It’s a big year for Canada’s national parks. In celebration of our nation’s sesquicentennial birthday, that’s 150th for us numerical folks, entrance to all of Parks Canada’s national parks and historic sites are free! Which means there’s no better time to spend your summer months outdoors than this year.
Every summer I make a point to spend time in the great outdoors, even if it’s just for a weekend. I love hiking, canoeing, or swimming during the day, sitting around a campfire at night, and sleeping outdoors. It’s good for the soul and a great way to disconnect from technology. I always come home feeling rejuvenated. But for some, the idea of camping means lots of gear, struggling to erect a tent, fighting off mosquitos, and roughing it. I get it, that doesn’t sound very appealing.
But imagine this – you pull your car up to your camp site and everything is already set up for you. No struggling with tent poles or pumping up air mattresses, and definitely no fear of getting wet from overnight rain. And even better, you don’t have to pack any of it up at the end of your stay. All you’re responsible for is your bedding, toiletries, and food. Sounds like the ideal camping situation, no?
Throughout Parks Canada’s national parks are various accommodation options to make your camping experience more comfortable and less work. Forget the tent and the RV! Below are 5 unique Parks Canada National Park accommodations you can stay in this summer.
Introduced over 5 years ago, Parks Canada’s oTENTiks have been met with huge success. A cross between a cabin and a tent, an oTENTik provides a bit of the comforts of home in an outdoor setting. Inside you’ll find 3 beds that can sleep up to 6 adults, a dining table and chairs, and even a propane or charcoal BBQ outside to cook your food. Some locations even offer USB plugs powered by solar panels so you can charge your devices (if you really need to stay connected). Fire pits (including wood) and Adirondack-style chairs are also provided at many locations. The oTENTiks are also equipped with either a propane heater or wood-burning stove so you can also enjoy the parks during the winter months. For those who have never camped before or think that they’re ‘not the camping type’, staying in an oTENTik is the perfect introduction to camping without losing all the comforts of home. Price: $90-120/night depending on location.
Similar in comforts to the oTENTiks are the yurts. Traditional to Central Asian nomads, a yurt is a circular structure framed with wood and protected by insulated material coverings. Inside you’ll find a bunk bed and sofa bed that can sleep up to 5 people, a dining table and chairs, a propane or wood burning stove for heating during the cooler months, and a domed window in the roof to stargaze at night. Many locations also offer fire pits (including wood), Adirondack-style chairs, and a propane BBQ to cook your food. Just like the oTENTiks, the yurts offer some of the comforts of home in a beautiful nature setting. Price: $100-$120/night depending on location.
More spacious than the oTENTiks and yurts are the rustic cabins. These picture-perfect wooden cabins come equipped with 2 bunk beds (can sleep 4-5 people), a dining table and chairs, a wood-burning stove to stay warm during the cooler months, and a charcoal or propane BBQ to cook your food. Adirondack-style chairs are provided and private fire pits (including wood) can be enjoyed at night. Last summer, we had the chance to stay in one of the brand new rustic cabins at Gros Morne National Park. They were comfortable and secluded, and the surrounding area was teaming with wildlife. Pro tip: if you’re booking one of the rustic cabins at Gros Morne National Park, try to get cabin #5 or #6. They both come with really incredible fire pits and overlook Berry Hill Pond, as pictured above. Price: $140-$160/night.
Cocoon Tree Bed
A new addition to the line-up of accommodations is the Cocoon Tree Bed. Suspended in the air with cable wires, you’ll feel like you’re floating amongst the trees in this spherical cocoon far removed from other campers. Visitors have to hike a short distance to reach its location and amenities are basic – only a 2.5m diameter mattress inside that can sleep 4. You’ll have to carry all your bedding, food, and cookware to the site, and washrooms and showers are a short distance away too. Last summer I got a sneak peak of the Cocoon Tree Bed at Cape Breton Highlands National Park (where it currently only exists) during Parks Canada’s pilot project to gauge interest. Without doing any promotion, it was booked up for the entire summer within days of word getting out. Expect bookings to fill up quickly again this summer. Price: $70/night.
Designed to look like a water droplet, the Goutte d’Ô is another unique accommodation style by Parks Canada that is suspended in the air, nestled amongst the trees. The interior space is small like the Cocoon Tree Bed but comes with a sofa bed that sleeps two and a suspended hammock-like upper section for kids to sleep or to store your bags. Windows around the backside of the Goutte d’Ô allow for ample light and a cross breeze to pass through. The Goutte d’Ô is also in Parks Canada’s pilot program and only available at Fundy National Park. Bookings are likely to fill up quickly. Price: $70/night.
Other unique accommodations currently being piloted are the Double-Tent and Micro-Cube. I expect all the piloted accommodations to become very popular in the coming years.
Bonus Accommodation – The Fortress of Louisbourg
The Fortress of Louisbourg in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia falls under the National Historic Sites that Parks Canada runs and manages. So while it’s not a national park like this post is focusing on, it does offer one of the most unique overnight experiences! The Fortress of Louisbourg is a reconstruction of the original fortress that was the epicenter of New France/Acadian mid-18th century trade and military. During the day, visitors can wander the grounds and experience what the Fortress would have been like during the mid-18th century, complete with actors dressed in period costumes and undertaking the jobs that those in the Fortress would have been doing.
But the fun doesn’t end once the gates close for the night. Visitors can stay overnight in the Fortress choosing to sleep in either the Rodrigue House (up to 6 people) or in an 18th-century style tent (up to 4 people) within the courtyard of the King’s Bastion Barracks. If you opt for the tent, you’ll be equipped with all the camping supplies you need that would have been available during that time period (you can request more modern equipment, but what’s the fun in that?). All you need to bring is your own sleeping bag, pillow, and food. And if you’re lucky like we were, you might just be the only ones in the Fortress overnight! Price: Rodrigue House $120/night, 18th-Century Style Tent $70/night.
What do you think of these unique accommodations? Which one would you be most interested in trying? Let us know in the comments below!
Have you ordered your free Parks Canada Discover Pass yet? This pass gives you free access to all Park’s Canada National Parks and National Historic Sites for all of 2017. Order yours today!