Mara Provincial Park

Length of stay1 day
April 2021

Mara Provincial Park is located along the shore of Lake Simcoe and boasts of having one of the best sandy beaches in the area. It’s a relatively small park and is quite popular in the summer as its main draw is its beach and other activities that involve the water, such as fishing and boating.

We spent the morning hiking in the nearby Springwater Provincial Park in Barrie and decided to make a detour at Mara on the way back to Toronto. The park is not yet open for the season and the main road leading into the park was still closed, so we parked just outside the main entrance and walked in.

There’s not a whole lot to do in Mara during the off-season, but it was nice to walk through the park and enjoy the pleasant weather. We first strolled through the empty campground. Mara offers just over 100 campsites. The sites seemed spacious, but they don’t offer much in terms of privacy. Granted, that could be because there were no leaves on the trees yet so it was hard to gauge how these sites would look during the summer months. Regardless, I doubt we’d ever camp here given its close proximity to Toronto.

We then walked down to the beach and picnic area.

Mara offers picnic facilities complete with a picnic shelter. There were signs reminding people of COVID-19 and to social distance. There were also a lot of picnic tables scattered around the grounds. Unfortunately much of this area was flooded when we visited. No social gatherings here.

The beach area is quite spacious and the water looked clear. It was the perfect day to visit as we had the beach mostly all to ourselves. We walked down to the water and along the shore.

Mara also has a single hiking trail, the Riverside Trail (500m), which follows the river for a short stretch before winding through the forest. The trail, including the trailhead, is not marked. We found an access point for the trail at the beach area. This time of the year, much of the ground was soggy and muddy. After a misstep from K that resulted in his shoe being completely submerged in mud, we cut this already short hike even shorter and got off when the path nears the road through the campground. From here it’s a short walk along the paved road back to the main gate.

Mara is a relatively small park that seems very family friendly. While I don’t think we’d ever camp here, it seems like a great place to visit during the summer for its beach and picnic facilities.


My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here

40 thoughts on “Mara Provincial Park

  1. Rose Vettleson says:

    It’s been fun to see how far you’ve come on your Ontario Park Challenge. The last few years with grandkids, we randomly tried to visit a new local city or county park/playground every time they were here. You’ve inspired me to try making the park/playground visits a bit more memorable with them – better research and planning, incorporate map skills, have them take some notes and pictures about the things they most like at each place, turn it into a bigger explorative adventure for them. They are at the fun, elementary age.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks. Since this pandemic is still a hot mess, this challenge has really given us something to focus on this year. It’s been neat exploring more of what’s in our own backyard and learning about the history of the various provincial parks that we visit. Glad you’ve found some inspiration from this and plan to mix some education in with the entertainment. I have such fond memories of visiting and camping at some of these parks when I was younger.

  2. kagould17 says:

    Looks like a peaceful place when you were there. Likely much busier for the camping season. What is the word on campground use in Ontario during the current conditions? We are still getting hammered with cases here right now, because people have grown tired of following the rules. Unfortunately, the pandemic never gets tired. Stay well. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was nice to visit during the off-season on a weekday as we nearly had the park all to ourselves. Thankfully our provincial parks remained open during the stay-at-home order (which is in effect until at least May 20), however camping is closed. We were a bit annoyed that even backcountry camping was closed, but I guess the whole idea of the stay-at-home order is to encourage people to stay at home. People everywhere it seems have grown tired of following the rules. It’s tough when the rules aren’t strict enough or they aren’t enforced. I’ve heard that new records are being shattered nearly every day in Alberta. It’s not good. Stay safe out there.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’ve come to enjoy visiting some of these parks during the off-season when not many people are around. It’s a great feeling to feel like you have the place all to yourself. I’m sure this park is very different during the summer, especially on a hot day.

  3. Ab says:

    It looks like a small but scenic and lovely park! I love Sandy beaches and it looks very inviting! I love a park that invests my in picnic benches and tables by the water as it signals it invites people to gather and hang out.

    I’ll be sure to share this with a friend who has the same name as the park! 🙂

    Enjoy your Saturday. It is beautiful out!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Mara definitely seems like a quaint little park and a nice place to go for a picnic and swim. We’ll have to return in the summer to pick up our park crest. It’s also really close to a few other parks that we visited during the winter (Bass Lake, McRae Point and Sibbald Point), so we can justify the drive by stopping to pick up park crests at those parks too! Maybe we’ll even go for a swim at Mara, assuming it’s not too busy. We ended up visiting the Scarborogh Bluffs on Saturday, which was gorgeous. Hard to believe that this exists so close to Toronto. I’m so glad you suggested it as it was nice to visit before we move away from the city. Hope you had a nice weekend too.

      • Ab says:

        I noticed that in the winter and early Spring, the park visitor centre are closed! So it just means double trips to get your crests. Haha. You’re very dedicated!

        I’m glad you got to visit the Bluffs! A true highlight in our city. Enjoy your week ahead!

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        It’s too bad that the visitor centre at some of these parks haven’t opened earlier as there have certainly been a lot of visitors lately. It’s also too bad that we can’t buy the park crests online. In some ways, it’s kind of nice that you can only pick up the patch in person, but not so great when you visit during the off-season when the visitor centre is closed. We plan on visiting Arrowhead in a couple of months (assuming camping opens back up) so will likely hit up all these parks on the drive home to collect the crests. As you can tell, I am very dedicated to trying to collect them all.

      • Ab says:

        I have no doubt you will get to collect them all! 🙂 You’ll have to share a photo of all your crests!

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Totally. Right now we’re at 6 crests, which doesn’t sound like a lot. We plan on returning to a few of the parks we visited during the off-season to pick up their crests at some point. Plus, we have a couple of Ontario Parks road trips lined up for the summer and fall. Needless to say, we still have a lot of work cut out for us!!

      • Ab says:

        I actually think you can get them online through Craigslist. 😂 But I think part of the joy is collecting them in person yourself. I have faith that you will meet your goal at the rate you’re going!

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Good to know. I heard that you could also call the parks and ask if they can mail you one if you pay for the crest and cost of shipping. It probably depends on the park and whoever you are speaking to. Either way, it’s so much easier to collect in person. And yes, I’m hoping to meet our goal, assuming camping opens back up again.

      • Ab says:

        We gave our info to the park (Darlington) over the phone last fall and are still waiting to that crest in the mail. 🤣 So a heads up it may not work as you hope!

        I’m hoping parks will be open for camping this summer. If I were to guess, I’d say July is when they open up again.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        That’s too funny. I don’t think you’re ever going to get that crest in the mail! We’re planning on taking a week off at the end of June / beginning of July, so I really hope camping opens up by then.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s a nice area and it’s great that there are so many provincial parks located nearby. Mara is a relatively small park, but looks like a great spot to go for a picnic and swim.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. It was nice to visit during the off-season and middle of the day on a Monday as we had the park nearly all to ourselves. It was nice to just walk through the empty park and check out the campground and beach area. If we have time this summer, we’ll have to come back when the weather is warmer to go for a swim.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Good question. The pandemic has certainly resulted in more people wanting to spend more time outside. Now it seems everyone is into hiking and camping these days. We visited a park a few months ago and were surprised to be turned away because the parking lot was full. And it was during the winter. We’ve been coming to this park for years and usually have had the place all to ourselves. Not these days it seems.

  4. Planet Paul says:

    Looks really nice even if you’d prefer not to camp there. Seem like there’s some nice variety. I actually liked the flooded tables photo if that’s not wrong of me (Nobody drowned!).

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was nice to visit during the off-season when not too many people were around. It’s a lovely feeling to feel like you have the park all to yourself. It’s a relatively small park, but looks like a great spot to spend the afternoon. The flooded picnic area was fun to photograph. I wouldn’t want to be the one to have to drag them out and get the area ready for when the park opens up in a few weeks!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I feel so fortunate that we have so many provincial parks, conservation areas and other green spaces nearby and that we’re able to still visit them during the pandemic. I find spending time in nature helps soothe my soul and keeps me sane. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

  5. Lynette d'Arty-Cross says:

    It seems like a nice spot for a quick weekend getaway, but lots of others probably have the same idea given its proximity to Toronto, so it might get a bit crowded. Looks like a great beach, and as you pointed out, clear water.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was nice to visit this park during the off-season and on a weekday. I’m sure this park (and any park even remotely close to the GTA) is booked solid throughout the summer. Seems like everyone is getting into hiking and camping these days!! That’s why we plan on taking our big Northern Ontario road trip in September to avoid the crowds (and buggies).

  6. Lookoom says:

    At least this part of the lake access has remained public, there are so many places that are off limits as private property. This is a great reason to have provincial parks all over.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. Much of the shore around Lake Simcoe is covered with houses and there are a few private beaches for the people in the community. It’s nice that a few provincial parks have been created along the water to preserve the area for the wildlife and so that everyone can enjoy the lake and beach area.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! It’s been pretty rainy and wet here, which isn’t ideal for hiking. The flowers are in full bloom though, so that’s the main reward for getting some fresh air.

  7. Island Traveler says:

    Water so clear and still. Beautiful refreshing hiking trail. Hoping to hike tomorrow. Got a day off before 5 days straight. Need my adventure thirst quenched. Happy Tuesday my friend. Getting hotter here in California ☀️🙏

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I find it’s always so peaceful down by the water, especially on a calm day. Enjoy your hike and time off. I wish it were getting warmer here in Ontario. It’s been chilly and wet. Hoping the skies will clear for the weekend. Take care.

  8. kagould17 says:

    I could see this place being busy in the summer, alright. Likely, this weekend, as a matter of fact. It definitely gets soggy in the spring. Stay well. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure, especially since it’s reasonably close to Toronto. Any weekend with warm weather tends to draw out the crowds to the water. It was nice to visit during the spring when we had the place nearly all to ourselves. Take care.

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