Winter Camping in Point Pelee National Park

Length of stay: 2 days
Visited: March 2022

Point Pelee National Park is located on a peninsula that extends into Lake Erie and is the southernmost point of the mainland in Canada. It is the second smallest national park and the first national park to be established for conservation. It is situated in the Carolinian zone and while much of the park’s interior consists of marshes and swamp forest, it also features a beautiful sandy beach.

Point Pelee offers camping in 24 oTENTiks, which are a mix between an A-frame cabin and canvas tent. They are open all year round and can accommodate up to six guests. They come fully equipped with four twin-sized beds and one double-sized bed, table and chairs, a dish kit, cooking equipment, electric lights, either a gas or wood stove and a BBQ.

We visited Point Pelee a few years ago and had such a wonderful time that we decided to return. This time with my mom and uncle. By the time we arrived at the park it was just before 5p.m on a Friday evening. After checking in, we parked our car outside the park office and lugged in all our food, water and gear for the weekend. The sites are walk-in only, but the park provides wagons, which make it much easier to carry your supplies in and out.

It had snowed earlier in the day and the forest looked magical with all the fresh snow. After taking two trips with the wagons to and from the car, we settled into our oTENTik. We made burgers on the BBQ for dinner and spent the remainder of the evening playing games inside.

Day 1: The Views

The temperature plummeted to below freezing overnight and it was quite windy outside, but at least the sun was shining. After making a morning cup of coffee (and tea for me), we went for a short hike along the Tilden Woods Trail (1km loop), which is located by the Visitor Centre and is within walking distance from the campground.

The trail winds through a mature swamp forest and cedar savannah and consists of a few boardwalk sections. Along the way there are a few interpretive panels that provide more information about how the park was created and the habitat restored, which meant removing many privately-owned cottages and a road that cut through the park.

The trail branches off for a short detour along the Shuster Trail (500m) which leads to the East Barrier Beach. While most of the snow and ice had melted on this part of the beach, there were still signs of some interesting ice formations from the shoreline.

We turned around and walked back the way we came along the Shuster Trail and then hiked the remaining portion of the Tilden Woods Trail. Once we looped back to the Visitor Centre, we returned to our oTENTik to make a hot breakfast.

Afterwards we drove to the park entrance to start at the very beginning of the park. We stopped at the Sanctuary Lookout, which features a wooden viewing platform overlooking the lake.

We then hiked along the Marsh Boardwalk (1km loop), which consists of a floating boardwalk and features an observation tower towards the start of the trail. It was especially windy here as we were out in the open marsh.

We hopped back in the car for a couple of minutes to warm-up before heading to the DeLaurier Homestead and Trail (1.2km loop). The trail winds through an open field that contains a historic house and barn that once belonged to the DeLaurier family in the late 19th and early 20th century. Both of which were closed, but we could peek inside the windows of the old house.

The trail also leads past old fields and irrigation canals and through the marsh, cedar savannah and a swamp forest. There are a few boardwalk sections, including a viewing platform that contains a set of the Parks Canada Red Chairs.

Afterwards we headed back to our campsite to eat a late lunch. We then mustered up the courage to brave the cold again and visit the tip of the peninsula. During the peak season from April to October there’s a shuttle from the Visitor Centre that leads to the Tip’s outdoor exhibit. Since we were visiting in the off-season, we could just drive there instead.

Being on a peninsula meant that there is little protection from the wind. In fact, the name of the park means “bald point” in French because the eastern side of the peninsula is rocky and had no trees. While there are now some trees along the shore, it’s still super blustery. There’s also an observation tower near the tip, which naturally we had to climb. It was even windier up there.

Afterwards we hiked along the Tip Trail (1km) which leads to the southernmost point of mainland Canada. This spot is reputed to be a great place to view spring bird and fall monarch, dragonfly and bird migrations. It became a battle with the wind, but we made it there. I even managed to take a few pictures of the ice formations along the one side of the beach.

At this point we were all sufficiently frozen, so we retreated back to the warmth of our oTENTik. We spent the remainder of the afternoon (and evening) indoors playing games.

Day 2: The Snow

We woke up to another cold and blustery day outside. And we lost an hour due to daylight savings time, which wasn’t ideal. But we were eager to get a start to our day. After making a hot cup of tea, we walked down to the West Beach which is located right across the road from the campground. It was super windy by the shoreline, but it was worth it to see the icy landscape.

We headed back to the campground to make a hot breakfast and pack up. After lugging our gear to the car, we handed over our keys and checked out. It would have been nice to stay another night.

On the drive out of the park it started to snow. We stopped to first hike along the Woodland Nature Trail (2.75km loop), which is located behind the Visitor Centre. The trail meanders through the forest and a few swampy areas and is marked with 20 numbered posts. We were thankful to be deep within the forest to escape from the wind.

We then hiked along part of the Chinquapin Oak Trail which leads through a cedar savannah and swamp forest to get to the Cactus Field Footpath. Near the entrance of the trail we even found one of the Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus for which the trail is named after. In Canada, this type of cactus is found only in southern Ontario where it grows in dry sandy habitats.

By the time we finished it was heavily snowing so we figured we might as well get started on the drive home as it would likely take longer than usual. Despite the weather, we had a lovely time at Point Pelee. The oTENTik was a nice way to camp in the off-season and to experience a quieter (and bug free) side of the park.


61 thoughts on “Winter Camping in Point Pelee National Park

  1. Ab says:

    Point Peele is on our to do list one of these days. A friend raved about it after visiting with their family and there’s something charming about it being the most southern tip of Canada

    The oTentik is an interesting structure. Looks very cozy. We’re the beds comfortable?

    The trails look nice. I am a sucker for a good scenic boardwalk trail and stumbling across a good old house and barn.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Point Pelee is a small park that sure packs a punch. It is also very family friendly. When you do visit, I would highly recommend staying in one of the otentiks. It’s like camping, but much more luxurious. The beds weren’t too bad. I’d say they were comfier than my sleeping pad that I use when tent camping. We’re planning on staying in a few more of these otentiks when we head out east in the fall. That way we don’t have to worry about the weather or setting up and taking down our tent every couple of days.

      • Ab says:

        I’ll have to add the otentiks to my list. I can imagine they book you fairly quickly. But will try for sure.

        We have our first camping trip (since 2018) in two weeks. Can’t wait!!!

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        They are fantastic. There aren’t too many oTENTiks in Ontario, but there’s quite a few at the national parks out east.

        Thanks exciting that you’ll be going camping in a couple of weeks!! Which park are you visiting?

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The first time we visited Point Pelee in 2019, the Marsh Boardwalk trail and lookout tower were closed. It was nice that they were open when we visited again as the views of the marsh were beautiful. It was very windy though.

  2. wanderlustig says:

    Very nice area and great photos! Thank you for reminding me of my own visit to the park a very long time ago. It was summer, very hot and we saw many birds. And there was no watch tower yet, I am pretty sure.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. I would love to return to Point Pelee to see the bird migration. It was still a bit too early in the spring when we visited in March. Even though it was cold and windy, at least we didn’t have to deal with the bugs, which I’m sure would be awful near the marshy areas.

  3. kagould17 says:

    I have heard of Point Pelee Park, but never been. This does look like a good late winter/early spring break, with the Tentiks. Lots of short trails and things to see, including old buildings. Love the icicle shot on the log. Great post Linda. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Staying in one of these oTENTiks is a great way to comfortably extend the camping season, especially when it’s still cold outside. Point Pelee is a small park, but features a nice variety of trails and other activities. It would be neat to return later in the spring or in the fall to see the migration of birds. Thanks for reading. Enjoy the rest of your day. Linda

  4. Bama says:

    Your tent looks really cozy! And is that a real fireplace? I remember when I had my first proper experience with snow, at the hotel there was a vintage fireplace at the “living room”. It made a great memory. I didn’t know some cactus can live in such frigid environment!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was a very luxurious tent and it made camping in the winter very comfortable and cozy. It was convenient that it had a propane stove, which meant we could just set the temperature that we wanted on the thermostat and we didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night to check on the fire. I was surprised to hear that we even have a type of cactus in Ontario. I was even more surprised that we found one along the trail in the middle of winter!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We had a wonderful time at Point Pelee. I gotta say, I could get used to camping in those oTENTiks! It also seems like it would be infamous for its mosquitoes since much of the area is a giant swamp forest and marsh!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh, we’re getting our fill of sunshine and hot weather here in southern Ontario. Today it’s going up to 28C (and will feel like 38C with the humidity). I might start missing those cooler winter temperatures soon!!

  5. John says:

    The lookout tower is well-built, looks nice. The photos of the lake are beautiful with the ice everywhere. i was at this park in the mid 1980s, very nice!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The observation tower was very sturdy and I appreciated that it didn’t sway in the wind, otherwise I’m not sure I would have made it all the way to the top! The views were beautiful, especially with all that frozen ice along the shoreline. That’s neat that you’ve been to Point Pelee. I wonder how much different it looked back then.

  6. ourcrossings says:

    I have considered having a cabin trip outdoors with my friends and family many times, but we don’t have that many of them in Ireland. I can just imagine waking up in the morning to the voices of the birds, in a cozy bed ready for a day full of fun adventure. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      These cabins, yurts and oTENTiks are becoming much more popular these days in Ontario. They are also getting harder to book. It’s a great way explore the park in the off-season while staying comfortable at night. It’s going to be hard adjusting back to a regular tent after this. Thanks for reading. Enjoy the rest of your week. Linda

  7. Little Miss Traveller says:

    So interesting to learn that you were on the most southern tip of Canada, no wonder it was blustery. Love your photos and that floating boardwalk. The oTentik appears to be a good cosy option in the wintertime and useful that they provide a cart so you can transport your stuff too and fro. Do the cabins come with cooking facilities or did you need to bring your own?

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The worst of the wind was when we were climbing to the top of the observation tower. The views from the top made it well worth the effort though. When we first visited Point Pelee a few years ago, the Marsh Trail was closed for renovations, so it was nice to finally see it open. It was definitely my favourite trail in the park, even if we were exposed to the wind. The oTENTik is a great way to camp in the off-season. It was very comfortable and convenient. They come equipped with dishes, cutlery, pots and pans and there’s also a BBQ outside, which is what we mainly used to cook our food. They also come equipped with electricity, so we brought a kettle with us to boil water for tea and coffee.

  8. elvira797mx says:

    Wow! Wow! Wow! & Wow! interesting, wonderful, amazing and so beautiful, place and photos!
    Stunning photos! I love the cabin with the orange chairs outside and th one of the trunk!
    The cabin looks cozy. I will send you a lot of hot chocolate with ginger.
    Thank’s for share, Linda. Keep well.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. This was a very glamorous way to camp during the winter and explore the park in the off-season. I would book one of these tents again. Thanks for reading. Enjoy the rest of your day. Linda

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. Point Pelee may be a small park, but there’s a nice variety of trails. Staying in an oTENTik was a great way to comfortably camp in the winter. We’re planning a trip out east this fall and will be staying in a few more of these oTENTiks. It sure beats having to set up and take down our tent every couple of days.

  9. Thattamma C.G Menon says:

    Very interesting travel video to see and so nice to read also 🌷🙏👍🏻stunning photography of
    nature with mist 🌫 The tower so awesome and The Villa so beautiful 😍 Thank you for sharing 👏

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s pretty amazing how the landscape transforms in the winter. Even though it was cold and windy, the snow scenery looked beautiful and it was nice to have somewhere warm to return to after a long day of hiking. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was very cozy, comfortable and warm. It sure beats sleeping in a tent during the middle of winter!! It’s a great way to extend our camping season and avoid the crowds (and the bugs).

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was a very luxurious tent complete with furniture and a propane fireplace. It was a comfortable way to camp in the winter and stay warm. The floor was a bit cold, but we brought indoor shoes, which helped a lot. I would stay in one of these structures again.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The oTENTik was a great way to comfortably camp in the winter. It’s going to be real hard to transition back to our regular tent after this. We had a wonderful time in Point Pelee. Even though it was cold, at least the scenery was spectacular.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Even though Point Pelee is a small park, there’s nice variety of trails that kept us active. It was super windy by the Lake Erie shoreline, but it was neat to see all the interesting ice formations and icicles.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks!! The icicles and ice blocks by the shoreline were very neat. The oTENTik was a comfortable way to camp in the winter. It was very luxurious compared to our regular tent, and best of all was that it was heated and had electricity.

  10. alisendopf says:

    Alright, you are official “spoiled”! Look at that cabin!!! In a National Park?
    This place must be impossible to book in the summer. I love all the lookouts and boardwalks. Gorgeous!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Visiting in the winter is a great way to avoid the crowds and it’s much easier to book something over the weekend compared to in the summer. I’m a bit concerned that after staying in some of these luxurious yurts and cabins that it’ll be hard to transition back to tent camping.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It is! It’s an Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus, which are only found in a few places in southern Ontario. I was delighted that we found one, considering it was winter and all the snow.

      • BrittnyLee says:

        That’s so cool !!! Do they grow edible pears? That would be so cool ! I am a little ignorant when it comes to cacti haha 🤣 that’s such a cool find !

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Apparently they rarely produce fruit. I’m not sure whether its edible. I’m not the most knowledgeable about cacti either since they aren’t common here. All I know is to not touch the prickly bits!

      • BrittnyLee says:

        Yes! They hurt and they do not come out. My mom got pricked by one. That would be really neat if it was edible. I love pear that grow around here. They’re really tasty 😋. That really is a neat find 🙂

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        That does not sound fun! Pear is one of those fruits that I don’t have very often, but every time I do, I find it’s absolutely delicious. Clearly I should be eating more pears then.

  11. wetanddustyroads says:

    oTENTiks … first time I ever heard of this … and love the look (especially that fire inside 😀). Oh, but those ice formations on the beach just reminds me that you were very brave to wander around outside! Interesting how those two red chairs brings colour into your photo’s! And lovely view from the observation tower. Great pictures … that definitely shows that it was bitterly cold on your hikes!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The oTENTik was a great way to camp in the winter. It was very convenient and comfortable, especially since it had electricity and a propane fireplace. Even though it’s a small park, there’s a nice variety of trails and viewpoints to soak in the scenery. Plus it also helped that we had our warm oTENTik to return to whenever we needed a break from the cold.

  12. rkrontheroad says:

    What an unusual tent/cottage! I love the photo of the icicles hanging off the driftwood by the beach. I’m headed up to Ontario later this week. My brother and family (Toronto) are renting a cottage near Kinmount on Salmon Lake. Can’t wait!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was an interesting mix between a tent and a cabin and it surprisingly retained the heat pretty well. It was a nice way to extend our camping season into the winter while staying comfortable and warm at night. Safe travels to Ontario and enjoy your time at the cottage. The weather forecast is looking fabulous over the next week or so. It’ll be the perfect weather for being on the lake.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      This was my first time seeing an Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus. They aren’t very common in Ontario. I was shocked that we found one on the trail considering it was in the middle of winter and snowing. It was pretty neat. Agreed it does seem rather ironic.

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