: Explore the Universe to find stars

During the day, there's plenty to do and see at Hartley Bay Marina. Do a family scavenger hunt, go fishing, read a book, play cards or board games, or enjoy some of the many activities on offer at Hartley Bay Marina.

Named as Canada’s first heritage waterway in 1986, the French River has played host to many a travellers. As we Celebrate 400 years since discovery, by French Explorer, Samuel de Champlain, its shorelines and waterways continue to tell tales of the Voyageurs, who travelled along in their birch bark canoes, as the French River was a vital link to the West during the Fur trade era, and of Copenanning, now known as one of Ontario’s Ghost towns, a village that was created when the Lumber industry inhabited these waters. Overtime the scenic vistas of the French River and the Georgian Bay have remained relatively unspoiled and mostly unchanged and, for the last century, fishing and tourism are what now draw visitors to the area. But the many ruins, relics and artifacts that can still be found along the shorelines, beneath the surface of the waterways and along its famed portage routes, remind us of the incredible history these banks have seen.

Take your kids camping while they are young, and they will always be lovers of nature and the outdoors. Family camping trips offer some of the best one-on-one moments of connection and experiences to remember for life. Hartley Bay Marina welcomes old and young.