If you are a Torontonian who hasn’t been on an Ontario Parks camping trip yet, consider a day trip to Darlington Provincial Park as a way to get introduced to camping. This park has many elements of an Ontario Park that you would camp at. I think the best features of this park are the short drive from Toronto and the park layout, which allows you to utilize the entire park without having to drive your vehicle. For example, you can walk from the campground to the beach, all hiking trails, store, amphitheatre, etc.
Environment: Darlington Provincial Park is located just east of Oshawa and adjacent to Highway 401 in Ontario. The park was previously used as farmland and was reforested in the 1960s, after which the park opened. There is a very small cemetery and log cabin that remain in the park from the old farming days.
Beach: The beach is a short walk from the campsites. I found the beach to be quite nice, although it is a little rocky. Stroll beyond the eastern end of the beach and you will see some nice bluffs that run along the shoreline. On top of the bluffs are the Lakeside and Cliffside campgrounds.
Camping: There are 315 campsites (135 with hydro) that are split among three campgrounds (Cliffside, Lakeside and Hilltop). My recommendation is to select a campsite in the Cliffside or Lakeside campgrounds. You will be closer to the beach, but more importantly, you will be farther away from the noise of Highway 401 and the nearby train. You can hear traffic on Highway 401, as well as the train which both run beside the park. This can be quite annoying at times. Take earplugs if you are a light sleeper like me! I found that the only place where I couldn’t hear the traffic was right on the beach when the waves were crashing against the shoreline. Most of the campground area is quite open with very little privacy and smaller campsites.
Fishing: Lake Trout, Panfish and Salmon can be found in this part of Lake Ontario.
Hiking: There are 4 hiking trails that range in length from 1.0-2.6 kilometres. The Burk Trail will take you by the cemetery and also provides a scenic lookout over Lake Ontario. I recommend the hike along the waterfront from the west to the east boundary of the park for nice views of Lake Ontario and the bluffs.
Shopping: The park store has some groceries and shopping supplies and more shopping options are available a few kilometres outside of the park.
The Amphitheatre: The Amphitheatre is situated near the campgrounds, which makes it easy to walk back to your campsite when it is dark.
In Conclusion: The July-August occupancy rate for 2009 was only 44%, which indicates that most people who camp here are probably just staying for a few nights and campsites become available daily. The close proximity to Toronto makes Darlington a great choice for day-trippers who live in Toronto. Conversely, this park is an excellent choice for tourists who want to camp near Toronto and take day trips into Toronto. Downtown Toronto is about a one-hour drive from Darlington. For an extended stay, the traffic noise at Darlington can get you irritated after a few days.
My Park Rating: 3 out of 5