Looking for a little family getaway outdoors but just for the day? Pack some outdoor gear, a picnic lunch, and head out to one of Ontario’s Parks!
What to bring on a day trip to an Ontario Park? It all depends on which Ontario Park you choose! Since there are over 300 provincial parks in Ontario, with more than 100 operating parks with visitor facilities, there is undoubtedly a park close by for you to enjoy with the family.
We’re lucky to have Sibbald Point Provincial Park about a half hour away from home. Located on Lake Simcoe, this park has camping, picnicking, fishing, boating, and swimming from its clean and sandy beach. Living close to nature and spending time outdoors has so many benefits including reducing stress and improving your mental health. So, we’ll be sure to take several day trips to Sibbald Point during the summer – it’s our go-to spot for sun and sand.
What do we bring for the day? Typically, we pack a cooler, portable BBQ, mini-tent and beach chairs and head up to the lake for a day of beach fun. The most important part in our family? The food! My hungry teen boys like to ensure we’ve packed enough food and snacks for our visits to the park.
Packing sandwiches is fast and convenient, but when you want something a little extra, we like to make something hot off the grill, like our own homemade burgers with some yummy sides.
Bringing a picnic lunch to an Ontario Park takes a little bit of preparation but it’s oh so worth it when you’re hungry from swimming in the lake. I’ll break it down for you with some tips and ideas on what to bring on a day trip to Ontario Parks.
What to bring on a day trip to Ontario Parks
Prep ahead of time
The key to having a delicious picnic is all about preparation! Plan out your lunch menu and snacks ahead of your trip. Instead of bringing everything with you to prepare there, have everything ready beforehand, and leaving the finishing touches at the Ontario Park of your choice.
For this visit, I’m making homemade burgers with a pasta salad and coleslaw – you’ll find my recipes below. I’ll have mostly everything prepared in advance so that once it’s time to start cooking, the prep is minimal.
I prepared the burgers at home and placed the patties in between wax-paper, then stored in a plastic container. I find using reusable containers and cutlery the easiest and greenest way to store food for the day. Also, I prepared the pasta salad and coleslaw but didn’t add the dressings until it was time to eat, to avoid soggy sides.
Don’t forget to pack fresh fruit as well! I’ll chop up half a watermelon and store in a container to avoid making a mess on site. Nuts and/or trail mix, granola bars, and cheese and crackers are good snack options too.
The Ontario Parks website has some great tips on what you need to help plan your day-visit or camping trip.
We have a large cooler with a drain plug and wheels, which is convenient to carry. I usually pack some ice at the bottom of the cooler, and then add the meat and mayo-based dishes closest to the ice, then adding bottled drinks and fruits closer to the top.
Adding frozen drinks such as water to the cooler serves two purposes: extra ice for the cooler and ice-cold drinks during a heat wave!
Make sure to keep a few garbage bags with you; one to collect recyclables, and one for garbage. Since we’re only going for the day, we bring our garbage (which is minimal) back with us. Any paper towel or napkins can go right back into the food containers to bring home.
Other food ideas?
Other than sandwiches and burgers, what else can you bring to your picnic? Think of your regular lunch fare and kick it up a notch!
- Add some oomph to your regular hot dogs by cooking a chili in advance and use as a topping; heat up some chili before you head out to the Park and keep in a thermos to stay warm.
- Skewers are a quick and delicious option. Chicken or pork souvlaki with Tzatziki and pita is a winner anytime, anywhere.
- Sausage on a bun with corn
- Ontario Parks website has some other great camping meal ideas.
Portable grill or camping stove?
Most people who camp use a camp stove or the campfire. But if you’re heading out for a day visit, a portable propane grill is your best bet. While charcoal BBQ tastes good, it does tend to cause a lot of smoke and smell, especially if you’re grilling in a picnic area close to a lot of other visitors.
If you’re a regular camper, you may prefer a camp stove or simply your campfire. It might be more convenient because you can bring both a frying pan and a pot for cooking different types of foods. You can cook just about anything on a two-burner camping stove that you could cook on your stovetop at home. The trick is making sure that your stove offers decent wind protection and simmer control.
In our case, my propane grill wasn’t working properly so I opted to use a camp stove to cook our burgers. Cooking food on the campfire can be fun but it does take longer to cook as you won’t want to cook your food right over the flames, but off to the side. Many fire-pits in come with a camp grill at Ontario Parks. You can use some aluminum foil and place directly on the grill, or with a cast iron pan – be sure to have heat-resistant oven gloves. Ontario Parks has some great tips on camping stoves.
Here is my simple and easy recipe for Homemade Hamburgers and Easy Pasta Salad:
- 1 ½ lbs of AAA or Angus ground beef, lean
- 1 onion, shredded
- 1 tbsp ketchup or barbecue sauce
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- ½ tsp chipotle sauce or dried
- 1 egg
- In a large bowl, add ground beef, and all other ingredients.
- Mix well and then form the well-seasoned beef into patties.
- Pack them between layers of waxed paper and store in a reusable container.
- Grill on each side for about 5-7 minutes.
Easy Pasta Salad
- 500 grams rotini or fusilli pasta (regular or gluten-free)
- 1 red onion sliced thin
- 2 carrots, shredded
- ½ cup black olives, sliced
- ½ yellow or red pepper, sliced
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- 1 tbsp. each oregano, basil, garlic powder, thyme, rosemary
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 1 tsp each salt and pepper
- Cook pasta until al dente. In the meantime, slice or shred all vegetables and add to a medium-size reusable container.
- In a small container, mix olive oil, vinegar and spices and sugar, and shake until mixed.
- When pasta is ready, remove from heat and immediately drain with cold water. Once cool, add pasta to a reusable container.
- Add 2 tbsp of olive to pasta to keep moist. Keep dressing and vegetables separate until ready to serve.
Keep dressing and vegetables separate until ready to serve.
Keep dressing and vegetables separate until ready to serve.
How to visit an Ontario Park
Reserve your daily vehicle permit in advance of your visit to avoid disappointment. Select Ontario parks are offering free visits from Monday to Thursday! To learn more, visit Ontario Parks: https://www.ontarioparks.com/reservations
This post is proudly sponsored by Ontario Parks. As always, the opinions expressed are my own.