Presqu’ile is my favourite provincial park along the Lake Ontario shoreline. Situated between Darlington and Sandbanks Provincial Parks, Presqu’ile has more to offer camping enthusiasts and day-trippers, then the other parks.
Environment: Presqu’ile is a French name, meaning “peninsula” or “almost an Island” and when you drive through Presqu’ile, you will quickly understand the name. The park is situated on a large peninsula of flat, forested and marshy wetlands with dunes and beaches that stretch out into Lake Ontario. Presqu’ile is just south of the town of Brighton and is one of the older parks in Ontario. It was converted into parkland in 1922 and amalgamated with the Ontario Parks system in 1954.
Beach: There are two kilometres of sandy beaches just inside the park entrance. The beach is extremely flat and wide and the water is shallow and warm.
Biking: There is an excellent network of bike trails which connects to the campgrounds, beach and throughout the park beside the main park road. You can explore the entire Presqu’ile Peninsula on bike, instead of by vehicle. The bicycle path runs along Lighthouse Lane and loops back along Paxton Drive. There are excellent places to stop along the way for a picnic and sightseeing between Chatterton and Presqu’ile Points. While in the campground, the bike trail runs along the shoreline and can connect with all eight campgrounds. In total there is probably more than 15 kilometres of bike trail within the park.
Camping: There are 394 campsites (160 with hydro) that are split among eight campgrounds (Trail’s End, Elmvale, Hidden Valley, Craigs, Maples, Lakeside, Pines and High Bluff). Most of the campsites are adjacent to the beach. The campgrounds are designed well with easy access to both the beach and bike trail. Camp at High Bluff if you want to be near the park store and beach. There are many premium campsites, which are located close to the Lake Ontario shoreline. High Bluff has most of the premium campsites and there are a few in the other campgrounds as well.
Canoeing: The open waters of Lake Ontario are better suited to kayaking then canoeing and there is lots of beautiful shoreline to explore within the park and surrounding area.
Hiking: There are 6 hiking trails that range in length from 300 metres to 3.8 kilometres. The Lighthouse footpath is the shortest trail and provides a spectacular view of the Lighthouse and surrounding shoreline. The Marsh Boardwalk 1.2 kilometre loop is the trail that you see featured in many photos on Presqu’ile. It has 800 metres of boardwalk through marshes and two observation towers. There is also a walking path from the campgrounds to the store and two kilometres of beach to hike along as well as the Lighthouse Lane shoreline.
Shopping: There is a good selection of camping supplies, beach accessories, groceries and more at the park store. Every Saturday and Wednesday there is a free shuttle bus that runs between Presqu’ile and downtown Brighton. You can pick up the bus at the Park Office or Lighthouse stop. The bus runs hourly in both directions between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm. Brighton features a Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings and there are concerts in the park at Brighton on Wednesday evenings in the summer.
The Amphitheatre: The Amphitheatre is located almost in the centre of the campground area, between the Lakeside and Pines campgrounds.
The Visitor Centre: The Lighthouse Interpretive Centre displays the cultural history of the Presqu’ile area. The Nature Centre displays animals that can be found in the park, including: fish, frogs, snakes and turtles.
Wildlife: There are all kinds of birds in the park including: Canada Geese, Dowitchers, Dunlins, Gulls, Plovers, Sanderlings, Sandpipers and Whimbrels. About 327 different birds have been spotted in the park and about 125 species make Presqu’ile their home.
Presqu’ile Lighthouse: The Presqu’ile Lighthouse at Presqu’ile Point is a landmark in the park. The 69-foot octagonal shaped lighthouse was built in 1840. The designer of the lighthouse was Nichol Hugh Baird who also worked on the Trent-Severn Waterway and Rideau Canal. This is the second oldest operating lighthouse on the north shore of Lake Ontario.
In Conclusion: The July-August occupancy rate for 2009 was 79%, making Presqu’ile one of the busiest parks. Many of you will hate me for this, but I prefer Presqu’ile to Sandbanks and consider Presqu’ile to be the top park on Lake Ontario. Although Sandbanks has a prettier beach, Presqu’ile offers more activities away from the beach. Presqu’ile is on my list of places to camp at this year.
My Park Rating: 4.5 out of 5