I recently went up to Alliston on the long weekend with my family to visit Earl Rowe Provincial Park which multiple friends have been raving about, and for a one-night get-away at the Nottawasaga Inn Resort. Bottom line, we had a really fun time and we’d go back again for a day trip to Earle Rowe. The resort was a bit too expensive IMHO. But I would go back when the kids are older and can make better use of the facilities!
There was lots to do for my toddler and preschooler, their favourite being the pool at Nottawasaga Inn which has a wide ramp leading into a decently-sized shallow area. At the park, the wading pool wasn’t open yet but my son could have played all day in the water if he hadn’t had to nap, and my daughter had a fun time playing in the sand. I love the huge sandy beaches and of course it’s very picturesque. If we hadn’t brought the kids I would have dragged my husband out for a slow paddle in a canoe around the lake. There’s lots of picnic tables but not many shady spots on the East beach to put your blanket down on the grass and still be able to see your kids playing on the beach. If you’ve got a portable umbrella or small tent you could set yourself up on the beach and the kids can escape from the sun. (Please let me know if you’d recommend yours because I’m looking to buy!)
Earl Rowe Provincial Park – ~ 1 hour north of Toronto
A bit about Earl Rowe Provincial Park: You can swim in the man-made lake or 1 acre swimming pool (opens July 1st), relax on big sandy beaches, play in two playgrounds on the east and west side of the lake, rent canoes or paddle boats (you can borrow a PDF – $25 refundable deposit), fish in the Boyne River or in the man-made lake within the park, hike or bike on 5 trails ranging from 2- 11kms long, and play a game on the baseball field. In the day-use area there’s lots of parking, two washrooms at the east and west ends, and the Parks store has groceries, ice cream, and camping supplies. There are 400 campsites, with shower and laundry facilities. Four picnic shelters in the day-use area are available for rent if you’re meeting a group. I’d recommend the shelter on the West beach which is right next to the wading pool (I’m thinking about this for myself if I can get a big group of friends out!).
We arrived mid-morning and I was pleasantly surprised at how big the lake and beaches are. It was a very hot day so we setup our blanket and put down our bags in a shaded area beside some picnic tables, got the sunscreen out, water toys, and away we went! There’s a fairly big shallow area (we went in maybe 10 feet and the water was below my son’s knees) but it was pretty muddy and there was goose poop along the shoreline (make sure to bring your water shoes if you’re cringing right now). Not many people were around. A few paddle boats were out, a handful of people swimming, some kids in the playground, and families gathered around the picnic tables in the shade. Fairly quiet and relaxing
I took photos of the wading pool even though it wasn’t open yet (see above and slideshow below). There’s a shallow area for tots and the pool is big- 1 acre, although not as big as Bronte Creek’s pool which is 1.8 acres. When we got home I did a search to see if there were other provincial parks that had wading pools and I found Byng Island Conservation Area which has a 2 acre wading pool and a spray pad. Byng Island is a bit far- about 2 hours from Toronto (south of Hamilton, close to Lake Erie) but a day trip there is definitely do-able! And of course there’s Petticoat Creek Conservation Area in Pickering which has a new pool opening in mid-June. (When I called before, I was told that Petticoat’s new facility will include a state-of-the-art 3200 square metre wading pool and swimming area with a 750-person capacity, and a splash pad with interactive water features. AND water will be heated!) The thing I like about Earl Rowe is you have the option of using the wading pool or swimming in the lake, and the beaches are huge.
Nottawasaga Inn Resort ~ 15 mins from Earl Row Provincial Park
A bit about Nottawasaga Resort: There’s lots to do here including swimming in an indoor Tropical Rainforest themed 25 m swimming pool with a 3 storey 100 ft waterslide, shallow area with a mushroom spray, and hot tub for mom, dad, and older children (it’s really hot!). There are a few life jackets for kids and water toys but be sure to bring your own to keep your kids occupied for longer! We brought in sand toys (we washed the sand off in the hotel room) and staff didn’t have an issue with us bringing them in.
There’s also has an outdoor pool (not “small child”-friendly), squash and raquetball courts, indoor tennis courts, indoor mini golf, and an Arcade and Games Room, offering 63 video games, billiards tables and table tennis. There’s also a soccer field and playground out front, and an arena next door. The pool was included in our stay but mini golf would have been ~$5 pp. In the fitness reception area there’s a popcorn machine which made my husband’s day. (Unfortunately for him my daughter and son had worked up quite an appetite. It started with my daughter telling my husband “you have to share!”, taking the bag, my son chasing my daughter for more popcorn, and ended with them both polishing it off and my hubby’s stomach still empty.)
The resort offers a variety of rooms including suites for families. We stayed in the Two Room suite for ~$300 a night (youch!). “Two rooms” turned out to be a sitting room with a pullout couch separated from the master bedroom by French doors. You can’t enter or leave without going through the sitting room which makes nap time tricky, and sneaking out at night to get some munchies and a couple glasses of wine! Our view was of the parking lot and there was a small fridge and sink but no microwave. And there was no room service (a big deal for young families). Although they did allow us to pick up food from the restaurant and eat it in the hotel room. On the upside, the room was very clean and the master spacious. (There was a big jacuzzi tub which unfortunately we couldn’t keep my little guy away from and we had to watch him constantly to make sure he didn’t slip and fall on the stairs.) The staff were exceptionally friendly and very accommodating, which is a huge factor in determining whether we will go back. The resort also looks like it’s undergoing a bit of a face-lift. When we were there they were putting down new modern tiles in the lobby where very old-style carpet used to be.
After a morning at the beach and an afternoon at the pool, we decided to get take-out for dinner and have a little picnic at the playground in front of the hotel (right beside the arena). The Chinese food was surprisingly good (I’d actually go back there again which says a lot) and the kids wolfed down pizza. We spent probably an hour there with the kids enjoying the slides, and my daughter mastering the ladder and “rock” climbing wall. All in all, a good (short) family get-away!