Charleston Lake Provincial Park is one of my favourite provincial parks in South-eastern Ontario. Charleston Lake offers a lot to activities and the surrounding area includes the Thousand Islands, which is situated just south along the St. Lawrence River.
Environment: Charleston Lake Provincial Park is approximately a one-hour drive east of Kingston, near the Trans Canada Highway. It is situated at the south end of the Canadian Shield and features a picturesque lake with good canoeing and hiking. During the late 1800s Charleston Lake was a popular resort area for wealthy folks from the surrounding region and New York State. At one time there were hotels situated along the lake. The park was established in 1972.
Beach: There are two nice beaches at the park that are within a short walk of the Bayside and Shady Ridge campgrounds. We camped at Shady Ridge campsite #364, which wasn’t a great campsite, but it was close to the beach. Our children were still quite young when we camped at Charleston Lake and it was convenient to have the beach nearby.
Camping: There are 238 campsites (86 campsites with hydro) that are split among three campgrounds (Meadowlands, Bayside and Shady Ridge). If you want to be near the playground, then camp at Bayside. For backcountry camping, there are 10 remote campsites that are accessible by canoe or hiking trail.
Canoeing and Boating: Charleston Lake has a rocky and jagged shoreline and a few islands that are worth exploring by canoe or kayak. We rented a canoe at the park and found the lake to be quite enjoyable. Powerboats are also permitted on the lake and there are cottages just outside of the park boundary. There are boat launch and docking facilities in the park. The park occupies the south end of Charleston Lake while privately owned cottages are on the north side.
Hiking: If you are canoeing, you can access the Blue Mountain Trail, which is one of the highest points in South-eastern Ontario and offers a 360-degree panoramic view. The trail is only accessible by water at Huckleberry Hollow, or via the Blue Mountain Road by car from outside of the park. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do this trail when we stayed at Charleston Lake because constant rain cut our trip short. There are six other trails in the park that offer lookouts, boardwalks over wetlands, forests, views of Charleston Lake and the Canadian Shield. The trails range in length from 1.5-10 kilometres. We did several of these trails. The Sandstone Island Trail (3.3 kilometres) offers a great view of Charleston Lake and the Quiddity Trail (2.6 kilometres) takes you through some wetlands.
Shopping: There are very limited supplies available at the park, however supplies can be purchased just outside the park.
The Amphitheatre and Visitor Centre: Charleston Lake has both.
Thousand Islands: Charleston Lake is about 30-kilometres from Gananoque, Ontario. Gananoque is a good place to start your tour of the Thousand Islands. We left our vehicle at Gananoque and boarded a Thousand Islands tour boat. I highly recommend the Thousand Islands tour if you have never done it.
In Conclusion: The July-August occupancy rate for 2009 was 80%, making this one of the most difficult Ontario Parks campgrounds to get a reservation at. Book early to avoid disappointment. If you combine the beach, hiking and canoeing with a trip to the Thousand Islands, you can easily spend four to seven nights at Charleston Lake Provincial Park.
My Park Rating: 4.5 out of 5