Port Burwell Provincial Park is a hidden gem on the on the northern shore of Lake Erie, in Southern Ontario. We recently stayed in their Iroquois Campground - here’s our review!
The village of Port Burwell is a short drive off the 401. It’s located in the municipality of Bayham, in Elgin County... not that far from another park on our list - Turkey Point Provincial Park.
The park itself is known for its gorgeous beach savannah, with ribbons of dunes lining the paths from the park to the beach.
We were quickly smitten with the park, before even getting set up in our site.
There is a TON to talk about though, so let’s get to it..
Campground Name: Port Burwell Provincial Park
Address: 9 Wilson Lane Port Burwell, ON N0J 1T0
Price Ontario Provincial Parks uses a pricing matrix across all their parks. See 2023 Camping Fees for additional information.
Reservations: Ontario Parks Reservations
Campground Amenities & Info
Before we’d even made it to our campsite, we were super impressed with the layout, logistics, and service at Port Burwell Provincial Park.
Sign in was super quick and easy - as well as DISTANCED! Not only did they have a window to sign in at, they had their store basically all laid out outside, in front of the window!
The park is clean and well maintained, with a layout that was clearly designed by someone with an eye for logistics.
As always with Ontario Parks, booking was quick and easy through their online portal.
The signage in the park was great, which is especially important here - multiple campgrounds, each with cut-through loops, mostly one-way streets, etc.
SO let’s talk about utility layout!
After having to drive into a campground and around a few tight corners to get to the fill/dumping area at Selkirk Provincial Park, we LOVED that it was all located at the entrance, here.
As you pull into the park, you can pull off to the right to fill your water tanks. As you leave the park, you pull off to the right - opposite the water station - to dump your tanks.
Cell reception was fantastic at our site - 232 - though almost nonexistent on the beach.
On that note, one thing to mention: The beach is located at a separate entrance from the camp ground - a little further down Chatham St from the main entrance.
You do need a day pass - $18 at the moment - to park in those day use areas.
Entertainment and Activity
A lot of the activities are located at the day use area, right on the north shore of Lake Erie.
As I mentioned, this is a separate entrance from the campground, requiring a day use permit.
We’d actually purchased a season pass just before this trip, which arrived SUPER quickly after ordering.
This made for quick and easy access to the park, just showing it to the employee at the entry kiosk.
We didn’t stop for ice cream, but thought it was a nice touch that they offered it right there in the entry.
Next to the beach gatehouse were some canopied picnic tables - a nice place to enjoy that ice cream, IMHO.
It looked very cute and - as someone who can’t handle the sun - I appreciated the option!
As I’d mentioned earlier, the sandy beach - known for its excellent water quality - is what makes this park a favourite destination for those looking to enjoy the summer months.
The sprawling beach area stretches for 2.5 km along the Lake Erie shoreline, with shallow water extending quite far from the shore. (No lifeguards, though!)
It’s one of the cleanest beaches I’ve ever seen, with pale sand as far as the eye could see.
It wasn’t hard to find a spot free of rocks / debris to lay our beach blanket out on!
We didn’t see anyone kite boarding, but apparently that’s also a popular activity for this beach, due to the tendency for choppy waters off shore.
There’s also another large beach, not a far drive from the park - Port Burwell East Beach - that seems almost as beautiful.
It’s no wonder that these beaches are known as some of the best locations for lazing around in the sun!
Oh, and as a heads up - apparently the far end (western end) of the Provincial Park beach is a nude beach.
That half of the parking was blocked off on the days we were there - flooding, as far as we could tell - so I’m guessing it’ll be a bit of a hike for anyone wanting to let it all hang out.
Boating & Fishing
Big Otter Creek runs alongside the park, and that’s where the boat launches and docks are located.
The creek empties out into a section of Lake Erie that is known for having rough waters - probably why it’s popular for wind surfers - so you should definitely follow all water safety precautions when boating there.
In terms of fishing, we saw people fishing along the sides of Big Otter Creek - leading up to the lake - as well as in boats.
The area is known for bass, perch, pickerel, salmon, trout, and other species of fish.
Fishing isn’t our thing, but I can see why so many people were out - it’s just a really beautiful area for spending some time doing whatever you like to do!
There are two trails in the park, which are connected - the Ravine Creek Trail which is connected to the camp grounds, and the beach trail, which extends from the Ravine Trail, all the way to the day use area.
Our site was very close to the northern access point of the trail, and there is another access point in the Leander campground, near the recreation field.
We’d seen online mentions of a self-guided brochure for the trail, going over some of the local geology... though we haven’t come across any of them!
Oh well, it was pretty straightforward once on the trail!
The trail system was about 3 km from our site to the beach, and All Trails mentions that Ravine Creek Trail to Beach is a 4.5 km there-and-back trail - I suppose that’s going to vary based on where you enter, and where you’re considering the end.
The terrain was wildly varied, with scenery constantly changing - it makes for an interesting hike! There were streams winding through, and you could hear rushing water at several points.
Additionally, there was a LOT of wildlife to see, including several deer. There were benches and outlook points along the route, so you could stop and take in the nature around you.
There’s a second - very short - trail from the day use parking to the campground gate house.
During our stay, we saw a LOT of bikes - and a lot of people cycling through the 3 campgrounds.
The trails themselves aren’t suitable for biking - with signs saying it’s not allowed on the trails.
That said, I can see why bikes would be a good idea here - it’s a fairly big campground, and bikes would make it a lot easier to get to the beach!
While there aren’t any bike-specific trails in the park, the roads have plenty of room, and everyone seemed to be safe about it - both cyclists and drivers.
Port Burwell Provincial park - part of the Norfolk Sand Plain Natural Area and the Carolinian Life Zone- is known as one of the best places in the area to watch the marvels of migration.
The spring migrations of songbirds is a popular attraction. In the fall, it’s the migrations of raptors that take center stage, with eagles, hawks, and vultures flying overhead.
According to the Ontario Parks website, more than 85 species of birds have been documented in the park during the spring.
We picked up a brochure at the front with a checklist of birds you can see - apparently there are 232 species listed!
I don’t know anything about birds, personally - I can identify Blue Jays and Cardinals (and there were a few cardinals in our camp site, the first morning!), but that’s about it!
I think a pictorial bingo card would be fun, but - with 232 species - that would be a BIG card!
Anyway, aside from the birds, it’s also supposed to be a great place to watch monarch butterflies.
We did see some random butterflies - and HUGE dragonflies - during our stay, but no monarchs. I’d assume that late August or September would be better for Monarchs, though.
While we camp alone, we can see that this would be an exceptional family campground, based on the amenities we saw.
There’s an outstanding play area in the Leander campground - and I remember reading that Leander is the best one for families.
The playground is part of a recreation field - a big open area for disk golf and other activities.
It includes a basketball court, several volleyball nets, a sort-of ball diamond, and an amphitheatre / interpretive center with covered picnic area.
During the summer - from July 1st to Labour Day - there’s a discovery drop in program with a “Discovery Activity Book”, for kids to learn about the park and it’s plants, animals, and nature in general.
There should totally be discovery days for adults! Have a glass of wine and learn all about the nature they don’t want to spook kids with!
How do you identify giant hogweed, and why you REALLY don’t want to touch it - complete with photos of people who did.
You know, that kind of thing.
(There’s probably a reason that I’ve never been hired to develop camp programs, let’s be honest here...)
If you’re looking to play Ingress or Pokemon Go in Port Burwell Provincial Park, you’re best off camping near the recreation field in the Leander campground, where there are 4 pokestops and 2 gyms (Pokemon Go), and a handful of Portals (Ingress).
There are a few more throughout the park - A pokestop at the Iroquois Campground community bulletin board near the comfort stations, a gym near the entry of the Leander campground, another pokestop near the parking area between the entry areas of the Leander and Alzora campgrounds, etc.
We weren’t near any of these points, but still had consistent spawns from our camp site, and fantastic cell reception to play.
Additionally, there are a bunch of stops / portals / gyms across the creek, in the town of Port Burwell, and a few at the provincial park beach (just with fair-to-poor cell reception!).
For reference, most/all of the grey spots on the Ingress map - Portals - are also either Pokestops or Gyms, so that gives you an idea of density.
As you can see from the Ingress Intel map - doesn’t look like a lot of game play in the area.
There are only a couple of geocaches located in the park.
Finally - Though the park is gated in the winter - you’re apparently welcome to walk in and hike or cross country ski, as desired.
There are restrooms and showers located in each of the 3 campgrounds, with additional restrooms at the recreation field, in the beach parking lot, and near the admin building.
Additionally, there are laundry facilities in each of the three campgrounds, at the comfort stations. (We did not visit them during our stay).
Both of the park gate houses - at the beach and the campground - have a park store, where you can buy park crests, souvenirs, ice, firewood, etc.
I was super surprised to see the store located outside of the building, in the campground!
Also kind of surprised to see the display of things like pie irons - very cool!
Port Burwell Provincial Park has a mix of regular and hydro sites, accommodating a wide range of camping equipment.
I think all of the camp sites are back-up sites, I didn’t see any that looked to be pull-through.
They all seem to be relatively level sites, and most are relatively private, with a lot of wooded area between many of the sites. (Some are more sparsely wooded, though).
There’s a lot of tree cover in general, and even our “no tree cover” site was relatively well shaded by the surrounding trees.
Looking at the diagram, I’d say about ½ - ⅔ of the sites are hydro sites, with the rest as unserviced.
As with other provincial park campgrounds, sometimes the hydro post can be a bit weird to reach at times.
Ours involved walking a short trail over a tiny bridge, to get to it! Super cute.
Note: The Alzora Campground does not allow generators.
There’s no water at the campsites, but there is a potable water fill station at the entrance to the park, and several water taps throughout each camp ground.
The dump station is conveniently located near the exit of the park, right on the main road.
There is no park wifi.
This is a big park with a fair amount of distance to go if you want to get anywhere, so if mobility is an issue, you’re definitely going to want to bring a driving vehicle.
The trails aren’t wheelchair accessible, but I appreciate the fact that there are benches along the way, for rests.
The roads in the park are well packed. If you are a wheelchair user, you’re never all that far from one of the vault toilets.
Also, the comfort stations and showers in the Algonquin and Leander camp grounds are both labeled as being barrier free.
On that note, there are two “barrier free” camp sites in Algonquin, right across from the comfort station. One is a hydro site, one is not.
Personally, I have a hard time walking on beaches, as my heels dig way down, and I mess up my achilles.
I have no idea what’s different, but this is the first beach I’ve been on - since this became an issue, anyway - where I can walk flat footed on the beach.
It’s still soft sand, I’m not talking wet packed sand or anything. Just regular sand, with no forced digging in on the heels.
This was incredibly exciting to me.
Also: There’s a bit of a walk from the parking lot to the beach, but - at least on the P2 lot - it’s a path covered by this ... metal?... mesh mat covered walkway.
Very flat and easy to traverse, made the walk a whole lot easier on me.
The campground seems to be very popular with dog owners, and we saw all kinds of happy doggos EVERYWHERE.
There’s also a gorgeous dog beach - just to the east of the main beaches in the park - and an off leash dog exercise area.
They do have to be on leashes everywhere else in the camp ground, and “aren’t allowed to bother people with their barking”, though.
We actually spent an afternoon chilling on the dog beach - is there anything more entertaining than dogs playing in a lake?
I think one dog we were watching was doing the lake thing for the first time, he was HILARIOUS and definitely a day maker for us.
In addition to all of the single family camp sites (which have a maximum of 6 people per site), there are two group campsites in Port Burwell Provincial Park: One for 20-80 people, the other for 30-100 people.
They’re situated sort of between the gatehouse for the campground, and the beach. The sites look to be along that little trail from the beach parking to the campground entry, so they’ve got really easy access to the day use area.
Campsite parking is restricted to 1 vehicle aside from the one you’re camping in.
Additional parking lots are available in each park, as well as a small parking lot between the entrances to the Leander and Alzora campgrounds.
Additional parking may be purchased for a daily fee - it’s not anything we’ve had to use, ourselves.
The “downtown” area of Port Burwell is just 5 minutes away by car (not really a walkable thing, from the camp ground).
The latter is contained within a Cold War era submarine on the bank of Big Otter Creek.
It wasn’t open during our stay, but we are definitely going to have to come back for a tour sometime - very cool!
The former is a boat shaped museum and another small building, with outdoor displays in their parking lot and across the street.
You see, shortly before the trip... my husband learned of Beach Patties.
Jamaican Patties were not really a *thing* where he grew up, and he quickly learned why the GTA is nuts about them.
The idea of trying having patties on a beach, way out in the boonies was just TOO enticing!
I feel like Kardinal Offishall would approve, LOL.
Anyway, he had his very first stuffed patty, which he thought would be “weird”, but he ended up LOVING it - just like I knew he would.
* We DID start our first full day with another round of our Camping Breakfast Skillet - AUGH so good!
We loved everything about this park - the beaches, the trails, the general layout, the logistics, etc - and we’ll DEFINITELY be back.
This is the first time we brought a separate vehicle with us, and it was very handy - we’ll definitely be doing more of that in the future, and I *definitely* recommend it for this park, specifically.
Anyway, overall it’s just a really great park! Love it!
More Campground Reviews
Want to read some more of what we have to say about the campgrounds we've stayed at? Here are some more reviews!
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