On the banks of Lake Huron and south of Grand Bend, Ontario is one of the finest parks in the provincial park system. In this Pinery Provincial Park guide and review, we delve into the details of what you need to know before planning your camping trip here.
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Here's what we're covering:
- Pinery Provincial Park Guide
- Pinery Provincial Park Review
- How To Visit Pinery Provincial Park
- Frequently Asked Questions
Pinery Provincial Park Guide
This Pinery Provincial Park guide covers all of the essential information you need to know including campsites, hikes, the long stretch of sandy beach, rental facilities, the store, and more.
When planning our own trip to this Ontario Park, I found the official park page to be lacking in substance and detail. It covers much of the basics but lacks more thorough guide on how the park works, the available facilities, what the campsites are actually like, and details on how to plan your time in the park.
Since we’re car campers and don’t have an RV, you’ll have to excuse some of the information missing as it relates to that style of camping but I’ve tried my best to capture as much as we could in one stay.
About Pinery Provincial Park
With rolling dunes leading to kilometres of beautiful beach, a river blooming with water lilies, extremely biodiverse and rare Oak Savannah, this is easily one of the most impressive parks in Ontario.
Although the running claim that the sunsets in the region of Grand Bend and Pinery were ranked the “Top 10 Best in the World” by National Geographic can’t exactly be confirmed (I scoured online and confirmed by this wiki), I will stake my own claim that sunsets here are pretty darned epic.
The park was established 1957 and runs year-round which makes this a versatile park that has something for all seasons. Location wise, the park is sandwiched by Grand Bend to the north and Port Franks to the south.
The two defining features of Pinery are the sand dunes and the Oak Savannah. The rolling dunes provide sandy protection from the crashing of waves from Lake Huron and the 10 kilometres of beach. In the Oak Savannah, you have a forested grassland dominated by oak trees and is a rare tract of forest that aren’t very common anymore.
Beyond that, visitors come to this provincial park because of its abundance of hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing trails, the Old Ausable Channel which is perfect for canoes, kayaks, and stand up paddleboarding, and of course the well managed campgrounds that offer plenty of sites, facilities, and comfort stations.
Lastly, Pinery Provincial Park is also one of the few parks in Ontario that has yurts.
Pinery Provincial Park Layout
It’s worth starting with a lay of the land. Pinery Provincial Park may look small according to the official map but you soon realize how massive it is.
Here are a few key things that you need to know:
- There are 3 primary campgrounds: Riverside, Dunes, and Burley
- Campgrounds are on the left side of the park and the day use side is on the right side of the park.
- The right side of the park features a long one way road. This means that once you’re in it, there’s no turning back and you’ll have to drive it all the way around.
- The Old Ausable Channel cuts right through laterally and runs parallel to the beach.
While looking nice and compact (my naive assumption before going), this is very much the kind of place where you’ll need to either drive to get to where you want to go or use a bicycle.
Campgrounds and Campsites
As a first-timer, choosing a campground and campsite is tough because there really isn’t a lot of good information out there besides the one-off mentions of campsites on TripAdvisor and the lacklustre descriptions and photos on the official site.
Here’s the honest lowdown of the campgrounds.
This is one of two campground areas that border on the dunes and beach. There are 299 sites and is broken down into 4 areas.
While named Dunes, you’re not actually camping on a dune footing. This is a forested area that is considered to be relatively young but still has quite a lot of tree cover which means that you’ll get good shade throughout the day.
The greatest advantage of Dunes is that you’re an easy walking distance to Lake Huron and the beach with entrances at Dunes Area 3 and in between Area 1 and 2.
This campground is open from May to October.
Unique features: Dunes Area 4 is pet-free. Sites #45 and #46 are barrier free.
Following the banks of the Old Ausable Channel is an expansive campground that includes a beautiful walking path that only campers are able to see.
There are 4 areas of Riverside and 476 bookable sites. The one predominant feature is that there is electrical hookup at almost every single site and they are sized and laid out in a way that they are optimized for RVs and trailers with many that allow pull-through.
In addition, this campground houses the yurts and one rustic cabin at Riverside Area 1.
The advantage therefore is for those that camp with RVs and trailers or visitors looking to stay in a yurt or cabin. The fact that it is year round means that you’ll be staying here if you come in the winter.
While you might intuitively think that there might be more mosquitoes being by the river, the truth is that mosquitoes are kept at a minimum here because of the abundance of fish in the river which eat the larvae.
The one downside to some of the Riverside campsites especially in Area 1 is that since they are larger and more open, you will find that there’s less shade.
Riverside Area 1 is open all year-round.
Unique features: Riverside Area 3 is radio-free. There are 12 yurts, 1 soft sided shelter (deluxe yurt), and 1 rustic cabin. Riverside Sites #608, #609 and yurts #474 and #481 are barrier free.
Burley is located on the far south or left side of the park. Like Dunes, this campground follows the beach and provides easy walking-access. There is one access point through the dunes and it’s accompanied by a large parking lot and comfort station.
The campground is broken down into 4 main areas labelled A to U with 304 distinct sites making it roughly the same size as Dunes.
Campsite wise, the forest foliage and size is very similar to Dunes as well. This means that there’s good partial shade all around.
Burley is designed for visitors that don’t need electricity or pull-through so that means that you’ll only far car campers here. Also note that this is the farthest possible spot away from the main gate so there’s a bit more of a drive to get in and out.
Burley Campground is open from June to September so it’s opened the fewest number of months.
Unique features: N/A
This won’t apply for most but if you’re looking to camp with a large organized group, there are 10 group camping sites.
These are located adjacent to the day use area and are designed for tents only. Each site can accommodate up to 35 people and can fit 6 cars and 1 bus.
These special areas include running water, a cold water sink, vault toilets, a fire ring, and picnic tables.
One of the defining features of car camping is the availability of comfort stations near the campsite. Pinery Provincial Park has one of these in every single major campground subdivisions making them incredibly easy to walk to and access.
Each comfort station has:
- 6 showers
- 1 accessible bathroom
- Male and female bathrooms with their own stalls/urinal
- Laundry facilities
- Outlets on exterior of the building
- Outlet in each of the bathrooms
The electrical outlets are interesting to note as you’ll definitely see people loitering in the area waiting for their devices or powerbanks to charge up (both inside and out). You’ll also see electric cars plug in as well.
Lastly, if health and safety restrictions are in place, you’ll see signage on the doors for the use of masks, capacity limits, and closures. More details in the “Current COVID Restrictions” section.
I don’t think these have an official name to them but these are the smaller stations scattered throughout the campground that are equipped with two private toilets and an open area sink.
The ones you’ll find in the campground surprisingly have actual plumbing (flush toilets) and kept incredibly clean that’s topped off with a gel air freshener in each. This is not mentioned on the park website as they are marked as vault toilets (holes in the ground).
We can only speculate that these were recent upgrades made to the park which is a great thing.
Filling up buckets full of water for your cleaning station or anything else around camp should be a pretty arduous and tedious task but Pinery makes this so much easier by having water taps installed every couple hundred of metres it feels like.
The water taps are easy to use and you won’t have to walk a long distance to get back to your campsite.
TIP: You are not allowed to wash dishes at the water taps.
Garbage, Fuel Canisters, and Recycle
Normally there’s large central dump area for the entire park. At Pinery, they’ve made a conscious effort to make it as convenient as possible for you to throw out your garbage.
Within the Dunes area, just like how there are convenient water taps near the campsites, there are also large garbage dumpsters bins and special fuel canister bins spaced out equally within camp areas.
The only thing missing are the recycle bins which you will find in the large communal dump area that is lined with large coloured bins.
What’s unclear is whether they lock the garbage bins at night but in seeing how tall the large bins are, they should be bear-proof and racoon and accessible 24/7.
Separating from the facilities that you’ll find in the campgrounds, let’s talk about what else is available that everyone can use.
Near the centre of the park are are 3 major buildings
- Visitor Centre
- Park Store
This is more than just your regular park visitor centre where you can pick up maps. Open since 1993, this is a full-fledged nature education centre where you’ll find an indoor theatre, the in-house Park Naturalist, and Friends of Pinery Park Nature Store.
Many of the park’s special activities and events are held here and a visit here will allow you to learn more about Pinery’s natural history.
The visitor centre is open 10AM-5PM daily in the summer season and on weekends only in the winter (closed during the pandemic).
This is perhaps the most surprising part of the park. In most provincial parks, you can expect to find a small visitor centre and that’s it.
Pinery Provincial Park has a standalone building that sells practically everything from souvenirs to camping gear, toiletries, dry food, drinks, snacks and more. The only thing it doesn’t have are groceries.
In a lot of ways this reminded me of the camp stores you’d expect to find in Kruger National Park in South Africa.
Next to the park store is a small restaurant that offers hot meals such as fish & chips, burgers, and wraps (currently 11AM-6PM).
Cash and credit are accepted.
Hours: 8AM-10PM (currently 9AM – 7PM)
TIP: Inside the park store is filtered water station and water fountain. If you have any empty water bottles, this is a great place to top up for free.
Pinery Provincial Park has an extensive rental facility that offers a mutitude of items:
- Bikes – Mountain bikes, coaster bikes, children’s bikes, tandem bikes, bike attachments, and bicycle trailers.
- Boats – Canoes, single or double kayaks, standup paddleboards, hydro bikes, and something called a corcle
- Winter – Skis and snowshoes are available on weekends prior to 3PM when the trails are operating
For all rentals, safety equipment is included which means helmets and lifejackets.
Lastly, the shop also sells worms if you’re fishing.
Most importantly though, next to the rental booth is an ice cream shop that serves Shaw’s Ice Cream. They are open from 12PM-9PM.
Credit and cash are accepted.
TIP: The last rental is 3:45PM
What if you’re desparate for internet and need to connect? Luckily, there is free wifi at the park.
However, the official map is inaccurate. While it does say that there’s internet at the Park Store, we confirmed with the staff that it doesn’t work or rather there’s a secure network there that’s not meant for public use.
The only place with free wifi is the visitor centre. The caveat is that it’s on a timer. The free wifi only works from 9AM – 7PM. I guess this prevents swaths of people hovering around the entrance to the centre to get their daily fix of data.
One of the highlights of Pinery Provincial Park is its long stretch of beach that stretches end to end.
This incredibly soft sand beach is divided into:
- Day use beach
- Dunes Beach
- Burley Beach
There are no lifeguards at any of the beaches but what you’ll find with this beach is that it remains quite shallow for quite a long distance before there’s a drop off which makes it a great place to wade and play.
Day Use Beach
As the name implies, this is a part of the beach designated for day use visitors although there’s nothing wrong with those camping at the park to use this stretch of beach.
What is nice about these beaches (labelled 1 to 9) is that each section has a very large parking lot, toilet facilities, and some have the larger comfort stations as well.
For those with dogs, only Day Use Beach #1 and #2 allows dogs.
Something I noticed at these beaches is that there are less pebbles near the water’s edge than say at Dunes or Burley. Also, as far as dunes go, you won’t find as much of it here which is why you can quickly access the beach from the parking lot.
The main disadvantage of the Day Use Beach is that it could get crowded on weekends so if you’re camping, you might want to stick to the other two beaches.
Running parallel to the Dunes campground, this is a very similar type of beach to the day use area except there’s a bit of a wider stretch of undulating dunes before there’s a dip that becomes the beach.
Due to the sensitive and fragile nature of the system here, there are only 2 entry points to this beach. One entry has a parking lot with bathroom and the other is part of the Cedar Trail extension at the border of Dunes and Burley however there is no parking lot here.
The most scenic entry into the beach is by Dunes Area 3 (Cedar Trail extension) where there’s a long winding boardwalk until you reach a large viewing platform before the stairs down to the beach.
You’ll notice that there are a bit more pebbles here separating the sandy part of the beach with the water.
TIP: There’s a large stretch of beach between Dunes and the Day Use Beach which is usually pretty quiet if you’re willing to walk to it.
Burley Beach is almost an exact copy of Dunes Beach. Much of the terrain is very similar including the amount of pebbles you’ll find here.
The one difference is that Burley only has one access point to their beach and this is by the large parking lot by the far left area. Here you’ll find a boardwalk that leads into a beach and also wooden stairs that takes you up to a viewing platform. Funny enough, it ends at the lplatform because the stairs going dow nto the beach is broken.
Pinery offers several awesome opportunities to explore the park’s natural environment. Some of these trails take you along the Old Ausable Channel, others deep into the ancient forest, and others to the beach.
When you arrive, the parking lots have a decent amount of space, there’s a good introductory sign, picnic table, and some have bathrooms (vault style). For bikers, every trail entrance has a bike rack.
For each trail you’ll find a QR code on the sign which leads you to a page with some information about the trail. There are some that lead you to more detailed guides which have a marker-by-marker explanation of what to look for and understanding the local habitat which is a nice transition to digital. Ones with guides are marked in the table below.
Overall, all the trails are very well maintained and marked and many have benches and lookout points.
Lastly, there’s also something called Photomons scattered throughout the park which are posts that allow park ecologists to collect a library of photos to monitor the changes in the area by asking visitors to take photos at the same location.
That said, there’s not a lot of great information online about these trails so we went to capture as many of the plaques as possible to give you an opportunity to decide which trails you might want to do on your visit.
The below is a table of all the trails. Click on the trail name to see the page that those QR codes lead to.
|Bittersweet||1.5 km||Yes||Flat with stairs and viewing platform||No|
|Carolinian||1.8 km||Yes||Hilly terrain with many stairs and pond viewing platform||No|
|Cedar||2.3 km||Yes||Flat with viewing platform. Extension has long boardwalk with stairs||Yes, except for extension||Year round|
|Heritage||2.5 km||Yes||Flat with viewing platform and 0.6 km extension||Yes|
|Hickory||1 km||No||Flat with some stairs||No|
|Nipissing||2 km||No||Hilly terrain with stairs and elevated viewing platform.||No||More challenging than the others|
|Pine||0.8 km||No||Flat terrain with stairs||No||Year round|
|Riverside||1 km||Yes||Flat terrain with boardwalk along the river and viewing platforms||Yes|
|Sassafras||1 km||No||Hilly terrain with stairs that lead to viewing platform at top of the dune||No||Formerly known as Lookout Trail|
|Wilderness||3 km||Yes||Flat terrain that eventually leads to stairs to the beach and viewing platform.||No|
Click on the gallery of photos to see the trail signs. Look closely and you’ll see an elevation chart so you can see how challenging the trail is.
Here are a list of all the things you can do at Pinery to keep you busy:
- Biking – Take advantage of the 14 km loop called the Savanna Trail that cuts in between forests and the main road. You can also ride your bike within the campgrounds.
- Hiking – With 10 trails to choose from, there’s plenty of walking to do.
- Birding – Along those hikes or anywhere in the park, Pinery has space for 319 different species of birds which you can spot if you’re patient.
- On the water – Whether it’s a rental or bringing your own water craft, there’s nothing like being on the Old Ausable Channel.
- Fishing – You are allowed to finish anywhere on the Old Ausable Channel except south side of Burley Bridge and right at the rental docks. Make sure you bring your license.
- Swimming – With Lake Huron, you can jump in for a cool dip.
- Winter sports – In the winter, there’s 39 km of packed and groomed cross-country skiing trails, snowshoeing, skating in an outdoor rink, and tobogganing.
Under a normal year, Pinery Provincial Park runs quite a few special interpretive programs that start with the Visitor Centre that’s called the Discovery Program:
- Bike hikes
- Evening programs
- Conducted walks
- Pinery for kids
- Ooze n’ Gooze
Through The Friends of Pinery Park, there are also special programs called the Junior Naturalists Program and Future Naturalists Program.
Lastly, there’s also a new geocaching activity called the Pinery Habitat Tour and is facilitated by the Adventure Lab App which anyone can do on their own as long as they have a smartphone.
For the most part, Pinery Provincial Park is pretty dog friendly.
Most campgrounds allow dogs except Dunes Area 4. For yurts, it’s also good to know that only Yurt 480C allows dogs and none other.
Finally, they do allow dogs on the beach it’s technically limited Day Use Beach #1 and #2. That said, we certainly saw dogs around the Dunes beach during sunset.
Pinery must have the largest warehouse for firewood in all Ontario Parks.
There is a special firewood station in the park where you can purchase anything from kindling, hardwood, starter, and ice.
Note that this is currently debit/credit only.
Current COVID Restrictions
Currently Ontario is out of its lockdown phase which has meant that parks such as Pinery are now operating closer to regular capacity.
There are however a couple of key changes visitors need to note:
- Public health advice still applies overall – This means physical distancing, wearing masks when indoors, and washing hands regularly.
- Day use now requires reservations – This allows parks to control the people inside the park. You can make these reservations up to 5 days in advance.
- Day use is free Mon-Thurs – To encourage weekday visits, you can reserve day use passes for free.
- Comfort stations and bathrooms are open – All comfort stations and bathroom facilities are now operational but at limited capacity.
- Showers are operational but only half are open at a time – Essentially at each comfort station they keep 3 out of the 6 showers open and every day, they swap the 3 to the others. There is a fairly simple reduction and doesn’t mean anything like someone washing the showers after every use. That said, I imagine they are cleaned more frequently.
- Comfort station bathrooms limit – There is a sign posted outside that says masks are required indoors and that there is a limit of 2 inside. This is a bit of a challenge so I found that this is loosely followed but overall, I’d say try your best.
- Capacity restrictions in the park store – Only 5 people are allowed inside at a time which means lines outside most of the time.
- Everywhere is extra clean – I definitely noticed a heightened level of cleanliness especially in the bathrooms which is a great thing.
- Modified hours – The park store, restaurant, wood lot, and ice cream shop are open but with slightly reduced hours.
- Visitor Centre and Friends of Pinery Park Store closed – This still remains fully closed.
- Debit/credit only – The firewood station is debit/credit only.
That seems like a lot of changes but for the most part I didn’t feel like the COVID restrictions were particularly prohibitive to enjoying the park. I think if anything it’s the adjustment to the new hours, waiting in line to go into the bathroom at a comfort station or park store, and remembering to have a mask with you when going anywhere indoors.
Pinery Provincial Park Review
As part of the Pinery Provincial Park guide, we wanted to take this opportunity to share our own thoughts about the experience in the park, good and bad, that goes beyond the features and highlights.
There’s a lot to do
The best part of Pinery is just how complete of a park it is.
Lake Huron and the beach are easily the highlights to get some serious splash and sun in your itinerary. You also have Old Ausable Channel which is beautiful with its water lilies and surrounding trees. Then you have the fact that it’s so bike friendly and has all of those hiking trails.
With kids, I can see how ideal a park like this is because of how much they would love having fun on the sand and cooling off in the water which is quite shallow.
As we mentioned earlier, the park is huge! We quickly learned that there was no way we could walk to the other parts of Pinery and that we needed to rely on our car.
The only exception to that was the boardwalk to the Dunes beach, water tap, and comfort station but besides that, we had to hop on our car for everything else.
This is also very much a cycler’s dream because of all the paved roads and paths built to get around the park. If you have bikes, we highly recommend that you bring them.
I must say that while I enjoyed what the park had to offer, the one thing that nagged me a bit was just how the campsites are laid out.
It’s not really the park’s fault but because of the type of growth near the dunes the campsites are the most exposed I’ve seen from my experience with Ontario Parks.
Coming to our Dunes Area 3 #203 campsite, I was shocked that we had direct sight lines to 3-4 other sites and they could awkwardly see us as well.
As a result, we did our best to position our car in a way to close off our campsite as best as possible but even then it felt like we were out in the open.
We thought that this was just our campsite but we explored other areas and it was about the same. There are tall trees that divide sites but there aren’t many high bushes to create cover. The sites also aren’t laid out to be tucked back a little as other parks have them.
It’s simply the natural geology of the land so we can’t complain but it is something you should expect going into Pinery Provincial Park.
Besides the openness of the sites, I found that the ground was very flat and also quite easy to drive stakes with the MSR hammer into the ground so you won’t have much trouble finding a spot to set up your tents.
Which is the best campground?
This is one of those impossible questions as you’ll only truly know by going to the park multiple times and staying at different sites. Preference for campgrounds is also based on the type of camping you’re doing and what vehicle you’re bringing in.
With all that said, we have to put our vote towards Dunes and more specifically Dunes Area 3. I know we’re biased because this is where we stayed but hear us out.
- 2 walking accesses to the beach versus only 1 at Burley.
- Dunes Area 3 is particularly good because you have the Cedar Trail extension access to the beach which is the most picturesque with its long boardwalk and since it has no parking at this entrance, you don’t have others trying to drive in.
- Since the road between Dunes and Burley is often gated closed, you don’t have much through-fare here so it stays pretty quiet.
- The Dunes campground is a short drive to camp store, rentals, and visitor centre. Burley requires much longer loop around
- In theory, there should be less mosquitoes at Dunes because of the loose sandy ground and lack of still water.
Where is the best campsite within Dunes 3?
We didn’t have time to scope out every single area and campground but if we talk about Dunes Area 3 specifically, I have to say that Site 202 is the best one.
As I mentioned earlier in the review, the one huge negative about campsites at Pinery is that they are almost all very exposed. With tight campsite configurations and only light bushes dividing each spot, neighbours can easily see each other. Cars and campers walking by can also see everything.
Site 202 is unique in that the fire pit, picnic table, and area for tents is tucked further back in the forest following a long driveway in.
You can’t tell from the Ontario Parks photos at all but trust me, this is the best site in the area that has the privacy but also close walking distance to the comfort station and also just a short walk to the beach.
We couldn’t find any information on this before going so we wanted to make sure this topic is covered.
The LTE and 3G signal at Dunes and Burley are almost non-existent. The signal doesn’t entirely cut out as sometimes e-mails and messages will randomly come through but any sort of meaningful browsing and data use is a challenge. You’ll normally see it at one or two bars and switching from LTE and 3G.
I did not test this at Riverside so I don’t know for sure but I imagine that the tree cover will cause the same disruption.
The areas in the park with the best reception are by the Park Store, in patches along the river, and the strongest along the beach.
Miraculously, once you exit the park, you get full bars.
One thing to note is that we’re on the Koodo network and we did manage to test Pokefi and noticed that the Rogers network it uses was a bit better from our campsite.
Our experience may not be representative of the entire year but I have to say that we were very impressed with how few mosquitoes there were at Pinery.
Staying at the Dunes certainly has the advantage of being in a type of terrain where mosquitoes aren’t meant to thrive and as a result, you barely noticed them.
That said, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t out there. I just meant to say that as far as provincial parks is concerned, Pinery is actually one of the better ones for mosquitoes.
We brought our own portable zapper and tested it at night and we still managed to kill a bunch of mosquitoes. We also used the Thermacell E55 to create a further radius of protection and they felt almost non-existent when we had that running.
Lastly, I know some will want to stay away from Riverside because it’s close to water but in talking to other campers, they said that the opposite is true.
So as far as mosquitoes are concerned, you should feel comfortable booking at any campground and site..
Which is the best hike?
If you’re short on time and just want to hit up the best hikes, here our ranking:
- Riverside – Love the varied landscapes here and wide open boardwalk that follows the river.
- Cedar Trail – Okay, I guess what I really mean is the Cedar Trail extension to the beach. This is a must-do!
- Wilderness – This is similar to Cedar but on the other side of the park. You’ll also find that the beach that this leads to is pretty quiet because you can only get here by this trail or by walking along the beach.
Well organized and maintained
What will really impress you as well is just how camper friendly it is.
The features that immediately jumped out to us were just how many garbage and fuel bins there are in close proximity. You don’t have to drive to a dump at Pinery. The only exception is recycle.
You’ll also find that the roads are very well maintained. I don’t think we saw one pothole.
The same can be said for their trails which are have clear signage and markers.
Finally, there’s the cleaning staff. While I’m sure everything is heightened due to the pandemic, everywhere was kept spotless.
How To Visit Pinery Provincial Park
A Pinery Provincial Park Guide wouldn’t be complete without some details about what happens when you first get to the park.
Checking in process
Before you head home, you’ll want to have your reservation of course but another step you’ll want to do is pre-register. There will be instructions in your online profile but this simply means putting in the names of the campers and also the license plate of the vehicle. Remember, only one vehicle is included with your campsite.
When you arrive, you’ll be going through the main gate where you’ll be able to check-in and get your car permit and campsite permit.
Once you’re in the park, you’ll be surprised to find another gate when you reach one of Riverside, Dunes, or Burley. Each of these campgrounds have their own entrance gate.
These may seem redundant but these gates prevent day-use people from sneaking into other parts of the park which is fantastic that they enforce this. The other reason could be that if someone is coming in as a day use visitor and then wants to check-in to their campsite later, they don’t need to exit the park and come back in the main gate. They can go directly to these secondary gates.
If you’ve already checked in at the front gate, you can zoom through on the right side where the gate is raised. Hold your car permit ticket up towards the driver-side window and go through.
If you still need to check-in, you can get in line to talk to the booth attendant.
Once you’re at the campsite, the last thing you’ll need to do clip your campsite permit onto the designated part of the post where your campsite number is located.
Currently day use visitors need to reserve a spot online. The form is a bit confusing but the option you want to select is “Daily Vehicle Permit (DVP)”. This can be purchased up to 5 days in advance. The permits are also per vehicle so it doesn’t matter how many passengers are inside.
From May 1 to September 2, 2021, DVPs are free Monday through Thursday. That said, you still need to obtain one online.
Day use permits are valid from 8AM to 10PM. Drop-ins are not allowed.
Alternatively, they also offer seasonal permits.
Before leaving the house, it’s a good idea to print your confirmation ready (in case data cuts out) and pre-register online to make the process faster.
When you arrive, have your confirmation ready. They’ll print out a permit for you and you’ll place it on the dash of your car.
While most of the focus for day-use visitors is on the beach, there are also a ton of picnic spots with space for a car to pull in located along the Old Ausable Channel. They’re not marked on the map but if you drive along the one-way road, you’ll see quite a few of these.
What to pack for camping
This is a whole other article which we’ve done in our ultimate camping must haves packing list but for Pinery Provincial Park specifically, here are some handy things to have:
- Power bank – We saw so many people hovering around outlets by the comfort station. Don’t be that person and make sure you bring plenty of power banks to charge your devices. I highly recommend this Anker high capacity powerbank.
- Water shoes – The beach can be quite pebbly in some areas so it’s a good idea to have a good pair of water shoes.
- Headlamp – This is a must-have for any camper. This BioLite headlamp works well and is rechargeable.
- Daypack – You can use this hiking or at the beach but I’m actually recommending this for the showers. You’ll love how packable it is and it’s great for throwing all your shower things in to use at the comfort stations.
- Mosquito repeller – I’m not saying mosquitoes are a big problem at Pinery but if you want to be protected at your campsite, the Thermacell E55 is a fantastic product that actually works.
Tips for visiting
We gathered so many tidbits of knowledge for this Pinery Provincial Park Guide from our stay that you’ll want to make note of all of these.
- Get your maps – When you check-in, make sure to ask for a map of your campground and the whole park as they might forget to offer it. The park map is especially useful to help plan where to visit during your stay.
- Be wary of the one-way – There is a long one-way road on the north side of the park in the day use area. Once you’re in, there won’t be a way to turn around.
- Explore the other campgrounds – While you’re here, check out the other campgrounds to see what they’re like. If you think you’ll be coming back, grab those maps too and mark down the campsites you like.
- Not all roads are open – The map doesn’t indicate this but there are several gates around the park that prevent you from driving between areas. Of particular note is the transition point from Dunes to Burley. It is sometimes open but it can be closed as well. This prevents car traffic but foot traffic is allowed.
- Free filtered water – The park store has a free-to-use water fountain and water bottle filler.
- Zoom through the secondary gates – If it’s your first time, you might be confused about the second campground-specific gates in the park. If you already have your permits and have checked-in, there’s no need to wait in line here. Drive right through the passthrough on the right side.
- Poison ivy – There is an insane amount of poison ivy here. It’s around campsites and quite pervasive along hike trails. This is pretty normal to see but just be aware, stay on trail, and don’t touch anything.
- Gas up – Unlike the big camps at Kruger National Park in South Africa, there are no gas stations inside. Considering all the driving you’ll be doing going from spot to spot, make sure you’ve got a full tank before you head inside.
- Check the water pressure – Something I learned using the showers at the comfort station is to check if the shower works before you get set up. Some may stop working and so you’ll need to pack back up and try a different one.
- Borrow a daily vehicle permit for free – This is kind of a hidden secret but you can actually go to select local libraries to borrow a daily vehicle permit.
- Store food inside your car – It’s always best practice to store your food bins and grill inside the car at the end of the night.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, fireworks are not allowed and carries a $100 fine for possession and $150 for igniting.
Each campsite permit comes with one parking spot. If you have additional cars, they must be purchased when you check-in. The cost at Pinery is $12.50 + tax per day.
No this is strictly prohibited.
Check-in time is after 2:00PM.
Check-out time is before 2:00PM.
Yes black-legged and wood ticks. Only black-legged ticks are capable of transmitting Lyme disease. Take precautions by staying on trail and wearing light coloured pants, long-sleeved clothing, and spray insect repellent containing deet.
A maximum of 6 people are allowed at each campsite unless they of a single-family group of parents and children that goes beyond 6.
While not explicitly banned, this is not recommended especially when moving firewood from places where there are invasive insects and diseases.
Yes, bears have been spotted at Pinery but it is rare.
Bike helmets are required by law for anyone under 18 and recommended for everyone else.
The Dunes campground is somewhere you should book especially if it’s your first time.
Dunes Area 3 and Site #202 is tucked away and more secluded than the other sites.
Yes, there is free wifi at the visitor centre but it is timed to only run from 9AM-7PM.
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